Monday, 25 May 2015


A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES

 

Intergalactic Day Tripping

 

The sign by the highway at the corporate limits of the town of St. Paul, Alberta reads A People Kind of Place! Space aliens are welcome too because the town’s best known attraction is a UFO landing pad. Even more welcome on this Sunday afternoon are various members of Opus@12 Chamber Concert Society, an Edmonton-based revolving collective of skilled amateur musicians. Ann is one of the group’s violinists. I’ve signed on as Ann's roadie to hump her instrument, music stand and stage outfit.

 

Originally founded as a M├ętis colony prior to the turn of the 19th century, St. Paul is about two hours east across the northern prairie from Edmonton. The land between them is rolling, wide-open and near empty. The sunlit spring greens of the grasses and aspens are strikingly vibrant. Freshly turned earth in the fields is a rich, moist black. Scattered here and there are long-abandoned homesteads, sun-bleached cabins and outbuildings of an indeterminate age, each in a unique state of decrepitude and slow-motion collapse. There is a temptation to stop and photograph, sketch or paint each tumbling ruin.

 

To get to St. Paul you must drive through other places. The main divided highway takes us through Elk Island National Park. I spot three bison grazing by the wildlife fence; they are either wood or plains bison, I don’t know one from the other. We turn off at a junction and follow a secondary highway through Mundare, a town renowned for the quality of its Ukrainian sausage. The roadside attraction is a massive kielbasa ring situated in a park; it doesn’t look good enough to eat, in fact it rather resembles… We drive on bypassing Hairy Hill and then through the Saddle Lake Cree Nation. There are loose livestock warnings posted on the shoulders. I can see for miles in all directions. A hawk coasts on an updraft over our heads but nothing’s moving on the ground, anywhere.

 

The Opus@12 program is titled ‘Ancient Airs’ even though, as founder Rock Larochelle joked at a previous performance I attended, ‘We basically cover 300 years in an hour.’ The concert will take place in the St. Paul Cathedral, an elegant red brick building with a shimmering gold cap atop the pointed belfry. The parking lot is scorching hot. Instruments are removed from baking car trunks and quickly hustled inside the church where it is merely stifling. Ann and the other musicians must change into their black costumes.

 

The late morning mass is running behind, many local kids are receiving their First Communion. In the parking lot I hang about the car smoking and discreetly sipping a beer chilly from the cooler we’d packed alongside Ann’s stuff; I wonder about the nature of Hell as the main church doors finally open. The proceeds from this afternoon’s Opus@12 concert will be donated to Development and Peace, an organization operated by the Canadian Catholic Church dedicated to Third World development and disaster relief. Funds raised today in St. Paul for Nepal will be matched by the Government of Canada. There are some 5400 souls in St. Paul. Not all are Catholic. Chamber music is not to everyone’s taste. Ann and I learned today that the final matched tally was in excess of $18,400. Music matters.

 

Following the cathedral concert the Opus@12 string players reassemble on the UFO landing pad and unpack their instruments and music stands on the hot, elevated circle of concrete. They will reprise ‘Jupiter’ by Gustav Holst (1874-1934). The mayor and a photographer from the St. Paul Journal are on hand. A curious crowd orbits the intergalactic tourist site.

 

The pad was erected in 1967 as part of St. Paul’s Canadian centennial celebrations. Who knew what the Space Age would bring aside from universal peace and goodwill? Honestly though, if aliens were to navigate all their way to Earth, it’s difficult to imagine them touching down in St. Paul needing directions to a world capital. A time capsule to be opened in 2067 is embedded in the pad’s low, whitewashed cement wall. Beside its brass plaque is a relief map of Canada; Nunavut is missing, late to the party.

 
Ann stands in front of British Columbia. She is first violin. The other musicians await her nods, the silent one-two-three countdown, their bows poised. Ann shouts, ‘Ten! Nine! Eight! ...’ After the laughter subsides the music begins right on cue.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


HUMAN WRECKAGE

 

It’s a Mad Ad World

 

Mad Men, a television show and a convoluted story about a charming sociopath who reinvented himself as a Madison Avenue adman in a grey flannel suit, wrapped up its exalted place in contemporary pop culture last weekend. I watched bits and parts of the first few of seasons. I was not overly entranced but I was struck by the fact that the show’s writers had done their homework; they’d at least studied Vance Packard’s seminal The Hidden Persuaders (1957): the cancer scare related to cigarettes was something akin to reefer madness and, anyway, ‘toasted’ tobacco was, well, better, according to four out of five doctors.

 

In my 25 years in the advertising industry I never met a soul who’d read the book nor even heard of it. Granted, its examples are dated but the examined strategies and principles of selling, of whetting desire, are fundamental. The majority of suits I worked with were indifferent to the ever-evolving state of our business and worse, their clients’ businesses. A newspaper’s financial section was a little too dry to compete with Facebook updates and Perez Hilton’s puerile scribbles. In fairness, most of our clients seemed less than thrilled with their professional lot in life and therefore did not pay any heed to trends within their own industries: marketing was a university course, passion a Human Resources term. That said, the good ones on either side of the shop and client divide together made a calculable impact on the marketplace and as a production manager and sometime writer I was proud to see these projects through from concept to launch. I earned those sleepless nights; the wee wee hours were billable.

 

Mad Men of course caught on with the advertising industry. Its influence on the esthetics of contemporary design is mildly disturbing. It is proof of either the cyclical nature of fashion in the arts of persuasion or of a 21st century creative nadir. I remember chatting with a designer who’d bought a season of Mad Men shows. He thought the packaging of the set as a Zippo lighter was clever, unique and pretty cool. I said, ‘It’s been done before. Check out the original album sleeve of Catch a Fire by Bob Marley and the Wailers from 1973.’

 

Like trade and indeed civilization itself, advertising is the result of surplus. The business really got a goose with the advent of mass production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unsold goods have no value; they are in fact a drain. There is a valid argument too that advertising is a bastion of democracy. Consider that the fourth estate in all of its forms exists to hold those who wield power to account. Our newspapers, news magazines and newscasts might not exist without the subsidizing patronage of advertisers. This is not my thesis nor can I refute it. Finally, there is a degree of honesty in advertising believe it or not because there is no pretence of objectivity. There’s no hiding an advertiser’s agenda: BUY THIS.

 

When the characters of Mad Men get around to actually doing any work they tote totems, legendary brands and classic ad campaigns. You sense that if the series ran long enough in real time, they’d be pitching a Mean Joe Greene TV commercial to Coke. Glory days. The industry’s paradox is that bad advertising, poorly executed, low budget noise, is equally memorable. There are reeking mounds of it, each heap perpetuating the fallacy that anybody can do it. Just as, you know, your five-year-old is a better painter than Jackson Pollock. This misconception diminishes the perceived value of advertising and becomes fodder for some very bad decisions.

 

People are clever. There’s always somebody who’ll figure out a better way to provide a service or improve upon a product. Yet many business plans seem to be collaborations between the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, pecked out in Wonderland. There are no allowances for advertising because it’s deemed an unnecessary expense starting up, something to maybe consider down the road as profits mount. An anonymous horse contemplates the rear end of a cart. Established brands and businesses are guilty of a similar counter-intuitive mistake. When hard times hit a company, or worse, its customers, the immediate tendency is to make the easiest, simplest cost-saving cut, slash the advertising budget. Why be top of mind when the battle for a shrinking portion of a discretionary dollar is more intense than ever?

 
Advertising hinges on a simple premise. In exchange for your attention, you will be provided with information. The hope is that you will find it useful. Compelling advertising manages to tell a story within the confines of its particular format. I recall one particular resort developer who was insistent on putting practically his entire sales brochure on a billboard situated along a busy highway. How do you gently inform a valuable client that he is batshit crazy? Mad Men offered a peek behind the curtain although it would be a mistake to view the series as an advertising primer, but it sure did tell a story. Every ad campaign, even the legendary ones the show referenced, eventually runs its course. Inevitably Mad Men had to follow suit. That’s the nature of the business.

Thursday, 14 May 2015


NONSENSE VERSE

 

Fifty Shades of Schadenfreude

 

‘Fuck her right up in her pussy!’

Rape’s a sport and you’re no wussy

 

From whence this frat boy juvenilia?

Perhaps your undersized genitalia?

 

You’ve neither manners nor respect

And apparently, limited intellect

 

Christ, you’ve not an ounce of sense

Your parents quit on a son so dense

 

Now you’re a topic of public shaming

Dude, that’s your name they’re naming

 

And this is how the digital mob rules

By hashtagging our society’s fools

 

You best be wary of social media

You might earn a page on Wikipedia

 

Then your employer shut out the lights

Makes you wonder about human rights

 

Being an ass, well, it ain’t no crime

So how does it feel up yours this time?

SAINTS PRESERVE US

 

Shredding the Documents

 

A recent New York Times crossword clue read: Feature of the Nixon White House tapes. The three letter solution was GAP. Former United States Secretary of State and current 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently made the hard choice to delete 30,000 emails from her personal server before turning over the remaining files to the American government for archiving. Said server was subsequently destroyed. Closer to home former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty will best be remembered for blacking out the mounting costs of two cancelled gas plants; those vanished emails were supposed to deke out a potential scandal rather than create it. Very close to home is the orgy of file shredding occurring on the grounds of the Alberta legislature since May 6th, the morning after the Progressive Conservative Party was deposed after more than four decades of big oil cronyism.

 

The recent V-E Day celebrations reminded those of us who have had the great fortune to be born into any one of the world’s great democracies that it took a lot of blood and sacrifice to get us this far. The Occupy movement served to remind us that our grand achievements are still riddled with imperfections. Edward Snowden’s leaks reminded us that perhaps we’ve been too complacent and indifferent to the motives of those to whom we grant the privilege of wielding power.

 

Still, we’re awake and alive enough to question erasures, deletions and curly shreds of foolscap. In Tricky Dick’s case, well, the White House office administrator was a klutz plain and simple. The divine Ms Clinton decreed that nobody need know her daughter’s wedding plans; they must have been elaborate. In Toronto the Liberals were just trying to balance the energy ministry’s books to the tune of a $7-million accounting shortfall, fiddling with red ink and ledger columns. Here in Edmonton there’s been the weirdest coincidence. The exiting government thought it might be a good time to clean house and the paper purge was arranged and scheduled months ago.

 
Sure, the dog was driving erratically but that’s only because he ate my homework. I swear he hasn’t had a drop to drink all night, officer. Honest.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


HUMAN WRECKAGE

 

Of Dandelions and the YouTube Vortex

 

A comedian whose name I’ve long forgotten once joked that squirrels were just rats with good P.R. Here in Edmonton there’s a new spin on the bright yellow dandelion. It’s no longer considered a weed. Not because it’s a pretty little thing but because it’s impossible to eradicate. Time is a magician. It erodes barriers and opens avenues to different modes of surrender: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ hence the end of Prohibition, and in our day, the cessation of former United States President Richard Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs.’ So the bane of our manicured lawns has been upgraded to flower status and already becoming a key ingredient in hipster foodie salads.

 

I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to kill dandelions. I spray them. I dig them up. I decapitate them. If their heads manage to mature into those elegant little domes of grey spores, I fry them with a butane barbecue starter. And I wonder about dandelions. Do they possess some type of trickster collective consciousness? It seems to me that once I’ve mortally wounded one, ten more have sprouted behind me during the few seconds my back was turned.

 

The insanely enormous volume of videos available and always increasing on YouTube reminds me of dandelions. It’s a site best avoided because you can’t watch just one. Sunday evening Ann pocket dialed her younger son who was road tripping in California with his brother and a close friend of theirs. The boys were nearing the end of an intense biathlon, an afternoon Angels baseball game followed by a Ducks playoff game. There was a lubricated joke about going to Disneyland after the hockey overtime. And because there is a song for everything I thought of ‘Dizz Knee Land’ by Dada, a deceptively jaunty jingle about a dark subject, ‘Hitched a ride on a monkey’s back/Headed west into the black/I’m going to Disneyland,’ which I’d not heard in a decade. God help me, I searched the song on YouTube.

 

After Dada I played another one hit wonder, The Flys’ ‘Got You (Where I Want You).’ I then checked in with Bobby Bloom in ‘Montego Bay’ and then departed old Durham town trying to whistle along with Roger Whittaker. Tony Joe White and Johnny Cash dueted on ‘Polk Salad Annie.’ Then Elvis did it black belt dojo style from Vegas, still svelte in a white, spangled jumpsuit. The Foo Fighters backed Tony Joe on a full blown awesome rave up electric version. Chomp! Chomp! Because ‘music is the doctor’ I sought out the Doobie Brothers and then did the rock with Tim Curry. Since Curry does such a great send up of Mick, I next pulled up a vintage clip of the Stones performing ‘Loving Cup’ from a German television show. I backtracked to the ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ war paint promo film and then leapt ahead to ‘Gimme Shelter’ from the Ed Sullivan Show.  I was reminded that Cinderella’s ‘Shelter Me’ pretty much recycles Keith’s riff from ‘Soul Survivor,’ a derivative goodie. I was in hair metal territory now, a dodgy place. Even though I think Motley Crue are icky, tattooed Petri dishes of aggressively replicating viruses, I love ‘Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).’

 
Ann poked her head around the door jamb and said something. I turned the speakers’ volume down and said, ‘Sorry?’ She said, ‘I’m going to bed now. You can stay up all night and watch videos if you want.’ I said, ‘I won’t be long.’ She said, ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ I’d just found Joe Cocker and John Belushi doing ‘Feelin’ Alright’ on Saturday Night Live. ‘Wait! Before you go, you’ve got to see this.’ I looked up. Ann was gone. I suppose I was too. I roused myself and opened another beer because it’s impossible to have just the one.

Friday, 8 May 2015


EAT ME

 

Can I Get Kale with That?

 

McDonald’s Corporation recently announced plans for a global reset because, you know, $27-billion (US) in annual planetary revenue just ain’t enough to satisfy stakeholders and Wall Street analysts. In terms of market expectations that figure equates to some two billion $1 hamburgers less served; fortunately Mickey D’s was able to eke out a slim profit in excess of $5-billion. The latest solution to the burger chain’s current stock ticker malaise, direct from Hamburger University in Oak Brook, IL, seared onto high-quality meat patties, is to jettison 3000 company-run stores and reposition the existing facilities as franchise opportunities. The Hamburglar has been sprung from the old mascots’ home. Like a good ally McDonald’s Canada has joined the effort, they will begin adding kale to their salads. Yum.

 

Since its founding in1940 McDonald’s has purveyed reasonably good food at a reasonable price. Its destination sandwich, the Big Mac, tastes good. Those salty, skinny fries are delicious. The Egg McMuffin, a fistful of breakfast, was inspired genius. Even the fountain Coke at McDonald’s seems to taste better there than elsewhere. The company’s charitable initiatives and various sponsorships are admirable endeavors. Mickey D’s has exhibited uncommon corporate courage in this age of social media and the increased, often absurd, interaction between consumers and their brands by addressing urban myths about its food preparation practices straight on.

 

McDonald’s pioneered the quick service restaurant industry. The cost of this innovation and its imitating ilk hit close to home, our intimate neighbourhood lunch counters paid the price in full. The phantom requisite of expansion led to the disheartening sight of the golden arches overseas. The tired and hungry tourist didn’t experience the comfort of familiarity so much as a feeling of ‘Oh no, not you again.’ In creating an entirely new category of food service, McDonald’s effectively birthed its competition. At first the model was copied, soon it was improved upon and that’s when things began to get confused at head office.

 
If McDonald’s board and brain-trust was sort of akin to a Star Trek Borg hive, you might imagine the buzzing inside its collective head: ‘Burger King, not a problem, they sell the same stuff except with Pepsi. Yuk. Anyway, Ronald is less creepy than that weird king thing. Hasn't Wendy transformed into a fetching little moppet since Dave bit the big Baconator? Come to think of it, the Burger King looks like those white masks anti-globalization anarchists wear; loved it when they attacked a Starbucks. But those Starbuckers are selling coffee, fucking coffee, for five bucks a cup or whatever. The margins must be sweeter than sugar. Maybe we can get into that? Might increase same store traffic and bump the brand’s top of mind? Maybe we give coffee away? Call them McCafes? First taste is free, hee-hee. Subway’s been a burr up our ass, what, 44,000 stores? Eat fresh, indeed, the bread dough’s frozen. Deli sandwiches, who cares? We tried them for three months. They weren’t exactly in our wheelhouse. Still Subway’s customers can customize their orders, choose their toppings. There might be something to that even though it goes against the way we’ve conducted business for 75 years. We kicked Harland Sanders’ ass, rammed up 11 herbs and spices with Chicken McNuggets. Granted McRibs and the Arch Deluxe didn’t quite fit into the old Colonel, nor did McPizza come to think of it, but we can change. We can. Fuck! What if we actually offered customers a choice!? Hmm, we don’t know, the kitchen line would grind to a halt. Fuck it, you get what you get from Taco Bell, right? Bastards. They don’t fuck around with salads, granola and yogurt. They don’t make burgers even as we’ve experimented with burritos. No, they seem to stick to what they’re best at. And their core customers tend to return more frequently because they know what to expect and they’re not confused by an overly elaborate menu. Well, fuck us, there’s an idea… Nah. Get the Hamburglar on speaker phone and patch in Canada! We’ve got a solution!’

Thursday, 7 May 2015


A FAN’S NOTES

 

Let’s Spend Our Lives Together

 

I love the Rolling Stones and this love, despite the existence of Dirty Work, has not and will not fade away. The Stones have existed in one form or another since 1962. I, a misfire of Vatican Roulette, have been around since the last year of the post-war baby boom, 1960; I have no memories of life without the Rolling Stones. I remember their London label 45s spinning on the blue and white Fleetwood suitcase hi-fi, a penny Scotch taped to the tone arm, in my sister’s pink bedroom. I remember their appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show on black and white Sunday nights. Their feral beauty and musical fury matched the maelstrom of my puberty. Surely these decadent degenerates were cooler than dandruffy Father Moyle our parish priest, and clean cut hockey players like Jean Beliveau and Bobby Orr; perhaps that slight observation was the genesis of the many bad decisions I would go on to make throughout my life. There were the midnight showings of Sympathy for the Devil, Gimme Shelter and Ladies and Gentlemen the Rolling Stones, and with the films came all of the delightful substances teenagers ingest to either ease or hinder their path to adulthood. ‘Tumbling Dice’ remains my all time favourite song ever and the words were easy enough to memorize although it took me a few years to decipher the slurred lyrics buried in the peculiar rhythms of the funky sludge; enlightenment became a game: You can be my partner in crime (provided you knew the code).

 

I remember slouching on a downtown Montreal sidewalk in 1978. Me and my friend Norm were lined up outside Sam the Record Man on rue Ste-Catherine est waiting for Stones Some Girls tour tickets to go on sale when the store opened at 9 am. They cost $9 or $10 – the stubs sell for $50 on eBay now - trouble was the show would be performed in Buffalo, a city in a different country. We bought a pair of seats for a mutual friend in Toronto who in turn arranged for the four us to board a radio station sponsored bus headed 90 minutes south to Rich Stadium in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park. Norm and I rode the train to Toronto. Wide-eyed and worldly, we sipped beers in the bar car. The waiter, a patient black gentleman and in retrospect, incredibly gracious with a pair of tipsy, evolving humans, spent a little time educating us about Chess Records and the Chicago blues. And didn’t this man, whoever he was, enrich my life with a little gentle advice? ‘The Stones are good, man, but they listened to Muddy and the Wolf.’ Message received: go backward, dig deeper.

 

A joint came down the line during the concert. Maybe Journey was playing? ‘That’s harsh,’ I gasped. Somebody said, ‘Paraquat!’ the insecticide the US Drug Enforcement Administration was spraying on marijuana fields at the time. Back home a few weeks later at a party I toked on another harsh joint. ‘Paraquat?’ I asked knowingly. The guy shrugged, ‘No, I couldn’t get any so I sprayed it with Raid.’ Well… fuck. These poisonings proved to be mere girding for one of the two upper New York State dates of the Stones’ 1981 Tattoo You tour that I was pleased to attend. My friend Mark and I were on a midnight rocket luxury motor coach aimed from Montreal to Syracuse. As we approached the border he handed me a gram of hash: ‘Eat this.’ Why not? Mark ate two grams. I think there were two or three supporting acts on the bill at the Carrier Dome. I believe one of them might have been Molly Hatchet. I came to, thank God, when the Stones kicked off their set with ‘Under My Thumb.’

 

The next 34 years got a little strange. Rock music lost its cultural dominance to more modern forms of pop music. The analogue record industry imploded shortly after greedily gouging music fans enamoured with its latest and greatest format: shiny, twinkling compact discs. The Stones released just six studio albums, the latest being A Bigger Bang (2005), and a handful of singles sprinkled onto compilations of their older hits. Everything was decent if infrequent; their ability to write and cut tracks that ignited the wows and flutters dwindled to the level of mere mortals. That said there’s still a staggeringly good 90-minute cassette to be cherry-picked from their late career, corporate incarnation. If you haven’t drunk their Kool-Aid as I have, the only essential Stones recording released during these years is, unsurprisingly, the live Stripped (1995) which features intimate acoustic renditions of a slew of their best known songs.

 

We are ageing, tottering on the edge of infirmity. The Stones, given the myths of their lifestyles in their heyday, should all be dead; the Ramones, a much younger and equally vibrant band, alas, weren’t too tough to die. Each time I watch the Stones’ war paint ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ promotional film from 1968 I get goose bumps and the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention like porcupine quills. These visceral feelings spring up every time I’ve watched the Rolling Stones take their stage. It always takes me a moment to settle down and breathe and comprehend that we will share the same space and time for a couple of hours. While sparks still fly on E Street and their own set lists have become increasingly generic since the massive circus maximus of the 1989 Steel Wheels tour, the Stones rarely fail to blow the roof off the venue – provided it has one. Even at this late date, give me a Stones ticket over anybody else.

 

I have no conditions but I have quibbles. The band possesses more than enough cool cachet to do virtually anything they want during a performance. They are after all the Rolling Stones. Unlike certain Fortune 500 companies, the Stones tend not to tinker with the formula that got them to what John Lennon famously described as the ‘toppermost of the poppermost.’ Their audience shells out a significant amount of dough for a seat in this day and age, and it’s easier for the casual fan to contextualize a rendition of what was once a Billboard Top Ten bestseller rather than new material. I mean, who hasn’t totally disrupted a wedding reception mincing around to ‘Honky Tonk Women?’ The same cannot be said about ‘One More Shot’ although the riffage and the vibe are, well, pretty fucking Stonesy and any sane rock band would kill to cut a song like it.  For the hardcore legion there is always a crumb that didn’t chart, what the modern music press now annoyingly calls a deep cut; if they ever played a non-album B-side such as ‘Child of the Moon’ or ‘Think I’m Going Mad’ in my presence my head would explode; unfortunately the risk is minimal.

 

Our journey together through the past comes complete with newly minted baubles and souvenirs. The Stones have re-released both Exile on Main St. (1972) and Some Girls (1978) with bonus discs rich and rife with ditched or reconfigured songs and alternate versions of their standard warhorses. Sticky Fingers (1971) gets the same treatment next month. What was unacceptable to them then is now pure gold to fans like me. (I’ve no idea when they began writing and recording ‘Zip Mouth Angel’ but if this song never sees the legal light of day it will be a capital crime.) They have also followed Bob Dylan’s elfin lead (perhaps not for the first time) by releasing ‘official’ bootlegs of live material which used to quietly circulate among fans who knew the code.

 
The Stones’ latest North American tour, dubbed Zip Code commences the third week of this month. The itinerary could have been cobbled together by the National Hockey League: ‘These are viable secondary markets where we’ve either failed utterly or are currently sucking wind.’ The Stones of course are savvy enough to avoid cities where they may have recently worn out their pricey brand’s welcome. The road tripper is left to contemplate expensive stadium shows in unappealing places inaccessible by direct flights. During one of my midnight creeps through the dark and quiet house I paused in the den to review ticket prices, the currency exchange rate, hotels and airfares. My inbox pinged with a terse note from an old friend who knows my habits and knows me maybe a little too well (we’d been out together earlier in the evening): ‘Put the credit card down and step slowly away from the computer.’ So I did. It’s anathema to me imagining the world without the Rolling Stones in it, but could this be our last time, my last chance? I don’t know.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


SAINTS PRESERVE US

 

Careful What You Wish For

 

This morning in Alberta black is white, up is down and left is right. The entrenched, bulletproof Progressive Conservative Party (PC) has ruled Alberta since 1971. That is, until provincial election ballots were counted last night. The Tories, rotted by complacency, were decimated, unable even to muster enough seats to qualify as the official opposition in the legislature.

 

Our premier-elect is Rachel Notley, leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP). Alberta will no longer be governed by its Bible belt and the oil patch for the next four years at least. Calgary and Edmonton, the province’s two major urban centres have experienced explosive growth over the past two decades, with growth came diversity. Power now resides where the vast majority of citizens live. Given human nature and this era's infatuation with instant gratification, the electorate's expectations of a magical and immediate reboot erasure of yesterday's staid, redneck Alberta may be absurdly high.

 

Change is good though the transition from PC to NDP could prove a little awkward. Just how Tory blue is the civil service after 44 years? Will there be a flurry of NDP patronage as the new kids review the pedigrees of government suppliers? More worrisome is the depth of the NDP’s talent pool. Beyond Ms Notley’s obvious expertise and acumen the ranks of experience behind her appear frighteningly thin. They are in fact a party of rank amateurs.

 
It began to snow last night after the results were tabulated. It snowed all night. It’s still snowing now. A spring storm can’t be an omen, can it? Are we to endure four years of an economic winter? For some reason as I watched the snow swirl this morning I recalled a plank from the election platform of the satirical Rhinoceros Party who maintained it was more ideologically correct for Canadians to drive on the left and if elected they would change the rules of the road, albeit in phases, beginning with trucks and buses.