Wednesday November 26, 2014

Fictional meetings of historic proportions


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: What historical figure would you most like to meet?


Unlike last week’s exercise of picking a fictional character to meet, picking a historical figure is a no-brainer for me.

For me, no one person has had as great an impact on science than Charles Darwin. There may be some bias. My background is in geology, with a particular interest in paleontology. Many great cases could be made for other scientists, but personally the most intriguing puzzle of the universe is life and, to date, I do not think there is another single individual, who has contributed as much to the unraveling of that mystery.

Of course, evolution did not just spring from Darwin’s mind in some kind of epiphany. It was becoming very well known in Darwin’s time that life on Earth had been around for a very long time and had changed continuously and dramatically throughout time.

It was Darwin, though, who first, by meticulous observation and amassing a stunning amount of evidence, proposed evolution from common ancestry and a plausible mechanism (natural selection) through which it occurred.

What makes Darwin all the more interesting is that despite the evidence gathered over nearly three decades, he was internally conflicted. For one, he didn’t feel he was ready to publish or present his ideas.

If it had not been for goading from colleagues and the realization that Alfred Wallace had more or less independently come to virtually identical conclusions, it may well be Wallace to whom I am paying tribute here.

In any event, Darwin is my choice. It would be a privilege to sit down with someone so insightful and to convey to him from the future just how right he was and how far his theory has advanced in the last 155 years.

— Thom Barker


Sometimes we writers are gluttons for punishment.

Last week it took days of racking the old brain to come up with a fictional character we’d most like to meet.

It was as difficult a task as we have undertaken in filling this space since its inception.

So what did we pick for a topic this week? Who from throughout history we would most like to meet?

It is easily the second most difficult topic we have tackled.

My first decision on this topic was to limit the area I looked at in terms of an historic personage, deciding to limit myself to our home country.

It seems to me that within Canada, through the decades, there are many people worthy of wanting to meet, and for a full range of reasons.

Pierre Berton, Robertson Davies, Stephen Leacock and a list of other authors would all be interesting to meet as an author.

Politicians are another rich vein to mine in terms of who might be most interesting to meet. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Tommy Douglas and Sir John A. Macdonald come quickly to mind.

From film there is Lorne Greene, Leslie Nielsen, and of course William Shatner.

But what draws me the most is the early days of what would become Saskatchewan.

While noted as a man of few words, scout Jerry Potts is someone who walked in both the world of immigrant and First Nations, and would be intriguing to talk to.

And then there is Big Bear or Mistahi-maskwa (1825 - 1888) a Cree leader who was notable for his involvement in the North-West Rebellion and his subsequent imprisonment.

Few First Nations leaders have played the sort of role he did.

But in the end I have to pick a chance to sit down with two personages forever linked, and forever remembered in our province; Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. To sit down with the pair to gain a better understanding of what they hoped to achieve in their day would be compelling to say the least.

—Calvin Daniels

Close to home

What historical, or rather, real life person, would I meet if I had been given the chance.

Once again it’s hard to pick just one person. Part of me would want to meet Adolf Hitler, just so I could give him a huge boot to the rear end.

But yet another part of me would like to meet Jackie Robinson for what he did for baseball, breaking the colour barrier in the late 1940’s and becoming the first black player in the major league, paving the way for every other African American (or Dominican, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, off white Caucasian, etc.).

But in reality there is just one person I’d like to meet should I be given the opportunity. He’s not some famous athlete. Nor is he a scientist or politician.

In fact, he had a grade three education and was missing all of his fingers on his right hand because he played with a blast cap on a wood burning stove as a toddler.

But still, I’d jump at the opportunity to finally meet my Grandpa John Brenzen, who died six years before I was born.

Because from what I hear, he was a straight up awesome guy.

—Randy Brenzen



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