Tag: Capital

Day 995: Little Rivalry On The Prairie


Newcomers to the city of Edmonton inevitably have questions regarding our perpetual rivals to the south, or what has come to be known as the Battle of Alberta. They don’t ask me – I purposely sport a fanny-pack and 20 pounds of camera gear when I wander about the city so that tourists don’t talk to me – but they’ll ask somebody. The answer they’ll probably get is “hockey”, which is blatantly misleading and 100% wrong.

Edmonton and Calgary have held a semi-snarly relationship for much longer than the history of professional hockey in either city. Far from a rivalry of mere convenience (we are the only two major cities in the province), the Battle of Alberta extends to fundamental belief systems, to political preferential treatment, to bigotry, inclusion, and of course… money.

Which is truly the greater city? As a lifelong resident of Edmonton, my honest answer is that I don’t care. Both cities are gorgeous: they have the Stampede, we have the continent’s most impressive Fringe Theatre Festival. They have proximity to the magnificent mountains, we have an exquisite river valley. They are the economic home-base of the province, we have a gigantic mall.

But enough of the niceness. Let’s see how this got ugly.


The Battle of Alberta extends for centuries before there was even an Alberta over which to battle. The Blackfoot Confederacy was the political union among the Blackfoot tribes who moseyed about southern Alberta and Montana, killing buffalo and living a northern version of the indigenous lifestyle of the American Indian. Up in the boreal forest that covered the northern half of the as-yet-undesignated province, the Cree and their allies (known as the Iron Confederacy, making the history of this region sound like a bad-ass Native version of Game of Thrones) lived a subarctic lifestyle, which involved trapping and fur-trading. Read more…

Day 958: Day One Of Peace & Music


“I have come to lose the smog

And I feel to be a cog in something turning.”

I have been trying to reconcile my relationship with the Woodstock festival for more than 20 years. “These are your grandparents,” I told my daughter as the movie played in our living room this week. But Woodstock reached further than its generation, even beyond the magnificence of its music. It was the temporary realization of pure Utopia – or at least that’s how its legend trickled down to me, some schmuck born 2400 miles away, five years after the last gnarly raindrop had voiced its opinion that the festival ground should be mud.

Perhaps the images of a groovy, grubby, smoky paradise are merely the false concoctions of media (in this case, the documentary film Woodstock) and reputation, but this is the image that tickles my imagination and tilts my longing toward that sensation of community, of parity, and of that shared experience of being billion-year-old carbon in the same cosmic stew with a few hundred thousand friends.

2014 not only boasts the 45th anniversary of the decade-defining event, it also features an aligned calendar, allowing for the three days of the original festival (August 15, 16 and 17) to land once again on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Today I’ll be exploring what built Woodstock from the sloppy ground up; tomorrow I’ll delve into the music and on Sunday the potent culture – real or imagined.

To begin among the festival’s roots, one simply must start with the sitcom.


In 1967, lawyer Joel Rosenman (pictured above) and his friend John Roberts decided they wanted to write a sitcom about two entrepreneurs who fall into wacky weekly hijinks as they try to bring their business plans to fruition. For research they plopped an ad into The Wall Street Journal, claiming to be “young men with unlimited capital” looking for investment opportunities. Two of the men who responded, concert promoter Michael Lang and “Dead Man’s Curve” co-author Artie Kornfeld, intrigued the would-be comedy writers so much they abandoned their plans for television stardom and became the very entrepreneurs they’d planned to depict. Read more…

Day 411: Welcome To Nickname City!


A city’s nickname holds, in my estimation, no appeal to tourists. Some may possess the kind of staying-power that shortens the legs on advertising execs’ pants, like The Big Apple, The Big Easy, The Easy Apple, The Windy City, or The Big Easy Sister Cities of Brotherly Love Of Wind. But more often, they don’t mean much to anyone, aside from the council members who voted for it and the guy who got paid to build the signs.

Edmonton, where I greet and curse each new day, is known as the City of Champions. This designation came about in the 1980’s, when the Oilers were winning a lot of Stanley Cups (hasn’t happened in 22 years and counting), the Eskimos were Canadian Football champs (there are eight teams in the league – everybody ends up winning eventually), and I think our minor-league baseball team was pretty good (they’re long gone now). We’d also gone through a tornado that killed three dozen people in 1987, so mayor Lawrence Decore slapped that slogan on all the signs leading into the city. But are we champions? I don’t see it.

The cities and towns in Iowa have their own nicknames, likely none of which truly identify the soul of their city. I don’t know, let’s have a look.


Fort Madison, Iowa, is known as Pen City, which would be perfectly apt if the entire city – or even just a building or two – was constructed out of pens. Sadly, this is not the case. Fort Madison is the hometown for Sheaffer Pens though, which employed much of the town after its founding in 1912. But the company up and split for Shelton, Connecticut, leaving Fort Madison pen-less.

Well, almost. There’s still that other pen – the Iowa State Penitentiary, the most nefariously tough maximum security prison in the state. I’m not certain if this is the means by which Fort Madison residents wish to be identified, but for now, this is the pen they get. Read more…