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Showing posts from September, 2012

Passing Glances

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There are gaps in my pop culture knowledge, and, until last weekend, American Graffiti was one of them. But, I finally saw it. We watched it in a big tent in the quad at the University of Alberta's homecoming weekend. What has stayed with me, other than the blonde in the T-Bird, was how the cars were as much the characters as were Dreyfuss, Howard, Ford, Williams.

The grilles got a lot of looks. The headlights became eyes. The hoods were heads. George Lucas's camera shots and lighting brought out the personalities in the cars. There were even a couple of killer effective scenes where the camera gave us two cars side-by-side while we heard the disembodied voices of the human drivers talking back and forth to each other. The magical effect brought the cars to life, replacing their usual voices -- horn, engine, brakes, tires -- with the human versions.

Cars fascinate me. Not like they fascinate my dad, mind you,  or, for that matter,  the dudes in grade 12 who knew everything ab…

Yes-terday

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Word that I had managed, through a friend, to purchase two Paul McCartney tickets (for the equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment) was received with a barely disguised yawn from Michael, our music-loving, 18-year-old son.

His argument went like this:  McCartney tickets cost more than tickets for Japandroids,  so, immediately, what's up with that? Then, there is the fact that McCartney is well past his best-before date.

"Dad, he's old," said Mikey. "Quite old."

The argument continued like this: Yesterday, he was the real Paul McCartney. Today, he's part of an overpriced, overproduced appeal to nostalgia aimed at those who haven't listened to new music, don't support new music, are trapped in the past. And are willing to pay for that insulation.

He's got a bit of a point.

(And his mom has a point, too, when she said wistfully, "Who I'd really like to see is John Lennon. What would he sound like today?")

But, here's the thin…

#yegpie pieces

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Here are some magpie thoughts, and how they chattered to each other this morning.

On Twitter, this woke me up:

Bravo. MT : Provoked by , I woke up and started a "web log" about 
Edmonton as magpietown. Very cool. Like a magpie in a dumpster, it just fits. On the trail out to this new blog, who do I see already on his way back but El Viejo himself -- the great Ian Tyson. I have always been a Tyson fan. He has helped teach me how to see where I live. And if he thinks the magpie rises to the timelessness of song, I just sing along.

Magpie D E Some say (some say) you're a bold deceiver A D E I say (I say) you're a true believer A Magpie D E A You know the west ain't never gonna die D E Just as long as you can flyEdmonton as magpietown. It fits. Like the E chord over the word west. I grab my guitar, find the a…

Premier Lougheed

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Historians and political observers have been of one voice since Premier Peter Lougheed died in Calgary last week.

It's all been some riff on the theme of giant worship.

With no disrespect pointed at what he saw around him when he took power, Lougheed nontheless transformed an agrarian-farming province into a modern Canadian political and economic and cultural entity.

CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge said this in a tweet:

Over the past 44 years I've covered them all, & interviewed most of them. On my landscape of first ministers, Peter Lougheed stood tallest.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi ended his statement on the premier's passing by invoking in a nimble way the legacy of the architect: "Remember the line from Christopher Wren's epitaph: 'If you seek his monument – look around you.'"

If Lougheed carried the province, tonight the honour was returned, as his remains were carried up the same steps he sca…

Bill Of Rides

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Here are 10 things that I love about riding my bicycle. Now, I don't believe bicycles represent the final revolution. I do drive a car. But I feel way better when I'm on my bike. Together, these are the articles of my personal Bill of Rides.

1. When I ride, I get hungry. But I never think about cycling through a drive-thru fast food restaurant like I do, for some reason, when I am in a car. Instead, I think about home-cooked meals. And a glass of wine.

2. When I ride, I don't have a screen in front of me. We live in front of all kinds of screens: TV screens, computer monitors, smartphones. iPods. Smaller and smaller interfaces. On my bike, I look this way, that way, I look up, and I see a lot. I see big things like eternity, and little things like a pebble being spit up by my front tire. And none of it is framed.

3. When I ride, I wave and say or nod hello to other cyclists. Just because they are other cyclists. I don't do this in a car.

4. When I ride, I use my old Ca…

The Gretzky-Lemieux Pass

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Things are pretty ugly out there.

The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, has just severed diplomatic relations with Iran, the timing of the move leading many to wonder if Canada has inside information about an imminent US-backed Israeli attack on Tehran.

The United Nation's nuclear agency has overwhelmingly rebuked Iran for failing to act to diminish fears it is developing a military nuclear option.

Greece is an economic basket case, Spain is in trouble and the European Union is considering a banking union to solve its monetary woes.

For 23 years, police in the U.K. lied to the world and its own citizens about what happened at the Hillsborough Stadium disaster.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya was assassinated. Anti-American protests are sweeping across the Arab and Muslim world.

The interest rate is, like, nothing, and manufacturing productivity has returned, but the U.S. economy is not adding jobs.

It looks like the NHL season will be shortened or scrubbed over a money …

Thanks For Operation Friendship

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"Thanks."
"Thank you."
"Thanks."
"Thanks very much."
"Thanks for this."

One by one, some with eyes up, some with eyes down, they walked up to the counter I stood behind and each took a lunch tray. And said thanks. What they were thankful for was a salami sandwich and a bowl of chicken-pasta soup.

I was at Operation Friendship yesterday. Operation Friendship Seniors Society is a downtown social agency that caters to the physical and emotional needs of those over age 55 in Edmonton. I was helping to serve lunch.

I felt a little awkward saying, "you're welcome," but I followed my partner's lead and did so, over and over again.

I felt awkward because I obviously didn't deserve the thanks. Now, I'm not saying that I was being thanked personally, but, still, other people, the people and businesses and volunteers and agencies that support Operation Friendship, are the ones that should hear those thank yous, instead.

Watching Me Watching Me, Aha!

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I got up and to the kitchen by 6:26 am this morning. It's now 6:48 am. What have I accomplished so far?

Well, I don't know how much I have actually accomplished, but it is interesting to watch what I consume before breakfast.

First job was to fire up the laptop and check Gmail, where there was a message from Shelagh, then sitting across the table from me, waiting. It was a link to a short video titled Danny MacAskill vs. San Francisco. Very cool, even if he shouldn't have blown through the intersection when there was a pedestrian in it. But, then again, I don't know who's got the right of way in SFO! Interesting that Remington would sponsor the video. Neat sound off the top.


Then, put some tea on. While the kettle was  heating, it was back to the laptop where I learned from a quick Facebook check that Susan Hennig and Corey McDonald liked my post to the CTV Edmonton FB page about a recent Paralympic blog post.


Then, a quick check of the blog readership:  Up to 77 …

How Stories Are Killed

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Tonight, I have been watching a remarkable story unfold on Twitter. Here's the end of it in a retweet from Clay Shirky: 


We did it!  crosses $40K in funding, will keep covering murders in DC. Thanks and congrats to everyone who pitched in!
This is a deduction from afar, but the beginning of the story must have been a decision by the conventional media in Washington, DC, to stop covering every homicide in their community. Maybe there were just too many murders and there was an opportunity cost to covering them. Maybe there was research suggesting that readers stopped reading and viewers stopped viewing when they were asked to consume the facts and images of murder scenes. Maybe the chamber of commerce logic won the day, and editors were convinced of the argument that bad news was bad business. Maybe the advertisers couldn't sell as much happiness when the reality outside the door was so different and so sad. 
Maybe murders in DC just became comm…

Guest Blog: The Real Superheroes

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(Quick Note From Me: This is an article written by Ottawa writer and friend, Margaret Baer-Opazo. It's about her cousin, the brilliant Patrick Anderson, the star of the Canadian men's Paralympic basketball team. But it's also about heroes and sons and figuring out who is worth looking up to.)
In our cynical age of tainted athletes, doping scandals, and corruption, anyone watching the coverage of the 2012 Paralympics from London can see that disabled athletes have become our true heroes. 
Huge crowds have been thrilled watching exciting performances by athletes showcased by the host British media as powerful and strong, “sexy” and “cool.”
What the world is discovering now, my family has been watching for some time now.
My cousin, Canadian Patrick Anderson, is widely considered to be the world’s best, most complete wheelchair basketball player. 
Combining power, speed, pinpoint shooting, and vision, he is the LeBron James of wheelchair basketball, but with a fourth quarter.

That Clinton Speech

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There is still general harmony in the twitterverse today, at least on the question of how Bill Clinton did in his speech last night to the Democratic National Convention.

It was very good. And it was very good for a lot of reasons, some of which I understand, some of which are way beyond me. Many out there agreed the speech was either or all of high rhetoric, a splendid defence-attorney closing statement,  pure music or,  you can see where this is going....


Secret of Bill Clinton's rhetorical success? He treats listeners as if they are smart.  by me


I think Clinton's speech was a game changer. He made a compelling and persuasive case for a second Obama term. He hit all the notes.


Bill Clinton seduced the entire country last night. That man has got it.

But, driven by the folly of artificially making an oral performance stand still long enough to be dissected, here are…

Mascara Media

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You can see transparency everywhere these days. Politicians invoke it, social media pundits praise it, journalists make it their calling, everyone seems to trade in it.

Even the beauty industry is getting into the act.

There is a new L'Oreal Paris television ad for the company's Volumizing Power 24 Hour Mascara Brush that's now running. And running fast. It is a vivid, highly produced message, a mixture of tight shots of a model's luscious, thick-lashed eye and bold, moving, colour graphics. Funky fonted words, including VOLUME and COLLAGEN, leave me with the suggested equation that this mascara stick = this model's eyes.

Except that's not the whole story.

Because four brief times in the commercial is a disclaimer, written in footnote-size type, that what you see isn't quite what you get.

"Lashes were enhanced in post-production and filmed with lash inserts."

Or, with volume up: "Lashes were enhanced in post-production and filmed with lash ins…

First Day Of School Thoughts

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I'm sure I learned a lot in grade seven. Some Australian history, some Guy de Maupassant, some wrestling moves in gym class, no doubt. I think I learned how to light a stage in drama class and, in health class, how cows reproduce. I began to learn that some teachers were only a day or two ahead of their students.

But I also learned in grade seven how to be alone. And that was a lesson courtesy one of the few great teachers I have had in my learning life. I've never forgotten it.


It was Mr. Litwin's science class at St. Francis of Assisi School in wide open northeast Edmonton. It was a time when teachers were known by their first names. Those names were either Mrs., Miss, or, as in Mr. Litwin's case, Mr. Of course, he had a first name. It was Nestor. It was still a few years before I would learn that Nestor was an iconic name, one of those names that might, in fact, indicate one's character, fate. For, Nestor was a Greek commander, counsellor to Agamemnon, known fo…