Saturday, December 31, 2011

156 Lines About 26 Letters: Your Local 2011 in Review

Now, don't go thinking that I'm making a habit of this or anything, just because I happened to do this sort of thing last year and I happen to be doing it again this year. Entirely coincidental, I assure you!

The following had been intended for a live radio reading, one ultimately scuttled when the University of Manitoba Security Services wouldn't let me into the building. (It would seem that I am vastly more dangerous than I let on, or rather, more dangerous than I had hitherto been aware I was. The Most Dangerous Man in Winnipeg!) So I am afraid that the text version will, once again, have to suffice.

Yes, it's been a big year! It's also been a pretty terrible year. I do have a wee bit of positive personal news to report -- a rarity for me, this year -- but I can save it for the year oncoming; if I'm hoping for it to turn out well, the last thing I should want to do is get 2011 all over it.

But enough preamble! Let us mercifully put the past year behind us, and I do hope you will enjoy:

156 Lines About 26 Letters: Your Local 2011 in Review.


A is for Air Canada personnel,
who consider our downtown a circle of Hell
uninhabitable owing to its defacement
by (cough) "rural Manitobans" in "displacement".
Despite our best efforts, the airline, still nervous,
left almost as rudely as its usual service.

B is for Bedbugs, now widely freeloading,
and B is for Byfuglien drunkenly Boating.
B for the By-election all forgot here,
B for the Beethoven movie that shot here,
and B for the Beer you might get stabbed for buying;
nothing but Bad news in the B's, I'm implying.

C is for Christ the King School, which purported
to Crusade against fetuses being aborted
by offering school Credits for students to protest,
because Catholic guilt is what solves women's woes best.
In the ensuing outcry these plans were soon ceased,
Principal David Hood shortly after released.

D is for the former Discreet Boutique,
its exit uncharacteristically meek.
Panhandlers were blamed for its closure so speedy
(even by smut standards our downtown is seedy);
as Air Canada left, it joined the procession,
the better part of valour being discretion.

E is for Eadie's curse-laden intensity
and peculiar definition of density,
sounding F-sharps at his coworkers' gall
in approving a fourplex he liked not at all.
His message to progress, unflinching and hard:
"Not In My (foul language redacted) Backyard".

The aforementioned F had an awful year too;
a Fifty-man melee broke out at the Zoo.
Firebombs and Flooding ate up the whole summer,
Pat Martin's F-bombs rendered everything dumber,
Fort Richmond was declared the new Gaza Strip --
suffice it to say, F has been a bad trip.

G is for Garbage, subject to more fees
despite claims of maintaining a properties freeze;
our Mayor, who'd vowed to lock tax rates in place,
renamed this a "levy" to try and save face
but the upshot is still paying fifty bucks more,
for really the same services as before.

H is for Hours, less than a half dozen
between the implementation and discuzzin'
of Justin Swandel's morning fever-dream fares,
proving of "due diligence" that no one cares,
as it passed in Council by that afternoon --
twenty-five more cents for each transit ride soon.

I for Infrastructure, not up to code
with its hundred-year-old water pipes that explode
nor its one-fifth of roads marked as Poor and so grave
that the City declared they're too damaged to save.
Yes, our leaders gave up; you will, too, when I fill y'in
that our Infrastructure deficit's now four billion.

J is for Jets, our civic vindication;
fifteen years of obscurity and frustration
absolved in an instant, ignore though we might
that they're still just the Thrashers and still sort of bite.
Our feel-good story of the year, even still;
a .500 hockey team, soaked in goodwill.

K is for Keys to the City, and KISS;
them being together proves something's amiss
when the list for our civilian honour most high
is to, one, be famous, and, two, be nearby.
Shallow, yes, and small-time, but this too shall pass;
we're convinced leeching this fame will make us world-class.

L is for Leadership, or what's left of it;
two parties were forced to take that job and shove it.
Tory Hugh McFadyen resigned in disgrace,
having gained no ground after five years in the race,
and the Liberal Gerrard leaves his party in care
of, well, we don't know; nobody else is there.

M for "Manitoba Time", which was sent
around without explanation of what it meant --
then when the public universally panned it,
its ad wizards said we just don't understand it.
"The campaign will make it make sense", we were told,
an outcome that still remains yet to unfold.

N for the New annual record we've set,
38 homicides with time left over yet;
it's hard to pin down any one single cause
for this rampant disregard of homicide laws.
The comforting advice you're bound to hear stated
is, don't worry, mostly they're premeditated.

O is for Osborne, a neighbourhood changin';
like Santa's reindeer the big chains are arrangin'.
On, Subway! On, Safeway! On, Burger King, too!
On, Shoppers Drug Mart and A & W!
Of American Apparel as well it's composed --
but not Movie Village. That's about to be closed.

P is for Pipestone, out where they sell smokes
without collecting taxes -- a fine deal these folks
put together to provoke a Native rights scandal,
one thus far the province prefers not to handle.
Smokers seem unconcerned that the law has no part in
selling cigarettes at fourty bucks a carton.

Q is for Question, the one they'd been hopin'
to answer with "yes, 2013 we'll open" --
but government sources of funding have dried,
and the Holodomor still remains a divide.
So what is our Museum's opening range?
For now, 2014. (Subject to change.)

R is for Russ Wyatt's valiant crusade
when a store in his ward didn't have enough shade.
Yon evil Wal-Mart he rebuked when he said
that he'd counted their six trees, two of them dead.
So the next time you doubt Council's usefulness, please
think of how hard they work as they count all those trees.

S is for Signage, most often quite passive,
but one sign downtown was so bright and so massive
it hassled the neighbours and frightened the birds,
blotting out the sun with its brightly lit words
until City Hall ordered it be taken down --
though of course you will note that the sign's still aroun'.

T is for Terminals, both old and new,
though one left the other with nothing to do.
Such abandonment we were all shocked to discover
(somehow, since the Airports are next to each other)
and an alternate use we must now seek to find--
oh, wait, we can knock it down? Good! Never mind.

U is for Urine at sporting events,
brought up as a topic by some malcontents
forced to wait in lineups as washrooms were brimmin',
complaining of having "to line up like women".
So trough demands spent two days in our headlines,
as a helpful reminder that we're out of our min's.

V is for Violent crime, in which we lead --
it's nice to have something in which we succeed --
and while it may seem a most tempting mistake
to fret about a title we can't seem to shake,
no one else seems worried; it's well understood
that we now have a hockey team, so, hey, we're good.

W is for the Waste treatment plants,
and around a billion litres of pollu-tants
only partially treated when they were released
into rivers where flooding had only just ceased.
So, figuring what our reactions would be,
they spent a month keeping this in secrecy.

X is the mark that you make on a vote,
or you would if you did, but it's clear that you don't;
voter turnout decline has become so accurs-ed,
even Gail Asper rapping has failed to reverse it.
'Ere the tally of school trustee ballots be noted:
fourty-three thousand eligible, three thousand voted.

Y is for "Yurt"; no one knew what it meant
(it turned out it's some sort of exotic tent)
but then brave Occupiers brought social reform
by laying tents, then leaving for somewhere warm.
That camp now lays broken, its movement inert,
but we'll always hold fond memories of their Yurt.

And Z is for Zilch, which is to say none,
the number of Grey Cups we seem to have won
in two decades, despite our occasional prank
of reaching the big game and proceeding to tank.
The parade plans yet again we're forced to shelve,
not holding our breaths for this year twenty-twelve.


See you in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Manitoba Links Weekly: We'd Like to Wish You All the Best, From All of Us (ManLinkWeek 11)

Well, hello there! I trust that you all enjoyed a pleasant and comforting holiday season, one filled with tidings of good cheer and with goodwill to all men. Oh, me? Yeah, I was driving down Osborne on Christmas Eve and a guy sideswiped my car. So, y'know. Fun.

But, let us not dwell on that little bit of unpleasantness; let us instead reflect calmly upon the week and the season, with a suitably festive and relaxed ManLinkWeek.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: Leise Rieselt Der Schnee

The WIPs Year-End Special I'd previously mentioned didn't quite pan out, owing to some scheduling difficulties, but since it would have overlapped with the public hearing for the controversial Osborne Village Shoppers proposal I sort of doubt anybody noticed anyway. (Pundit-wrangler Tessa Vanderhart was embedded at the event and live-tweeted it on @internetpundits, if you'd wondered what the ambiance there was like.)

I had dragged out, dusted off and digitized a seasonally appropriate local album from the ol' record collection to use for musical interludes, and since the whole Christmas season will be over in three days I figure I should share it with you folks while it still makes sense:

The Winnipeg Mennonite Children's Choir (1973)
[website | history | founder bio | I couldn't find anywhere that sells this album, so you'll just have to make do with this ]

I hope you don't mind a few clicks and pops here and there; I did what I could to clean the audio quality up, but the age of the item and the condition I found it in only allow for so many miracles to be worked. (There's one particularly unsettling warble in "Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant" that I couldn't shake -- but, hey, maybe you like your Christmas music a little creepy.)

The tri-lingual fourty-voice choir was founded in 1957, this particular album recorded inside the Westminster United Church in 1973. I dig the song selection variety on this record; there are a some songs on here that you really don't hear very often any more, and many of the songs that tend to be overplayed this time of year are freshened up here by a switch into German.

(I'll be honest; I straight-up despise most of the standard Christmas repertoire, and it's not like it ever changes.)

I know I tend to overexplain when I post these, so I'll keep the highlights brief. "Alleluia, Sing FOR Joy" -- that's exactly how it's written on the album label, I don't know why -- is badass in its own curious way for a Christmas piece. "The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy" gets a surprisingly funky rendition, although a lot of that stems from the organ's effort. "The Sleigh" is less than a minute long, but dang if I don't enjoy every bit of it; I'd probably like all Christmas music a lot more if it involved this kind of urgency. I never quite know what to make of "Huron Indian Carol", but it's done as well here as it's done anywhere. And I really wish the audio quality were better on "Kling Gloekchen", because the two-part harmony in the first half of the song is really quite nice.

I rather doubt I'll be posting again before Christmas, so, Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays, and everything else that applies this time of year. Only three more sleeps until Boxing Day, Winnipeg!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Manitoba Links Weekly: Popcorn, Publishing, Portage la Prairie Punk, and Pilfered Parrots (ManLinkWeek 10)

Tomorrow's edition of Winnipeg Internet Pundits will be a two-hour Christmas special, airing from 4:30 to 6:30 PM on UMFM 101.5. There will be retrospectives, musical interludes, the year's best segments, reflection on the past and future of our city, and even -- I'm not sure why I'm presenting this like it'll be a selling point -- brand new poetry. So tune in!

Ah, but first things first. ManLinkWeek hits double digits! Let's see what seasonal items are floating around out there in the big wide worl--

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Manitoba Links Weekly: Parcels, Pest Control, Parking, and Plates (ManLinkWeek 9)

ManLinkWeek, engage!

[Urban Compass (Metro Winnipeg): City services are no bargain]
In today's top story, we hate everything. Surprise! All of the people you re-elected last year have continued to disappoint you.

[The Crime Scene: An (inconclusive) answer to a question that’s always plagued me]
The Winnipeg Police Service and the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police formally instituted a special warrant squad -- officially the "Manitoba Integrated Warrant Apprehension Unit", which must make answering the phones a real joy -- back in September. And just yesterday the WPS and Manitoba RCMP were pleased to announce that, in those three months since its inception, the MIWAU has successfully arrested over one hundred and fifty loose fugitives and cleared two hundred and twenty-three warrants from the system! This unprecedented progress knocks the number of outstanding warrants down to a paltry... to a mere, uh... twenty thousand warrants remaining. Give or take a couple, here and there, I mean.

James Turner notes here that the 20,000 estimate is basically unchanged in the last five years, which is actually sort of encouraging when you think about it; we left it alone for half a decade and it didn't get any worse? Around here, man, that's basically a victory. And at the current rate of progress with the new Manitoba Integrated Warrant Apprehension Unit -- consisting of six officers and run at an annual cost of $700,000 -- we'll have our backlog of justice cleared out within the next... let me check the ol' calc.exe here... oh, twenty-two and a half years.

Now, this whole endeavour may seem like a massive exercise in futility when you read cases like this one, wherein an elaborate four-year investigation results in a single-year jail sentence, but hey! It's... it's better than nothing, and that counts for something. Am I right, guys?

[Cindy Titus: Thinking of giving a cat as a Christmas gift? Here are some things to consider.]
An acceptable Cliff's Notes answer to this setup question is the word "DON'T", written as largely as possible and then circled ten or fifteen times for emphasis. Because, augh, just please don't do that. It won't end nearly as well as you hope it will.

[Love me, love my Winnipeg: Postmaster]
No real secret -- online shipping charges from the United States to Canada are more often than not, and not to put too fine a point on this, overwhelmingly stupid. "Oh no, wait, you're slightly north of an imaginary line. You will need another FIFTY DOLLARS. And your dollar will be worth five cents less than today's actual exchange rate, for mysterious and entirely unexplained reasons." So here are a few helpful tips on cross-border parcel pickup, if you don't mind a bit of driving or if you tend to drop into the States anyway.

And speaking of driving:

[Manitoba Public Insurance: Registration > Winnipeg Jets Licence Plates]
You will note from the collection of media links here that this, like everything else even tangentially related to our new hockey team, is being covered far more comprehensively than any of our fair city's actual legitimate news stories. Of course.

One thing that particularly caught my eye was the endnote of this Metro Winnipeg article, stating that the reports of stolen Blue Bomber plates were most likely apocryphal because nobody seemed to order any replacements after the fact. I'm curious about that, though; you'll recall, during that summer media flurry of stolen plate reports, that MPI spokesman Brian Smiley told reporters said plates were almost all gone. So if you read that MPI had no more fancy plates, and then somebody stole your fancy plates, would you ask MPI for more fancy plates? I wouldn't rule out that the whole furor was overblown, but I also wouldn't rule out that people were stealing the plates, so... hard to come down conclusively either way, really.

I can tell you this, for sure: my original reaction to the "Fuelled by Passion" slogan remains unchanged, that reaction being "ugh" and a hasty transition to anything else I can find.


[RetroWinnipeg YouTube: Winnipeg - Poulin's Pest Control jingle]
I've mentioned this backburner idea of mine to a couple of people before, but if I ever manage to get my hands on a MIDI-capable keyboard and some free time, I want to crank out just the loungiest, Richard-Cheese-iest Winnipeg tribute album ever. Wouldn't that be a hoot? Just ambush the internet one day with a free EP specially designed for dimming the lights, getting bombed on whatever's closest to champagne in the liquor cabinet, and reminiscing with jazz reimaginings of our most peculiar local 'hits'.

"Porrrrr-taaage Plaaaaace! The face of the ciii-ty is chaaan'-gin'! Hey!"

Anyone? No? Okay, well, it's probably a better idea in theory than in practice, but--anyway, if I ever did go ahead with it, this old-timey favourite would be quite likely to sneak onto it somewhere. And the oncoming ten-digit dialing switchover is likely to kill this standard where it stands, so we may as well enjoy it while we can.

[Anybody Want a Peanut?: Derelict Properties Bylaw?]
The biggest problem with surface parking in this city is that it doesn't decay and fall down on itself, meaning it's the one thing we can't solve by neglect. Just our luck.

So please enjoy this fine blog post about our city's continued toothlessness against bylaw infractions, including a profile of one frequent offender, a comments discussion on wacky Google hits, and then finally a big slam on Zellers out of nowhere. Ha! Zellers.

And that's ManLinkWeek for this Tuesday!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Manitoba Links Weekly: All Babies Can Change Lanes During the Race (ManLinkWeek 8)

Is it? It is! It's ManLinkWeek!

[The Uniter: The Uniter 30]
Behold the Uniter's second annual showcase of 30 Manitoban noteworthies age 30 or younger, following the success of last year's inaugural installment.

Remember when I busted out a Tom Lehrer quotation about feelings of inadequacy a few weeks ago? Just pretend that I didn't quote it then and that I'm quoting it now instead, because reading this year's list (or last year's, for that matter) is a one-way train ticket to feeling like you've wasted every day of your life to this point. Folks my age or younger are winning multiple gold medals for kayaking, raising tens of thousands of dollars to fight AIDS in Swaziland, building the world's largest spiro-spiro-spirograph, and running for leadership of the federal Official Opposition. I can't even find a hoodie I've misplaced, and that's even when I know for a fact it's in this frigging house somewhere. auggghhhhh

Saturday, December 03, 2011

One Billion Dollars of Debt, Managed by Role Models Like These (or: This is Just How Ross Eadie Makes Friends)

If you listened to the penultimate segment of this past Wednesday's Winnipeg Internet Pundits, you are doubtlessly aware of my unceasing optimism about the City of Winnipeg 2012 Preliminary Capital Budget.

I also wrote this column for Uptown Magazine about the matter, one that speaks for itself rather well, but I'd like to take this time to offer you a couple of quick summaries regardless.

The City of Winnipeg's bargaining position towards the Province of Manitoba, in eleven words:

"This is all your fault. Look what you made me do."

And the Province of Manitoba's bargaining position towards the City of Winnipeg, in just under three minutes:

("You want six dollars for what?")

So this is all very promising, obviously. Why, just take a look at these glowing testimonies from our civic leaders about how well our finances are being handled!