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Arts and Science Dominate First Day of ideaCity05

TORONTO (Digital Journal) — “I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else,” said Pablo Picasso, centuries before his simplistic quote became the underlying theme of a 21st-century three-day conference.

ideaCity05 began yesterday with so many ideas that almost every speaker mentioned the word at least once during their 20 minutes of stage time. It’s no surprise, considering how integral original thought has become to the Toronto mind-meeting, which takes place in Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre until Friday.

“We want to uncover the source of energy,” Dr. Guy Miller declared to the packed theatre, as the scientist-physician explained how a South Pole expedition could hold the key to energy depletion in a debilitating disease stunting cell growth.

The science theme continued with Josef Penninger, a biophysics superstar who provoked laughter from the audience by detailing his foray into the sexual habits of fruit flies. Most interestingly, and less erotic, Penninger described how he isolated a molecule in mice that acted as a receptor for SARS.

Medical aid dominated Dr. Mehran Anvari’s talk, where the Hamilton-based surgeon walked attendees through his vision of telerobotic surgery — where operations are done by robotic arms controlled by doctors miles away. “Home surgery is not far away,” he forecasted.

Digital Journal‘s Editor-in-Chief, Chris Hogg (left), stands with media mogul Moses Znaimer at the ideaCity party held at the Sandra Ainsley Gallery in downtown Toronto. — Photo by Digital Journal
Host and ideaCity founder Moses Znaimer began the next session on a different note, deciding to hold a panel discussion with two of Canada’s premier ballerinas, Evelyn Hart and Veronica Tennant. While dance dominated the discussion, the ballet vets couldn’t help but reveal their own life-affirming ideas. “It’s important not to live to receive praise,” Hart said, “but to access a community by acting as a lightning rod that connects you to other people.”

And if any presenter best connected with the ideaCity audience that morning, it was playwright Tomson Highway. After playing some sorrow-filled piano melodies, he roused applause with a simple idea: “The single reason we’re on Earth is to have one helluva good time.”

No need to tell that to Richard Greenblatt, one half of the theatrical hit 2 Pianos, 4 Hands. He offered a preview into his upcoming 2006 show based on the works of pianist-satirist Tom Lehrer. Capping off the artistic session was Duo Similia — beautiful twin sisters played selections from Bizet’s Carmen on flute and guitar, proving once again that the classics can still sway hearts.

The most stirring talk belonged to Scott Taylor, a journalist who was held hostage in Iraq and left with enough horrifying stories to draw gasps from attendees. But the theme turned to the arts once more when former Sony Canada president Denise Donlon listed her pet peeves in the music industry and filmmaker Brad Peyton explained how his stuttering film proposal won him a 13-show series on CBC.

Best visuals of the night belonged to Chris Landreth’s animated short Ryan, which not only nabbed an Oscar but also propelled the Toronto animator to worldwide fame. If watching the “psychorealistic” film wasn’t enough to spice the senses, the Celtic-flavoured band Quagmyre rocked the ideaCity stage with fiddle riffs and frenetic step-dancing.

After Quagmyre, Znaimer told attendees the day was over, the evening party was about to start, and they would have to wait until the next day before the ideas began percolating again.

ideaCity05 continues today with speeches from Derek Hatfield, Peter C. Newman, Terry Mosher, and many more. For more information about ideaCity, visit For more information on the Sandra Ainsley Gallery, check out

All photos of ideaCity05 were taken using the Nikon D2X.

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