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Thursday, March 29, 2012

My reactions to "Journey for Justice"

My program at school often forces me to step outside my comfort zone, and that's one of the reasons I like it so much. Whether I'm interviewing random people on the street, attending sporting events, or staying up until 3 a.m. finishing an assignment, it's all helped me to grow as a person and a potential player in Winnipeg's media scene.

Recently, however, my class was assigned to read a non-fiction book about a notorious crime that happened in Winnipeg almost 30 years ago, that was only recently solved. The book was Journey for Justice: How 'Project Angel' Cracked the Candace Derksen Case, by Winnipeg Free Press justice reporter Mike McIntyre.

Photo from

One of the reasons I avoid non-fiction books is I know how it's going to end. I remember seeing Titanic when I was 10 years old, and when the boat hit the iceberg I was all, It's okay, someone will come rescue them! and then I was all, No they won't, you fool. This is a true story.

I had the same reaction during the first few pages of Journey for Justice. It's the story of Candace Derksen, a 13-year-old Winnipeg girl who didn't come home from school one day. Her body was found, bound and frozen in a storage shed a couple months later. The book describes her family's search for Candace and how they dealt with her death. McIntyre balances the family's struggle with in-depth descriptions of the court proceedings that convicted Candace's killer, Mark Grant, and discussion of the forensic evidence that led to his arrest.

Reading about when Candace didn't come home from school that November afternoon in 1984, I kept telling myself everything would be fine. It would all work out. As Candace's mother Wilma was gripped with fear, I was too. When Wilma told herself everything would be okay, Candace would walk through the door any minute now, I believed her.

And then I remembered, no. This wasn't a made-up story, or a movie, or anything with a happy ending. This was a real-life, true story, that ended tragically.

It's a testament to McIntyre's skills as a writer that I didn't just ditch the book right then and there. While I already knew how the book would end, I wanted to read more. I wanted to know what happened to Candace, what happened to her parents Wilma and Cliff, and how their strong, supportive community rallied around them when they needed them so much.

I tend to avoid non-fiction because it lacks the narrative structure of novels. I like something with a beginning, middle, and end, and a whole whack of rising action and denouement and all that stuff packed in the middle somewhere. Journey for Justice kept me interested largely because it followed this structure - well, the first half of it anyway. While the second half was important, it didn't maintain my interest as much as the first part - mostly because it consisted of court proceedings and psychiatric assessments of Candace's convicted killer. All important stuff, no question, but it felt as though McIntyre abondoned his authorly habits and put his reporter hat back on. Nothing wrong with that, but 100+ pages of journalistic writing can get a tad dry.

I haven't read any of McIntyre's books but I follow him on Twitter and read his articles in the Free Press on a pretty regular basis. I think he's a great reporter - he sticks to the facts without being melodramatic. He writes about some gritty, horrifying stuff, yet he maintains a level of humanity that makes his work easy to read. In Journey for Justice, it sometimes felt like he was trying too hard to be an author - he often gave into melodrama, when a story like Candace's doesn't need it.

McIntyre and Wilma Derksen spoke to my class last week about Journey for Justice and Candace's case. McIntyre offered invaluable advice to a roomful of budding journalists, and what stuck with me those most was the notion of trust. Mike wanted to write Candace's story, but instead of playing the part of the stereotypical story-hungry reporter, he built a relationship with the Derksens. He showed them an incredible amount of respect and compassion, and treated them like human beings. To him, they were more than just a great story.

They were people, and he wanted to do them justice.

Now, the theme of my blog is music. I hate to stray from my theme, but I also hate to trivialize this story with a lame video of some song I like. Journey for Justice repeatedly mentions Candace's favourite song, "Friends are Friends Forever" by Michael W. Smith. Here it is, for Candace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ain't no party like a SUSHI party

This is it. What I've been working on for the past few months. The source of recent stress, frustration, joy, and satisfaction. Presenting...

UMAMI magazine!

As part of my program at school, myself along with four of my classmates created a brand-new, completely original magazine all about the exciting world of sushi.

We wrote the articles. Produced the ads. Took the pictures, did the layout, and even wrote out a complete publicity proposal plan. Pretty fancy!

To witness the fruits of our labour in person, please, please, please head down to our official launch - 

The Magazine Trade Fair
Friday, March 30 from 12 - 4 PM at Red River College's Exchange District Campus - 160 Princess Street.

There will be free sushi, giveaways, and a chance to win a gift card to one of Winnipeg's finest sushi joints.

But wait, there's more!

The trade fair will feature a veritable plethora of magazines, all presenting their premier issues! It's gonna be pretty nutty, people. In a good way.

It would be lovely to see you all there. I'm pretty proud of this bad boy, and it will be a hoot to share it with my millions of blog followers.

To celebrate all the hard work that's been put into these magazines, here it is - the ultimate party song. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Here Comes Your Man

Spring has sprung! Clich├ęs abound! I feel like tiptoeing through the tulips, and all that.

For some reason, spring always makes me think of the Pixies. Maybe because the name 'Pixies' makes me picture sprite-like nymphs darting through freshly sprung flowers. More likely, it's because I saw the Pixies play in Winnipeg last spring, and for the next two months after I saw them, I listened to Doolittle every single day.

Sometimes when I go to a great show, it inspires me to listen to the band on my stereo as soon as I get home. And subsequently, everyday on my headphones for the foreseeable future. Other times, I'll see a mind-blowing show and that will be enough. I'll scarcely listen to the band again.

Like I said, the Pixies fall into the former category. They were never my favourite band, but when I heard they were coming to town to play my favourite album of theirs in its entirety, it was a musical opportunity I could not miss. And lucky me, it was just about the best show I'd seen all year.

Here's my favourite song off Doolittle, the very springy "Here Comes Your Man":  

Monday, March 12, 2012

If I Make it Through This Winter

If the past couple days are any indication, winter is a thing of the past in my fair town.

Nevertheless, this song has been playing in my head these past few days.

 Not the best video, but a nice song.

I remember listening to the Paperbacks on my discman as I walked home from high school. I specifically remember stressing myself out beyond belief over an upcoming pre-cal exam. That test seemed like it would determine my entire future. Considering how terrible I am at math, you can imagine my horror.

Fast-forward 10 years: that exam didn't mean a darn thing. I passed, barely, but that has nothing to do with where I am today.

If I make it through the rest of this winter, I'll have to remember - what I'm so stressed about today might mean next to nothing in 10 years.

Picture by me, this past weekend.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Still Ill

Well, I'm going to try to spare you from the nitty gritty details, but let's just say I spent the majority of my weekend getting reacquainted with the inner workings of my toilet.

I don't know what it was that set me off, but my stomach was in a fit of rage from Friday evening until relatively recently.

Sorry, you probably didn't need to know that.

Anyway, as I lay on the bathroom floor, writhing in a fit of pain and self-pity, I took small comfort in the fact that no matter how miserable I was feeling in that moment, I knew there was at least one other person in the world who has felt more misery than I...

Picture from
Steven Patrick Morrissey.

As I drifted in and out of consciousness this afternoon, I played Hatful of Hollow on repeat on my nearby computer. Whether this helped me feel better or perpetuated the fever, I'll never know. I only know that when Moz belted out the chorus to "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" I thought, Yes. You understand me, Morrissey. And felt mildly better.