Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sunday February 26th, 2017 Alternative Facts

We are living in interesting but increasingly strange times. What was envisioned as the golden age of information is actually more like the age of misinformation where opinions are cheap, everyone is an expert, the level of discourse is low and we are confronted on a daily basis with “fake news” and “alternative facts.” A Stanford University study revealed that 82 % of middle school children were unable to tell the difference between real news online and click bait or paid advertisements.

Increasingly the lines between what is true and what is a sales pitch are blurred, as are the lines between news and entertainment and facts and bias. What is sorely needed to help one navigate the pitfalls of misinformation is critical thinking which is defined as self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.  Critical thinkers use the intellectual concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking. They ask good questions about information presented to them, such as who is providing it? Can I trust this source? What evidence is there to prove this? What are the contrasting views?

When confronted with news such as the recent “fact” about terrorist attacks in Sweden, an independent thinker might wonder – why have I not heard anything about this before Donald Trump made that claim?  When he stated, “Can you believe it?” the best response would be to find out for yourself rather than to assume it was factual. In fact, it was not factual at all as was evidenced by the lack of any evidence, the overwhelming confusion and mocking response of the Swedish press and people, and the realization that it was based on a faulty understanding of a documentary which was biased in its point of view and which was offered in defiance of real data and real facts.

Public libraries have long been information sorters, organizers and providers which foster and support the activity of critical thinking. We provide access to a wide range of information and what we select and provide for the public is not unfiltered, unattributed opinion. Unlike Internet “click-bait” or half-baked tweets, we strive to provide reliable information for the enquiring minds who want to truly learn more about the world. We also provide information from a wide range of points of views so that one can read and use one's own critical skills to develop an opinion on issues. For instance, if you are interested in the current American president's life, you can select magazines, newspaper articles, e-books or contrasting biographies such as Trump' s own autobiographies, to compare to a book like The Making of Trump by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David K. Johnson who has done decades of research and interviews with the subject and can speak with authority about financial records, business deals and Trump's alliances and politics. For those interested in developing their critical thinking skills, there are also many books to borrow from your Library and I can recommend DebunkIt: How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation or the very recent A FieldGuide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age (in book or audiobook format).
Your public library is a haven of knowledge for everyone and in these times when the deluge of information of varying qualities feels overwhelming, we invite you to visit. Librarians and staff would be happy to recommend quality titles for you on any subject, and more than that – your public libraries are also a lovely space for reading, relaxing and reflecting when you want to get away from the constant “noise” of tweets and ads and fake news. I think that you will be pleasantly rewarded.

Angela Meady  – If you have a comment about today's column, we would love to hear from you. Check out the blog at 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sunday February 19th, 2017 And the Oscar Goes To…

Will the musical sensation La La Land, with its record tying 14 Academy Award nominations, be named best picture, or will independent film Moonlight claim glory? That is the big question that will only be answered on Sunday, February 26th, when the annual Academy Awards, or Oscars, will air, honouring the film achievements from the past year. With over 20 nominated films, this year’s nominees represent a diverse selection of American and international films competing for the top prize. Millions of film enthusiasts around the world will tune in to see which film will be crowned as the best picture.

Before placing any bets, have you seen any of the nominated films? Unfortunately, most films up for awards have not been released onto DVD. However, some films that had earlier release dates can now be found on the Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) shelves. One of these films is the critically acclaimed western Hell or High Water, starring Ben Foster and Chris Pine as a couple of bank robbers on the run from law enforcement. Nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, Hell of High Water successfully combines brain with brawn into an exciting film that is sure to become a classic. Jeff Bridges costars in a nominated performance as a police officer on pursuit of the robbers.

In the best actor category, the underrated Viggo Mortensen surprised critics and audiences with his gentle and nuanced performance in the sleeper hit Captain Fantastic. Mortensen plays Ben, a father raising his six children in the Washington wilderness, teaching them how to live a self-sustainable life away from the evils of capitalism. However, due to an unforeseen circumstance, Ben must bring his children into the city where they are exposed to a world outside of their own, one that includes their grandparents. Based on an original screenplay by writer/director Matt Ross, Captain Fantastic is an engaging film worth investing in.

The most competitive category at this year’s Oscars is the best actress race, one that includes newcomer Ruth Negga, and seasoned veteran Meryl Streep. Negga stars in Loving, a fact based drama about Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple living in 1960s Virginia who fought for the recognition of their marriage in a state that banned interracial unions. The film is a powerful tribute to a couple that was instrumental in abolishing a racist constitution. Another real-life heroine is the subject of Florence Foster Jenkins, a film about a New York socialite who dreamed of performing as an opera singer, despite her musical shortcomings. Streep stars in the title role in a performance far from the dramatic territory of Loving. The film is funny and lighthearted, once again showcasing a brilliant performance from Streep.

In the animation category, Kubo and the Two Strings captured audiences’ attention with a unique visual style and engaging story about a one-eyed boy who must protect his family from a dangerous spirit summoned by his own hand. Featuring a first rate cast, Kubo and the Two Strings is a terrific movie going experience for the whole family. Similarly, Zootopia is another cerebral animated film that both challenges and entertains its audiences. Set in a world populated by animals, the action takes place in the metropolis Zootopia where all animals, prey and predators alike, live in complete harmony. When a crime occurs that threatens to undue peace, a rabbit and fox must join forces to ensure the prosperity of their beloved Zootopia.

Before the Academy Awards air, be sure to stop by the closest TBPL branch to pick up any one these films. Due the high circulation of these Oscar nominated films during awards season, use your library card to place a hold on the item so that you can guarantee the chance to sign it out. Patrons can place holds by visiting or by calling our main line at 345-8275 where our staff are happy to do it for you. Be sure to check out TBPL’s online catalogue for the release of other Oscar nominated films in the future.  

Petar Vidjen

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sunday February 12th RRSPs

What are you saving for?  While answers to this question may vary widely, often people will respond “retirement”.  Not all of us have company pension plans and many are concerned that the Canada Pension Plan and personal savings will not provide a sufficient income.  It will come as no surprise to regular readers that we have books on all areas of personal finance including retirement and RRSPs, but you may be interested to know that we’re going further in helping you get the answers you need. 

No, library staff won’t be advising you on your RRSPs, but we have arranged workshops for you to attend at Brodie and Waverley branchesTBPL regularly partners with local experts and professionals to deliver informative and timely workshops in a variety of subjects.  Join Kara Polson (Financial Consultant) for a detailed look at how to make the best use of your RRSPs on February 14th at Brodie and February 16th at Waverley.  Both sessions run from 6-7:30pm and will help you develop the best strategy to achieve your goal.

Now, about those books, all the books selected are Canadian publications.  There’s nothing worse than reading a financial planning book that gets right down to the nitty gritty, but all the information is for an American audience. One of those highlighted below chosen is purely focused on RRSPs; while the other two will help you look at your retirement planning overall.

For starters “The Moolala Guide to Rockin’ Your RRSP” is written in an accessible and engaging manner.  Author Bruce Sellery breaks it down into five steps to help you retire with the funds you need.  He guides you through creating your foundation, figuring out how much money you’ll need, developing a plan, taking action on that plan, and finally (possibly most importantly) sticking with that plan.  His focus is making your retirement plans achievable with a dash of the reality check some of us need.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s books are well written and accessible with great worksheets and “Never Too Late” is no exception.  Clear steps are provided for you to figure out where you are now, what your goal is, and how to get there.  Both “Never too Late” and “The Moolala Guide to Rockin’ your RRSP” are clear, easy to read, and provide concrete steps.  I particularly appreciate Vaz-Oxlade’s breakdown of the difference between a TFSA and RRSP.  It’s this kind of information that we don’t all have a strong grasp on and need an authoritative source to help us work through.

Finally, we have “The Retirement Time Bomb:  How to Achieve Financial Independence in a Changing World” by Gordon Pape.  This guide focuses on how retirement planning has changed and how we must change with it.  In the introduction Pape talks about the speed of change, putting it in familiar terms.  From fears CPP would run out and the younger generation wouldn’t benefit (not such a concern any more) to GICs no longer being a cornerstone of retirement planning.  He provides guidelines (e.g. “Watch the Economic Climate”) and then digs into practical matters.

All of these workshops and books offer something a little different and are presented written in a manner that even someone completely disinterested in finance and investments can connect with.  The readability is extremely helpful as many of us may prefer to play ostrich and put our heads in the sand.  Don’t play ostrich, come out for our RRSP programs, check out someour books, and plan for your best future.

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday February 5th, 2017 Colour Me Calm

Last fall, the Thunder Bay Public Library started an adult colouring club called Colour Me Calm. Colour Me Calm is a drop-in program where adults of all colouring ability are invited to come out and socialize. Colour Me Calm ran every second Thursday night from the end of September to the beginning of December at the Waverley Resource Library. I am now happy to announce that Colour Me Calm is resuming this February!
You may be wondering what attracts people to colouring. Colouring is now considered to be an effective de-stressor. The calming effects of colouring have been noted by psychiatrists and psychologists; even the well-known psychiatrist Carl Jung reportedly had his patients colour mandalas to help them de stress. Colouring has therapeutic effects for people with anxiety, and may help alleviate epileptic attacks. And colouring is similar to meditation because it makes your whole brain focus on the here-and-now.

Besides being an effective way to relax, colouring is also said to be a great way to boost your creativity by many people online. But just as many people (mainly psychologists and psychiatrists) disagree with this viewpoint; in particular these experts disagree with the notion that colouring can be likened to art therapy. Art therapy gets patients to create art to improve their physical, mental, and emotional well being. From that basic definition, you can see how colouring is not art therapy - you’re not creating anything, you’re simply filling in someone else’s picture. Be that as it may, there is still some creativity involved in colouring, specifically in choosing the colours you use on a picture (your colour palette) and blending those colours together.

But anecdotally, colouring has functioned as a gateway to being even more creative. Cortney Clift wrote an article titled “Here’s What Happens When You Color Instead of Watch TV for a Week” on Brit + Co. After her week of colouring, she found herself inspired to try other creative activities; she credits colouring with sparking this interest. In a similar vein, in the article “Coloring books for adults: we asked therapists for their opinions” on The Guardian, active colourist Cari Schofield credits colouring with helping her get back to drawing. Schofield used to paint and draw, but had to stop due to her epilepsy, which caused her hand to jerk. To her delight, she found that she was able to add a drawing into the picture she was colouring in one of Johanna Basford’s books. So while colouring may not be very “creative” on its own, it can lead you to a more creative life.

Oh, and if you’re unfamiliar with the name, Basford is credited with starting the current colouring craze when she convinced her publisher to let her create a colouring book for adults rather than children. That book, Secret Garden: an Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, has since sold over two million copies.

Many people colour at home, but there’s no reason why colouring can’t be a social event; that’s where Colour Me Calm comes in. Last fall, we had people of all colouring abilities attending the bi-weekly program. There are pencil crayons and colouring sheets provided, but you’re also welcome to bring your own materials. And you are not restricted to bringing only traditional colouring supplies; last fall we had someone who was making her own stationery with rubber stamps, stencils, and pencil crayons.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: there’s always coffee, a herbal tea, and cookies every week.
So I hope we’ll see you at Colour Me Calm this month. Our first meeting is Thursday, February 9th at 7pm. If you’d like more information, visit, email, or give me a call at 345-8275 ext 6814.

Shauna Kosoris