Tag: Tourist

Day 995: Little Rivalry On The Prairie

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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.

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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 687: The *INDISPUTABLE* Big Box O’ Juke – 80’s Edition

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I have, in the past, been accused of acute music snobbery, mostly by people whose names I never bothered to commit to memory. Yes, as an employee of Music World for the summer of 1993 I would regularly look down on customers who purchased music that I deemed to be weak and unworthy of sharing the New Release rack with the 20th anniversary re-issue of Dark Side of the Moon. But I’d only do so in my head and to co-workers after those customers had left the premises. Usually.

And while I hold my own artistic opinion as a more accurate barometer of objective quality than that of the Billboard chart-driven display of ludicrous public embracement, I would be the last to declare my tastes to be definitively correct. I am a child of the 1980’s, an era when music didn’t have to be musicologically intricate – or even necessarily good – to be a terrific record. I’m okay with this – if someone whose sense of auditory aesthetics tells me that Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” is a crap single, I will quietly acknowledge a perfectly valid crevice of opinion, even if I feel they are wrong.

But there are some songs that seem to be objectively inarguable – purely and unavoidably great pieces of music. These are tracks that even the neo-hipsters of that decade will tap their feet to, the ones that truly warrant the moniker of ‘classic’. I’ve written about 80’s music before, but with these songs I can’t imagine any dissent. Or, you could comment below and prove me wrong.

But you won’t.

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In 1984 there was no under-bed hidey-hole so remote it could not be penetrated by some portion of Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA album. It still holds the record (along with Michael Jackson’s Thriller) for having spawned seven top-10 hit singles; that’s seven massive hits off a twelve-track LP. And while perhaps you could uncover some twisted soul who’ll stick up their noses at “Dancing In The Dark” or “Glory Days”, I simply cannot fathom not cranking up the volume to “Cover Me.” Read more…

Day 682: New York’s Island Of Lost Souls

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A quick test for non-New Yorkers: how many of New York’s islands can you name off the top of your head? Manhattan… Staten… Long… maybe Roosevelt… but don’t forget about Hart’s Island. Hart’s Island is a little-discussed but crucial slab of land in the city’s history. It’s also where’s you’ll find what might be the city’s only mass grave – at least I hope it is. The 80’s were a rough time.

You won’t find the place in the Zagat directory, nor will any of the city’s trademark open-air double-decker buses cruise by and announce it to a swarm of nodding be-cameraed tourists. While every city has its dark history cached beneath its modern edifices, this is a small kernel of New York’s dark present.

Hart’s Island appears to have been destined for an ongoing slot under the carpet of humanity for as long as humanity will be taking residence in the five boroughs. Take a trip way north of Queens and along the easternmost fringe of the Bronx, to where the ground is unstable and the air smells rank. Just be sure to tread lightly – there’ll be a heap of bones beneath your feet.

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Some say the island was named because of its heart-like shape, but the ‘e’ was dropped over time. The thing isn’t shaped at all like a heart, so I’m not buying that explanation. It could refer to “hart” being an English word for “stag”, and that the island was once a game preserve. It doesn’t matter – the island’s first assignment was as a prisoner-of-war camp for a few short months near the scrappy end of the Civil War. Read more…

Day 615: Shooting Behind The Mouse’s Back

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I really don’t normally do this.

Regular readers of this site (as well as those who regularly have it read to them – it’s perfect for putting the little ones to sleep!) know that I love to talk movies. Whether it’s awful movies, classic films, cinematic history, or even an awkward examination of a porn phenomenon, the topic of film is without question my favorite to tackle. But what I don’t do is discuss upcoming releases. Well, there was that one time I speculated on the upcoming Hungry Hungry Hippos movie, but that was more a reaction to the brain-nausea I felt at the movie’s very existence.

But I came across a film that has yet to drop into local theatres, and I feel compelled to pen a kilograph in its honor, mostly because I strongly doubt it will ever make its way here. I live in a town where a new Woody Allen picture plays on one lonely screen, and the finest art-house fare might be lucky enough to squeeze a two or three-night run at one of our two adventurous theaters.

To be honest, I’m amazed that Escape From Tomorrow will see the light of any day, given that it was shot almost entirely on Disney park property, without Disney’s permission.

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On the surface this is simply a film about a man who discovers he’s been laid off, then wants to have one last day of fun on his family vacation. Of course things get weird and twisted, and a tripped-out horror unfolds. But the story here isn’t the film’s plot or the caliber of the acting talent – there are no ‘names’ in this picture, and some of the reviews I’ve read have been less than kind to the movie itself. But they all agree on one point: people should see this movie if they can because they aren’t likely to see anything like it again. Read more…

Day 474: Disney’s Hidden Corners

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Anytime someone uses the term ‘Mickey Mouse Organization’ to denote a company or government that is inexperienced, ineffectual or somehow incompetent, I wonder why such a saying exists. The real Mickey Mouse organization – in particular the theme parks with Mickey’s trademark ears plastered all over the place – is about as slick and capable a machine as you’ll ever see.

Every facet of the theme park experience is engineered and monitored, from the admin buildings and garbage cans being painted to blend into the landscape, to the meticulous litter monitoring and hidden camera setups.

Oh and there are secrets. Crazy, amazing secrets. Tiny corners of the park that you can’t wander into as a tourist, but with the right connections, you can witness for yourself.

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High on my bucket list of places to visit is the mysterious Club 33, located in the New Orleans Square district of Disneyland, not far from the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride. You can approach the door with the number ‘33’ beside it, but unless your name is on the list, you aren’t getting in. Read more…