Showing posts from October, 2012


Every now and then, I miss having Tooker around.

Tooker Gomberg was more than a few things. Ward 4 councillor in the days Jan Reimer was Edmonton mayor. Environmental activist. Gadfly. Cyclist. Protester. Peacenik. Composter. Actor. Local gardening advocate. Recycler. Question asker.

I met him in the early days of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters. I got to know him a little better when I was a city hall reporter for The Sun. He crossed all kinds of lines, the first of which was refusing to wear a tie for his city council portrait. He leaked documents to me. He was sort of a one-man Fringe Theatre at City Hall. Stubborn. Inspiring. He pushed buttons.

Long before it became popular to ask dumb questions in the service of innovation, Tooker asked dumb questions. Why can't we somehow capture industrial emissions to heat downtown buildings? Why can't we put bike racks on the front of buses? Why can't we skate to work? Do you really know how much of a subsidy auto travel gets? And …

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

This is the fourth time I have tried to write this sentence about not getting things right the first time. The first time it it started with It's amazing that....That got backspaced out of existence when I realized what is amazing is how many times some part of me wants to launch a sentence, a thought with those words. The second attempt made it as far as the word sentence, which I spelled srtence.  Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. The next change happened when it became things. And then fourth became the fourth word of the sentence.

My only point is I rarely get things right the first time. And by things, I mean just about anything.

I didn't see the arrow between the E and the x in the FedEx logo until it was pointed out to me.

If I try to build anything, repair anything, my first technique will be wrong.

              My first prediction about the severity of Sandy? Not quite right.

              Try to run without IT band pain? Won't work the first time.



This morning I took this photo of Gretzky (in happier times :) -- I mean I physically took the photo -- and, adjusting for a few decades, re-placed it in its original location. It's an archeology, of sorts, that consists of literally laying the past over the present to obtain an effect of the passage of time or, what is probably more accurate, the jumble of time.

Now, I didn't get it right, or as right as the artists behind sites like FILMography, which can be unearthed and marvelled over here. But there is a common fascination with memory, the intersection of time, the dance between visible and invisible and other themes that drop in and vanish just as quickly.

It's also a fascination with the photograph as an artifact. A photograph preserves a memory and it is then itself preserved in an album or a shoebox, inside a frame, behind glass, in a wallet, locket, purse, or between the pages of a book.

But when that photograph itself is freed and is taken back to the spot of i…

Improv Avenue

A couple of nights ago I was standing with my work colleagues in the basement of the Oldtimers Cabin on 99th St., listening to Donovan Workun, Graham Neil and the Atomic Improv troupe explain we were standing on a beach. Or in France. Or on a tightrope over a gorge.

It was a team-building experience, and the lesson was brilliantly simple: if improv comedians can't agree between themselves that the wooden floor is really a sandy strand, then there is no common space, imagined or not, and if there is no common space, there is no improv. That's the fact on which the performance is built. The stage isn't as real as that fiction.

Compare for power of spell cast, or not, an actor suggesting to his partner that "the sand on this beach is gorgeous" and being greeted with a delay and silence, or a shrug, or only a tentative nod of consent -- or, then, an enthusiastic, positive tag-taking and a comeback that "the tide is due to roll in in about an hour!"

That au…

Light it up, #yeg

It remains to be seen what will become of Dave Mowat's idea to illuminate the bridges of Edmonton, achieving for each a signature look and for the city a sense the dark will not overcome the light. But it sure feels like a brilliantly simple win. Who, asked Mowat at Pecha Kucha Night 14 in Edmonton last week, has ever seen a postcard or stopped to take a picture of the Groat Bridge at night? Case made, case closed. Here, thanks to the PhotoShop work of Neil Graham, is what the bridge could look like with a few strands of eye-catching pearls added:

The massive High Level Bridge will next year mark a century of standing there, quietly linking the once-separate communities of Edmonton and Strathcona. It is a channel for vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and has a streetcar rail running along the top platform. At night, it is an accurate reflection of Edmonton in the autumn and winter. You can't see it.

But what if, besides being lit for utilitarian function, it was lit fo…


Note: I have now lived through two will the Oilers go? how can we keep the Oilers? municipal psychological dramas.  I will leave to those who are better analyzers the task of finding words and arguments for each side. I suppose there are words and arguments for both sides. I hope the sides come up with a fair deal for Edmontonians. For some reason, I have chronicled the twists and turns of the latest saga through the imaginary lens of songs that might have been written by McCartney and Katz. Katz has chosen not to speak publicly, at least not out of extremely controlled situations. So, what might he come up with if he composed songs with a partner who was trying to achieve some harmony? These are the greatest hits from Twitter -- so far!
1.  He's Leaving Home. 

2.  Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Katz. 

3.  All My Bluffing. 


Fall Of Man

That was one small step, but, man, it was one giant leap for brandkind.

Felix Baumgartner sat alone in a balloon-lifted space capsule and, for about two-and-a-half hours, rose above the scrubland of New Mexico. When he got to about 128,000 feet, he went through a 30-point checklist, waited for the air pressure to rise and open the hatch door, and walked onto a balcony about the size of a skateboard. And then jumped back to Earth.

He fell freely for more than four minutes before he deployed his parachute. In the process, he became the first spaceskydiver to break the sound barrier. He hit a top speed of 1342 kmh. He fell 38 km. By my math, that's roughly the distance between Edmonton and Millet.

And he landed on his feet. Such was the ultra-stunt sponsored by energy drink maker Red Bull dubbed Mission To The Edge of Space. Indeed, Baumgartner was no regular astronaut. Instead of his country's flag emblazoned on his spacesuit, he had the Red Bull logo. For those wondering what th…

The Moving Theatre

In my quest to combine feeling, thought and reflection into one activity, and thereby save time to watch more sports on TV, I have cycled back to cycling.

You see, cycling and making imaginary movies in the theatre of my own skull have somehow merged into the same activity.  I am not the first one to attempt this fusion of self-propelled movement and visual storytelling. Years ago, the girl on rollerskates in Knopfler's Skateaway gracefully moved in and out of London gridlock, Walkman-fed music in her ears, the effect being a different sort of motion picture: a thrilling, dangerous self-produced "I see" version, which is what "video" literally means. But instead of just seeing, she is also the director and the camera and the writer and she does her own stunts, and she does it all without the safety of or need for an editor. Indeed,
She's making movies on location/
She don't know what it means.  On my Making Movies-red bike, I get the same feeli…


I try to cycle into work whenever I can. Sometimes a car-necesary job  schedule gets in the way. Sometimes I wake up too late, which, sometimes, is tied to a wine intake decision the evening before. Sometimes the weather conspires to confound my plan. Sometimes my hamstrings and hip flexors aren't so happy. But I try my best to drown out those voices and be a spokesman for bicycle commuting.

There are a lot of good reasons for keeping the car keys in the dish. It's some exercise, of course. But things happen to you that just don't happen to you behind a steering wheel. A rabbit runs a block alongside you. You get to think about trees. And churches. And ravines. And everything else you pass by at the speed of thought.

The cycling imagination lets you make independent movies at about 80 revolutions per minute.

This morning, the moon was on my right shoulder all the way in.

A degree of temperature means something.

There are a lot more good reasons to saddle up and pedal in. …