The Pulse: Jan. 13, 2022

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  • 2°C: Cloudy. 60% chance of rain showers changing to 60% chance of snow or wet snow near noon. Risk of freezing rain in the morning. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. (forecast)
  • 748: Alberta now has 748 patients in hospital due to COVID-19, including 82 in intensive care. The province reported 6,789 new cases and 15 new deaths on Jan. 12. (details)

A smiling Shawn Gramiak waves his hat and shows razzle-dazzle hands, while a frowning JP Fournier looks on

The Movie Jerks roll the credits after a decade of podcasting

By Andy Trussler

After 10 years, 450 episodes, and almost 200 guests, The Movie Jerks are wrapping up their long-running Edmonton podcast.

But before JP Fournier and Shawn Gramiak stop "exploring the dark, scary, confusing, and sometimes pathetic world of bad movies," they're planning to give past guests one more chance to share a piece of their mind.

"For our finale episode, we have been requested by a couple of our beloved guests to allow them back on so they may have their final words about what they have experienced and what they think about Shawn and I," Fournier said in his Facebook post announcing the show's end.

"That sounds like a great way to leave the podcast world with our heads up high."

Fournier and Gramiak discovered something special about one another when they met in Edmonton's standup comedy scene.

"We found out very quickly that we had a common trait of bringing a film to a group of people to watch and almost being ostracized by that group," Fournier told Taproot.

This unique similarity led to the idea for a podcast based on forcing people to watch awful films. "We just thought it was a neat idea because when people talk about a movie they hate, they're very passionate," Fournier said. "You can easily get someone to talk for hours about something they dislike."

When they started in 2012, podcasts were far more scarce than they are today. There were fewer than 100,000 shows listed in iTunes, which was the main way to listen at the time. Now, there are more than a million shows, with more being added to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other players every day.

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By Doug Johnson

  • The federal government has announced $14.8 million in funding to create up to 138 new affordable homes in Edmonton. This involves converting the former Days Inn Hotel near the U of A and the former Sands Hotel into residential buildings.
  • In all, more than 1,000 teachers in Edmonton went absent on Wednesday — though this number is not entirely because of COVID-19, and includes other reasons.
  • Edmonton Transit Service is adjusting its operations to deal with staffing issues caused by the Omicron variant. More than 98% of bus services will not be affected, and the city is targeting high-frequency routes.
  • With the recent bout of warm weather, city crews are taking the chance to catch up on clearing streets of compacted snow. The city said crews have completed clearing 43% of residential areas. The Phase 2 residential parking ban is expected to continue for approximately four weeks.
  • Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver have the highest rates of retaining people who immigrate to Canada from other countries, according to StatsCan. The study, which looked at newcomers in 2014 and where they filed taxes in 2019, found that Edmonton was in third place, with 84.6% of people staying.
  • Applications are now open for Edmonton's Digital Economy Program, which aims to support small businesses working to create or update their online services. Among the various elements of the program is the creation of Digital Service Squads, made up of students, who pair with small businesses to help them establish their online presence.
  • Ward Karhiio Coun. Keren Tang spoke recently about her experience working with Indigenous communities, the pandemic, and her hopes as a new addition to city council. Tang was a teacher in a rural Navajo community, and worked with the Yellowknife's Dene community in the Northwest Territories.
  • The United Nurses of Alberta, the Alberta Teachers' Association, and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees are calling for a circuit-breaking lockdown due to the spread of Omicron. A spokesperson for Premier Jason Kenney has responded, saying "a circuit-breaker is not on the table and not being considered."
A newspaper clipping headlined "City rejects CN's pitch for help with Mac sale"

A moment in history: Jan. 13, 1988

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1988, the city and CN were in a battle over the future of one of Edmonton's most famous buildings — the Hotel Macdonald.

From the very beginning, the Hotel Mac was built to capture attention. Perched on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the North Saskatchewan, the copper roofing and Indiana limestone exterior make it an instantly recognizable feature in Edmonton's skyline. Château-style buildings were a particularly popular architectural trend for railroad-owned hotels at the time, with the Banff Springs, Toronto's Royal York Hotel, and the Château Frontenac in Quebec being other examples.

When the Grand Trunk Railway opened it in 1915, the Hotel Macdonald was not only a beautiful building but a modern one. It featured electric elevators, modern heating systems and other creature comforts considered cutting edge for the time. As such, it became the go-to accommodation for wealthy and powerful visitors.

The hotel was reportedly the site of Edmonton's first traffic jam when well-wishers drove by to try to catch a glimpse of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. (Another traffic jam may have ensued in 1994, when Mick Jagger invited the whole of Commonwealth Stadium back to the hotel for a drink.) In 1950, a blocky 16-storey, 300-room expansion went up alongside the building. The annex was such a wild departure from the stately hotel's Château style that many Edmontonians referred to the pair as "the Hotel Mac and the box it came in."

Despite its reputation, the 1980s were a dark decade for the hotel. High maintenance costs and growing disrepair led to its shuttering in 1983, to loud public outcry. CN, now the owners of the Mac, demolished "The Box," and it seemed the original building was destined for the same fate. In 1985, the City of Edmonton deemed the building a municipal heritage resource, the first building in the city to receive that form of protection. That started a series of renovations that appeared to have no end in sight. CN was eager to offload the hotel, and the city was just as keen to see it reopen.

Finally, in 1988, CN sold its entire hotel chain to Canadian Pacific, including the Macdonald. Renovations continued for another three years before the hotel reopened in 1991 to considerable excitement. Now managed by Fairmont, the Hotel Macdonald still offers some of the most luxurious accommodations in the city.

It temporarily closed in 2020 during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has reopened with new safety protocols, though business remains difficult for the hospitality industry. A few weeks ago, the provincial government announced an extension to a program designed to help Alberta hotels survive the drop in visitor numbers.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.

Festival goers walk along a snowy, lit-up path at Deep Freeze

Weekend agenda: Jan. 13-16, 2022

By Andy Trussler

Making plans? Here are a few of things happening around the city over the next few days, most of it outside now that the weather has warmed up.

Photo: Festival goers walk along a snowy, lit-up path at Deep Freeze. (Bottom Line Productions/Epic Photography)