Showing posts from August, 2012

Ride For Isaak

Today's late-afternoon ride was a lot of things.

It was thrilling. Hundreds of cyclists took over the streets of Edmonton, moving en masse through red-lit, corked intersections, across the suddenly carless High Level Bridge, down Whyte Avenue as pedestrians took photos, waved, pointed and wondered what was going on.

It was political. In the microphoned messages in the air over Churchill Square, where the ride participants gathered before setting out, were the exhortations to phone or text your politicians to make the roads safer for the cyclists.

It was solidarity. "This is amazing," a fellow cyclist told me as we rolled down Whyte Ave. toward the memorial. "Usually, the critical mass rides get four or five people. I'll never forget this."

It was a generational gear change. Alex was working. Mikey was with his buddies at the bar. And Shelagh and I pedalled along with the hundreds of others in memory of a young man we had never met. "We're bringing…

In One Eye, Out The Other!

I have said it before in this blog, but it bears repeating, and that's that sound, according to Ong, "exists only when it is going out of existence." Here is the rest of the quotation from Orality and Literacy:

"[Sound} is not simply perishable, but essentially evanescent, and it is sensed as evanescent. When I pronounce the word 'permanence', by the time I get to the '-pence', [sic] the 'perma'- is gone, and has to be gone.... All sensation takes place in time, but no other sensory field totally resists a holding action, stabilization, in quite this way." 
The notion of secondary orality means much more than the strand of thought with which I cling to it. But it makes sense to me that there is something essentially oral, fleeting, evanescent, about the text and pic-based media in which we now move. (I thank my MACT professor, Gordon Gow, and my boss, Peggy Garritty, for pointing me and keeping me in this interesting direction.) 
This m…

Neil Armstrong, R.I.P.

Neil Armstrong has died.

The news was sitting, waiting for me on my iPhone in a message from my buddy, Dan, who has had to suffer hearing many times what the story of the first man on the moon means to me. Dan was there at work the day my $100 lunch kit from Amazon arrived.

But first things first.

Rewind to the late 1960s and picture yourself in the kitchen of a new bungalow in a new neighbourhood at the edge of north Edmonton. Mom, aproned, yellow-rubber-gloved, is working over a nifty, new double sink, cleaning dishes, rinsing dishes, and piling them on the counter in a left-to-right, two-armed assembly line.

Now, look down just to her left at the closed door of the utility cupboard And listen. Because you might be able to hear the young, imaginary astronaut inside. He's about a 6 or 7 years old and he's sitting on a pile of old Edmonton Journal newspapers that serve as his cockpit seat. In front of him is a kitchen plumbing pipe re-imagined into an oxygen supply system. At …

Downtown Scenes

I work downtown.
And that means I get to see a lot more than I would if I were working where only cars can get to.
There are little sidewalk scenes of humanity. They make you think.
Yesterday, two young people, well acquainted with life on the street, walked along Jasper Avenue, east  of the 97 St. divide. Young faces, but old clothes. Their clothes didn't fit. Neither hers, nor his. But they held hands. In the young man's free hand was a long-stemmed rose. He gave it to the young woman. And she smiled. They walked past the open door of a tavern beside which another man stood.
And that was all I saw of their little motion picture through the windshield of my car.

Today, another short story as I sat in the car waiting to turn out of the Vinomania parking lot and west and home along Jasper.
A woman wearing a Y windbreaker, walking with a walker, moved slowly along the sidewalk. As I waited for her to walk across the driveway in front of me, I saw a nicely dressed woman walk past…


Sylvia Plath put it this way: "I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow." Now, I don't follow all of her meaning, but I think it is a beautiful sentence.

A couple of weeks ago, cycling on the 142nd St. bridge over the Mackenzie Ravine, I looked down to my right, and, there, down, down there,  rippling over the August leaves below, was my projected image. It was a split-second of thrill.

A couple of days ago, that unexamined thrill returned virtually from Mars, where Curiosity has made its presence felt. The unmanned NASA rover has been sending back images of the red planet, shots of the buttes and mesas, Gale crater, the rocks and dust scattered by its landing, Mount Sharp in the distance. It's all fascinating. But what's memorably quirky is the shadow of Curiosity that is captured in some of the pics.

It's like a photographer who doesn't quite get it right. Doesn't quite get himself out of the shot.

This morning, back here on Ear…

Yes, I've Driven Rob Ford, Lately

Today, I gave Toronto Mayor Rob Ford a lift.

There he was, I was almost certain, walking along Jasper Avenue across 101 St, and there I was, I was pretty certain, watching him walk in front of my car as I waited to turn and head back to work at ATB Financial.

"Mayor Ford," I said, throwing my arm out the window with a handshake offer, "welcome to Edmonton!" He took the offer, and there we were, I was still fairly certain, shaking hands, he on foot, me in the driver's seat, at Edmonton's major intersection.

He asked me which way to city hall, and I started to explain the route, but then offered to give him a lift. At first, he politely declined, but I asked again and he obliged, and slipped into the backseat.

In the five-block drive we talked about the Leafs' playoff chances, Corey Boyd's ouster from the Argonauts, the Edmonton Eskimos and their defensive prowess, the construction cranes in the city, his recent appearance on TSN's Off The Record, …

Public Hearing

Our lives intersect in noteworthy ways.

One day I intend to figure out how best to record those overlapping seconds of sound when you quickly get a glimpse into someone else's existence and just as quickly have it shuttered. Sight, of course, is the wrong sense to call upon. For, it is sound that is involved. You get a couple of notes, and then silence.

Last week, as I sat having lunch in the basement of Scotia Place, there was one such soundwavery.

"Just make sure she doesn't fall," the man walking by said into his cellphone. "Take her to the big window. She likes that. Tell her how much you like working there. Blah, blah, blah."

And then he was gone, and I was left to consider who he was speaking to, of whom he was speaking, what was at stake, what money was involved, his role, the woman, elderly?, who might live in an assisted living residence, why the dissimulation, and on and on,

At the Folk Festival this past weekend there were other brief intersectio…

Edmonton Folk Music Festival: A New Note

It's the Sunday morning after the August long weekend in Edmonton, and that means Gallagher Hill, the home bowl of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, beckons.

I've got the program open on the dining room table. I think I'll start the day at the Stage 5 workshop. It's called Ancient Cultures, featuring the Mairtin O'Connor Band, Sidi Toure, Joanne Shenandoah, and the Masters of Hawaiian Music. I've never heard any of them before.

And that's part of the point about the Folk Fest. Maybe it's the point.

How do you find new music these days? It's still by word of mouth, for sure, but there is more and more of a role played by recommended picks. It's an algorithmic world. Buy a book on Amazon, and a computer program will send you five other books you might like, typically in the same genre or field of interest. Get a movie, get the same kind of pick. Or download some music, and iTunes will download into your thought process a few more suggestions, usua…

The Olymprocks!

Okay, I'll ask the question. Why is Olympics viewing so addictive? I mean, this morning, if you were walking down our front street wondering about the blue flickers framed in our picture window, yes, that was me inside watching Olympic horse jumping. At 5:30 am.

And, as always, Michael provides a perspective that is of little value -- until you think about it a bit.

"Dad," he said tonight when I put the question to him, "the Olympics are addictive because they are the Olymprocks." It's a reference, of course, to a plot in The Flintstones, which Mikey is too young to remember.

There are many reasons why the Olympics convince us to watch.

The athletes are beautiful, and seem to be getting beautifuler. The story persists that the athletes, being amateur, or amateur at heart, are a more pure version of the sporting personality. The television is spectacular, especially in its use of super slo mo, making it a joy to watch. It is an opportunity to see different p…

On Online Communication :)

We send messages from our technology into outer space, and wait. We send messages from our hearts into the grave, and wait. And we wonder what would be a message in return that we could trust.

My grandfather would tell a lot of stories of his early days in Canada. One that I particular remember was his account of a first job selling bakery bread out of a horse wagon. He didn't know Edmonton. He didn't know the language. But he had instincts. His strategy was to take his horse and his loaves down the lanes and look for children's garments hanging on outdoor clothes lines.

Of course, that would indicate that little people lived there. Along with a mother who fed them.

I remembered this story yesterday at work as I was scanning an article about, of all things, unlocking for companies the value embedded in social media.

Lead generation. Information from social technology platforms can provide leads for both consumer and B2B marketers. Consumers using social technology, for ex…

Who Wants A Cold One?

It's early August, and there is a message in the air that summer is about to fall. It seemed to happen overnight, but everything seems to happen overnight.

Part of our birthright in this part of Canada is to bemoan the coming cold. We will throw all of our powers of engineering and poetry and denial at the fact that winter is a tough sled. It changes who and how we are. There is alchemy available. Water on the lawn can make a rink. But there is no denying that it's death, and death is not the best companion.

How best to approach the looming verdict? I want to think about this this time around, because there may be some surprises.

It certainly was surprising to hear myself singing along, even singing proudly, maybe, as Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor sang, and we sang with him, Hasn't Hit Me Yet. It was 25 degrees, it was July, and there we all were belting it out into the mosquito-laced sky:

I stand transfixed before this street light
Watching the snow fall on this
Cold, Dece…

Freeze, Frame

Higher, stronger, faster are the three words that guide the efforts of Olympians, but, for the television storytellers at London 2012, it's more like higher resolution, stronger effect, and slower. Much, much, muuuuuuch slower.

Slow motion is everywhere in these Olympics. We have mentioned this before (May 22, 2012 blog "Slow Down, You Move Too Fast), but it bears a quick review.

The technology has advanced to the point where video almost surrenders to the medium it pushed aside: photography. And, so, now we see the bead of perspiration, the droplet of water, the look of determination. And all in HD. It is brilliant.

We can see with the eye of the expert. If those synchronized divers do their water-bound artistry too fast, we can see where the one on the right actually came out of her pike a little too soon. In field hockey, we can see the stick laid down to set up the penalty shot. In water polo, we see the leg kick that moved the ball up to the player's hand for the sh…