To Connect or Disconnect?

Parks Canada announced that it is looking for bids for contractors to install WiFi Hotspots in up to 50 of it’s parks this year.  Now just so you know…that doesn’t necessarily mean campgrounds as Parks Canada has 44 National Parks, 167 National Historic Sites, 4 Marine Conservation Areas and 1 National Urban Park.  The reasons people have given though are, what I think, a picture of what society is like now.  People want to be able to:

  • Keep connected to work
  • Keep connected to friends and family
  • Keep in touch with the daily news
  • Give you a play-by-play of what they are doing (hello Twitter and Foursquare)
  • To plan on the go (weather bulletins, road maps, directions)
  • and to monitor their home security.

Some of these reasons are valid like connecting with family or being able to plan on the go…you never know what the weather is going to do and you need to be able to change plans.  However, I go away to Algonquin to get away from work….I may receive texts while I’m there but I ignore them until I get home.  I am one to tweet or check-in while I’m in Algonquin if the cell service allows me to but I blog about the park and I want people to know the various things they can do.  That being said…if I don’t have service I don’t worry about it.

This decision though makes me wonder about the future of WiFi in Algonquin and it’s got me thinking….why can’t we just take the opportunity to disconnect from the world around us and connect with our families?  To me it’s a no brainer kind of question as I grew up when there were no cell phones, other than the huge Motorola’s, or WiFi.  We played outside until the street lights came on and we went camping every summer, all summer as a family.

How do you feel about this?

~Enjoy your trip

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Tweeting A Mystery


Last spring, the twitterverse was immersed into a 95-year-old mystery when Tom Thomson himself took to twitter.  Over the last year he has gathered over 1500 followers and has made over 4700 tweets.  I myself started following Tom around June/July of last year and have loved every minute of it.  The cool thing about his tweets is that he makes you feel like you are on the trail with him paddling, walking, and sketching every step of the way.  He’s very interactive with his followers and has now branched into a blog.  Tom focuses on the final fall/spring of Tom Thomson’s life.  This week I had the chance to interview Tom about his journey with us on Twitter.  He also included some answers from previous interviews .

Early Spring

Jenn: Why twitter?  Why not Facebook or some other form of social media?

Tom: Twitter enabled me to construct Tom’s identity and character. That’s not possible with Facebook. As well the follower concept is different from friends on Facebook.

I’ve decided to conceal my real identity and have everyone interact with me as Tom. Only a very few people know who I am and I have sworn them to secrecy and say they are now part of the ‘ TT Inner Circle’

Also, by being covert, no one knows who I am and where I will show up. It’s all part of the ongoing mystery.
Jenn: What inspired you to become the voice of Tom Thomson? 

Tom: I’ve always known Tom. I have read most, if not all of the literature and research about Tom. I also have some ‘inside’ or local knowledge of where he grew up and what he experienced during his informative years. We’re not related, but we have relatives in the same cemetery.

Reflecting on his character, I have a lot of similarities and could relate to the situations he was in.

Tom wasn’t a big writer. Very terse and unrevealing in his prose. His tone and choice of words was actually perfect for tweets.

As well, I am fascinated by his sketches. I have been compiling as many as I can (I have several hundred now). I realized the size and quality of the boards were perfect for tweeting and look especially wonderful on mobile devices.

Jenn: Why the last spring?  Why not the 5 years that Tom explored Algonquin?

Tom: Tom’s Last Spring is a culmination of many factors and achievements. He had produced his masterpieces, the Canadian icons of the Jack Pine and the West Wind but he didn’t realize it.

The spectre of the War and the looming conscription crisis was a factor, I believe, in his plans to flee or make himself scarce.

Finally, his affair with Winnie, ran into a major complication (alleged pregnancy). I could see a man cornered with little or no choice who was about to achieve something grand. And then it didn’t happen.

There’s an exceptional story here – from hs return to Toronto in Nov 1916 – to his last spring and fate in July 1917. No one has really explored the psychological aspect, the internal drama, so to speak. I’ve realized that many people know of Tom Thomson and his death, but know nothing of the circumstances or his thoughts and feelings leading up to the end.
Jenn: What’s next in your journey?

Tom: I am re-tweeting Tom’s Last Spring once again. Like any good ghost, they are repetitive and tend to haunt the same thing over and over again.

I am using the timeline I have built, adding in more detail, and correcting things that weren’t quite right. If I do this two or three times, I will have built a completely plausible story of his last spring, and it is my hope this ‘story’ will become a part of history.

This year I am writing blog entries (In real time as best I can). I know enough the characters, structure and timeline that I can slip into character when I write. All the research is paying off.

I am thinking about turning this into a book – Tom’s Lost Journal, but I’ll see how this year goes. I’m not setting any expectation.

Early Spring, Algonquin Park
Jenn: How are you able to portray your character so flawlessly? 

Tom: Research, reflection and more research. Everyday, I try to imagine what Tom is doing. I try to reconstruct the circumstances. I am reading the papers of the day; I am reading books that he would have read, and then project what I would be thinking into his character. It’s a hell of a lot of work. I comb through material, over and over again, always thinking ‘What would Tom think (say or tweet). Generally something spontaneously pops out and voila, I have new material.

Jenn: Do you feel that if Tom were alive today that you would be as big of a deal or do you think that Tom is who he is because of the mystery and possible fates that surround his death?

Tom: Everyone loves a mystery and a tragedy. Had Tom have lived to a ripe old age, he probably would have been well-accomplished but not as well-known.

We are all ‘inventing’ Tom (phrase borrowed from Sherrill Grace). It’s this act of speculating of what might have been and what could be drawing everyone into the story. It’s like going to a theatre – plays are more powerful than any CGI movie because we are constructing ourselves the characters we see on stage and it becomes a more personal experience. Same with the tweets – when you read the tweets you have to construct the circumstance and it becomes more powerful. Just as Tom let the wood show through in his sketches, forcing the viewer to construct the picture – it makes it a much more powerful experience.

Jenn: Do you feel that had Tom survived that he and Winnie would have gotten married?

Tom: I think Tom was ready to split. Out of wedlock was such a scandal in those days. He would have gone to the Rockies out west, or my speculation he would have gone to Colorado.
Jenn: Can you please remind our readers what the possible fates surrounding the death of Tom Thomson are?

Tom: My goodness. If I can remember them – there are 7.

1. Death by accident
2. Death by suicide.
3. Death by the hands of Shannon Fraser
4. Death by the hands of Martin Blecher
5. Death by the hands of Hugh Trainor
6. Death by the hands of a Poacher
7. Disappearance, after fatal encounter with a Poacher (the poacher is the recovered body)

(I wrote these without consulting my notes)

I have my opinion on what is the most plausible one is, but I’m not telling. Also, the seventh fate, despite being the least plausible, is still a definite possibility. Who knows, direct descendants of Tom Thomson might be alive and well in Colorado today!

Wood Interior, Winter

Some previous interview responses that I found to be quite interesting:

I was wondering a bit about your background (Academia? Art historian? Curator?). Your tweets (not to mention the images to which you seem to have access) indicate you have a much richer and deeper knowledge about Tom Thomson and his era than most.1. 

I am none of the above. I am a professional, but in none of those fields. I have some close connections to Tom Thomson, but to reveal more might compromise my anonymity.

How did you come up with the idea for this mode of expression about Thomson?

I have been working on an alternative theory – and part of the exercise is to reconstruct the timeline. When I saw the twitterfeed about real-time tweets in World War II, I thought why not do not this for Tom?

I can see some reaction from some of your RTs on Twitter. What kinds of responses have you received?

The biggest, most unexpected and powerful reaction was the excitement when people are “followed by Tom Thomson” (Tom follows back every follower). I quickly realized that this tied back to the myth of Tom Thomson paddling in the park and that he might be following (as any good ghost would do). Also, I received several comments that were direct allusions to the Tragically Hip’s “Three Pistols” and I responded in kind. Also, I have numerous followers from Algonquin Park, who are excited about being “followed by Tom” – I feel like I’m bringing back to life some part of history, but also tying into an important part of the Canadian psyche. By keeping myself anonymous, people have no choice to think that they are talking to Tom and I respond in character.

There are still stories to tell…each one as different as the next and Tom is here to recount them all.  Now if only we knew what happened with Winnie and the other people who made up the township of Mowat!

Tom’s Blog:

Tom’s Twitter: @ttlastspring

Winnie’s Twitter: @winnietrainor (she’s been quiet lately)

~Enjoy your trip!



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A Glimpse of What Was

Back in 1917, probably not much later in the year than this, Tom Thomson started making his last trek into Algonquin Park.  Back then there were no cell phones, internet, computers, voice mail, or even phone lines really.  There was just the regular mail and telegraphs in the park.  However something astonishing happened last year in the world of twitter.  Thomson emerged from the misty lakes of Canoe Lake and started tweeting.  He tweeted his thoughts, his art, but mostly a glimpse into his very private and unknown life.

Thomson tweets specifically about his last spring in Algonquin Park.  There have been a ton of followers and interest but whats captured and captivated me was the chance to interact with the famous Canadian artist.  As mentioned in a few of my posts lasts summer there are 7 possible fates that were wildly discussed in twitterverse.  These fates vary from murder by a few people to suicide and accidental drowning.  Joining Thomson in exploring the mystery is his lover and possible mother to his child (still speculated not yet proven) is Winnie Trainor.

Follow along as he and Winnie rise from the mist and engage us all in solving one of the greatest Canadian mysteries!  Also keep an eye on my site because as events within the Algonquin area come up I will post and advertise them as we celebrate 100 years of Thomson in the area.

To follow Tom and Winnie on twitter:

Tom Thomson Last Spring: @ttlastspring
Winnie Trainor: @winnietrainor

~Enjoy your Trip!

Tom100Logo small


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Blogathon Weekend

Well the blogathon is done!  It was a great weekend to clean up the site and put together a series of planning posts.  One thing that we did do that doesn’t really look different is that we moved to a new server!  The reliability of this server is amazing and I’m glad that we did it.  We’ve added a few things to our blogging community!

We now have a Facebook page – click the like button on the right hand side.

I also have a google + page –  Join one of my circles!

I highly recommend that if you have a blog and you need some inspiration then join in the next blogathon which takes place from June 21-24th.

Have a great day folks!

~Enjoy your trip!

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