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Treasures from the Stacks--The Great War Begins, August 1914

August 21, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Great War in the Stacks of TRL
Among the treasures of the Toronto Reference Library, some of the most affecting are the many shelves of regimental histories of the world wars that rent the twentieth century.  One hundred years ago this month, troops from all over the world were mobilizing for a war in Europe that would last five years and shatter a generation.

Those fragile volumes--regimental histories, memoirs, diaries--are the raw material for many other books—general histories, analyses, commentaries, explanations--that tell us about the past, and perhaps, guide us into the future.  Lest we forget…..

2nd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force Bulletin Story of the Sixty-Sixth CFA  War Record 16th Battery Canadian Field Artillery







The Western Scot


Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, one day after Germany had declared war on France and invaded Belgium.  This meant, automatically, that Canada was also now at war, but in fact the Canadian government had promised Britain overseas troops several days before war was officially declared.


The first Canadian volunteers began arriving at Valcartier Camp in Quebec on August 19.  In October, the first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force sailed for England. That same month, German and the Allied armies were fighting the first battle of Ypres, the Belgium town that was vital to both sides. Canadian troops would first see action in Europe the next April, at the second battle of Ypres.

The Times War Atlas, published in 1914, shows the world as it existed that summer. On this map from the Atlas, the town of Ypres does not even appear—its name would become infamous only later the next year, when the Germans deployed the first gas attacks against French and Canadian forces.

France & Belgium

Click on the map to enlarge.  Ypres (not named) is located directly south of Ostend and directly east of the small town of Poperinghe in northwest Belgium.

The Canadian response to Britain’s involvement in the war was swift and full of patriotic fervour. Perhaps the most striking difference from anything we might consider today, is the constant refrain of duty.  Not a phrase or a sentiment considered of much consequence in the world of 2014.

The war call to all Canadians Why Britain is at war














Click to enlarge. The War Call of Sir James Whitney, from One Hundred Years of Conflict between the Nations of Europe: The causes and issues of the Great War (1914). Whitney was Premier of Ontario in 1914. Why Britain is at War from 2nd Battalion Bulletin: Canadian Expeditionary Force. (1914)

But within months the heavy price exacted from Canada began to come clear. Scan the lists in the War Record from the 16th Battery Canadian Field Artillery, to take only one, and find a sad litany: Killed, Gassed, Sick, Wounded, Died Illness, Sick, Wounded, Sick, Killed, Sick, Sick, Wounded……

Lest we forget.

Don't Toss it, Fix it! at the Repair Cafe

August 7, 2014 | Dawn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Those amazing folks at the Repair Cafe return to the Toronto Reference Library this weekend:

Saturday August 9, 10 am - 2 pm., Beeton Auditorium

Don't throw it away, fix it! Bring a broken household item to the Repair Cafe where you can get help fixing it.

Volunteers fix household items, ranging from small household appliances such as toasters, to clothes, to lamps, to computers to jewellery. We’ll even have a bike repair booth right outside the library’s front doors.

  Repair cafe

Check out this video for more information.

Learn a new skill, meet your neighbours, learn more about sharing your skills and volunteering, save the planet.


Beaver Drops Tree on Car--Truth and the Urban Legend

August 5, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

BeaverLast week there were reports of a car being hit by a falling tree on a highway in Prince Edward Island. The tree was downed by a beaver. Now, this story has names, a date, a place, and no serious injuries. And the beaver—well he’d done his work sometime earlier and was long gone. The tree just happened to give way as the car came along. An unusual story, and a true one.


Still, it has all the makings of an urban legend, and someday—I guarantee it—you’ll l hear that story again, and the beaver will be right there pushing the tree over as the car goes by, and all the people will be killed. Or all the people but a poor orphaned little child will be killed. Or the beaver will be captured, and put on display in a museum in Charlottetown, Toronto, or Poughkeepsie.


That’s one of the ways urban legends evolve. Something real but unusual, becomes something unreal but compelling—or funny, or spooky, or enraging, or just plain strange. What’s more, it’s something that maybe did happen once, but in a rather more prosaic and unflamboyant way. Whatever the source, there's some kernel that captures our imagination and our gullibility.

The Completely and Totally True Book of Urban LegendsHeard the story of the cat in the microwave? The phantom hitchhiker? The diner from the 1950s on the backroad to Kenora...or was it Highway 69? Or maybe it was in Spokane...

While these stories have been passed down for decades, the internet has given them a whole new life, not to mention reach. While some are ridiculous, many have a certain strange plausibility. Some grow out of real incidents, but are wildly and fantastically embellished. Others are created out of whole cloth. But all of them shed light on the tensions, stresses, uncertainties, longings, nostalgias, confusions, and fears that live in our modern minds. Like the myths and fairy tales they’re akin to, they tell us about ourselves, not about “what happened.”

That's the scholarly side to urban legends. Folklorists call them contemporary or modern legends and there are courses, encyclopedias and academic articles devoted to them. Then there’s the entertainment side--scary movies, television shows and Mythbusters.

A couple of years ago I received an online petition from a good friend. She’d passed it on from another friend (the classic urban legend pattern) who called it “One of the few things worth responding to on the internet”. It claimed famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair had petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to ban all religious programming. Now was the time for all good Christians to fight this depravity.  


Madalyn Murray O'HairOnly problem is, O’Hair died—actually, she was murdered—in 1995. She never petitioned the FCC about programming, although there was a petition from someone else in 1974 about religious educational stations. (Their request was dismissed.) The FCC has denied this legend for years, but still receives so many letters yearly that they’ve received permission from the US Postal Service to discard all envelopes that refer to it. Before her death, O’Hair, who did know of the legend, was quoted as saying “I think it’s fabulous. This craziness seems to have life everlasting.” Now the internet has given it (and her) a whole new life everlasting.


Then there’s the kidney heist. A friend visited Chicago recently (or maybe it was Vancouver). He met a young woman at the bar in his hotel, and well, he’s unattached, so he invited her up to his room. Next morning he woke with a headache, blood on the sheets, and a neatly stitched incision in his side. He called the desk for help, and they called an ambulance. At the hospital he was told his kidney had been removed very expertly, and was probably now headed for the black market.

Or maybe it was my brother-in law’s friend’s cousin that happened to.

I told this story to my 22 year old son, and he said, “But, that has really happened, right?” Well, it was an episode of Law & Order,(season 1,episode 21) and has been told in Canada, the US, Sweden and Holland in varying versions. According to medical sociologist Robert Dingwall, the story provides “useful insights into lay thinking about professional work and its strategies for the informal social control of medicine.” (!!)


Urban Legends-Strange stories behind modern myths Urban Legends-The truth about those deliciously entertaining myths  Phantom Hitchhikers & other ubran legends  The Exploding Toilet-modern urban legends







Toronto Reference LibraryMy professional favourite though, is the “sinking library”. You see, because of an architect’s mistake, the weight of the books was not factored into the design, and so, the library building is slowly sinking into the earth.  That story has been told for, among others, Yale, Syracuse and Brown University libraries, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo. So far, Toronto Reference Library, with its 4 million items, hasn’t turned up on the list (or sagged one bit).

So, whether you’re afraid of beavers, atheists, organ thieves or losing your library, you could do worse with your summer than explore the urban legends of our fractured and endlessly fascinating modern world.

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends.aspxAnd don’t miss the 1998 movie Urban Legend, where a beautiful folklore student finds the answer to recent murders in the library copy of The Encyclopedia of Urban Legends. Such a book didn’t exist in 1998, but was actually in the works, and published in 2001. You can find the latest update (2012) at the (not sinking) Toronto Reference Library and the (also not sinking) North York Central Library.

Heritage Toronto : Legacies Gained, Legacies Lost?

July 31, 2014 | Cynthia | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Photo credit: Olena Sullivan, Heritage Toronto

Come celebrate Heritage Toronto 's 40th anniversary of the Heritage Toronto Awards. To mark this occasion, a symposium at the Toronto Reference Library will look at the challenges, successes and failures in the preservation and conservation of our heritage and historic sites. 

Sean Fraser, Director of Heritage Programs and Operations for Ontario Heritage Trust will moderate the discussion with panelists Cathy Nasmith, President, Toronto chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, George Baird, former Dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto & partner at Baird Sampson Neuert Architects; Harold Madi, Director of Urban Design for the City of Toronto, Alex Spiegel from Windmill Developments and Mike York, President, Carpenters' Union Local 27. 

The Toronto Reference Library and North York Central Library have built up a remarkable collection of Toronto heritage materials. Be it the Reference Library's Toronto Collection and Local History materials and maps (2nd floor), the new Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre (5th floor), or North York's Canadiana Department, the Toronto Public Library is a wonderful resource to research Toronto's built heritage.

Check out the Find Your Way section on Toronto's History & Genealogy. This will lead you to all kinds of online sources to research Toronto's built heritage.


Come to the Toronto Reference Library Atrium,

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 from 7-8:30 pm.

To pre-register, go to the Heritage Toronto webpage.



Lost Toronto Old Toronto Houses  Making Toronto Modern Recollections of a Neighbourhood   






TRL Program Calendar August 2014

July 31, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Bring your broken appliances to the Repair Cafe--learn a new skill, meet your neighbours, save the planet. Learn how to keep your mind going at A Healthy Aging Brain. And don't miss the guided tours of the Reference Library all month.

Click on each image to enlarge or Download The August 2014 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, please check out our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

August 1 August 2 August 3 August 4

Toronto Reference Library Renovation & Service Update-July 8, 2014

July 8, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre
Construction continues at the Toronto Reference Library, but progress is being made. The new Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre is open on the 5th floor, and most special collections material, including materials from the Arthur Conan Doyle Room, are once again available.

5th floor Arts Information Desk


The permanent Information Desk for the 5th floor Arts Department is completed, and is located just to the left of the elevators.

Music Practice Room

The 5th floor Music Practice Room is now open in a secluded spot near the staircase.  Currently it has two electric pianos with headphones, available on a first come, first served basis.  Audio listening stations are also open for use.

The 4th floor Language and Literature Department is still in construction mode, but a beautiful new study bar has been installed along the northeast windows. Read, study and enjoy the view.

4th Floor Study Bar
4th Floor Study Bar

The Hinton Learning Theatre is open on the 3rd floor in the Business, Science & Technology Department, and programs are beginning.  Construction continues on the new information desk; books and magazines are still in temporary locations.  The 3rd floor study pods have been installed, but are not yet available for public use.

Hinton Learning Theatre interior Hinton Learning Theatre exterior








Hinton Learning Theatre exterior & interior, 3rd Floor

3rd Floor Computer Terrace
3rd Floor Computer Terrace

Public internet computers are available on the 1st and 2nd floors, and the computer terrace on the 3rd floor (more than 25 stations) is now open.  There are two internet computers on the 4th floor; none currently on the 5th floor.

Come see all the changes, use the new facilities, and take a summer guided tour of the revitalized Toronto Reference Library.

Magnetic North: Arctic exhibit opens

June 28, 2014 | Kathryn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Magnetic North: The Enduring Pull of the Arctic, is a unique and collaborative exhibit featuring TD Bank Group’s collection of contemporary Canadian art and Toronto Public Library’s Special Collections of Arctic art and writings. A blend of modern carvings and drawings with historical maps, illustrated texts and photographs highlight the Arctic’s culture, people, landscape, wildlife and its stark vastness, isolation and beauty.                                                                              




Eating Seal Meat, by Annie Pootoogook, 2007
Eating Seal Meat (2007), Copyright by Annie Pootoogook, Coloured pencil on paper, Collection of TD Bank Group
Book cover of The Polar World (1881), by George Hartwig, 1813-1880

Book cover of The Polar World (1881), by George Hartwig, 1813-1880




 Woman in a Toque (1983), Copyright by William Eakin
Woman in a Toque (1983), Copyright by William Eakin, Pigment print, Collection of TD Bank Group



Septentionalium terrarum descriptio (map), 1613
Septentrionalium terrarum descriptio (1613)     Map by Gerard Mercator, 1512-1594



Icebergs from Log of Samuel Smith, 1857
Icebergs. From: Log of Samuel Smith, 1857


To see more contemporary Inuit paintings, photographs and sculpture visit The TD Gallery of Inuit Art.

Magnetic North is currently on display in the TD Gallery on the 1st floor of the Toronto Reference Library.  The exhibition runs until July 19, 2014.


TRL Program Calendar July 2014

June 28, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Learn about the new Toronto Public Library initiative Asquith Press where you can publish your own work. Lots of computer courses this month on eBooks, Photoshop, web basics, blogging and Cyber Seniors.  Or spend your Tuesdays at Summer Afternoon at the Movies.

Click on each image to enlarge or  Download The July 2014 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, please check out our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

July 1 July 2 July 4 July 3

50 Years of Toronto Pride at the Toronto Reference Library

June 20, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto Gay Picnic 1972 

In Toronto, in 1964, not one but two magazines by and for the gay community were launched.  One was simply called "Gay".  The other was "Two", a name inspired by an earlier American magazine called "One". That same year, "The Homosexual Next Door: a Sober Appraisal of a New Social Phenomenon" by Sidney Katz, was published in Maclean's magazine.  It is considered the first positive portrayal of homosexuals in the Canadian mass media.


 Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives

Fifty years later, Toronto is host to World Pride, a festival of LGBTQ arts, activisim, history and education.  As part of that celebration, Toronto Reference Library presents Hugh Brewster, author, activist and organizer of the first Toronto pride parade, who will moderate a panel discussion on Toronto gay history with:

Susan G. Cole: Feminist, author, playwright and Senior Entertainment Editor at Now Magazine.

Andrea Houston: Journalist, activist and 2012 Honoured Dyke.

Ed Jackson: Activist, early member of the Body Politic Collective and one of its editors.

Kyle Rae: First openly gay Toronto City Councillor, Ryerson lecturer and development consultant.

50 Years of Toronto Pride

Toronto Reference Library Atrium

789 Yonge Street

Tuesday June 24, 2014

7 PM

                        Rainbow flag Rainbow flag Rainbow flag

Toronto Public Library

Treehouse Talks now in the Beeton Auditorium

June 10, 2014 | Richard | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

TreehouseThe Treehouse Talks are free public lectures that operate on the guiding principle that three people, times three talks, equals a thousand new ideas.  This formula is not just encapsulated by their motto - "3 People X 3 Topics = 1,000 Ideas"; it is also demonstrated by the list of speakers recruited by Nicolas Rouleau, the series curator.

Nicolas is well-connected and always manages to book a wide range of talent for discussions on mainstream and special interest topics, e.g. de-extinction, cyborg selves, living a happy and healthy life, Alexander and Mabel Graham Bell, microgravity, Islamic finance, and labyrinths - to name a few. His speakers are mostly specialists in their field and well-accomplished (see list below).

Every set of Talks includes time for audience participation to address the recurring question, "How are these three seemingly random Talks related?" It is amazing to note the connections that audience members are able to make.

The Treehouse Group established its relationship with TRL in 2012, where Talks have been delivered on the first floor Atrium stage ever since. Beginning this Friday June 13th, however, the Talks will take place in the Beeton Auditorium. The Library recently extended its hours to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays, and Nicolas is excited that hosting the Talks in this quieter and more intimate location will allow for closer interactions between the speakers and audience members.

The Talks are held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the second Friday of every month, except for July and August. (The May Talks coincides with TCAF and therefore take place off site.) They are all open to the public and free - no registration is required.

I recently asked Nicolas about his plans for the series over the next year. He said he wanted to address some more topical international themes, such as Russia and Ukraine or Syria. He also wants to continue hosting a wide range of interesting and accessible science speakers who can keep the audience appraised of all the latest developments.


Join us this Friday for the final Talks of this season, featuring:

  • Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience: What Does an Experience Feel Like?
  • Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws
  • Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

 See bottom of page for full descriptions.



Most Treehouse Talks are recorded and loaded to their website:


Previous Treehouse Talks

2014 Sessions

Alex Jadad: Living a happy and healthy life until our last breath: our greatest challenge
Derek Quenneville: Making at the Library
Gail Fraser: Avian Life
Lauren Segal: Being an Opera Singer: A physicist's view on the preparation, practice and performance of Opera
Lorna MacDonald: Alec and Mabel: Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck
Matt Risk: Faith, Fear, Fraud, and Fascination
Mel Cappe: InCome InEquality InCanada
Nora Young - Cyborg Selves: Bodies, Big Data, and Technology
Ralph Baker: Financial Literacy: If a 12 Year Old Can Master It, So Can You
Rene Harrison: Microgravity: Not just about bad hair
Rudy Boonstra: The Role of Chronic Stress in Natural Populations
Wallid Hejazi: Islamic Finance

2013 Sessions

Bridget Stutchbury: The triage concept: should we let some species go extinct to save others?
Ian Clark: Can MOOCs help reform Ontario Universities?
Elizabeth Edwards on microbial diversity: Getting to the Root of the Tree of Life
Hendrik Poinar: De-Extinction: Reviving lost species of the Pleistocene- hype or hubris?
Dr. Herbert Kronzucker: The Ecology of Hunger: The Reach of the North American Dinner Fork 
Dr. James Maskalyk: Helping others without hurting yourself  
Jeffrey Rosenthal: Why Statisticians Don’t Believe in ESP
Jennifer Spear: Everything is an Offer
Leila Boujnane: Wild About Cheese
Matt Thompson: The Open Manifesto: how to work smarter, supercharge collaboration and redesign the world
Maydianne Andrade: Everything I need to know about evolution, I learned from a cannibalistic spider 
Michael Anton Dila: A Start-up is a Bomb
Michael Hartley: Time for an Aral Spring? Why the Arab Spring did not penetrate Central Asia
Oona Fraser: Ambiguity, conflict, nuance and paradox.
Rob Spekkens: If correlation doesn't imply causation, what does? 
Sandra Martin: The ten top myths about obituaries 
Stuart Candy: Confessions of a guerrilla futurist
Susan Kates: We & Them: Teaching GenY, GenX & Boomers
Tim Hurson:Why We All Go to the Same Different Meeting Together
Timothy Nash: Sustainable Investing 101
William Thorsell: Three Helpful Ideas for Toronto

2012 Sessions

Andrea Hamilton: Social Networking Meets Crowdsourcing Offline
Andrew Westoll: Releasing Your Inner Ape
Assaf Weisz: Changing the Future
Camilla Gryski: The Labyrinth: Path, symbol, and metaphor
Darryl Gwynne: Why Are Males Masculine, Females Feminine and Occasionally Vice Versa? (Darwinian Sexual Selection as an Exercise in Critical Thinking)
Denise Balkissoon: Why Can’t I Quit Facebook?
Erin Bury: Tapping into Interest Graphs to Curate Online News
George Elliott Clarke: Harper’s Tea-Party Government
Ilana Ben-Ari: Toys as Tools for Change
Jeff Warren: The Elements of Experience
Dr. Jody Culham: How many brains do you have?
Dr. John Godfrey: Is Global Citizenship possible?
John Sobol: Know Your Media, Know Your Self
Jon Duschinsky: The (New) Power of People
Jorge Ulloa: The Global Water Cooler — Multiculturalism in the Workplace
Karl Schroeder: Tomorrow’s Toronto: A Foresight Exercise on the Future of our City
Katerina Cizek & Graeme Stewart: Re-imagining our Vertical City
Laurence Packer: Bees
Marcius Extavour: Science and politics don’t mix… or do they?
Mariella Bertelli: “Happily ever after?” An exploration of the fairy tale, its past, its future and its place in today’s culture
Mandy Wintink: The Sweet Smell of Failure
Stan Chu Ilo: Do We Still Need Religion Today? A new look at Islam, Christianity, and the Secular West
Stephen Morris: A physicist in the sandbox
Tom Heintzman: The Role of the Individual in Transforming Energy Systems

2011 Sessions

Andrea Dana Eisen: Being a Teacher to the Stars
Aruna Handa: Eating Our Words: Making good on the promise of a better life
Craig D. Adams: Input Output Cinema & Other Nonsense Buzzwords
Eric Boyd: DYI Transhumanism
Gabrielle McLaughlin: The Boulevard of Baroquen Dreams
Harvey Weingarten: The Future of Canada’s Public University System
Dr. James Robert Brown: Thought Experiments, Or How to Learn Cool Stuff Just by Thinking
Jessa Gamble: Daily Rhythms Around the World
John Beebe: More than diverse: Faces Of Complexity: A Photographic Exploration
John Paul Morgan: Invention Is As Often About Decision As It Is About Discovery
Dr. Jordan Peterson: Planning the Ideal Future, Rationale, & Strategy
Father Joseph Ogbonnaya: The Challenges of Integral Development
Lee Smolin: Is Time Real or an Illusion?
Miroslav Lovric: What if we could touch infinity?
Dr. Monika Havelka: How to Build a Whale: Mechanisms of Macroevolutionary Change
Nathalie Desrosiers: Liberty and Twitter: Civil Liberties in the XXIst Century
Justice Robert Sharpe: The Canadian Constitution as a Living Tree
Ryan North: A Brief History of Comics, And How Comics On The Internet Will Save The World (Or At Least Save Comics, But That’s Still Pretty Good)
Salima Syera Virani: “The Personal Brand” and its Importance for Entrepreneurs
Sheila McCook: Newspapers: A Physical Check-Up
Simon Cole: Collecting Contemporary in Toronto

2010 Sessions

Abigale Miller: Mealworms: Food or Not Food?
Amie Sergas: The Social Value of Roller Derby
Ana Serrano: No, Interactive Storytelling is Not an Oxymoron
Bob McDonald: What if everything you know is wrong?
Dan Falk: The Enigma of Time
Darren O’Donnell and The Torontonians: You, Too, Can Be 14
Donna Francis: Knitting Science and Art Together
Jeff Woodrow: Thinking of Someone Else for a Change
Leehe Lev: The Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Loreen Barbour: Life in Northern Russia
Micah Toub: The Jungian Shadow: How to turn your enemy into a role model
Mike Paduada: Careers from Math to the Moon
Mirella Amato: The Challenges of Beerology
Nadja Sayej: Fear and Loathing in the Art World
Nicolas Rouleau: Law and International Development
Nogah Kornberg: Teaching the G-Word to 9-Year-Olds
Russell Zeid: Nexialism
Sasha Grujicic: Technology and Change: How it’s happened, how it’s accelerating, and how we need to deal with it
Sasha Van Bon Bon: Decriminalizing the Sex Trade in Canada and Beyond
Shawn Micallef: Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Shirley Khalil: Empowerment and healing using music
Steve Ferrara: Street Art in Toronto
Susan G. Cole: The Age of Queer: Does the word ‘lesbian’ still mean anything?
Zahra Ebrahim: Design and Social Change


Coming this Friday . . .

1) Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience

We must work for art for art to work on us.
-Jeanette Winterson

Music and art are often seen as consumables and entertainment. As an audience member our only responsibility is to buy our ticket and show up. But is this leading to the quality of experience we desire? And does this reduce art and music to objects that must please us, rather than as opportunities for us to move into deeper experiences of each other and ourselves. With growing distractions and lessening attention spans, our abilities to be attentive and affected are threatened.

At the same time, in the realm of fine art and classical and new music composition, as work gets more complex and specialized, it runs the risk of alienating its audience. 

What then is experience? What is listening, what is seeing, what is feeling? How do we pay attention and what does it mean to be present? Can art galleries, concert halls, and even a lecture series be training grounds of how to be more fully awake to the rest of our lives? 

After a discussion on the mechanics of presence and how they work in different venues, Meaghan will lead the Treehouse audience through a series of exercises in order to explore what the experience of being at the talk feels like. Meaghan Johnson, a yoga and meditation teacher, and a lover of art and sound, runs workshops in art galleries and collaborates with musicians and whole symphonies in order to explore what happens when we take time to prepare ourselves as an audience. Through learning to experience and rest into the sensations of the body in response to sound and sight, participants of these workshops experience astounding results in the quality of affect. Not only this, but the musicians also report having a much more enriched experience of playing, without even practicing the exercises! She has also collaborated with organizations such as Tamarack and the Women’s Network of PEI to bring embodied presence to their conferences and workplaces.

2) Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws

The rules of inheritance are typically pretty straightforward. The 19th century Austrian monk Gregor Mendel showed that genes are inherited as discrete units and that the mother and the father each contribute one copy each to their offspring. A given gene copy therefore has a 50% chance of being passed on to an offspring. In general genes follow these rules pretty well, which means that the only way for a gene to improve its chances of being passed on the next generation is by helping the individual organism that carries it survive and reproduce. However, not all genes obey these rules. Some genes, sometimes called Mendelian outlaws by biologists, have evolved various ways of improving the chances of their own transmission, even if it comes at a cost to the individual organism. Jumping genes, which are pieces of genetic material that can make copies of themselves and insert into new locations in the genome, is a particularly successful example. In this talk, I will discuss jumping genes and other Mendelian outlaws, what prevents them from taking over, and how they may help stop the spread of malaria.

Arvid is a PhD candidate at the Department of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto and a Junior Fellow at Massey College. In his research he uses a combination of theory and whole genome sequencing to understand the evolutionary dynamics of jumping genes.

Arvid Recommends:

  • The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by  Oren Harman. The story of the extraordinary life of the man who provided much of the theoretical framework for the evolutionary study of conflict and cooperation. 
  • The Bridge, A Scandinavian crime drama TV series that follows one Danish and one Swedish police investigator after the discovery of a dead body on the Öresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark.

3) Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

This talk explores the role that climate plays in creating a sense of belonging and looks at how this feeling is being undermined by climate change. With special attention to the impending loss of winter, the talk examines how we are starting to feel homeless in our own homes as a result of the climate crisis. 

Willy Blomme is completing her PhD in Political Theory and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University. Before returning to graduate school she worked in Ottawa as Jack Layton's speechwriter.

Originally from Toronto, she now lives and writes in Montreal.


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