Showing posts from May, 2012


It has become a bit of technological ritual to listen to The Writer's Almanac podcast before we drift off to sleep. Garrison Keillor reads out the literary birthdays of the day, and shares a little bit about each author, and then reads a poem. Last night the poem was Key to the Highway by Mark Halliday.

It's a memory of a highway drive years ago, and it's a meditation on forgetfulness. Meditation isn't the right word. Because there's anger lined with bewilderment.
I am upset by the fact that that night is so absolutely gone.
No, "upset" is too strong. Or is it.
But that night is so obscure -- until now
I may not  have not thought of that ride once
in eight years -- and this obscurity troubles me.
Death is going to defeat us all so easily. Obscure, from the Latin obscurus, meaning dark.

One of the most common questions you hear is, where did the time go? Time, like sound, vanishes. Sound can be recorded, but time can't. Sound is always played back in the p…

Cutting Through The Noise

They don't have quite the hold in the academy anymore, but cyberneticians still rule in the marketing world, where "noise" and "cutting through the noise" and "being heard with all the clutter" are the way, the only way, that many see the world.

Over the weekend they ran Indianapolis 500, a celebration of speed and colour and daring -- and noise. And when it was over, and Dario Franchitti had roared to his third title, and the cameras had taken a break from capturing Ashley Judd, it was Tony Kanaan, who finished third, who cut through the noise.

The sub-plot of the final laps of the race was which of the late Dan Wheldon's friends, Franchitti, Kanaan, of Scott Dixon, would win at The Brickyard. Wheldon was a popular driver killed last year in a crash at Las Vegas. They were all in or close to the lead at one point. For Kanaan, it was a chance to win his first Indy 500. The commentators underlined both emerging stories.

Franchitti won. Which meant…

Write It Down (Slippery City Shoes 3)

So that I don't forget this, I am going to write it down.

There is a great scene in Mad Men season 3 in which a hungover Kinsey sits at his desk, devastated. He is working on a project for Western Union and is actually competing against Peggy for Don's approval on it.  He is as upset this morning as he was elated the night before when the idea, maybe the best idea in his life, had come to him. But now it is gone. Not because it wasn't good. But because he didn't write it down. It is a short scene. Kinsey recounts the empty outcome of the conversation with the office custodian, Achilles.

Peggy: Are you ready? Don's expecting us.
Kinsey: I've got nothing.
Peggy: What a relief. Mine's garbage, too.
Kinsey: No, I had something, something incredible. But I lost it. I didn't write it down.
Peggy: Oh, I hate that.
Kinsey: It might have been the best idea I ever had. I did everything. I talked to Achilles. I spent last night recreating every detail of the even…

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

It is mid May in Edmonton, the days are longer, the light is more confident, and that makes it the perfect time to watch hockey on television.  And to think about slow motion.

This evening, I am struck by how quickly technology that is good shows its age. Bam, you're old!

For as long as I can remember, this has been the speed of video dissection. It is from tonight's Memorial Cup game between the Oil Kings and the London Knights: 

It's very good. Instructive. Cool. Dramatic. Until it's not so much any of those. Until it's up against a bigger, stronger, slower opponent. This is from tonight's Stanley Cup semi-final match between the Coyotes and the Kings:

The same game becomes a different game when viewed and shared differently. The nature of the moving image allows this kind of division. He wasn't talking about hockey at the time, but Ong (1982, p. 31) makes the point that unlike sound a moving picture camera can stop (or, in our case, slow considerably), …

Framing The Conversation

As far as 3D movie experiences go, The Avengers was good, not great. But while Hulk was swinging wildly this way and that, busting out of his small shirt and the big screen, protecting New York City from a spectacular,  alien,  airborne invasion, it was also good to think about 3D itself, or, at least, the attempt to break out of the rectangular dimensions of the screen. Or the frame. Or the page.

Or just think about breaking out.

Ted Nelson wrote what the editors of The New Media Reader call "the most important book in the history of new media," Computer Lib/Dream Machines. They write: "He believed the importance of computers lay not in their capacity for calculation, but in the fact they would enable new generations of media." (p. 301)

At the beginning of a Youtube video about a project called Xanadu, Nelson shows his resistance colours as he finds insufficient the page itself.

"It seemed to me that paper was a prison.  Four walls, right?  And the ideas were…

A Note On Highway 2

Driving home Highway 2 at between 121 and 130 kmh, the sun starting its dip down in the west, Lyle Lovett on the car stereo, clouds shuttling across the sky -- what a time. It's two hours and 25 or 30 minutes of waiting for thoughts to arrive at between 121 and 130 kmh.

The lanes remind me of lines in a measure of written sheet music, the sports cars, sedans, pickups hauling trailers, semi-trailers the various lengths and kinds and vintages of notes. A silent music moving in both directions. A collision involving a horse trailer near Didsbury in the Calgary-bound lanes stalls traffic. Four bar rests.

Some of the notes are packed with meaning not immediately discernible to the first time listener.

Lovett is singing South Texas Girl. It is a powerful song, and it's about everything. It's a prayer for travellers, a memory of childhood, a tribute to faded cowboy voices, it's a meditation on the passage of time, and it's pure poetry. And it all seems to fit the sensatio…

Now, That's Ridiculous!

This blog is meant to do a few things. Capture my thoughts and pain as I train for a half-marathon. Make sense of my high school years. Figure out what is going on in the Duckett Cookie Episode video. I am confident of only the first.

But on I slog. The Duckett Cookie incident is important to me because I sense that it contains key aspects of our current mediasphere. Or, at least, I am betting three years and a few thousand dollars toward a Masters of Arts in Communication and Technology degree on that sense that it contains key aspects of our current mediasphere.

I use as a point of departure the words Premier Ed Stelmach shared with the legislature earlier on the day he fired Duckett. He said that he thought "everyone in Alberta watched and saw the offensive comments. I'll just leave it at that."

The truth is nobody left it at that. Stelmach didn't. He booted Duckett hours later. Those captured by the story didn't just watch and see. They watched, saw, shared,…

Running Commentary

For a long time now, I have found the riddle of internal communication at least as intriguing as how and why and what happens when we communicate with each other. It's a different game for a lot of reasons, and none more compelling than the possibility that the divisions (the military language creeps in, almost unnoticed) within us, are just that, and that they do not agree amongst themselves which should be in charge.

It's a drama that I am again watching, taking part in, analyzing as I try to get in shape to run a half marathon with Shelagh in November in Monterey. It's a nice view.

But it has become complicated. My spirit and emotion ally to compel me to train as hard as I can. Not overtrain, says my reason. So, I go slow, building up over the last five months to get to the point I am now. Sore.

The interior dialogue is quite amazing. I can actually imagine myself in November running sore, finishing in three hours, or not finishing at all and looking back to me right n…

Bum, Knee

There is an old saying that you can't walk before running with pain. Maybe it's not an old saying. Okay, maybe it's not a saying, at all.

But, it's the truth.

Today was a remarkable day. I took my sore left knee and my bruised spirit to an Edmonton physiotherapist called Robert Syndenham on a recommendation from Shelagh. I have had pain and doubt since running in a 5k race on April 29. The course had a long, slow hill, but nothing that should have crushed me. But with a couple of hundred meters to go, that gnawing pain showed up on the outside of my knee. I ran longer with the pain than I should have, and have had trouble since that moment running more than 3 minutes without pain.

Syndenham conducted a few tests that left me dismayed. I couldn't resist the simplest of pressure applied to my left hand, I couldn't hold myself up on my left side. My left big toe collapsed when he pushed it. Gotta say, it was as humiliating as it was educational. This was the verdi…

Go Canada!

The truth that it will always be more interesting and intriguing to determine not what is present but what is missing gives us a point of view to consider what the 2012 NHL playoff tournament is not serving up.

Of the mic'd arm and the man, I sing. Or, without a Canadian team still alive in this year's Stanley Cup odyssey, I don't sing.

It has become a playoff tradition in Canadian NHL rinks to let the full-throated fans in on a few lines of the pre-game Canadian anthem. Here is Mark Donnelly from 2007 in Vancouver: 

There is some dispute, of course, about where the practice started, Edmonton or Detroit, but there can be little disagreement over the notion that the nation that does it best is Canada. In the Oilers' 2006 Cup run, singer Paul Lorieau's decision to stop singing and let the fans take over in the middle of the anthem was stunning and stirring and beautiful. On the few occasions I've seen where that interactivity is attempted in U.S. arenas, the resu…

Weight, Weight, Don't Tell Me!

This morning, overheard in the locker room, was a meditation on the saying that you can't change what you can't measure. The gentlemen were talking about losing weight. One offered that it was time to get back in weight-lose mode.

His friend came up with an unexpected response. "The worst thing I ever did in terms of gaining pounds was to stop measuring my weight," he said. "I mean, I went from 185 to 210 just because I stopped getting on the scale."
The causality is suspect, of course. Our friend did not gain weight because he stopped tipping the Toledo. He gained weight because he stopped exercising, stopped eating properly, stopped sleeping enough. But there is a real sense to what our weight-gainer was suggesting. Without data, we have a harder job of knowing where we are. Without a measure, we have a harder time stopping time and analyzing its effects.   And without those numbers, we have less chance of hearing a voice telling us to change our lowdown…

Singular Thoughts On You!

It was a modern communications moment, complete with the immediate dissection.

I was driving by a clever billboard near the Calgary International Airport. It was a giant ad for Chinook Centre that read something like, "We're Ready For Your Runway!" It made me smile, a reaction itself which is notable given that I was in communication with an inanimate object, so, a big check for the designer!

Just as quickly, though, the giant sign was behind me, waiting for the next driver to come into its field, and another thought presented itself. It was a vague thought, more of a picture in my mind, really, and the picture or the form was of a giant, unblinking eye.

And as I glanced in my rearview mirror, I felt for a brief second a bit robbed. Not in the sense that the ad took my money, or even that it took the attention I willingly gave it. But robbed in the sense that the punctuating laugh seemed to give the encounter a sense of a real bit of communication. But there the dumb sig…

Ford v. Dale, the subtext

Among the most intriguing aspects to an outsider of the public battle between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto Star city hall reporter Daniel Dale is the battle of storytelling methods.

Quick background (in words): Canada's biggest city has been consumed by the debate over what precisely happened the evening of May 2, when Dale was caught by Ford outside his home. Ford suggests Dale was peering over his fence, spying, in effect, and admits to barely withstanding the temptation to hit the journalist, who dropped his cellphone and ran away. Dale says he was getting a look for himself at a piece of parkland adjoining the mayor's property that Ford is reportedly trying to purchase to enhance his family's security by building a fence on it.

The situation has now spiralled up and out to the point where the mayor has said he will speak to no reporters if the Toronto Star is present. The Star has countered with a suggestion the mayor used Dale's cellphone after the encounte…

Past Present Feature

Jim Munsey, left, and his pal Bill Buchanan, two of the 66 members of the Edmonton chapter of the Morse Telegraph Club, were guests at the MACT 2012 Spring Institute this morning at the University of Alberta.

Gordon Gow, who directs the program, invited me to drop by and listen in, and it was a fascinating hour as the present intersected with the past.

The gentlemen railway operators talked about their love of telegraphy, the history of the invention, the meaning of What Hath God Wrought!, railway timetables, and the characters who used the electric dots and dashes to tell the stories of their time.

 A lot of thoughts struck me as I sat there, and most of them had to do with the passage of time. To hear the pair talk about picture shows preserved a sense of the newness of movies for them. To have someone standing in front of you saying his father was in the First World War was not like reading those words in a book or diary. To hear them explain, and see the spark in their eyes as they…