Saturday, January 18, 2014

Manitoba Links Weekly: Here's That #laserpyramid Explanation and Image Gallery You Were Waiting For, Portage Places Plural (Portages Place?), Your Choices are the Reprehensible Party or the Incompetent Party, And I Wish Every Night Were Retro Night (ManLinkWeek S02E13)

I am a simple man, and I do not ask for much. Just Retro Night pricing, every night, everywhere. I would be so happy. [ via ]

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! It's been a heck of a week, hasn't it? Really seemed to fly right by.

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits we alternative-media types tackled the City's engrossingly terrible snow-clearing nightmare, the Province's precariously flimsy reasoning on both the Phoenix Sinclair and hospital-discharge taxi-ride files, and the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives' continued Wile E. Coyote act of running headfirst into rocks they've painted to look like tunnels. (Some of these stories are linked below as well, you'll know 'em when you see 'em.)

Onward to ManLinkWeek! More germanely, onward to LASERS:

[ Winnipeg Sun: Big ideas from former mayor Susan Thompson ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Lasers, hot tubs, evergreens would enhance city: former mayor Thompson ]
[ CTV Winnipeg: Former mayor pitches laser pyramid ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Is that Winnipeg under a laser beam? ]
[ Winnipeg Cat: JANUARY 18th, 2014 ]
[ Urbicolous: No joke — we need new ideas ]
[ Twitter: Susan Thompson (MayorSusanWPG) ]
[ Twitter: Laser Pyramid (@LaserPyramid) ]

Okay, so this--

Okay, so this went a little bonkers yesterday. A bit of a frenzy, a bit of a madhouse. I've seen a lot of people -- a lot of people -- openly mystified as to how Laser Pyramid became the monster of a topic that it did, so let's circle back and unpack it from where it first arrived.

Former two-term Mayor of Winnipeg Susan Thompson returned to Winnipeg this week to deliver a thirty-minute speech to a packed Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce audience. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce has been running its "Manitoba BOLD" campaign for the past few years, valuing vivid imagination over easy implementation; you'll recall that the WCC pitched a two-block, $7-million fence eight weeks back, to give you a general idea of the tone. No harm in asking, as they say! Dare to dream, impossible until it's done, that sort of thing.

So I feel comfortable in describing the Susan Thompson speech yesterday as peak Manitoba BOLD. You want imagination? You are getting imagination.

A second water source for the city of Winnipeg, hedging bets against disturbances to the supply from Shoal Lake! (What? Well, I mean, sure, that actually doesn't sound too craz--)
A trust fund for future infrastructure maintenance! (A little unorthodox, but okay, that c--)
A genetically-modified evergreen forest along Route 90! (What. Okay, well, tree-planting could be a viabl--)
Electric-car factories! (what)
Public hot tubs and fake palm trees at Portage and Main! (what)
A pyramid of laser beams over the city, visible from space!

. . . ?

A pyramid of laser beams over the city, visible from space. "And we would be the Pyramid of the Prairies," she continued, in what would turn out to be deadly seriousness.

How deadly serious, you ask? Serious enough that it almost happened fifteen years ago; she had actually and genuinely proposed the idea during her time as Mayor, her executive policy committee ultimately shooting it down over possible safety concerns for overhead planes.

The realization that Winnipeg could've been covered by a giant laser pyramid for the past fifteen years is just one more reminder that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds.

So the Laser Pyramid concept and other related planks of the Susan Thompson platform captured the imaginations of Winnipeggers immediately, for what are probably very obvious reasons. I mean, yes, it's all crazy, but it's the kind of crazy that people can get behind -- and if Winnipeg were dead-set against expensive and potentially annoying status-symbol sky novelties, the City never would've bought a helicopter.

Locals got right to work visualizing Susan Thompson's Laser-Pyramid Winnipeg:

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I am willing to compromise: since a full-city-scale laser pyramid may not be feasible, let us instead agree to raise a smaller but suitably dignified laser pyramid over our machine garden. I am discovering an awful lot of things that I never knew I wanted, thus far through 2014.

To properly frame what a delightfully odd environment this Laser Pyramid craze supported, bear in mind that this was also all unfolding at the same time as this story and this story.

And at the same time as ALL THIS:

[ Twitter: Portage Place (@PortagePlace) ]
[ Twitter: Portage Place (@PortagePlaceWPG) ]
[ Twitter: Staples PortagePlace (@Staples_PP_230) ]
[ Twitter: Portage Place Stairs (@PortageStairs) ]
[ Twitter: Portage Place (@WpgPortagePlace) ]
[ Twitter: Mall of Portage Plac (@PORTAGEPALCE) ]
[ Twitter: Portage Place (@portage_place) ]
All of these, as well as the @MayorSusanWPG and @LaserPyramid Twitter accounts linked above, emerged within a timeframe of approximately 36 hours. That timeframe also included an imitation Queen of England christening the opening of a backyard hockey rink; it included a serious, legitimate city proposal for a dogs-only splash pad; it included dreams of hybrid evergreen trees, and Portage and Main hot tubs, and A LASER PYRAMID VISIBLE FROM SPACE. I am having trouble properly crafting the words that would convey just how surreal and spectacular Winnipeg's past couple of days have seemed.

2014, it seems, is the year that Winnipeg has resolved to finally embrace Weird Twitter in a major way. (You can investigate some sources if you're unfamiliar with the term 'Weird Twitter', but it's pretty well exactly what the name makes you think it'd be.) This isn't even counting the explosion of fake Paul Maurice Twitter feeds, because that's just an accepted part of professional sports nowadays and nobody really questions it any more.

The seven Portage Place-related Twitter accounts are listed above in order of first appearance (or at least as closely as can be approximated, one of them having yet to record a tweet). The first was an obvious parody account, though not so obvious that it didn't suck a few people in; the reputation of Portage Place is such that people were entirely willing to believe those tweets were real. Which tells you a lot about those people, but also a lot about Portage Place. The second Portage Place feed to arrive was an equally obvious parody account, but more stable and apparently rooted in the early 2000s. And that's... now that I write it out like that, if that's what they were going for with it, that's brilliant.

I don't have a hot clue what's going on with that third one, but it briefly gave me the mental image of a fake Twitter account for every single store in the mall -- all of them interacting with each other and with the entity of the mall as a whole, a fully-realized digital ecosystem mirroring an existing physical space yet completely independent of it -- and then I had to forcibly unplug myself from that concept because it was genuinely overwhelming me. That's a rabbit hole of metafiction I could very easily disappear into.

why is there a fake twitter account for mall stairways

The fifth Portage Place account seems to be legitimate, thus far; for how incriminating (and popular!) the first fake account was, it would make sense that someone involved with the mall felt the need to try and regain some degree of control. With that said, note my wording in that first sentence: it seems to be legitimate thus far. There's no proof of ownership, and no formal real-world statements made as yet -- granting, of course, that this has all happened over a weekend -- so it's still entirely possible that this fifth account is a long-con in progress. Not unheard of, in our modern times, and yes, I know how weird it is that we're all just sort of used to that.

Whether real or not, the most-legitimate-seeming-thus-far Portage Place made a particularly egregious typo in its first few sorties: in a now-deleted tweet, the account asserted its status as the actual Portage Place by decrying the others as "immatators". That is the best explanation that I can offer for the sixth account, PORTAGEPALCE, so far as it is possible to explain anything Portage-Place-Twitter-related.

I want to reiterate: we will almost certainly never know who any of these people are. The mystery is part of the experience.

And of course, if there are six brand new Portage Place Twitter feeds of varying chattiness and linguistic aptitude, why not follow the lead of Canadian hockey and Make It Seven? So now there is a @portage_place, because we already had a @PortagePlace and a @PortagePlaceWPG and a @WpgPortagePlace and a @PORTAGEPALCE. I am afraid to look again, because every time I looked there seemed to be a new one, and when they began to seek me out instead of the other way around -- I'm serious, I didn't find a lot of these, they found me -- it really drove home what an engrossingly, head-spinningly bizarre year this may turn out to be for our local social-media scenes.

So Winnipeg has finally discovered Weird Twitter, with a vengeance, and thus far it is making for some fascinating chaos. I've compiled a Twitter list of these Portage Place accounts, to save you the trouble of keeping them all straight across seven windows, and reading it straight through makes for an absorbingly demented swirl of found poetry.

Y'know what I think would make Portage Place more viable, though? A laser pyramid. I'M JUST SAYING.

I'm actually rather glad that the last couple of days turned out so endearingly weird, because prior to that the whole month had been a serious string of downers. Let's check in on the provincial file:

[ CBC Manitoba: David Silver, 78, dies on porch after hospital release on -37 C night ]
[ CTV Winnipeg: Critical incident reviews launched after 2 patients sent home from hospital in cabs die ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Cabbies to be responsible for discharged patients: Selby ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Cabbies in crosshairs after discharge deaths ]
[ Global Winnipeg: Wheelchair-bound woman left in the cold by cab driver ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Hospitals, not cab drivers, to blame for deaths, man says ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Cabbies slam brakes on plan, deny responsibility for safety of patients ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Family says province shifting blame in cab deaths controversy ]
[ Around This Town: Death Cab For Selby ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Discharge policy not followed? ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Seniors group slams Manitoba plan for taxicab drivers ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: No stats kept on use of cabs by hospitals ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Canadian taxi president calls out province for discharge plan ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: My dad was not the cabbie's patient ]
[ Exclusive: NDP balked at extra $10 cost to get Hospital patients safely inside their homes; did 3 deaths result? ]
Wow. Okay, well. You folks know that I do my best with this blog to avoid undue profanity, or profanity simply for profanity's sake, but: holy shit. There's no other way I can properly phrase how this case has unfolded.

Each of those links above add their own new wrinkle to an already terrible development, and if that seems like an excessively long link list above, please note that it was more than twice as long when I started. I had to edit it down to this. That's how catastrophic this has been for the provincial government, made exponentially worse by Erin Selby's instinctive but immeasurably ill-conceived deflection attempts.

The Phoenix Sinclair stalling was bad enough -- and that was really, really bad -- but this is an almost unprecedented pushback; you almost never see a government directive so unanimously blasted from so many different directions, invididuals and groups eagerly queueing up to have their turn loudly denouncing it. And I had to write "almost" three times just now because of this government, what with the reaction the PST hike brought out of everyone.

Against any sort of halfway-threatening challengers, this is an ongoing media nightmare that would absolutely spell the end of a government. Fortunately for the governing NDP, however, this is who they are up against:

[ Winnipeg Free Press: Pallister's 'made up' letter enrages NDP officials ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Manitoba opposition defends "queue-jumping" letter ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Pallister stands by 'clearly hypothetical' letter ]
[ Global Winnipeg: Manitoba Opposition plans to file a complaint over commemoration of women’s vote ]
The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba's strategy meetings (pictured):

Think of how massively, unprecedentedly unpopular the reigning NDP is at the moment; think of the vast, seemingly infinite selection of very real weaknesses that they've created for themselves over the past year alone. Think of the very strong factual cases and rational arguments that could be made against them, across a wide variety of subjects, any one of which could very plausibly sink the government. Think of the Premier's horrendous personal polling numbers, then try and think of anyone in his ranks who the public would better like or respect.

The Progressive Conservatives, given all of that -- 'handed' is probably a better word, or 'gifted', gifted all of that -- the Progressive Conservatives decided that their best courses of action would be "LET'S MAKE UP A TALE BASED ON NOTHING" and "LET'S FIGHT AGAINST A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN". And then they went back, a full week later and seemingly unprompted, to reiterate "WE STAND BY THIS TALE BASED ON NOTHING" just in case everyone had forgotten about it.

They are going to find a way to lose. It seems almost inevitable, doesn't it? Against all odds, against the strongest of tides, no matter the determination of the governing party to drop its anchor clean through the middle of its own boat, the Progressive Conservatives are going to find that perfect incomprehensible strategic miscue that'll snatch them second place all over again. Like last time. I don't know how they'll do it -- that's the fun of the journey over the destination, isn't it -- but by gum they're going to do it again somehow. It's guaranteed to be a spectacle, whatever it is.

And speaking of guaranteed spectacles:

[ APTN National News: AIM leader who visited Iran now grand chief of Manitoba chiefs organization ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Nelson new regional chief ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Tehran Terry Nelson promises real change as new head of Southern Chiefs Organization ]
[ 680 CJOB: SCO Grand Chief Terry Nelson Has A Plan ]
[ Global Winnipeg: Controversial activist elected head of southern chiefs in Manitoba ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Now this is going to be interesting ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Nelson needs to put business first ]
I'd be willing to bet very good money that Terry Nelson has had this on constant, 24-hour loop in his iTunes for the last week. Just a playlist with one song on it, set to repeat.

Note that Free Press column by Don Marks; he likens Nelson to now-deceased activist Nick Ternette, and warns that the newly-elected Grand Chief may be vastly more substantial than his reputation grants credit for. Suggesting he is but mad north-north-west, if you will.

Stock phrases like "expect the unexpected" are generally safe fallbacks for this sort of news, but I for one am here to embrace the unexpected (as I do, I've noticed) and wholeheartedly welcome this development. Whatever else you may say about Terry Nelson, he's certainly never dull -- even if, as Quesnel wisely suggests, Nelson should recognize the need to maybe tone it down a little) -- and the ensuing discussions always end up being fascinating as well. So, yeah, I'm fully on board for this.

It's going to get nutty! 2014 is already shaping up to be a wacky year, so let's check in on the arts and entertainment beat for a loopy yearlong project:

[ J.Williamez: fifty-two songs: An Introduction to 52 Songs ]
[ Local Musician-Comedian Writing Songs for 52 Weeks ]
[ Global National: 52 songs in 52 weeks ]
I waffled on whether to put this or Your Winnipeg in this slot, but the former is off to the races already and the latter's first set of results haven't dropped yet, so I am managing the plugs accordingly.

When I wrote "loopy" above this segment, I wasn't referring to the structure of the project; it is a sound and admirable undertaking, a challenge that J.Williamez will be stronger for having faced. No, I'm using "loopy" for the content, and bless him for it; I dig his delightfully askew material, both in song and in print, so I'm looking forward to following along as the project progresses through the year.

And, finally, in travel:

[ The Sydney Morning Herald Traveller: Heart of the prairie ]
Good news, everyone -- Australia thinks we're great! This is a warm and fuzzy whirlwind tour of the area, and it's nice to remind ourselves sometimes that our fair city seems really great to people who are not so intimately familiar with it. It's a nice place to visit, and we've already committed to living there!

You know what I bet they'd be really impressed by, though? A laser pyramid. I'M JUST SAYING.

Thank you for reading ManLinkWeek! Stay tuned, gentle readers: I had myself a heck of a Thursday this week, by the generosity of some kind folks, and I'm looking forward to telling you more about it next time here on Slurpees and Murder. I'll see you then!

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