Calgary company Dissolve creates the perfect (fake) U.S. campaign ad

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Screenshot from the Dissolve video.

This is a lede. It’s meant to draw you into the story by telling you what you’re about to read.

Often we’ll toss in some active words like rammed, or ploughed, or engulfed so that you don’t turn your infant-level attention span elsewhere.

In this case, we want you to be interested in a story about a mock presidential campaign video created by Calgary stock video company Dissolve. We’ve embedded it below so that you’ll scroll down more.

Perhaps you’d like a subhead to draw you in further.

Excitement follows

Taking a cue from the dramatic and hokey ads that litter U.S. television screens during elections, Dissolve cobbled together video footage from its vast collection in order to offer a template of sorts for the Donald Trumps, Hillary Clintons and Bernie Sanders of the world.

READ THE REST AT CBC CALGARY.

Calgary’s music scene and how it shapes us

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Photo by: Bernard Bodo, EXIT photo team

Some speculate that music is the reason humans are what humans are.

That the sounds of voice and eventually instrument over the millennia helped form the communities that became the societies, that allowed us to grow into the dominant species on the planet.

As famed cultural critic George Steiner put it, there is no community on this planet that does not have music — music being far more universal than language.

Our people

Music shapes community. It shapes cultural (and counter-cultural) identities within societies. It is tribal. It helps us to find “our people” and shape our world view.

From the snarky guy at the record store to the acclaimed pianist taking the stage at the Jack Singer; from the keen all-ages promoter hyped up on the local music scene to the guy putting up posters along 17th Avenue — music and the social scenes that develop around it mean more than just beats and bleeps and bangs.

When I was in high school and regularly going to all-ages punk shows, my dad would often ask in that concerned parental way what I had in common with my friends. The answer was almost always music. That didn’t make much sense to him.

READ THE REST AT CBC CALGARY

Bar philosophy: What Calgary’s drinking holes say about our city

 

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Bartender Jasmine Gilbert pours a pint at Lynwood Station pub, a favourite haunt for thirsty Ogden locals. (Drew Anderson)

When a certain magic takes hold, a bar becomes a memory palace that stands apart from other social spaces. It captures our imaginations, tells our stories.

Bars are places where we make and keep friends, form community and, even if we don’t realize it, bars shape how we think of ourselves.

You can also get liquored up there, which helps.

Calgary is a city of iconic bars, and a wasteland for many more. Names people know, places you want to see and be seen.

Each one unique, and when one closes, a little something in us shuts, too.

Bar philosophy (yeah, it’s a thing)

Think of the King Eddy, the Shamrock, the Cecil, and so many before them: The Republik, Westward Club, The Night Gallery or the Electric Avenue strip.

 Each a different place, with a different crowd and a different vibe. All gone.

You can no longer sit in one of these places and say, “This is where B.B. King came to play after his show at the Saddledome.”

You can’t point to the chair next to you and say, “Ralph Klein decided to run for premier while drinking there.”

You can’t say, “I saw Nirvana play on this little stage,” or “Your mother and I conceived you after a night here.”

Richard Ocejo, a sociology professor at City University of New York, has spent a lot of time thinking about bars, ever since he stumbled into a gentrifying dive in New York City’s Bowery district.

READ THE REST AT CBC CALGARY. 

Branded and bullshit

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Yesterday one of my former colleagues at Fast Forward Weekly noticed that Branded Magazine, a new Calgary publication, had opened voting for their Best of YYC poll and directly mentioned that it wanted to keep Fast Forward’s Best of Calgary™ tradition alive. A couple of snarky tweets were sent and the arguments began.

Most people supported the snark, but some didn’t get the meaning, saying Fast Forward didn’t invent the reader poll and should just go quietly into the night. Fair enough, but they’re missing the point. Myself and the former staff I’ve talked to don’t care about a reader’s poll, or make any claim that it was a unique invention (though the trademark is still protected), we care about the fact that a vapid advertorial rag with no pretense of editorial integrity called Branded is purporting to keep a Fast Forward tradition alive.

This deserves comment.

Fast Forward Weekly was, as former staff writer Jeremy Klaszus so eloquently put it, a pain in the ass. We were at time reckless in our pursuit of stories to the detriment of our bottom line. We weren’t afraid to piss off advertisers for the sake of an opinion, a stance, a review or a news story. For us it was all about the readers and the smart advertisers stuck with us because they recognized our commitment to readers was the reason they bought ads with us in the first place. Others are only interested in the print equivalent of a rub and tug.

And so we have new publications like Branded.

Let’s get one thing clear, I don’t care that Branded is hosting this contest (if only it wouldn’t use the Fast Forward name in vain), or that the magazine exists. If it serves a certain segment of the population and those people enjoy reading it, great. It’s not my thing, and it doesn’t have to be. Best of luck to all involved.

That said, this magazine is about as far from a muck-racking publication as one can get, with features on what the markets are doing, to columns penned by a mortgage broker about housing opportunities and a section on eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. It’s a pile of mush.

I have serious doubts about the integrity of a Best Of poll in a magazine like this, and wonder if the people involved realize the intensity of the process and the controls we put in place to keep the Fast Forward poll honest and reflective of our readers — we scoured the results and eliminated chains, for example. We double checked different spellings of names and locations to ensure that every vote counted. We let anyone who fit the criteria win, even if they didn’t like us, or refused to advertise with us.

Branded is a disheartening representation of a staleness and lack of criticality that has engulfed Calgary and looks like a virus that will spread. There’s nothing of substance, just blind promotion. There’s advertorial rather than insight. It’s just an excuse for ads to have a home free of any uncomfortable statements or disagreements. It’s Calgary’s troubling boosterism wrapped up in a glossy package open to the highest bidder. It’s certainly not keeping any tradition of Fast Forward Weekly alive and they could have at least waited for the corpse to cool before claiming so.

p.s. I voted for Larry Heather in every category, maybe you should too, just to keep the spirit of subversion alive in some form.

On strategic voting and cooperation

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It’s a fundamental question for our democracy: do you vote simply to get rid of a party — or prevent it from seizing power — or do you vote your conscience for the party that best represents your interests?

With a provincial election apparently just over the horizon, and a federal one scheduled for October, progressives across Alberta and the country are rolling out campaigns to limit choice in order to ensure Conservatives don’t remain in power. From calls for cooperation, to plans for strategic voting, it’s a whirlwind of effort to ensure progressives have better showing in both contests. It’s dangerous water in which they’re swimming.

I’m all for cooperation, and see the coming together of similar parties, like the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals, as a natural process that needs to occur if either wants to see electoral success. That said, it has to be done at the party level, between executives in order for anything meaningful to occur. Think about the unification of the Wildrose and Alliance parties as an example.

Problems arise, however, when people start conflating the points of view of disparate groups. The Alberta Party and the NDP? The Liberals and the NDP? What of the Green Party? Just saying someone is progressive, or somehow compatible, doesn’t make it so. Only in Alberta would the Liberals be considered progressive.

This is particularly true when we shift the conversation away from cooperation and/or meger, and into the realm of strategic voting. The fundamental reason for casting a ballot is to elect someone who best represents your interests, not simply to prevent the person you like the least from winning. That’s counterproductive thinking and sops up an awful lot of time and energy in organizing campaigns that would be better directed at encouraging voting and focusing on issues that matter.

I resent that people would try to encourage me to vote for the best candidate to defeat somebody, rather than the candidate I want to see win. In 2012, when it looked like the Wildrose just might win the provincial election, otherwise sensible people rushed to support the reigning PCs, believing them to be a kinder, gentler conservative party. We got Redford, and now Prentice. We got arrogance and mismanagement and the abuse of labour, and now we have the coming austerity and the continued primacy of oil and gas and corporate bottom lines. It didn’t work out very well for those who abandoned what they wanted for fear of what they did not.

At the federal level, contrasts are even more stark, and more important. Take Bill C-51, the extremely dangerous anti-terror legislation introduced by the Conservatives. It promises to strip us of fundamental freedoms while doing nothing to alleviate threats from terrorism, especially those comparatively innocent solo acts that inspired this reckless legislation. It has the support of the Liberals, but not of the NDP. That’s a fundamental difference and one that won’t be bridged by Anything But Conservative sloganeering.

It’s up to the parties that share values and that truly do split the vote to sit down and talk about opportunities to cooperate and eventually merge, and it’s up to the grassroots to show them it’s wanted. It’s bizarre, however, when people suggest anyone on to the left or in the centre can simply walk away from principles and join a new organization in order to achieve victory. I, for one, want some choices when it comes time to cast my ballot and I’ll be choosing based on who best represents me.

If progressives really want to see change, and ensure that it’s stable, they should direct their energy at pushing for proportional representation, so that everyone can vote their conscience and see the results reflected in the final tally.

Alberta’s uncultured minister

Maureen Kubinec

One could be forgiven for assuming that Alberta’s minister of culture would have some semblance of the arts and the province’s arts community, but by all accounts, that’s not the case. If there were any doubts, this recent interview in the Globe and Mail should remove them.

The fact that Maureen Kubinec hasn’t seen a live performance in over a month (the last night of The Magic Flute in Edmonton was February 5) is troubling for a minister that should be out in the creative community. Scrolling through her Facebook page, the only mention of anything to do with the arts is a condolence message with a link to a Global story on the death of Michael Green. Scattered throughout her feed are snowmobile outings, announcements for upgrades to seniors facilities, flag ceremonies and more.

Now to be fair, Kubinec is responsible for culture and tourism, not the arts, but it’s a sure sign of just how much this government cares about the sector when this is the minister they put in charge. It would be nice to see an urban MLA in this role, rather than a farmer (and no that isn’t a dig against farmers, I’d make a terrible agriculture minister), or at least one that doesn’t favour Reader’s Digest over literature.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the short Globe interview is her final answer, essentially saying the arts are about to be gutted, but it’s okay because of bootstraps and all that blather. “I’m just going to give you a quick example: I’m a farmer; that’s what I do for a living,” she says, apparently forgetting her six-figure cabinet salary. “And when we’ve had a tough year, it’s not easy, but it’s made us stronger.” The arts in this province have long suffered from dismal and unpredictable funding and it hasn’t made the scene stronger. It’s made some — mostly large organizations — better at finding a few alternate sources of funding, but not much and not to many and certainly not stable. It’s an insulting and thoughtless comment and it’s a sign of the carnage that’s to come.

There have been whispers — accompanying those saying Kubinec doesn’t know or understand the arts scene (has anyone in that scene even met her yet?) — that culture will no longer be in its own dual ministry, but will be subsumed by a larger portfolio (Service Alberta?). It’s a paranoid thought, but one that should raise alarms in light of this government’s radical steps to restructure the province and impose austerity for all but the wealthy and the corporate.

Kubinec’s interview certainly does nothing to alleviate those concerns.

It’s hard not to cheer for an economic downturn

Photo by Dave Cournoyer

Photo by Dave Cournoyer

The prospect of a housing market collapse makes me giddy. Low oil prices? It warms my heart. Higher interest rates? Ooh, baby.

I would be willing to bet there are a lot of you reading that and nodding your head in agreement. Yes, you think, that could be great. It might even mean that one day I’ll be able to buy a house, or afford my rent.

If you don’t have crushing debt levels that would be affected by higher interest rates, you might have a point. I feel that way. I’m excited by the prospect of an economy in distress, and that’s problematic.

We have ended up in a situation, in this city more than any other jurisdiction in Canada, where too many are being suffocated by a system geared towards rewarding the already successful. It’s been said many times, and it bears repeating, that it is difficult to thrive in this town if you don’t have the “right” kind of job. That not only breeds resentment, it also sets things up so that people like me, and probably people like you, cheer for a downfall that will bring many down with it.

Not only are we suffering from a bigger wealth gap in this city and in this province than other areas of Canada (and of the U.S. as a whole), we are mercilessly tied to the type of oil and gas commodity swings that recently wiped out $7 billion from provincial coffers virtually overnight, or that bring incredible wealth to a few, while driving up costs for the many.

And so some of us cheer when we see bitumen drop from $100 per barrel to $40. We envision foreclosed houses in inner-city communities that we could actually get our hands on. But of course it’s nothing to be happy about.

We (and I use that term to mean those of us without bursting bank accounts) are just as desperately tied to the swings of the market and the price of oil as the next guy. Sure, the effects of a major disruption will hit those in the downtown towers harder and faster, and may even open up some opportunities, but if that market trauma lasts for too long, it brings almost everybody down with it.

Here we’ve gotten to the meat of the matter. We are hopelessly unable to untether ourselves from the almighty market and its total indifference to our lives and our circumstances. We have a provincial government that is unwilling to even consider how to alleviate the nauseating swings by bringing in corrections like a provincial sales tax, or a progressive income tax, or a living wage policy, or increased corporate taxes, or increased royalties, or real environmental regulations, or a carbon tax, or reliable money transfers to municipalities for things like affordable housing and increased transit.

We have a city council that can’t even pass basic measures to allow for more secondary suites in a city that is years into a housing crisis, not to mention some form of rent control to alleviate gouging by some landlords.

What we get instead of all of these things is a circling of the conservative wagons in Alberta in order to impose austerity measures that will undoubtedly wreak havoc on the lives of the poor while barely touching those in the higher wage brackets. Already the unions are fighting back the first wave of attacks and there are certain to be more. On a city level, we have at least one councillor who would rather fine distracted pedestrians than consider affordable housing measures (no, seriously, you can’t make this up).

It all points to a sick system, and profoundly blinded provincial and federal governments and civic politicians. It’s a system where my automatic reaction to a downturn is to cheer the negative consequences for others in the hopes that I can get a share of the pie, even if I might be hurt as well. It’s a system where those who win, continue to win, without looking after others who fall through the cracks. It’s a system where we destroy in order to accumulate without regard to the future or any semblance of dependability and consistency.

The only hope is that during the coming financial storm, our governments remember the mistakes of the past and the continuing social deficit left over from Ralph Klein’s destructive reign, and realize that in order to build a province, you can’t keep hacking at the legs of the majority of its citizens.

This post originally appeared in Fast Forward Weekly.