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…
A depressingly small amount of great historical tales end up in a parking lot. In the case of Richard III, King of England and the final monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty, that’s exactly where the conclusion was written. A public parking lot – probably the kind of place where young lovers searched for a way across home plate, where despondent laid-off businessmen wept in their Saabs before going home to their families, and where illicit exchanges of cash for drugs no doubt peppered the veil of darkness.
It’s an unlikely closing chapter for a king who spent his final day in a gruesome battle for control of the throne in what would be the blood-splattered climax of the War of the Roses. But deceased winners get sent to the unknown in a flourish of pageantry; the dead on the other side get swept beneath the planetary carpet and forgotten about. And the guy who was in charge of the losing side? It’s fair game for that poor schlub.
The fate of Richard III endured the typical kaleidoscope of historical record, branching out in luminous tales of colorful desecration and mesmerizing hyperbole. But the truth? The real truth? Grab a shovel, move that Miata out of the way and let’s do some digging.
Back in the days before leaders conscripted the poor to fight their battles, Richard III wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. The War of the Roses had been raging for four decades, with the House of Lancaster yearning to snag the crown away from the House of York. Richard was new to the throne, having acted as Lord Protector for his 12-year-old nephew, Edward V until 1483 when it was decided that Edward was just not up to kinging. There was skepticism about Richard: why did Edward and his younger brother disappear suddenly? Why did Richard’s wife die under mysterious circumstances? Was Richard involved? Read more…
If I was asked, “Where in the world would you least like to live?”, I might reply with an active war zone, or one of those places along the infamous Axis of Evil (Iran, North Korea, and Foxboro, Massachusetts). But let’s narrow it down – where in the United States of America would I least like to hang my frayed douchey hipster fedora?
The crumbling ruins of Detroit? Nah, I’m one of those insipidly optimistic types who believes that Motor City will crawl from the wreckage and rise like a Phoenix (note – not like Phoenix, which has never had to demonstrate such resilience). Somewhere in the remote backwoods of the deep south? While my pinko-commie-homo-lovin’-Jesusless ways would make it uncomfortable, I’m such a fan of warm weather and delicious barbecue that I could still make that work.
But what about Diomede, Alaska? You will never find a more wretched hive of cold and tedium. Located so close to Russian turf even I’d be willing to make the walk (were the terrain not so watery), this is a village that by all logic shouldn’t exist. And while I’d never plant my permanent return address upon its infertile soil, the place still fascinates me.
On the left is Big Diomede, an island that was not included in the 1867 sale of Alaska from Russia to the United States. On the right, only 2.4 miles across the frigid Bering Sea, is Little Diomede. This miniscule slab of rock appears to have been specifically designed to deter humans from bothering it, surrounded on all sides by steep, unmanageable cliffs. All sides except for the one corner that houses the incomprehensible village of Diomede, population: about 110. Read more…
Ambitious? Yup. Crazy? You know it. How can an author concoct a full-on book whilst omitting that most popular ASCII swirl – that which shows up in an almost full swath of our words? You know what I’m talking about: it turns ‘bit’ into an act of chomping; it turns ‘pat’ into a pasty duck food apt for applying to a Triscuit; it turns ‘hug’ into a word for gigantic.
Could I pull it off? Is it within my hobbling Sunday morning skills, sitting in a glow from an almost-autumn sun, to plot out a kilograph of words – still witty, still topical, still skillful to charm my own brain – without using that which falls b’twixt ‘d’ and ‘f’? I highly doubt it. To accomplish this is a coup, okay, but I also think it would bring a pain within my rattling skull. This would insist upon grit, a touch of humility, and a cool and stubborn focus.
I don’t know if I got it in my digit-tips, but I’ll launch it past that bow and find out. This is a batshit-nuts try at a lipogram.
This is going to hurt…
A lipogram is stunt of constraint, of rigorous word control. Is it fun? Possibly, though it’s taxing on a brain’s ability. This act of play is found in old books from that nation – you know, that classic civilization with pillars, philosophy and tzatziki. This guy, Tryphiodorus, was known for his lippogrammatic adaptation of that book… not Iliad, but that similar story by that guy with a similar autograph to that of Bart Simpson’s dad. You know. Read more…
I’ll admit it. There are some days when I feel like posting a photograph and saying, “Look, there’s my thousand words. I’m done.” 485 days in a row of poking into some topic or spewing out some schtick can make a guy want a break. But sometimes it’s the words themselves that keep me engaged, keep me squinting at my screen, wondering why that little huddle of ordered squiggles can carry so much meaning, so much passion.
Then there are the words that are just goofy. That’s what today is about – the words that are more notable for their own existence than for what they represent. With any luck, I’ll enjoy writing about them so much, it will feel almost like taking a break.
Though I don’t think I’m quite that lucky.
How about the longest single-syllable word in the English language? There’s some leeway here – I think with many ‘longest’, ‘largest’ or ‘most’ lists, you have to allow for a bit of creative license. This list includes a number of 10-letter words, most of which aren’t used very often. “Schnappsed” apparently means you drank schnapps, though I’ve never heard it before. I beered a little last night myself. “Scroonched” is another 10-letter way to say ‘squeezed’, though it sounds like something I’d make up when I wanted a more interesting word than ‘squeezed’. “Schwartzed” is actually a foul in a drinking game called ‘Zoom Schwartz Profigliano’, though I’m hoping before I die I can give a greater definition to that 10-letter word. Read more…