Archive for the ‘uncategorized’ Category


Anne Rice and J-Roc

August 13, 2010

I just heard Anne Rice being interviewed on CBC’s Q with guest host Jonathan Torrens (of Street Cents fame).

If you hadn’t heard, Rice recently updated her facebook status to say, “In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian.”

It’s an interesting statement for a lot of reasons: not only because Rice is a public figure who has now had a very public conversion and un-conversion, but because she left Christianity ‘in the name of Christ.’

Rice maintains she still prays and reads the Bible, believes in God and the divinity of Jesus. She’s just uncomfortable with a lot of political goings-on within the Catholic Church. She says she had to leave for the sake of her personal integrity. Rice is especially livid about Christian opposition to gay marriage; it’s a smokescreen, she says, for the fact that Christians won’t face the fact that there are a lot of highly moral homosexuals (and various other people) out there. She found herself cringing whenever the Church took a political stance.

And while Rice sounds overwhelmingly Protestant (almost positively glowingly pietistic, apart from the gay marriage part), she clearly isn’t about to head down to join the local Moravian Brethren. She’s going solo.

It’s a fascinating place for a person to end up. Many will say Rice can’t have her cake and eat it too. But she’s undoubtedly done a lot of personal reflection and has her reasons.

Listen to Torren’s interview, however, and you’ll sense a hint of glee and triumph in his voice not suited for this interview. It’s as if he hasn’t considered the underlying biographical question: what would compel someone to come to Christianity in the first place?


The 1,000 Mile Marriage (Part 3 of 3)

July 27, 2010

This is part 3 of a 3 part feature article I wrote last fall for a class with David Beers. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Technology is no panacea for a commuting-crazy culture.

Every techno-advancement comes with utopian promises. Skype, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service used for video phone calls, pledges to “set your conversations free,” or at least nearly. The main page of their website features a man and a woman embracing at an airport – they’re connected, see – and all for the low price of mere bandwidth.

But technology also pushes people apart. A high-tech global economy means increased job specialization. Just like going 150 kilometres for a perfect match in love, workers go farther to find a perfect match with an employer. The trouble happens when getting down to trying to balance it all.

Photo by Austrini (Flickr cc)

Technology can’t be trusted to solve commuter woes since it’s the root cause. Beyond the existential choice to advance my career, the reason individuals commute across the country really comes down to one thing.

“Because they can,” says Gordon price, a former Vancouver city councillor who directs Simon Fraser University’s urban planning and sustainable development program. “People are trying things out because these options exist.”

Price sees commuter marriage as a “real aberration” of what he calls “motordom,” Motordom is built on technology and the false assumption of nearly free transportation. Lives, in turn, are constructed on road accessibility, a calculation of the trade-off between distance and quality of life, or where they can commute and afford a mortgage. The more people on the roads, the more congestion creates demand for bigger and wider roads. The bigger the road, the further out of town the commute takes. It makes heads spin and cities massive.

Commuter marriages are based on similar algebra: quality of life – distance and time. While the average commuter will tolerate a trip of up to roughly 40 minutes, commuter marriages just come up with a bigger number and a different way of eliminating the remainder. In a sense, we’re all commuters, Price says. Because we can.

Motordom is often blamed for congestion, sprawl and blight. But Price identifies another problem – ballooning infrastructure costs – which assume continual growth, cheap service land, and secure energy. Whatever you think of motordom, the fundamental question is whether it’s infrastructure is sustainable.

“Can government keep doing that?” Price asks. “I think the odds are practically zero.”

Sprawl aside, Price is a fan of the possibilities of technology. Advances in telecommunications are on the cusp of providing corporations a virtual face-to-face alternative to moving employees across the globe.

“The technology is getting good enough,” Price says, that long-distance commuting “will be increasingly offset by the quality of the telecommunications.”

But even if video-conferencing is embraced wholeheartedly in the corporate world, it won’t be the death of the commute. As long as families are able, they will still plant themselves within an affordable 40 minute radius of their other destinations. Because they can.

Photo by Khairil Zafri (Flickr cc)

It may be driven by planes, and not cars, but one of the hidden costs of commuter marriage is carbon emissions.

The weekly activity of flying has an enormous ecological impact. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization carbon calculator, the aviation regulator of the United Nations, Wilson’s weekly flight from Edmonton to Toronto will consume an average of 8,631 kilograms of fuel, generating 243.09 kilograms of CO2 per passenger. If she makes the trip forty times over the course of her year in Toronto, that’s a whopping 19.5 metric tons of greenhouse gases just to go to work. The average Canadian, already the eighth worst generator of CO2, generates an average of 16 metric tons each year.

But that’s a conservative estimate. The numbers at the carbon offset dealing website are less rosy. Ranked by the David Suzuki Foundation as the best dealer, Less estimates Wilson’s weekly commute creates nearly 80 tons of CO2, costing a whopping $3,733.20 to offset.

Wilson can’t help but think about the environmental impact of her weekly airplane trips. She even catches herself rationalizing her trips.

“You start thinking, ‘Even if I wasn’t on the plane, there’s still a hundred other people on the plane and the flight would still go if I wasn’t there,’” laughs Wilson.

Like most people, the Wilsons try to make environmentally-friendly choices, even if they know it doesn’t balance their current lifestyle: Smart car, fervent recycling. But Wilson doesn’t buy into any delusions of cosmic balance: the decision to commute is to lessen the psychological toll.

“It sure does bug me, but man oh man, I can’t not come home,” says Wilson.


The elevator doors chime and open at the Oakville retirement home. When Alison Wilson meets one of her elderly neighbours, she often finds herself explaining why she’s there.

“They always ask who I’m visiting,” laughs Wilson. When she replies, she is met with frowns and furrowed brows.

“You should see the look on their faces,” Wilson says, breaking into her impression of a sweet old grandmother. “They’re like, ‘Why would you want to live with us old people?’ They don’t get it.”

Wilson’s own assessment of the commuter life is mixed. She loves her job, loves her company, and sees a bright future not far away. The emotional and relational toll, on the other hand, knocks her squarely into mundane reality. After eight months in an old folks home, she sounds world-weary and worn-out.

“I’m not as driven to progress my career if I have to sacrifice this much,” says Wilson. “I would never leave Edmonton again. If that hinders my chances of getting promoted, so be it. It’s really not worth it.”

But Wilson tries not to let it get her down. Like many commuters, she has an exit strategy in place. Eight months in, there’s just over two years left. She’s already counting down.

“You’ve got to justify it to yourself every time you get kind of down or upset you’re doing this and you’re away from your family,” she says.

“It is only temporary, you know?”


Summer reading at the Corporation

June 20, 2010

I can’t tell you how lucky I’ve been the last few weeks to be at the CBC radio. Working with the Tapestry crew, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on some great interviews, research some interesting topics, and contribute to upcoming production.

Here’s a few of the books I’ve been reading before, after, and in the course of “work”:

Lisa Miller – Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife

Newsweek’s religion editor weighs in with her consideration of all things heavenly in this accessible, informative overview. Heaven, it turns out, is a pretty resilient belief, with a whopping 81 per cent of American adherents (58 per cent of Canadians). It’s also more of a recent phenomenon than many people realize, dating back to the intertestamental period of the Maccabbean revolt against Hellenism (ca. 200 BCE). Miller’s book is an exploration of the history, imagery, and visions of heaven. But she also talks with a variety of scholars, clerics, and everyday Americans who offer their thoughtful considerations on the sweet hereafter.

Peter Manseau – Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead

The slightly irreverent Peter Manseau takes us on a series of occasionally surreal journeys – pilgrimages – to shrines of the holy around the world. Whether it’s Buddha’s teeth, Muhammad’s whisker, or Jesus’ foreskin, nothing is too sacred to avoid becoming a sacred object (and often, multiple objects). A fascinating exploration of how humanity attempts to physically connect with the sacred through mundane, even grotesque objects.

David Darling – Prayer for Compassion (CD)

Okay, it’s not reading per se (except for the liner notes), but one the more interesting moments at Tapestry came from the meeting of two musicians jamming long distance: Grammy Award-winning cellist David Darling (in CT) and Hildegard-chanting soprano Norma Gentile (in Toronto). The two musicians improvised and talked about the joys and spirituality of music. David’s latest CD is sweet, soulful, and occasionally haunting.

Honorable Mentions: Joan Chittister (Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope) and David Adams Richards (God Is)

Ever heard of Sister Joan? If you haven’t, you should check out her work. The Erie, PA based Benedictine nun is a prolific author (40+ books) and from an interview we had with her, an incredibly charismatic individual. Another book I’ve been reading is novelist David Adams Richards God Is. Wounded by the arrogance with which God is dismissed within his circle of intellectual elites, Richards opts to find God in the moments, experiences, and miraculous moments of life. This one wasn’t for work, but the suggestion of CBC Ideas producer, Frank Faulk.


Auld Lang Syne to the tune of Blue Moon

December 31, 2009

Happy New Year’s everybody!

The day coincides with the end of my time at the Edmonton Journal. It ended on a bit of a somber note. The death of Calgary Herald health reporter Michelle Lang, reporting in Afghanistan, hit a lot of people pretty hard. My condolences to her family and friends.

It was a week of some fun stories. On Tuesday, the paper ran my profile of a Stony Plain “dog whisperer” Sarah Pay (here’s her blog), including my own photo (eerily similar to Sarah’s shot here, of me and her dog, Winston). Yesterday, I had the double whammy of writing about the New Year’s blue moon and the Olympic torch relay route. My original blue moon story included an interview with Victoria moon-man Gary Seronik, who has a nice little blue moon entry on his website. Seronik very graciously noted he liked the piece, despite the fact he got cut out by the editors.

One more story left in the can. I’m pretty sure it’ll run this weekend. It includes my career’s first (and hopefully only) reference to the “boob fairy”!

Tues. Dec 29, Stony Plain woman targets canine-human relations

Thurs, Dec 31, Olympic torch to travel scenic route

Thurs, Dec 31, New Year’s blue moon won’t happen again until 2028


Edmonton lawyer pleads guilty

December 6, 2009

A couple of days ago, I received this email from Birgit Stutz, one of the members of the “shovel” brigade from last year’s rescue of trapped horses near Valemount, which I covered for the Edmonton Journal (part 2 here):

Edmonton lawyer Frank Mackay pled guilty today in McBride Provincial Court to causing or permitting an animal to be or continue to be in distress under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. On a joint submission, he received a $1,000 fine, a $150 victim fine surcharge, has to pay restitution to the B.C. SPCA in the amount of $5,910.16, received a prohibition against possessing any animals for two years (in B.C. only), a probation order for the period of 12 months, and a counselling term because of his in appropriate behaviour. He further has to deliver a copy of his probation order to the nearest SPCA in Edmonton and to the provincial SPCA office in Alberta so that the authorities are alerted, and purchase advertisement in two issues of the local paper in order to publish his statement which was read in court today. The proceedings on the two criminal code offences were stayed (causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal and cruelty to animals).

In his statement, Mackay said: “I wish to thank the rescuers who volunteered their time and effort to rescue the horses. … If it hadn’t been for the accident, I would have gladly participated in the rescue.”
Court also heard that this was the first time Mackay had been in the backcountry by himsel

Here’s the Edmonton Journal’s coverage of the verdict.


Second Thunderbird Broadcast: The Future of the News

November 25, 2009

Here’s my latest Advanced TV video project on “the future of the news.” While the previous broadcast featured straight forward news pieces, different groups told their second stories using different storytelling techniques, including satire, reporter v. reporter, or giving a subject a camera.

Our piece, a little ditty on water meters and Vancouver’s Greenest City plan, was a “process” piece, meaning we show how our story got pieced together. The idea is to add editorial depth to an existing newscast.

While the video will soon be up at, I thought I’d post a sneak peek here on YouTube:


Photos from Germany

October 25, 2009

Click here to check out a sampling of 36 photos from my trip to Germany earlier this month, including my newly cropped header (above).

Picture 2