Buckle Up

Jun. 4th, 2009 10:41 am
robotnik2004: (Default)
Buckle up!

"Dear ROBERTMA,

Great news! We've made your Internet even faster! You don't have to do a thing. Your download speed has been automatically increased from 5 Mbps to 7 Mbps.* Whether you're banking online, streaming a video or booking a hotel, now you can do it even faster — at no extra cost.

Enjoy your new speed. Thank you for "choosing" Rogers.

*Download speeds may vary with Internet traffic, server or other factors."

[Graph showing average broadband speeds by country.]

Michael Geist: "As measured by price per megabyte - effectively the price for speed - Canada ranks 28th out of 30 countries, ahead of only Mexico and Poland. This may be the most telling metric, since it confirms that Canadians pay more for less."
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Just a heads up: [livejournal.com profile] papersource, the [livejournal.com profile] polka_roo, and I will be visiting Boston the week/end of February 9-12. I guess that means we'll miss the influx of "girlfriends from Canada," which is too bad, but maybe that will make it easier to schedule face time with people when we do come. Watch this space for more info and planning. We can't wait to roll with our Boston homeys again.

("Polka-roo" is of course the Fetus Formerly Known as the Seamonkey / Secret Squirrel, so renamed because (a) it does an awful lot of poking lately, but (b) it has a way of quieting right down and running silent whenever its Daddy puts a hand on Mommy's belly to see what all the excitement is about. As in, "The Polka-Roo was just here!" "Aw, I missed him again!" Get it? Those raised in Ontario know what I'm talking about.)
robotnik2004: (Default)
My friend [livejournal.com profile] foogie's new user icon reminds me of something I've wanted to post about for eons.

As some of you know, in university I edited a campus humor paper called Golden Words. The GW crew ran the gamut from wickedly funny comics to sweet dorks and over-enthusiastic goobs. There were a bunch of people content to recycle the same cartoons about beer goggles every week, but there were also always a few guys (and girls) who scared me with their insane genius. Elan Mastai was one of those guys.

I lost touch with Elan after graduation, but I knew he wanted to be a screenwriter and, ferocious as that world is, I had (and still have) little doubt that he would succeed. He's just a brilliant writer and a way cool guy with a really skewed, mordant sense of humor. I could actually never tell when he was being serious and when he was having me on. The last time I saw him was seven or eight years ago at a wedding or engagement party for Colin Stein, another GW genius who I wish I was still in touch with. It was a reunion of sorts and conversation was all "What are you doing now?" Everyone I saw Elan talk to, he gave a different answer: "I'm writing the world's first hypertext novel." "I've dropped out of school to follow Noam Chomsky around the country." "This party is an experiment I'm running for my PhD in memetic psychology." He told me he'd just sold a screenplay about a big city mayor who switches lives with his kids' babysitter.

If you'd asked me then to predict what sort of movie Elan would break into the business with, I'd have pictured something like Pulp Fiction, except cooler and funnier and edgier still. Well, Elan is in the business now, but his breakthrough project was not exactly what I expected. He was, in fact, the screenwriter of MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate.

It is, if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing it, a movie about a skateboarding chimpanzee.

Better yet, it is the sequel to a movie about a hockey-playing chimpanzee. (That would be MVP: Most Valuable Primate.) The epic trilogy is concluded in MXP: Most Xtreme Primate, in which the eponymous chimp snowboards, but Elan was not involved, and true fans of MVP regard this final chapter as apocryphal.

A lot of you have already heard this story up to that point. Here comes the value added. Checking out MVP 2 on the IMDB, I came across what is perhaps the best movie review I have ever read. I quote it here in its sublime entirety:
Like Old Yeller, but with a skateboard, a monkey, and a homeless boy.
Author: cfcarino from United States
I hate skateboarding, I don't care much for chimps, and I'm a 68 year old retired veteran. If my pansy grandson didn't whine like a dog that lost its leg when it got hit by a jeep, and then the dog had to crawl its way back to the house, I wouldn't have watched this movie. I'm glad I did. This chimp knows what 98% of Americans don't: he's gonna die. Once a person comes to grip with their own mortality, they'll ride a skateboard on a big ramp, or close their eyes and shoot until they stop hearing screams. This movie made me smile, it made me think, but most importantly it made me think I was smiling.

If all my men were like MVP, we would've walked out of Hanoi with a few more ears. But they weren't. They wanted out. Did they think I wanted to stay there?! Everyday I think back to what I could've done. Everyday I'm one step closer to dying. I'm glad I saw this movie before I did.

And the piece de resistance:
10 out of 13 people found the following comment useful.

It's worth clicking through to read all of that author's movie reviews. Because he's reviewed exactly three movies: MVP, MVP 2, and MXP. And each review is better than the last. Come to think of it, given what I know about Elan's sense of humor, there's a very real chance that "cfcarino from United States" actually is Elan. Whatever the truth, I salute all three of you: Elan, cfcarino, and MVP.

...

I want to be clear about why I'm posting all this. Yes, I think it's funny that this really cool, edgy guy I used to know wrote a movie about a skateboarding chimp. But I'm not sneering at it at all. MVP 2 was the biggest-grossing Canadian movie of 2001. And everybody I know who saw it loved it.* So I think it's awesome. Elan is great and I hope he'll be a big success. (Elan also has co-writer credit on Alone in the Dark, starring Christian Slater and Tara Reid. That film did not get such great reviews, but I lay the blame for that at the door of director Uwe Boll, who has made a long career out of turning B-grade video games into Z-grade movies. (See: uwebollsucks.com, uwebollisantichrist.com, and Penny Arcade on Uwe Boll: "Vell, first, I am hating ze movies.") But again, lest I sound at all snide: How many Hollywood movies have I written?)

*OK, so I only know one person who saw MVP 2—my brother J—but he really did like it. My brother's college housemate apparently loves "all movies where animals do human stuff." So J has seen them all, from Air Bud to um, Air Bud 4: Seventh Inning Fetch, and MVP 2, J reports, was the cream of the crop.

...

I made a head-clearing list last night of all the things I've been meaning to blog about lately—here, at Old is the New New, at Cliopatria, and even at the lonely, cobweb-strewn 20 by 20 Room. They range from intellectual (writing pedagogy, Cliopatria's symposium on Sean Wilentz, Jim Carroll's thoughts on God) to personal (props to L for kicking ass in grad school and surviving unending Canadian bureaucracy, my brother's adventures in China, long overdue thanks to my friends for some wonderful thoughtful gifts) to geeky (the narrativist Rolling Stones rpg that came to me the other night). But wouldn't you know it? The one post I actually get around to writing is the one about the snowboarding, skateboarding, hockey-playing chimp.
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This post has a soundtrack! It's the song "The Rest of My Life" by the band Sloan, on the album Action Pact. I've been listening to it constantly for the last two weeks, which probably means that for the rest of my life, whenever I hear that song it will take me back to February 2005.

I started thinking 'bout the rest of my life )

Edit: Hey, I should point out that none of this is quite as impending as I might have made it seem. I mean, we won't be moving until July or August. Certainly not before L's school year is over. It's not like we're going to London tomorrow. Well, actually we are going to London tomorrow, but just for a visit. We're coming back Wednesday. Lots of time between Wednesday and July to see all you Bostonians and do stuff and game and not game and all that.
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[cross-posted to Rob MacDougall.org, which you would know if you were subscribed to the [livejournal.com profile] robotnikblog RSS feed, so why aren't you?]

[Canada Guy image stolen from the great and terrible [livejournal.com profile] calamityjon. Visit his site!]

Canada Guy by Calamity Jon Morris

I just got back from Upper Canada, where it was -30° C in the daytime, and the following bit of video from the time of George Bush's Ottawa visit was making the rounds. It's Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson taking a few cheap shots at Canadians while some gormless backbencher clucks feebly in the Dominion's defense. I must warn you, the clip does neither country any credit. And it's not nearly as satisfying as the justly famous video of Jon Stewart schooling Tucker on Crossfire. But you can go watch it now, in Quicktime or Windows Media. I'll wait.

Are you back? OK. Yes. I know. Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Read more... )
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The forecast was entirely too generous: we haven't cracked 0 F (-18 C) today. But the family is great and Westport is twinkling and white and the Festivus festivities have been great fun. More reportage anon. Also: happy belated Life Day to Gamma Fodder, Keith Richards, and my Dad. I'll cheap out this year by simply linking to my awesome but little commented on post from a year ago yesterday.

Edit: And the mercury has been dropping steadily all weekend. Now (9 AM Monday morning), it's a balmy -30 C (-20 F). Lets hope Melba Toast doesn't break down somewhere on the 401.
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L & I are heading off now to the Great White North for the seasonal gathering of my clan. I'm packing my long underwear: the forecast high temperature for Sunday is a disagreeable 19 degrees F. We'll be back on Monday, and then head down to see her clan (tribe? mishpuche? zaibatsu?) at the end of next week. So the parade of overwritten game ideas might be interrupted for the weekend. (Or maybe not: I understand they have electricity back in the Canada now too.)

In the meantime, I urge my fashion- and especially shoe-loving friends (and in particular, my always fabulously-shod wife) to check out Manolo's Shoe Blog (LJ syndicated as [livejournal.com profile] the_manolo):

Hello to the Visitors! Manolo says, hello to the visitors of the today! Welcome to the first blog to be on the internet devoted to the shoes! There are the many imitators, but only one of the Manolos.

Happy seasonal gift-giving days, all.
robotnik2004: (Default)

New York Times article about pessimistic Canadian historians and pundits:

[A] growing number of historians, foreign policy thinkers and columnists from some of the nation’s top newspapers … see themselves as part of an informal school that has no name or single mentor … [All] are writing the same assessment: Canada is in decline, or at the very least, has fallen short of their aspirations. For these thinkers, Canada is adrift at home and wilting as a player on the world stage. It is dogged by not only uninspired leaders but also by a lack of national purpose, stunted imagination and befuddled priorities even as its economy prospers.

Here we have the conjunction of two very common phenomena. One: Canadians who think Canada is a great country that would be much better off if Canadians, and Canadian leaders in particular, weren’t so lame. Two: A Times article that identifies a long-standing situation and declares it a novel trend. (Canadians are pessimists! Brides go crazy about weddings! Parents love their children!) Still, it’s always nice to see CanCon in the NYT.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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I didn't even think I was eligible, but I just got a little plug (along with birthday boy Gamma Fodder) from "Accordion Guy" Joey DeVilla as part of the Carnival of Canucks, a roving roundup of interesting Canadian weblogs.

Joey and I go back a bit, though I haven't seen him in years and years. Even prior to my enrollment at Crazy Go Nuts University, I was learning how to draw cartoons by copying his ingenious work in the campus humo(u)r paper—my older sister would bring issues home for me. Happily, Joey (or Gooey, as we knew him then) obliged me by sticking around CGNU for several years without graduating, long enough for me to go there, meet him, get to know him, and even become editor of the paper in question. Now my weblog can ride on his coattails too. Maybe I should take up the accordion.

Anyway, I expect Joey dropped my name primarily as an excuse to mention his new patootie, who I guess is here at Harvard (not generally mistaken for Crazy Go Nuts University). Nevertheless I will rise to the occasion by offering links to some of my own vintage Canadian Content: Here's the Strange Secret History Of Flin Flon, Manitoba (part one), and here are four alternate histories of Canada: one with zombies, one with aliens, one where Trudeau has lots of sex (ok, so that's not really all that "alternate"), and one where Don Cherry becomes supreme dictator of the world. And if all this doesn't prove my CanCon bona fides, check out www.robmacdougall.com (which is my name, see, although alas that isn't actually my site). You don't get much more Canadian than that, me boy.
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I'm filling out a lot of immigration paperwork this month in hopes of not getting booted out of this country when I graduate. ("Check all that apply: Tired. Poor. Huddled. Difficulty Breathing Free.") One form asks for the birthplaces of my parents. I joked to my mother that the Department of Homeland Security was never going to believe Flin Flon—the remote Manitoba mining town where she was born—is a real town. Her reply:

Subject: The Secret Origins of Parental Units
Brace yourself, my dear, it is in fact Flin Flon. You can explain, if you dare, that it was named for the deathless fictional hero Flintabadias Flonaton, protagonist of a paperback novel discovered on the wilderness site by prospectors who in the next day or so discovered the fabulously wealthy mineral deposits also there, although they were never able to find out how the book had actually gotten there, 500 miles from the nearest bookstore, in the first place. When you're in the wilderness, you seize on any reading material you can find and don't worry an awful lot about provenance. The Bureau of Vaterland Security cannot be any less dubious about the name than the Swiss were when I was a student there. I had to carry an identity card with me at all times listing my place of birth, which they pronounced with a double nasal (Fla Flo) and the tightly pursed lips of the deeply offended.


Point one: My Mom is cool.

Assuming she was making this up, I decided to post Mom's email to show off how goofy ("the deathless hero Flintabadias Flonaton," indeed) and droll ("in the wilderness you don't worry an awful lot about provenance") she is. But a little Googling revealed that, while Mom may be exceedingly clever ("the tightly pursed lips of the deeply offended," hee hee), the goofiness lies in her forebears, not her. Because other than a forgivable spelling error in the name, the story is entirely true.

The town's fictional founder is in fact "Professor Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin," hero of a turn-of-the-century dime novel by J.E. Preston-Muddock called The Sunless City. In the novel, Professor Flonatin, aka Ol' Flinty, aka Flin Flon, builds a home-made submarine to explore a bottomless lake, and ends up discovering a golden city at the center of the earth.

Then, back in real life (more or less), when prospectors were exploring northern Manitoba in the 1910s, they mysteriously found a tattered copy of Preston-Muddock's novel out in the wilderness. Keep in mind we are talking about a region seriously north of civilization. When they also found deposits of gold and copper there, the prospectors named their camp "Flin Flon," after the prospecting hero of the book, which they read around the campfire each night. Then in 1929, the Canadian National Railway telegraphed the mining camp established there to say that, unless they heard differently, the dumbass name those original prospectors had given them was going onto the official maps. Nobody bothered to reply, and in this stirring fashion, the town of Flin Flon was born.

I can't believe Mom never told me this story before. She says she did, but I know I would have remembered. I don't know which part of the story I like best—that Mom was born in a remote mining town named after a dime novel science hero, that the prospectors just found the book out there on the tundra, or that the name stuck because nobody bothered to come up with anything different. ("The CNR wants a name for this place. 'Flin Flon' okay with everyone?" "Eh.") I guess the part I really like best is that I am half Flin Flonian. (And if I end up immigrating, will that make me a Flin Flonian-American?)

More Flin Flon Flun Flacts to come!
robotnik2004: (Default)
Well, I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I sure saw AC/DC...
Drive-By Truckers, "Let There Be Rock"

Was it the power outage? A weird Asian virus? Or too much Alberta beef? Whatever it was, something swept through Toronto this summer and turned everyone there into head-banging AC/DC fans. I was back in the Canada last week, and everybody I know, from my trance-techno-spinning hipster friends to my Mozart-and-madrigal-loving Mom, was raving about how great AC/DC had been at the big Concert for Toronto, aka SARSstock. (My Mom is enough of a flower child to disapprove of that nickname, and more power to her. But when a meme sticks, it sticks.) I guess Angus, Malcolm, and Bri totally stole the show from Mick and Keef, the official headliners. I got nothing bad to say about AC/DC. I couldn't be happier to see them get their props. It's a puzzler, though.

On the subject, I should say that I had a great time last week in Canada. I got to see almost all of my sibs (and we all tele-conferenced with Beth and the babies via speakerphone) and a pretty large swath of my Torontonian friends. Perry & Tina were terrific hosts in their gorgeous new home in Toronto's Little Italy (mmm... cannoli...) and Gamma Fodder's party blew the doors off, but the best parts of the trip were, as always, the conversations: dissecting bobo-ness with Isa and Noah, holding forth on telephone history at the Victory Café, debating the D&D alignment of Indiana Jones, or catching up on the adventures of my Dad's buddy Pukeface* at the family dinner table. I am rich with loved ones. Of course, the visits are always too short, and I always wonder why I don't stay in better touch with my friends and siblings throughout the year. If only there was some kind of technology I could use to communicate with them over great distances...

* This is worth adding. So you see everybody in the little town my Dad grew up in had a nickname, and one of my Dad's friends was indeed known as "Pukeface." So Dad starts telling a story about him, and my brother's girlfriend Miranda says, "I'm sorry... I start laughing every time I hear the name Pukeface." And my sister Amy says, totally deadpan, "Why? Do you know him too?" Hee! My family deserves each other.

Last One

Jul. 10th, 2003 11:14 pm
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Let's see, we've riffed on Canada being cold, on Canada being peaceful and nice, and on Canadians being indistinguishable from Americans. This final alternate takes off from Canada's newly emerging image as a pot-smoking, gay-marrying, wife-swapping Babylon North. It's also a tribute to Pierre Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister and Philosopher King from 1968 to 1984. Some of the Canadiana in this one is going to be pretty obscure for our American friends, I fear. But everyone mentioned by name here is in fact Canadian.

Read more... )
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It's pretty cool, symbolically speaking, that the 1947 Roswell Crash, the seminal event in UFO mythology, happened on America's birthday, the 4th of July. (OK, there's actually disagreement about exactly when the crash happened, but that's kind of to be expected since really it didn't happen at all.) But what if them little green butt-probers crashed their saucer a few days earlier... and a little farther north? Read more... )
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(This is Alternate Canada #2. #1 is here.)

"Canada should have enjoyed the culture of the French, the government of the English, and the know-how of the USA. Instead, it ended up with the government of the French, the know-how of the English, and the culture of the USA."
—John Robert Colombo, Canada's keeper of random historical trivia and weird-ass Fortean stuff

This is probably going to be the longest of these alternates, since it doesn't employ any fun history-benders like zombies, time travel, or nanotech—just that old chestnut of alternate history, the South winning the American Civil War. Which is not to say that what follows is at all plausible. Or desirable. Just a fever dream brought on by the heat, and by the fact that the-South-wins alternates rarely have much to say about how such a change might affect the rest of the world. In this alternate, Canada gets Colombo's formula "right," with a little help from the Confederacy. The moral is, be careful what you wish for Colombo, ya dodgy old kook.

"He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
—Psalm 72:8, the source of Canada's official name ("The Dominion of Canada") and national motto ("From Sea to Sea")

When Robert E. Lee outfoxes the Union Army Read more... )
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OK, so I had all this written up and ready to post last week in honor of Canada Day. That's July 1st, the anniversary of the original Confederation of Canada in 1867. But then I couldn't get LiveJournal to work by remote, and this never got posted. What the hell, better late than never. Now that I'm back from my home and native land, here is my Canada Day present to y'all. Maybe I'll backdate it to July 1 once it has rolled off your Friends pages.

It's been said that Canada has "too much geography and not enough history." I don't entirely agree, but I do know that Canada doesn't have nearly enough alternate history. And it's a shame. Bookshelves groan with Nazi alternates (alterNazis?) and Civil War alternates; I've never seen an alternate Canada. Of course, Canada is kind of an alternate version of the United States already. What if the Thirteen Colonies had not revolted in 1776? Well, four colonies didn't—skip ahead a couple of centuries and they're legalizing swinging and queer marriages and smoking the chronic.

"What am I talkin' about? I'm talkin' about sex, boy, what the hell you talkin' about? I'm talkin' about l'amour! I'm talkin' that me and Dot are swingers, as in "to swing." I'm talkin' about wife swappin'!"
—Glen, Raising Arizona (Sorry. I can't mention swinging without thinking about that line. "Keep your damn hands off my wife." Hee.)

What was I talking about again? Anyway, here, in honor of that storied day, on which four colonial administrations only somewhat reluctantly coalesced, sort of, into a moderately well-conceived bureaucratic fiction that much later began to think of itself, at least part of the time, as something resembling a nation, but not really, I give you five journeys north of the border gone astray: five alternate Canadas.

Read more... )

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