Tag: Rivalry

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 835: Presenting The… French King Of England?


It’s surprising how often I find myself stopped on the street by a complete stranger – often a fan of my articles and almost always totally imaginary – asking me why I don’t write an article about the Magna Carta. These folks invariably get my mind-wheels turning; all I know about that particular historic document is that it’s generally taught at the beginning of most modern history courses and forgotten about by the time the final exam is written, and that it had something to do with telling the king to be a little bit less of an asshole.

Well, a little bit of actual reading has taught me that this piece of paper very nearly caused a string of domino-ish events that could have led the crown of England on a permanent (inasmuch as anything in history is “permanent”) road trip to France. These people were so pissed off at their king they almost kicked their kingdom’s entire history square in the proverbial nut-sack.

If there is a moral to the story of the First Barons’ War, it might be that if you’re going to try to mellow out your king, you’d probably be better off just beheading him and starting fresh. Maybe the moral here is that partnering with your enemy will come back to bite your ass eventually. As with many snippets of history, it could be that there is no moral – it’s just some stuff that happened.


On June 15, 1215, King John of England was forced to slap the royal seal on something called The Articles of the Barons. This was a lengthy bitch-scroll penned by a number of wealthy British barons who were pissed off at the king’s rotten leadership and his despot-like iron-fist rule of the land. Screw that – these barons worked hard for their wealth (okay, they inherited it. But it took a lot of long hours waiting for their folks to die), and the king still had supreme control over the land. That wouldn’t do. Read more…

Day 803: The Shocking (Pun Tragically Intended) War Of Currents


While ruminating on beer and movies and the mighty Cleveland Browns may fuel the tip-tap-thump of my dancing fingers, every so often I owe it to myself and to my rapt and generous audience to dip into the unknown. A project such as this is by necessity a learning experience, and I pride myself on the days when  the scope of my learning extends beyond “man, writing a thousand words takes a lot out of my day.”

To wit, I give you the Current Wars. My entire life I’ve taken for granted those two or three metal prongs that when plugged into a wall socket can generate electrical functionality. I know there’s a difference between AC and DC, but I never cared much what it was. The plug enables my stereo to play Hall & Oates really loudly. That’s all that matters.

And while part of me is swiftly stomping upon the piece of my brain that decided a history of Hall & Oates would be too fluffy a topic, the rest of me is on board for hearing all about the scraps and scuffles that shaped our electrical standards. Let’s load up our Big Gun, then Shoot to Thrill at Hell’s Bells while a little TNT Shakes Me All Night Long and leaves me Thunderstruck at the Highway To Hell that was the Current Wars. To those about to read, I salute you.


Thomas Edison waved the proud flag of Direct Current (DC), and helped it to become the early standard for the United States. It was simple – a power plant fed the power outward, and each street lamp could tap into it, as could anything else that required around 100 volts to operate. If you needed something a little oomphier or a little less mighty, different lines would have to be run for those things. As long as every area built their own plants to their own needs, everyone would be serviced and no corporate monopoly would run everything. Read more…

Day 727: The Great Tree Caper Of ’98


It was a crime chiseled from the musty grey stone of infamy. In its weary aftermath, a nation would rub its sweat-stung eyes, check itself in the mirror and know that nothing would ever appear the same again. The air would forever be bathed in a perpetual murk, and where once strangers could pass one another without subconsciously clenching a suspicious knobby fist, now all that remained was an atmosphere of collective mistrust.

The foolhardy among us paused mid-chortle to label this a ‘victimless crime’. Those flippant voices have grown dusty and cracked in the years since. We exist in a world of tinted light and soul-slicing angular shadows now. Our distractions have come to serve as our collective therapy. Not a tear-choked throat among us will ever forget where they were the night the Tree went missing.

The Stanford Tree. That chlorophyll-oozing bastion of our humanity that was forever desecrated by the heinous actions of the Phoenix Five. It pains me so much to relive this agony-soaked affair I must bite down on a gauze-wrapped Nerf dart just to keep from crying out in anguish as my words stab the screen. But this is how we cope. We tell the story.

Let’s start at the beginning.


The Stanford student body decided in 1972 to purge their sporting community of its symbolic racism by abandoning its Indian mascot and seeking something more universal and less genocide-y. The mighty Tree arose as a student body joke, mocking the administration’s lack of commitment to a new identity beyond the color ‘cardinal’. Since then the Stanford Tree has come to symbolize harmony, warmth and joyous flora. The Tree was more than a symbol – it was the very embodiment of all that was good and positive in the world. Read more…

Day 716: Football With A Future – The 1920 Teams


As football fans, we can all feel the hot breath of impending playoffs breathing upon our collective neck, as tonight two more teams – the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens – struggle to overcome their mid-season screw-ups for the opportunity to suit up in January. I’ll spare everyone my predictions of the outcome, or my analysis of who I feel has the most favorable outlook for a Super Bowl run, and instead do what I do best: have a look at some history.

The National Football League will be turning 100 at the end of this decade, an event that will no doubt be heralded with throwback uniforms, extensive retrospectives, and yet another season of the Cleveland Browns finishing in the basement.

Mostly, the league will be taking stock of where it has been, and how it has evolved over its first century. I’m going to beat them by seven years.

There were fifteen teams in the 1920 American Professional Football Association (APFA), which was renamed the NFL two years later. Here’s a look at where they all went.


The Muncie Flyers finished at the bottom of the league with an impressive 0-1 record. After being thrashed 45-0 by the Rock Island Independents, they couldn’t get another league game scheduled. After an 0-2 record the following year, the club scooted off to the minor leagues.


The Columbus Panhandles played in the league’s first game, falling to the Dayton Triangles 14-0. The team went 2-6-2 in 1920, and after three unimpressive years they changed their name to the Columbus Tigers. The best they ever finished was eighth, and after unleashing a formidable stink with their sub-par play, the team gave up after the 1926 season. Read more…

Day 529: Max Fleischer – The Ani-maker


Unless you are well-versed in the history of cartoons, you probably know only a handful of names related to the industry: Walt Disney, Seth McFarlane, Matt Groening, and if you really remember your Looney Tunes, Chuck Jones. But any of those four would tip their quills in an industry salute to the group of film pioneers who laid down the stylistic pavement upon which their industry’s vehicles cruise.

Showing up right around the time cartoon sketches were first put into motion was a guy named Max Fleischer. Max may not have been the first person to bring ink to life on a movie screen, but he was part of that initial posse of innovators. He was quickly climbing the ladder of respect, but it seems a few rungs had been sawed through before he got there.

His name may have landed a few breaths short of household, but the world would have been a far blander place without Max’s contribution.


Max came to the cartoon world through the world of magazine illustrations. He was the art editor for Popular Science in 1912, where he probably picked up a few mechanical tweaks to put together the Rotoscope, which he patented in 1915. This technology is still in use – if you have ever seen the Richard Linklater film Waking Life or the iconic A-ha video for “Take On Me”, you have seen it in action. The Beatles used it in the film Yellow Submarine, and apparently Martin Scorcese used rotoscoping to artificially remove a chunk of cocaine that was hanging out of Neil Young’s left nostril in the documentary film The Last Waltz. It’s simply a machine that projects an actual filmed image onto a screen, onto which the animator can doodle, draw or fill in with color. Read more…

Day 190: The Craft Corner Meltdown Of 2012

The following exchange took place in the tiny ‘Crafts Corner’ section of the free paper known as the Whismarck Weekly Bugle. The regular feature had been penned by Doris Haverton, owner of Basket Bonanza, since October of 1983. Last spring, because a rival basket store opened up within the Whismarck town limits, paper editor Tony J. Pezsnecker felt it would be fair if he offered the new store owner a chance at writing every other week’s column.

Craft Corner – March 11, 2012

Greetings, Whismarckians! I’m Jerry Mainway, proprietor of the Basketorium, now open for business on Secondary Highway 265, a half-mile past that Denny’s that burnt down in ’07. I am not merely a curator of fine baskets. I stock deals, people. Incredible deals for all your basket needs. You want an 18-inch woven bamboo straight from the slums of Bangalore? We got ‘em, only $22.95. Looking for a reed splint basket to hold a bunch of marbles or something for the shelf beside your Blu-Ray player? We got ‘em, as low as six bucks apiece. You won’t find better deals at any lesser basket store. Flame on, basket lovers!

Craft Corner – March 18, 2012

Hello, loyal readers. Like you, I was quite taken by surprise by last week’s Craft Corner. While I understand giving equal time to all members of the community, I would never stoop to using this forum as a platform for selfish advertising. Last November I showed you how to craft a basket full of potpourri using dead flower petals, cucumber skin and dental floss. The gentleman who filled this space last week clearly has no respect for the Whismarck craft community; he merely wants to turn a profit. Not only that, but boasting that one’s product was made in ‘the slums of Bangalore’ strikes me as utterly classless and ethically suspect. I apologize for the rant; in two weeks I’ll give you some great ideas for a hanging tulip display to decorate your home for the exciting spring season! Read more…