Pick of the Day: Obituary, Goatwhore, Krissium And More

Regina has a pretty strong metal scene. Saturday, there's a big blowout at Riddell Centre featuring Obituary (pictured), Goatwhore, Krissium, The Berzerker and Warbringer. Not to everyone'e taste, granted. But it's something I could see myself checking out.

Downtown Plan Update

I'm writing this while listening to a CD called Worser by the indie Canadian supergroup Duplex. It's just been released on Mint Records as a folow-up to 2006's Ablum, and I'm reviewing it for the Sept. 24 issue. I like it, even though it's aimed at "small people" a.k.a children. But because Vedda Hille, Geoff Berner and other indie stalwarts are behind it its uber-cool. There's a hard-rocking song about the noble gases (Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon), and another bouncy-tune called Orange Popsicle. So overall, pretty hip stuff.

Not hipster hip. Legitally hip.

Earlier today, I attended a 10:30 a.m. news conference at city hall where civic officials finally unveiled the long awaited Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. I'd picked up a hard-copy of the 260 page document (on-line version here) on Thursday. Skimming it last night, a sentence leapt out at me on page four of the Introduction. "Great places are not created by accident."

That got me thinking. Regina has just gone through a complex two year process involving input from numerous experts in multiple fields of urban planning and development. Some were paid by the city, hundreds of others volunteered their time. All focused on the problem of how to revitalize the downtown which for a good 40 years has basically been hung out to dry by city powerbrokers enthralled with relentless suburban expansion.

We've seen the results on a far grander scale in cities like Detroit and Buffalo. Most right-thinking Reginans don't want that here. For maybe 10 years, the city has been taking tentative baby steps to revive the downtown. Now, it's decided to fully commit itself. Paul Dechene will have more on the plan's details in our Sept. 24 issue but it's pretty comprehensive, with sections governing the creation of public space in the downtown, the type of architecture and design that will be allowed, the integration with surrounding neighbourhoods, the regulation of parking, and all sorts of other things.

"Great places are not created by accident." When I read that I thought, these days, that's definitely true. But what about with much older, and truly great cities like London, Paris, Rome and Athens. Did city fathers there go through exhaustive planning processes like the one we just did, or did things happen more organically (and intuitively) back then?

People didn't have cars, remember. They mostly walked. That limited both the distance they could travel, and the amount of stuff they could carry. Without steel-frame technology, light construction materials and elevators, buildings could only be so high. The neighbourhoods that developed, therefore, were all human-scale. People could interact, and together, forge a great base upon which to build an even greater city.

Built in a much more technologically advanced age, cities like Regina have too often failed in their growth and development to be people friendly. The Downtown Plan that Office for Urbanism devised tries to correct that by shifting development priorities in the downtown so that people are able to interact more comfortably there. It's nothing radical. It's already happening a bit Monday to Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. But at night and on weekends, things are pretty bleak. Some positive things have been happening in the last few years, admittedly. But there's still a long way to go.

With this plan, Regina has a chance to get there. It worked in Portland (Wikipedia). It can work here (on a smaller scale). But the committment has to be there. The downtown is Regina's heart. It's a showcase for the city. When people visit and stay at a downtown hotel, it might be the only area of the city that they get a really good look at. Right now, downtown Regina does not exude a "happening" vibe. It's got tons of potential. But it needs some help. And that's what this plan is about. Hopefully the political, economic and civic will will be there to see it through.

Margaret Thatcher, Soviet Apologist

I was watching the CBC newscast on a five-inch black and white television set in a North Battleford newsroom on the day the Berlin Wall came down. What struck me, apart from the joyous celebrations of the German people who no longer had to worry about their nation becoming an atomic battleground during World War Three -- was that President George Bush was, at first, reluctant to show any emotion about the symbolic fall of the Warsaw Pact. Presidents from Kennedy (YouTube) to Reagan (YouTube) came to the Berlin Wall and used it to denounce communism. So, if the wall came down, it showed that America's will and system had triumphed, right? Right?

Well, as it turns out, neither was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She and the French government were worried that a newly resurgent Germany would mean another warlike Germany. (BBC)

Given how active the peace movement was in Germany, given also how much the population -- who had suffered through two world wars and expected a third on their soil -- didn't want to go to war over anything, and given that the former West German government had a lot of work to improve economic and social conditions in the former East Germany before thinking of anything else, it was very hard to see how a united Germany would become a warlike Germany. And it still isn't today.

While this columnist (The Telegraph) says Mrs. T was right to worry, in reality, she was dead wrong. Unless Gorbachev's imposition of the Sinatra Doctrine (Wikipedia) resulted in a coup (there was a badly blundered one in 1991) , a united, peaceful and integrated Germany in Europe would mean a more stable, not a more unstable, world.

One of the major problems with the conservative movement is that they possess such blinkers that even when they win, they're relishing the next battle, almost as if the only way they can define themselves is through who they're fighting against.

Another bad day for the Regina Police Service

Hey kid, that Tim Horton's wasn't going to drink itself ... (CBC Saskatchewan)

Friday Afternoon Kitty: Cat Vs. Water

The tension between Cat and Water is primal. On the one hand there is Cat: intelligent, graceful, dignified, in control... or at least that's what She would have us think.

On the other there is Water. Water is all-poweful. Water is primal, dangerous and mysterious--its motives are quite literally unfathomable.

Cat is a reflection of us: She is our individuality, our civilization, our knowlege and our pride. She is Ego. She is mortal. Water is terrible Id. It is the Eternal Wet that effortlessly drowns our puny conceits and doesn't care. It gives life and destroys life. It can turn our world upside down in an instant. Water cannot be tamed; any attempt risks utter destruction.

Water's reflection is Sky. And you don't fuck with Sky, either.

To ponder Cat Vs. Water is to philosophize on existence. I think that's a good thing and I think people should do it more often. So here you go. Some YooTube vids revealing the secrets of existence. With cats. And water.

Now, ponder!

And finally, one water-wise cat with a warning...

Can So Lit

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece in the P-Dog about the always precarious future of Canadian Literature. Following up on that, it's great to see a lot of chatter lately on the merits of CanLit. Yesterday, Vancouver novelist Steven Galloway responded to National Post columnist Barbara Kay's recent musings in a strongly-worded, deliciously concise defence of CanLit for the NP's blog (Nat'l Post). Among the highlights:
Yes, Canadian literature is subsidized. So are tourism, mining, forestry, automobile production, small business and oil. In 2006 the petroleum industry alone received $1.4-billion in government subsidies in the form of tax breaks. I'll apologize for our subsidies when they apologize for theirs, because what writers do is every bit as important and vital as putting together cars, docking cruise ships or cutting down trees.

Today, Darryl Whetter at THIS Magazine weighs in, asking when Canadian writers are going to join the rest of us who live in cities. Word to that, of course, but I can't let it pass without repping for one of the best Canadian novels of the last 10 years which happens to be decidedly rural: Brad Smith's All Hat (recently adapted into a completely unremarkable film). It can't be the only Canadian example of a popular novel in the tradition of John D. MacDonald and Carl Hiaasen, but I'm hard pressed to think of any others.

Six In The Morning

1 MEET THE DOWNTOWN PLAN The long-awaited final version of the downtown plan arrived yesterday. It's pretty and has lots of photographs. (Fun game to play: see how many times you can spot prairie dog's editor in the inch-thick tome. So far, I've found myself twice.) The City's Bob Bjerke is giving a technical briefing right now (started at 10:30) at City Hall, and there's a Regina Planning commission meeting at 11:45. Here's the link on the City's web site. Dog Blog posts will follow.

2 HARPER'S CONS SURVIVE VOTE And Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is all scoffy at the NDP and the Bloc for propping up the government (The Globe And Mail). You realize, dude, that you're the one who crapped all over the coalition the Liberals had with those parties, right? Just checking to make sure you remember that.

3 TALK TO THE BANDS the Uranium Development Partnership report says there need to be special efforts to communicate with Sask First Nations and indiginous people about any nuclear power plans. (StarPhoenix)

4 POWER BILLS GOING DOWN? Apparently SaskEnergy is planning a rate reduction. (Leader-Post)

5 CABINET MINISTER REPORTEDLY LOVES HER ALLEGEDLY COCAINE-POSSESSING HUSBAND The Conservative's Helena Guergis is apparently standing by her man. (Toronto Star)

6 JUST US AND QUEBEC We're one of two provinces where consumer prices went up last year. yay? (CBC)