Poor Jasper Avenue, Rossdale Land Sale, Star Wars in Edmonton

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

A new vision for Jasper Avenue

Back in May 2009, I attended the first open house for the Jasper Avenue New Vision project. Then in November of that year, a more in-depth open house was held at Enterprise Square. Six years later, only a tiny portion of that vision has come to life between 100 Street and 102 Street. The original project was meant to cover Jasper Avenue between 97 Street and 111 Street. In theory that work will still get done, but don’t hold your breath! Already the City is conducting public engagement on the rest of Jasper Avenue, west of 109 Street. I guess that makes sense, given how long it has taken them to get to this point, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could finish the original project first?

Cyclist, Jasper Avenue, March 22. 2015
Cyclist, Jasper Avenue, March 22. 2015, photo by More Bike Lanes Please

Here’s what a recent Edmonton Journal editorial said about our city’s main street:

“Pity poor Jasper Avenue. It has always been the canary in the recessionary coal mine in our city — it can go downhill very quickly when the economy softens. The signs are there already, bringing back echoes of Edmonton’s bad old reputation as Deadmonton.”

In general I agree with Paul who wrote in response that “the sense of doom and gloom is overstated and unhelpful.” Yes there are empty spaces along Jasper Avenue that badly need to be filled, but there are plenty of examples of positive changes to the street too.

Filling those spaces is important but it’s not enough. What Jasper Avenue could really benefit from is a reduction in traffic lanes and wider sidewalks throughout, not just around 101 Street. Here’s what I wrote back in 2009:

“Almost every feature of Jasper Avenue is geared toward vehicle traffic. Any redevelopment needs to shift the focus to pedestrian traffic.”

Sadly, not much has changed.

Rossdale land sale to the Province

Council voted this week to move forward with negotiations to sell a block of land in Rossdale to the Province for about $13 million. The land, located southwest of 96 Avenue and 105 Street, is considered “surplus to municipal requirements” and is currently vacant park land with just four houses. The Province wants the land so that it can “restrict development on these lands to protect the view corridor to the legislature from the bridge crossing.”

The problem is that the City’s West Rossdale Urban Design Plan aims to “create a complete, mixed-use, highly liveable, walkable, and sustainable community” that could be home to 4,500 people. Council feels that the money isn’t the problem anymore (the $13 million is apparently market rate) but they are concerned about fit with the urban design plan. If the Province won’t allow any development on the land, that could be an issue.

The West Rossdale plan does include a recommendation to “reserve and enhance view corridors” so that part is aligned at least.

Star Wars in Edmonton

Forget Christmas, Star Wars is what everyone is talking about right now. And that means the media are looking for local angles to basically tell the same story as every other news organization in the world right now: people are excited for this movie! And why not, the reviews sound incredibly positive.

South Edmonton Common’s Cineplex theatre is one of six across Canada offering a Star Wars movie marathon where fans can watch the original six films before seeing the new one. Good luck getting tickets though, as well over 6000 tickets had already been sold at the southside theatre by Monday. Still, five of the theatre’s sixteen screens will be showing the new Star Wars movie. On Friday, The Force Awakens will play 103 times in Cineplex theatres throughout Edmonton.

So we know it’s going to be a big deal. If you’re going to wait a few days to watch it, then you can read about it in the meantime. Here is 5 ways to “find the Force” from an Edmonton Star Wars superfan, and of course there are interviews with lots of other Star Wars superfans. Here’s a sneak peek at the movie from an official Star Wars artist who lives right here in Edmonton. Even Paula decided to write about Star Wars this week! If you’re looking for a primer on what happened after Return of the Jedi, read this.

May the force be with you!

LEGO Video Games

Post ImageMy brother bought me LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for my birthday (which was Dec. 28) and we spent quite a bit of time playing it over the last couple days before he went back to Red Deer. I think I am hooked! I never played the original LEGO Star Wars game, but I almost want to go and buy it now. The concept always sounded kinda funny to me, but now that I’ve played the game, my laughter has been replaced with awe. The game is simple yet incredibly fun to play!

I was browsing around Wikipedia today, looking for information on the LEGO games, and I found this:

LEGO Batman is an adventure video game developed by Traveller’s Tales. It will be similar to the LEGO Star Wars series, in that it will both be a game based on a licensed property and have environments, objects and creatures made out of LEGO.

Awesome! That was the first thing I thought of while playing LEGO Star Wars – I thought, “they should make lots of LEGO games!” It’s such a wonderful environment for fun, light gaming.

Seems they are way ahead of me:

Upon being contacted, developer Jonathan Smith (games programmer) stated that they will definitely be developing more LEGO games in the future.

I don’t know what they have in mind, but I can think of some LEGO games I’d like to see! Here’s the movies/franchises I’d like to see turned into LEGO video games:

  • The Matrix
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter (LEGO already has the rights to this one…)
  • Spider-Man

One of my favorite toys as a kid was LEGO. My brother, sister and I played with it all the time! It’s almost too perfect that LEGO is now playable on my new favorite toy, my Xbox 360.

Read: LEGO

REVIEW: Revenge of the Sith

Post ImageRevenge of the Sith opened yesterday, as I am sure you’re aware. How could I not go? I have been waiting for this movie for a long time now. I had big expectations going in. Some of my friends warned me that I was setting myself up for disappointment, but I would retort “that’s a risk I’m willing to take!” And I am glad I did. I was not disappointed. So with that, here’s my mini-review, which might contain spoilers if you don’t know the story.

Where to start? Episode III is everything the first two movies were not. Exciting, visually stunning, emotionally grabbing, and it tells a story too. Actually, that’s a good place to start. There is more story told in ROTS than in the first two movies combined. If I had one complaint about the movie, it would be that there was so much story to tell, the ending felt sort of rushed, or abrupt. Fans of the series will be happy to know however, that the story which is known so well is finally explained on screen. It’s different knowing the story about how Darth Vader came to be than it is seeing it brought to life by George Lucas. I think ROTS has been placed in the role of “bridge” from the new movies to the old movies, and it does an excellent job of that.

I expected lots of death, lots of light sabres, and I definitely got that. The effects were what you’d expect from a Star Wars movie; amazing. It was also interesting to see some of the other worlds explored, for example, the home of the Wookiees (if you like those furry guys, there’s lots of them in ROTS). The battle between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi was amazing, as was the battle between Yoda and Darth Sidious. They have been called two of the most anticipated on-screen battles, and they do not disappoint. I am continually amazed at Yoda’s capabilities!

What I did not expect, was to get so completely pulled into the story. I mean, I knew what happened to Anakin, but I never thought it would be so emotionally jarring. You can’t help but feel bad for him. In one single movie, Anakin destroys everything and everyone he has ever loved. He changes completely – mentally he is drawn to the darkside and is quite simply destroyed by the death of Padmé. Physically, he is destroyed too, hurt badly in the battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi. When he first becomes concious in the new suit, he is told by Lord Sidious that Padme is dead, and Anakin lets out a terrible scream (actually, it reminded me of Frankenstein). In that moment, you can see that he is destroyed. The chosen one has lost everything, and is now imprisoned in the black suit keeping him alive. It’s actually very sad.

That’s the best part of the movie. Lucas creates a villain you can’t help but feel sorry for. Is Revenge of the Sith the best Star Wars movie ever? Maybe. What could possibly rival the death of Darth Vader? Well his birth of course. In any case, Episode III is much better than the first two. This is supposed to be the last Star Wars movie, and maybe it will be, but I’m holding out hope for episodes seven through nine.

Some other things to point out:

  • Jar Jar makes an appearance, but he does not speak, thank goodness.
  • Natalie Portman doesn’t get enough screen time, IMO. And her dialogue is probably the worst in the movie, seems very fake. It’s not a reflection of her acting either, it’s just that her lines are so…expected?
  • Regardless of what the critics say, I think Hayden Christensen did an excellent job in this movie. Much better than his previous performances.

If you want to read more reviews, check out the Episode III page at Rotten Tomatoes.

Read: Star Wars

Revenge of the Sith Stuff

Yesterday I went to see Kingdom of Heaven with Megan (which was excellent by the way, I’ll probably write about it later) and one of the previews was the new Star Wars Episode 3 trailer. That movie looks so awesome, it’s not even funny.

Jason Calacanis, head blogger at Weblogs Inc., recently saw the movie and declared Revenge of the Sith as “the greatest Star Wars film ever.” I sure hope so, and I just can’t wait to see the movie now!

If you’re looking for a little something to tide you over until the movie is released on May 19th, check out Star Wars Revelations, an independent film by Panic Struck Productions. It’s really amazing what can be done these days without a movie studio behind you. If you’d rather do some reading, Wired’s latest issue has a ton of Star Wars stuff, like Life After Darth, and an article on the brand new gaming and effects factory George Lucas is building.

Read: Star Wars