Showing posts from January, 2013

Cold And Tired

Who and what do you think of while lying on the sidewalk in downtown Edmonton changing a flat tire on the right front end of a car of an elderly couple who had asked for help during afternoon rush hour? When it's almost 30 below?

Well, you think about your father, who taught you how to change a tire, and to change a tire, which are two different things.

You think about the kind woman at The Sequel cafe who had let you pay tomorrow for lunch earlier today because you didn't have cash.

You say words you shouldn't say, out loud, to no one, because you can't find the reinforced spot on the frame where the jack attaches. And you say the same word again when you realize the jack rod can't turn clockwise because of the snow and ice cemented to the curb. And then again when the nuts won't move. And when the loose tire won't budge.

And then you curse your inability to change a tire quickly. But now you don't hear the foul language because the air is so cold the…

Sound Of Sirens

The video is short, but the sound of the fire truck siren today took me back to a place I've been thinking in for awhile.

That morning in January 10 years ago, I was sitting behind the wheel of my 1985 Camry at the corner of 51 Ave. and 109 St. The car was stopped. And facing south, which was strange, because work was a few blocks more to the east. On the passenger seat floor was a plate broken in two. Like two half moons, I thought. And on the passenger seat window the grilled cheese sandwich that had been on that plate was stuck. And it was so quiet. My thoughts had to be slowly lifted into place until I realized I had  just been in a crash. With that big pickup and those spotlights on its front.

And I was scared.

This is not the item, but Sam Baker has a stunning description of being in a vehicle crash. In Iron, it is a single-vehicle accident, and, as they say, road conditions and alcohol were possible factors.

The tires hit the edge, he spins like a top.
The truck slides lo…

My Listening Post

I have always enjoyed eavesdropping.

Not the spying-on-what-you're-saying-about-me variety, but more of an academic, creative kind of espionage where I imagine listening in on authors, across time, space, genre, sometimes the grave, discussing a topic of my choice.

It's a bit dangerous, this practice of combining what this writer wrote with what that speaker later said, or what this observer on this author said with what that person subsequently posted or painted. Risky, obviously, because I am hosting the debate in my own mind without direct access for clarification to the principals I imagine to be encountering each other. It can get crowded, and crowds make for not getting right what you think you are hearing.

But it's a fun kind of daring. And it makes the literature review I am building for my final assignment on the meaning of the Duckett Cookie Episode (when not blogging about building a literature review for my final assignment on the meaning of the Duckett Cookie…

Achilles, Armstrong and Oprah

Taking a page from Oprah's hit-the-beach-spitting-machine-gun-style-questions interview strategy manual, the thoughtful Tom Walters starts a new blog by asking:
Are we looking looking for heroes in the wrong places
To which, mimicking the style of fallen hero Lance Armstrong, we can reply, yes or no:
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
It can't be a revelation that since about the time of Achilles we just don't get right the gift of our public admiration. The question isn't do we look for heroes in the wrong places. The question, simply, is why? 
And it's not an easy question. Part of the answer has to do with the feeling that we don't really, with passion, go looking for heroes, at all. Rather, their images, like predators, come looking for us. And they find us as we see them on billboards, in commercials, on television. 
If you have read or seen Shakespeare's The Tempest (and following an old professor here)  you know that part of what it is about is the difficul…

My Inner Lunch

It was a moment when I realized that, psychically, I had changed.

I was sitting in the food court at City Centre Mall having a quick lunch. Behind me a few tables, a man started yelling. First change: I didn't turn around. I kept to myself. Second change: In my mind, what I actually saw was the scene around me transformed into chaos as gunfire rang out and downtowners screamed and scrambled.

Now, that second amendment to my inner constitution could easily be attributed to a career in local news, a keen interest in the state of the U.S. gun control debate, and, as a result, a violence-addled imagination. But it had never happened like that before.

For 10 seconds or so, I sat over my black plastic plate of Sbarro pasta, and just dug into that horrible image. Just as quickly, it evaporated. But something had changed.

And then I saw a young girl, maybe three or four years old, break away from her mother's side and run up to my table, where she just stood, and smiled, and waved at …

Snow Motion

The thought descended on me today outside Edmonton city hall that a snowfall is arresting not so much because it falls, as how slowly it does.

Tonight, as I read Berger's An Anatomy of Humour, the spell of snow returns, even though an insight into wintertime is far from his intention when writing that "rapid speed (or the opposite, slow motion) attacks our sense of adulthood and rationality, our feeling that we understand how the world functions. There is an incongruous element that strikes us as uncanny and amusing."

A slow snowfall is incongruous. The earth it falls to has cars and buses and taxicabs fighting for position,  jaywalkers darting across roads, police sirens wailing. Once it hits that earth, it is walked over, driven over, complained over. It is quickly shovelled away, piled up, hauled off. It is measured and recorded.

But all of that is still far away as it drifts down.

What else falls into our lives in such perfect slow-motion as snow?

More Listening To The Furnace Thoughts

Tonight I am reading Berger's Media Analysis Techniques (1991), and there is this about editing:
"...the order in which events take place in a narrative is of great importance. There is logic to narrative texts and the arrangement of elements in a story greatly affects our perception of what anything "means." That, in fact, is what editing is." (p. 18)  And, so, what of a piece of video that is not edited, such as Duckett Cookie? What happens to the meaning when the arrangement of elements is structured simply by the passage of time? Are the members of the audience free, or freer, to rework the meaning of a text in terms of their own peculiar context? (cf. White, p. 10). It seems a case could be made for this. Bruns, et al, would say this is a healthy development, a good move away from gatekeepers. So far, so good. What next?

Maybe Carey (2009) comes in at this point. Maybe this is the place to explain the two alternative conceptions of communication. First th…

Late Night Thoughts While Listening To The Furnace

Two days from now, the beginning of the end of my hike to reach a master's degree begins at the Gow trailhead. It's named after my advisor, Gordon Gow, who runs the master's of arts in communication and technology program (MACT) at the University of Alberta. I'm glad I've made it this far. And I'm grateful I will have some help finding my way up from here. Because there are a lot of signs, pathways and loops up that hill. Some of which actually take you down.

So, on Monday in a meeting with Gow I will decide what theory, what methodology I will carry up, or will carry me up.

Just over two years ago I found myself, as news director at CTV Edmonton, in a spot with a remarkable view on the mediasphere we live in. A CTV reporter and shooter had just taken part in the questioning and recording of Stephen Duckett, who was then the president and CEO of Alberta Health Services. Infamously, Duckett refused to answer questions about emergency room wait time protocols, pr…


The barber shop where I got my first haircuts as a boy is now The Carrot coffee house. The little music store on 118th Ave. where I took my first guitar lessons is now an empty shell. George's Cycle is gone. The House of Banjo is now Myhre's Music.

If you've been in a place long enough, as I have Edmonton, life, especially in neighbourhoods where you grew up, like Alberta Avenue, becomes, unavoidably, so much visual archeology. What is no longer there is still there. It's just down a few layers.

We are layer people.

It was back into time today as Shelagh and I headed down to Alberta Avenue for Deep Freeze, the Byzantine Winter Festival. Weatherwise, it was sunlit, chilly, with scythes of wind. If you live the house-to-car-to-mall life, it was the kind of weather that would feel doubly cold. It was the kind of Edmonton day that asked you, are you with me or against me? Against me: hands in pockets, light shoes, open head, jeans. With me: mitts, boots, headwear, a few l…

Illuminating Day

On my bicycle ride into work this morning, this is what it looked like on the 142nd St. service road just in front of the MacKinnon Ravine:

With a film of new snow, the street looks like a sheet of paper. And on it, the twisted prose of the boulevard trees and the ghostridings of those who have already made their marks.

Farther along, on 102 Ave, and now moving east along the narrow sidewalk (in winter it's the only safe way to travel that section) I saw a bundled pedestrian moving in the same direction. Instead of risking a slip and a crash or a bell ring and a scare, I veered into the museum grounds and toward Government House.

And somebody flicked a switch and the hum of the morning traffic on icy asphalt, and the rev of the motors, died away. And this is what it looked like one way.

And this is what it looked like the other way. Peering through a
hedgerow to the red-lit, white-lit traffic below, I thought of cedar
waxwings sharing Mountain Ash berries in the front-yard shrubs…

The Sole Is Hard To Find

I really should have bought the photo. But I was a little embarrassed. Which is all the more reason why I should have bought the photo. Somehow we want to preserve our image only if it matches the innerinaccurate image we have of ourselves. Otherwise it's get rid of that photo! or, as in this case, I'm not going to spend money on that photo!

It showed me running along Cannery Row in last year's Big Sur Half Marathon. If there is a pic of a more perfect heel strike, I have not seen it. Heel on ground, toe angled up, aarrghh.

Of course, the photo, which I didn't order online, is the epitome of frozen ugliness only if you accept the argument contained in the popular Nature of Things documentary, The Perfect Runner. In that doc, narratorrrunneranthropologist Niobe Thompson introduces us to Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman, whose thesis is that we have been coaxed and persuaded and marketed out of our nature of being barefoot runners.

The big, heel-padded running shoes, …

The Play Of Hockey

An oldtimers hockey dressing room is a smell, a nostalgia, a nickname, a tavern, a crypt, a secret, a reminder, a forgotten place, a glory, a bright light, a longing.

I laced them up Thursday night in Legal with some friends from the old days. Kobes, JM, Klipper, Hogey, 630 Chad, Briganti-Nugent-Hopkins, Joshy, Hoop, Mitchy, Brian The Switcher. Hogey's buddy "Blame It On" Theo joined us, and so did Mikey, who, at 18, was the youngest oldtimer, and is too young to remember Blame It On Rio. Like any oldtimer dressing room, and adjusted for local customs, it was a bunch of guys at different income levels, with different tolerance for rye and lime Pepsi, at different stages of moral and bodily decay.

And it's a pharmacy, too. Mikey was struck by the time taken before puck drop not just in tying skates, coaxing equipment on and taping sticks, but in applying Voltaren, wrapping ankles and popping ibuprofen. Entire equipment bags smell like that mixture of sweaty, mouldy g…

This Light Tonight

This was my ride home today. It was a journey through light, starting with the blue embrace of the air as I dropped into the river valley, into the quiet. 

Everywhere there is sky as I headed west along the shoulder of the riverbank, below the unblinking lights of downtown.

          White globe lights curve along the partially frozen North Saskatchewan River:

                  Brake lights on buses and cars punctuate the flow of  traffic on  98th Avenue.

                            The winter sunset suggests itself in the southwest. Blush hour.

                               A statement of the High Level Bridge, in black.

                      The light of an oncoming cyclist does its complex work: you are not alone.

                        Shadows and cables and a piece of headlight in the gathering gloom.

                         The path through the MacKinnon Ravine where the temperature drops.

                              Six lights atop the 142nd St. bridge, and the climb is h…

A Lost Pair Of Gloves

It was unsettling. It started with seeing a pair of gloves that had fallen and were just sitting there in a ball on the road in the slush next to the curb outside the Citadel Theatre today. They were brown and green and sort of white.

I broke my stride for an instant and thought about going back. To what? To pick them up and put them somewhere safe? Can lost gloves be unsafe in any meaningful way? To take a picture of them and post it to twitter with the #lostglovesyeg hashtag? Love in glove, I thought. Lost glove, lost love. And I kept moving. I was on  lunch and on my way down to the trains to cross the river to pick up some books from the library on campus. Even though I have somehow for some reason lately been drawn to lost gloves.

You Are Entering A Quiet Area, the Rutherford Library sign intoned. Intoned. Instoned. Interred. The books on the shelves, the rows of books, each with a name given it by its author, each brought to public life by a publisher, each now, in a way, dead.…