Showing posts from 2015

LeBron James And Phil Everly And Me

There is a thing that happens, and it needs a word, and that nameless thing is what happens when two pieces of media intersect perfectly in an instant in the same person.

Like this morning at 9:19 am.

On my phone I was reading LeBron's explanation for why he hasn't spoken out about the Tamir Rice case. Rice is (I paused for a second over that "is" given that he is dead and so should the verb be "was?" But the record of people stay with us longer and in intriguingly real ways these days, so "is" it is ) the forever 12-year-old boy killed by Cleveland police who had thought his gun, a toy replica without the orange safety tip, was real. Earlier this week, a grand jury declined to indict the white police officer who pulled the trigger on the black youngster.

The ESPN article explained that LeBron did make a public stand in the deaths of Treyvon Martin and Michael Brown. And in the case of Eric Garner, killed in a confrontation with New York police, L…

No-Desire Lines

The story of the humble desire line is well documented. First, it is written by people. Then others read it and write about it in a kind of text on text.

The desire line, or desire path, is typically the easiest way to get where you are going. In the picture above, the desire line through the grass on the left of the city sidewalk makes itself seen as person after person chooses not to navigate the metal barrier bars installed by the municipal authority for reasons that person after person visibly defy into the erosion that is a desire line. 

People are drawn to the rich concept of desire lines for many reasons. They purportedly reveal the folly of blind bureaucracy. They underline the supposed wisdom of the crowd. People who say design is everything like to write about desire lines. People who celebrate individual creativity like to talk about desire lines. And so do people who are drawn to figurative language.

Indeed, desire lines are like those pieces of paper inscribed with messages …

Star Wars: Seventh Grade Awakens

**** No spoilers. Youth preserved nicely. ****

A long time ago I was in the seventh grade, and the talk in the school hallways of my corner of the galaxy was about a new movie, Star Wars. Looking back to those now far, far away days, I realize it was my first encounter with binge viewing. It wasn't good enough to go to Star Wars. You had to go to Star Wars 80 times, like Danny McGee.

This was because Star Wars was something completely different. It didn't matter that it was the oldest storyline in the universe. It was brand new for us. And it wasn't just better than Charlotte's Web and The Apple Dumpling Gang and The Wonderful World of Disney and whatever else we were watching. It obliterated them.

There was no way back. And there was no way of knowing how many years until The Empire Strikes Back would arrive to blow our minds. The only option was to keep coaxing money out of our parents to keep watching Star Wars, keep depositing ourselves in the Londonderry Mall mov…

Oh, My Gosh!

"Oh, my gosh!" exclaimed the girl standing with her mother in school morning sidewalk silhouette in the Glenora neighbourhood, her voice rising, as I pedalled by.

"It's beautiful!"

It was my bicycle, its main triangle now wrapped in festive LED lights (from a Michigan company called Brightz) that caused her happy verdict, which, in turn, made her mother laugh, and me, as I rode through the oatmeal streets, smile out loud, ring my bell and say: "Good morning! Hello!"

Just saying hello, or good morning, or nice dog, or thanks for pushing the crosswalk button—these little bits of human sound in the otherwise quiet commute remain one of the joys of riding a bicycle, the social vehicle.

The lights help that mission like nothing else. They certainly work faster than the speed of sound, print, or law.

Only a few blocks after the young girl had shared her joy, a voice in a park yelled, "whoooah, cool!" and then a few minutes later a driver untangli…

Day 68

If you accept there are six months of Edmonton weather so wintry that this city could never seriously host the bicycle as a serious all-season transportation alternative, you are now into the 68th day of support for the other narrative.

Here are a few highlights from my ride home today:


If your morning commute needs more diamonds, I suggest a bicycle ride through the MacKinnon Ravine in the dark in the snow. Tom Waits is optional, or not.


The #yegbike Christmas Turkey Drop

What a great day...

... on this, day 58 of the six months in Edmonton that cannot sustain winter bicycle riding. Foul weather? No, fowl weather.

Thanks to B's Diner for the community commitment, and thanks to the beauts in the #yegbike community for giving your time, and your poultry.

Control Yourselves, People!

Most of the vehicles that use a city's traffic system have too much power for the system. 
And so there are all kinds of built-in controls that automobile drivers face or endure or ignore at their own, or a pedestrian's, peril. These micro-control mechanisms include: lanes, the proximity of other vehicles, the shape of the roadway, stop signs, traffic lights, and controls from other realms, namely, weather conditions. You can drive an automobile only so fast. You can save only so much time in a typical city commute. Infrastructure doesn't exactly sound like freedom.
Even if the open road calls: 

(Full disclosure: I ride that short section of 104 Ave on the sidewalk, slowly, stopping for all pedestrians encountered, saying hello, so that I am not killed on the roadway.)

Talkin' Edmonton Weather With Siri

I asked Siri a simple question.

Siri, asked I, what is the forecast for Edmonton? (I typically wait for Josh to answer the question on CTV, but, I was about to get on my bike, and needed to know. And the only entity at hand was designed in California.)

Siri came back with this: Some bad weather coming up between today and December 14, 2015...down to -14 degrees Celsius.

Being a child of the age of the fact-value distinction, I saw what Siri did there. I wanted a number, maybe some information about wind and snow, and what I got was a judgment. Not fair.

So, while in the meteorontological mood, I asked Siri another question: why do you say cold weather is bad? Siri was evasive, offering to search. Typical.

You don't think it's nice in Edmonton? I asked.

No, I don't think it's particularly nice in Toronto, Glenn, Siri countered, sounding my first name like an exasperated mother figure computer program bot whatever.

My point, I asked Siri next, was that when you say cold…

An Unexpected Meeting

Tonight I turned my bicycle north onto 125 St from 102 Ave and promptly smashed into myself.

In front of me and blocking my path ahead was an SUV that was corkscrewed in the middle of the road, sitting there, then moving slowly backwards and closer and closer to the curb of parked cars behind it and then lurching forward a bit, then moving backwards again, long white reverse lights and shortshortshort red brake lights.

My thought about the driver was not in keeping with the approaching Christmas season.

It took another half minute or so for the SUV's driver to wrestle the metal back into the proper direction, opening a channel for me to pedal by, my thoughts, as mentioned, uncharitable.

And then the sound of three raps from the inside of the driver's side window as I moved by. I stopped and turned around and watched as the veiled window slowly glided down to reveal her face. She was a big frightened.

"Can you help me? I don't know how to get out of here," she sa…

Classic Alex!

I am putting this in the blog so I don't forget the question I texted to eldest son Alexander tonight.

And the answer I got back about 20 minutes later. 

I asked Alex about margin because I am working on a presentation that hinges on a creative handling of the word marginalization. On my own, I had made an etymological connection between "margin" and "margarine," but Alex advised that was "flimsy" and, moreover, "false."
Why I thought I could venture out all on my own when we have a son trained in classics at the University of Alberta is beyond me. Actually, it's pretty much all beyond me.
A classics degree is not the most obvious path to take in a technocratic, careerist world, but our technocratic, careerist world needs classics kids. We need their perspective, their long view, their commitment to learning and accuracy and the concepts the gird public life.
Gratias tibi agimus, Alex.


Here are some of the small ways to make a big difference for commuting bicyclists in Edmonton, according to some of the commuting bicyclists in Edmonton I have asked.

Clear major bike routes of some of the parked cars, including the illegally parked curbsquatters.Clear snow or pack snow on the tiny portion of roadways that are designated bicycle friendly.Make mandatory for new automobile drivers a section of the road test performed on bicycle. (Okay, that's not so small!)Keep or increase level of police effort aimed at slowing speeding cars.Etc.

I put the question out to the #yegbike Facebook community because the politicians have bicycle commuters in a vulnerable position. That is, talking about grand visions for the future of urban cycling infrastructure that somehow manage to spill conveniently into the term of the next city council. While we work and wait for that future not to arrive, what are the small things that can be done to make a difference for those who ride bicycles …

Three New Words

Here, in the latest instalment in an occasional series, are three new words ready to be sent into the world.


Far away from other people, especially those neighbours from whom one could borrow tools for minor home repairs were it not for the foreboding of connection, entanglement.  


        A curbside depression or hollow in a road surface caused by wear or subsidence that removes sense of agency from commuter cyclists whose alternatives as they pass over are to hit curb, hit hole or swerve closer to passing automobile traffic. 


          Display names of soldiers as a large number of small pixels on a television monitor, typically in order to summon the presence of the absent on Remembrance Day, as in video below from ATB Place in Edmonton.

A Bicyclist's Conditional Response To The Changing Weather; Or, On Listening

It is said that Hemingway famously said that it was the sound of others that taught him how to use his own voice.

The formulation makes perfect sense, of course, until you try to unpack it. For, what is Hemingway
saying, precisely? That most people never listen to other people? To some other people? To themselves? To nature? To the essence of things? To audible sounds? To silence? To everything?

And there is another difficulty in the pronouncement, and is contained in the knot of the first four words of the quote: I like to listen. Easy to say, easy to write, easy to apply to myself, but check it against my experience of the world, where the sense of "I" seems to grow in direct proportion to the sound of "I." Stronger, it seems, is the urge to speak, to make my points, to make my voice heard than the urge to keep quiet, listening, contemplating. Hemingway claims to have overcome this seemingly eternal urge that has bedevilled us, seemingly eternally. One senses t…

The Tragedy, This Night, Of The New York Mets

What a beautifully nightmarishly operatic thriller the game of baseball is.

The New York Mets were only three outs away from winning Game 5 of the World Series and sending the fall classic back to Kansas City. But at that moment, the real battle wasn't even on the diamond. It was in the Mets dugout, where starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who was 90-ish pitches in and two runs up, was informed that manager Terry Collins was taking him out of the game and handing the ball to Mets closer Jeurys Familia.

"No way!" an agitated Harvey was seen to say to the deliverer of the message, the team's pitching coach.

Harvey did not accept the verdict. He went directly to the skipper and pleaded his case. On international television. As the home crowd, sensing the drama unfolding below, chanted in one voice: Har-vey! Har-vey! Har-vey!

When it was Harvey who ran out of the dugout for the top of the 9th inning, and not Familia from the bullpen, the mob went wild, and it was there for a…

E.T. And Me!

A really good part of my day was riding my bicycle dressed like a 10-year-old boy from California carrying a hooded extraterrestrial in his front basket.

The best part of my day was how I got there.


Last month I was off ill for few days and some friends at work—Aminah, Michelle, Barry, Lana, Stephanie, Brian, et al —used my absence as my tacit agreement for their scheme to raise money for the United Way. If enough money was raised, I, in absentia, agreed to dress up like Elliott from E.T. the Extraterrestrial, put a stuffed E.T, in a milk crate, and cycle to work and then pedal  through downtown Edmonton at lunch in character, with the cute character aboard. Forget for a moment the truth that I was bronchitised to the gills during the hatching of the plan. A good idea is a good idea.

And then enough money was raised by the gang at ATB Financial. Because a good idea is a good idea.

But I don't have a red hoodie, I said. But I don't have a milk crate, I said. But I don&…

John Stetch and Pyrohy and Nalysnyky and Bach

Outside, the pickup trucks flowed along Stony Plain Road at a predictable pace, announcing themselves with muffled throbs of acceleration. Across the street, the Pizza 73 awning stared in unblinking blue and yellow. Inside, the force came from the piano, and the colours flashed from the piano, and the piano was being driven across the darkness by John Stetch.

That was the wonderful ride we went on last night in our city. Stetch, the Edmonton born and raised jazz pianist now pounding out a living in Harlem, was back home and playing a resto-house concert at The Dish. The menu—the traditional 12 courses of Ukrainian cookery arranged from Stetch's grandmother's cookbook that, itself, now duct-tape bound, sat on the top of his piano—was itself a work of art, and served professionally and reverentially by workers who understood.

Mini Borsch. Lamb Shashlik. Kotlety. Zucchini Rolls. Smoked Trout Pate On Rye. Perohy. Nachynani Yayechka. Smoked Salmon. Eggplant Mezhivo. Nalysnyky. Keb…

FIrst Law Of Emotion

What makes me stop, I now wonder?

That question was stopped and waiting for me a couple of weeks ago at the intersection of 103 Ave and 121 St in the unlikely shape of a woman stopped in the middle of the intersection while she aimed a smartphone east at the morning sky.

It was the highlight of my bicycle commute to work that day. The woman was evidently so arrested by the swirls of red and orange and blue and pink, so taken by the sound of the sunrise that she did what she hadn't planned on doing, which was stopping to capture the scene, cars on the obsidian streets around her be damned.

That image returned this morning as I pedalled across the 142 St bridge, looked right, and saw this.

And I stopped.

Standing still by the bridge railing as cars and trucks streamed by, I bent back and fished my phone out of the panniers and made it all stand still with a click. Besides the glory of the Turner sky, I noticed how surprisingly difficult it is to actually stop and restart. So much e…

I Just Wanna Hold Onto You

I can't quite fix the year in my mind, maybe 1995, maybe 1996, maybe a little later, but Blue Rodeo was at The Sidetrack, the live music club that used to be on 104 Ave in Edmonton, and, among the shining songs they sent out that night was Side Of The Road. Shelagh and I were there, we were young parents, and it was a special evening apart from the little ones for a few hours.

Keelor sang wistfully.

I pulled over to the side of the road
I was feeling kind of sad, I was feeling kind of blue

And Cuddy brought a soaring ache to the harmony.

I just wanna hold on to you
Yeah, your eyes
They were in my mind
I just wanna hold

(It's a lovely song, and it gets you thinking about the way her eyes save his I's.)

Somehow, I still have a VHS tape of the night. I vaguely remember having sent a cameraman to the concert to record and microwave a few seconds back live into the 10 pm news on ITV, where I worked as assignment editor. The precise memory has dissolved, but the tape is stil…

Field Of Memes

It's the post season in major league baseblog, so here we go.....

The 7th inning, three-run homeroics of Jose Bautista in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, and the iconic bat flip shared around the Twitterverse, was the third weird thing with a bat to happen that game.

In the top of the 5th inning, Delino Deshields, Jr, took a 91-mph offering from Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman in the teeth after a #buntfail deflection off his own bat. And into his own face. His pathetic look of bewilderment was recognizable to anyone who hasn't seen that their own meticulously planned move will explode, immediately upon being put into action. In their own face.

Then in the top of the 7th, the bat again took centre stage, as Ranger Rougned Odor came home when Jays catcher Russell Martin's toss back to the pitcher struck the bat of batter Shin-Soo Choo and rolled live into the near infield no man's land.

And then it was Bautista's bat flippant.

Crazy bat shit, yes, in cent…