Monday, November 12, 2007

A Less Tender Walrus Edit

(Yet again, something I wrote in 2007 that I'm only now posting in 2008).

I put on the kid gloves for my recent edit of a Field Notes piece that appeared in the Walrus. I will not extend the same courtesy to the unpolished turd that was dropped into the September 2007 issue.

Creative Destruction
The bright side of roadwork

BANFF — When David Bledge [Who is Bledge? A tourist? Somebody? Nobody? Help me out here] arrived in Banff from Scotland, he was greeted by everything the town is famous for — mountain views, unspoiled wilderness, and elk grazing on the golf course. But he also found the postcard view of Cascade Mountain at the end of Banff Avenue marred by earthmoving machines and piles of freshly excavated dirt, as the town replaces its century-old sewage and water pipes. “Well, I suppose it’s necessary,” Bledge said philosophically. “We’ll enjoy it the next time we come.” [Great first paragraph, except for the fact that Bledge is a mystery man.]

But the town wants its four million annual visitors to enjoy themselves right now. So a million-dollar spin campaign, “Banff Refreshing,” has been launched, featuring “street-ambassadors, way-finding signs, business liaison and in-destination marketing.” [From what are you quoting from? The reader might get more of a charge out of knowing that this is a pamphlet or a press release or what have you.] “Enjoy as we refresh!” urge the banners posted along Banff Avenue, which is lined with blue construction hoarding and roars with diggers. It’s not an easy sell. [Other than the quote with no attribution, this paragraph is also fine. Not sure what you’re building toward, but that’s cool. I sense that the payoff is coming soon.]

The $22.8-million project, which began in March and should finish next spring, includes a cosmetic makeover of Banff’s downtown core. Rest spots, landscaping pickup/drop-off zones, and new lighting will make Banff’s streetscape more reflective of its National Park setting, not to mention pedestrian friendly, we are told. [Told by whom? Big brother? Weird, ominous tone introduced, as if the spin campaign were lying to us.] In the meantime, welcome stands offer refreshing [Ha! You’ve repeated the word refreshing. Very clever] guides to the 172 shops and services in the Refreshing Zone, [ha-ha, you repeated refreshing again, albeit this time referring to an official section of Banff] where street performers, fluorescent-suited traffic directors, and hard-hatted construction workers compete for visitors’ attention. Mountain-themed photo backdrops allow visitors to pose on a putting green, a mountaintop, or a ski slope without having to leave the (in)conveniences of town. [The brackets around (in) aren’t the strongest thing in the world. I’m also starting to wonder about where this piece is headed. Is the entire article about the attempts to distract tourists from the fact that Banff is updating infrastructure? Or is this article about the fact that Banff Inc. would rather have visitors stick to the downtown core, spend all their money, and (irony of ironies) not actually bother looking at the scenery?]

One public relations tactic has caught on with both the locals and the tourists, however — the Banff Refreshing [There’s that word again. Not quite as funny the third time, methinks] squirrels. Clutching their assorted cleanup tools, Gillroy, Abigail, Rochelle, Peter, Herman, and Penelope [Listing all the names is funny and clever] represent the various squirrel species in Banff National Park. Their tracks, painted onto sidewalks and pathways, guide visitors into the Refreshing Zone. [Fourth time on the refresh button.] Just kitschy enough to be hip, the squirrel signs posted around town were promptly stolen or vandalized. When the town council of nearby Canmore seized Gillroy, the Crag & Canyon, Banff’s local paper, ran a photo of an RCMP officer returning him to Banff’s mayor. The surviving species now have to be squirrelled away at night. [Take this the wrong way: the squirrel pun is weak. You’re in Reader’s Digest or Ziggy territory here.]

Law-abiding sightseers can “earn” [What is with the f**king obsession with quote marks in “humour” articles? They aren’t serving their “intended” purpose] squirrel buttons whenever they shop at designated stores downtown. The “porn pin” [Argh!] — a squirrel clutching a tape measure that extends like an erection — is especially popular. [How positively naughty old chap. You sir, got the edge right there.]

“Visitors love the squirrels, especially the kids,” says Neil Wedin, who works at the Banff Books & Art Den on Banff Avenue. When they come in grumbling about the maze outside, he offers them a conciliatory button, and they calm right down.

Local interpretive guide Kevin Gedling [That would be the third person you’ve introduced into 650 word story. Not the smartest idea] has also volunteered to take visitors on a ninety-minute walk he calls “Welcome to Banff: Always a Construction Zone.” And for anyone intrepid enough to venture out of town, [Ha, ha, ha. The tension of the piece revolves around the fact that the piece has no tension! That anytime you want to escape the work being done in Banff, you can just *leave* the downtown area and commune with nature. This is a non-story, written in a non-compelling fashion. How very clever indeed!] it’s a five-minute walk to the quiet trails along the Bow River. No spending or banners or buttons required. Now that’s refreshing. [I was hoping you’d combine a squirrel joke with a refreshing joke, but I got greedy. Just so you know, like an Andy Kaufman meta-comedy riff, “refreshing” was really, really, really funny the fifth time you used it. Hilarious, in fact.]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Smart Set and Helvetica

A new journal published my Helvetica piece. (link). This makes me happy.

I'll hopefully have a few more substantial postings in the next few weeks.