Edmonton Could Have A Nice Ride

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Minneapolis, a real jewel of a city.

While certainly not at the top of most world-class city lists (though with a handful of downtown arenas and stadiums you’d think they’d be at the top of all the lists) it really made an impression on me. One thing I definitely came away with, however, was a lesson for Edmonton and other mid-size Canadaian cities: we can be bike cities, even with long winters.

Wandering around my first day I found a Nice Ride bike rental station around the corner from my hotel. This surprised me because, while I had heard Minneapolis was one of America’s best bike cities, I had wondered how they did it with a cold prairie winter. The answer is they just do it, winter doesn’t scare them.

There are plenty of parks and bike paths around the city. The Midtown Greenway was where I took my own Nice Ride. It was once a rail line so it provided a great trip through the heart of many central neighbourhoods. That it landed me at a small in-town lake district was a good bonus.

The thing that really captured my interest though was that the Nice Ride system was a cheap, accessible way for residents and tourists alike to ride. It was a couple of dollars to rent the bike for a short ride and if I checked in at the next Nice Ride station in 30 minutes the ride was free. And the stations are definitely close enough to make it a reality that a daily commuter could ride for free all year (though an annual pass is just $65). I used a credit card to purchase the rental, and Nice Ride then charged me whatever rate matches with the time I had the bike out.

Check out all the old apartment flush to the now-defunct rail line.

The system operates April to November, which is why I think Edmonton could support a similar bike rental system. With 83 Avenue poised to become a bike street, 102 Avenue already designated as such, and great biking around the University of Alberta and river valley (and parks) I would love to see the City incorporate a bike rental into our transportation plans. Making it easy, quick, affordable, and normal to ride bikes around would encourage more people to ride, and more transportation planning on something other than potholes and commuter routes.

Maybe it’s a Make Something Edmonton project, or perhaps just a request to City transportation staff, but whatever happens it’s certainly been enough to get me talking about Minneapolis. And that’s got to say something about Nice Ride.

Finally, a good use for toothpaste

Chalk one up for the Internet!

My one complaint about the HTC One X+ phone is the camera lens is poorly placed. It’s on the back of the phone and extends out, which means the lens surface is always flush with the table or desk it’s sitting on. Design flaw!

So, over the last year my camera lens got scratched up when I placed it face-up on surfaces and it vibrated during a call or message, or I grabbed for it without gently picking it straight up.

Recently, my photos were getting blurry:

Photo taken of my desk at home before toothpasting.
Photo taken of my desk at home before toothpasting.

But! I knew the Internet would have answers for my scratched up lens. And it did. Toothpaste.

Seriously, toothpaste.

Yes, cleaning the lens, then vigorously rubbing it with toothpaste for about 10 minutes improved the lens clarity. The lens scratch fog has lifted:

So much clearer after the toothpaste scrub!
So much clearer after the toothpaste scrub!

I only did this yesterday, so can’t tell how long the lens may stay clear. I’ve got the phone back in an Otter Box, which keeps the lens off surfaces, so if the toothpaste holds I should be taking clear photos the rest of the way.

Global Visions: Canada’s longest running documentary film festival

Edmonton’s Global Visions Film Festival really seems to be going for it the last couple of years. 2013 is keeping up the momentum, as this finely edited trailer for the festival can attest:

(edited by my amazing partner in all things, Sally Poulsen.)

Yes, Edmonton’s going to have five days of award-winning, Oscar-contending, thought-provoking, spirit-uplifting documentaries screening at the Metro Cinema at The Garneau and Art Gallery of Alberta. That’s not to mention there will be healthy doses of Canadian films and shorts, and some local flavour thrown in there. (I know I keep hearing people talk about “Chasing Ice,” and, yes, that’s going to be at Global Visions.) Check out the website for a full list of movies and showtimes.

There are also a couple of neat events happening within the festival.

Saturday night at the Metro is truly a night for music. Billed as “Sound & Visions” there’s a live taping of CKUA’s Mulligan Stew, screening of the Bruce Cockburn documentary “Pacing the Cage,” a music panel discussion, screening of “The Ballad of Hugh” (a remarkable little gem of a movie), and after party shenanigans. Rock’n’roll all night indeed.

The other cool event I want to highlight is the Doc 101/Pitchfest happening on Sunday. Doc 101 will give folks in attendance some pointers and ideas on making and producing their documentary films. The Pitchfest is just that; a chance for anyone (you!) to pitch your documentary AND fictional film ideas to a panel that includes a movie producer, the National Film Board, and a HotDocs rep.

Finally, my script about introspective garden gnomes hosting a dinner party has a chance to be produced! It’s Gnomeo and Juliet meets My Dinner With Andre.

Are you going to be checking out any of the docs during Global Visions?

Hey, Edmonton Movie Makers

This guy looks like he could learn a thing or two about cameras.
This guy looks like he could learn a thing or two about cameras.

While I may not be a top-level authority on movies and television, I’ve got a couple of hot tips for you if you’re into making your own movies, television, or web videos.

Tip the first, is that actual, legitimate, successful movie producer Avi Federgreen is going to be in Edmonton over the March 2/3 weekend and he’s bringing years of movie-making knowledge with him.

On Saturday, March 2 Avi will be hosting an all-day session up at NAIT where he’ll detail how he’s made such movies as Moon Point and One Week. He’s the real deal. This full-day is only $100 – something that’s been offered in other Canadian cities at a higher cost. Get yourself over to the EventBrite for tickets now. Now!

Avi is also here for the Global Visions Film Festival (Feb. 27-Mar. 3). He’ll be taking part in a documentary filmmaking workshop on Sunday, March 3 at the Art Gallery of Alberta. If you’re into documentary film, this is the place to pick up a few tips. (The workshop is followed by a pitch session if you’ve already got some film ideas.)

Basically, if you’re at all serious about making a movie or videos, or you want some more ideas and information on how you might go about producing such a thing in Canada, find Avi on March 2/3.

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The other tip I’ve got for you today relates to post-production of such movies and videos. If you don’t have the money to shell out for the Adobe Creative Collection (Premiere, Photoshop, After Effects, etc.) than consider signing up for the Adobe Creative Cloud. For $50-75/month you can have Adobe’s newest Creative Suite products for an affordable price. (It’s $75 for month-to-month and $50/month if you buy it for a year.) Creating movies, photos, websites, and apps with some of the best software around has never been so dang affordable.

This is actually how we’ll be editing the pilot episode of Startups we recently shot.

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In summation: learn from Avi, produce with Adobe Cloud, become an awesome filmmaker, hire me as your butler.

Journalist, Producer, Edmontonian