October 25, 2006 12:20Political Bent
I like to think of myself as politically neutral. I try to empathize with all sides of an issue, my vote is up for grabs by the party with the best platform, and I never endorse any one candidate because I figure they'll inevitably make an ass of themselves at some point.
Yesterday I got a call from a pollster charged with the task of calculating the statistics of where Canadians stand on their government. This was the sort of poll that ends up being quoted in the media as grave-sounding news anchors tell us what percentage of the public approves of the war in Afghanistan, who the leading candidate in the Liberal leadership race is, and whether the majority of the country thinks Stephen Harper is a boring poopy-head or a pasty-faced gargoyle.
I always like to answer telephone polls regardless of how much time they eat up. Since most people actually have something better to do, are gainfully employed, or realize life is too short to spend this much time on the phone with someone who's sunk almost to the level of a telemarketer, poll results tend to be hopelessly tainted and nowhere close to reflecting an actual, reasonable majority. Instead, they skew in favour of the opinions and attitudes of the insane, the unemployable, the desperately lonely, and the flatly sociopathic. As one of those elite few, I felt it was my duty to mislead the poor idiots in charge of the country with the sort of answers that would help them alter the world to better suit my personal, greedy needs.
As I answered a seemingly endless series of multiple choice questions with answers like "somewhat agree," "almost never," "Green Party," and "because I think he's a dick," I came to realize something. I'm one of those evil leftists Canadian pinkos the brave American Republicans are trying to save the world from. I'm part of the problem. Bill O'Reilly would want my nuts cut off as part of his eugenics project. Donald Rumsfeld would have me sent to Guantanamo to be interrogated by a pair of pliers and a water board. Ann Coulter would pass on having dinner with me, even if I were paying.
I'm embarrassed, I really am. I knew my politics were kinda sorta liberal – "liberal" being just about the worst thing you can call someone south of the 49th these days, ranking somewhere between "Clinton" and "pedophile" – but I had aspired to be more centrist. I'd even ordered my very own copies of The Way Things Ought to Be and Let Freedom Ring to help compensate and nudge me back towards the middle. I guess it didn't work.
I blame my education. When shopping around for a university, I ultimately ended up going to Concordia in Montreal. Not because I thought it was the best school for me. But because it was only a city bus ride away and I couldn't afford to go anywhere better with the paltry money I was making at summer jobs. I remember, in a guide to Canadian universities published around that time, there was a chart of the political leanings for every higher-education institution in the country. Some where left wing, some were right wing, some were pretty middle of the road. Concordia was listed as "off-the-map left." And they weren't kidding. Every day there I felt a tad discriminated against because I wasn't a mixed-race pagan lesbian communist.
I went into the journalism program. But in an effort to remain politically neutral, I made a concerted effort to stay as ignorant of politics and current events as humanly possible. I never read a newspaper, never watched a television news show. Occasionally we'd have a pop quiz on what was going on in the world and I'd be utterly unable to answer any of the questions. So I'd make up outrageous fictional answers for comedic effect. The head of the department never found my answers particularly amusing for some reason. I think he maybe took his job seriously or some crazy shit like that.
Only after I'd safely faked my way through the program and received my not-worth-the-paper-it's-printed-on B.A. did I become interested in current events. Now I spend much of the day with various news media outlets acting as background noise in my office, keeping me up to date about the latest insult tossed across the floor of the House of Commons and the body count total in Iraq (Just a little more than 22,000 K.I.A. to go before you top Viet Nam, guys! You can do it!).
But I can't deny it any longer. Maybe I absorbed it through osmosis in university, or maybe it's just the by-product of being a media savvy, informed Canadian who's never watched Fox News. I'm a liberal. Not necessarily a supporter of the Liberal Party, but a liberal nevertheless. There's only one last resort for me. I must follow the lead of my leftist brothers and sisters down south. Rather than be branded by the terrible "L" word (no, not that one), I must fall back on that greatest of all crutches. Semantics.
No, I'm not one of those filthy, traitorous, troop-hating, tree-hugging, gun-control-supporting, pro-choice-choosing, gay-marriage-attending, marihuana-legalizing godless liberal scum suckers. Not me!
I'm a libertarian.
October 19, 2006 05:15One Point Six
1.6 billion dollars doesn't go as far as it used to. Time was, you could buy yourself a decent-sized banana republic for that kind of cash. Or your very own drug cartel. Or maybe just a fixed presidential election or two.
These days, that's what it costs to snatch up a popular little website that hosts a bunch of short video clips. Google, the not particularly profitable search engine, has purchased YouTube, the not particularly profitable web site, for an amount of money they might be able to collectively earn back if the world wide web remains alive, well, and utterly unchanged for the next 200 years. And some people still wonder why the tech bubble burst.
The problem I have with Google's impulse purchase is that the sole asset of YouTube is quick, easy access to all sorts of clips that are mostly copyrighted material. And the giant corporate entities that own these copyrights are fiercely protective of their assets because, unlike Google and YouTube, they know how to make money. YouTube has said that, in future, they'll be happy to take down any copyrighted clips from movies, TV shows, etc. if the owners simply request it. Expect an avalanche of cease-and-desist letters from a jack-booted army of lawyers to be delivered to the Google head office via a caravan of forklifts any day now. It shouldn't be too long before every video you might have ever wanted to seek out on YouTube will be pulled down to avoid the greatest shitstorm of infringement lawsuits since the sharks played seek-and-destroy with Napster.
For me, personally, that will suck because it will shut off the only outlet I have to see all those cartoons I wrote last year. Okay yes, I've been watching them in Spanish, but it's possible I wrote the screenplays in Spanish in the first place. I really don't remember, it's been awhile.
By the time the lawyers have picked YouTube clean, the only clips left will be all that homemade dreck the users upload. And really, there's a limit to how many lip synchings, vomitings, and epic two part zit squeezings I need to see. Sure, the world's largest online collection of self-humiliation video footage is a treasure to be held near and dear by all of humanity, but I don't think I'd cough up twenty bucks for it, never mind 1.6 billion.
October 09, 2006 03:21The Transportation Hub Of The Universe
On my recent trip to Vancouver, I also took the time to infiltrate Bridge Studios for various business and stalker-related purposes. Bridge Studios is home to three ongoing projects of paramount importance to world pop culture. Both Stargates, SG1 and Atlantis, shoot there. And although I've never seen a complete episode of either, that didn't stop me from taking an extended tour of the set during everybody's lunch hour. I snapped off a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos of anything and everything that struck my fancy.
"They let you do that?" I was later asked.
No. But no one was there to stop me. And in the end, isn't that what's really important in life?
Fun fact: Bridge Studios is thusly named because it used to be owned and operated by Dominion Bridge, Canada's predominant bridge-building company originally founded in my home town of Lachine, Quebec.
For all you Stargate fans, I'll just say: yes. Of course I crossed through both stargates. And they really do work. However it seems at the time of my visit they were both configured to send travelers to Burnaby B.C., so my tour of the known universe was somewhat limited.
The third pop-culture event Bridge Studios houses is the meteoric career of Uwe Boll. Celebrated far and wide as the worst filmmaker working today, he shoots all his videogame-based box-office atrocities on the premises. Right now, he's working on Postal, which promises to be an even bigger shitstorm than previous outings like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and BloodRayne.
Fun fact: The original Lachine branch of Dominion Bridge operated for many decades and, aside from constructing many famous spans, worked my grandfather to death in 1942.
Some years ago, my name was bandied about as a writer who might be able to do a quickie post-production rewrite on Alone in the Dark to help it make sense…any sense at all. It never happened and the film went out as-is, disappointing video game fans far and wide and helping bury Christian Slater's career once and for all. A special supplemental movie-night screening of Alone in the Dark was arranged at Eric's one evening, and I was astounded to see the relatively short running time of 96 minutes put the entire room to sleep before the first hour was up. I'm not claiming any sort of voice-over exposition I might have been able to provide could have saved the movie. But perhaps, just perhaps, it might have made audiences ask "What's going on?" one or two times less.
I was hoping to run into "Dr. Boll" on the studio lot or at the nearby production offices so I could rub shoulders with film history, but he wasn't around that day. He was probably down at the gym training hard for his Uwe Boll versus His Critics promotional boxing match that was scheduled for a future date. That future date has come and gone, and you can watch former semi-pro boxer Uwe kick the crap out of several rank amateur, out-of-shape internet hacks on Youtube. There's also an interesting account of the wondrous experience that was getting the crap kicked out of you by Ed Wood Jr.'s heir apparent on Ain't-It-Cool-News (scroll down the talkback to "Lowtax's comments on fight.") Don't worry, Uwe didn't beat up Harry. It was some other internet hack who took the thrashing.
My disappointment in failing to meet Herr Boll was alleviated only a day later when, to my delight, I watched him mount the stage at the Elan Awards to present one of the categories. I didn't hear much of what he had to say. My table was too busy making sarcastic remarks about all the presenters to listen. But I did note that he took pains to plug the hell out of his boxing match before reading off the nominees.
You go Uwe! If more filmmakers out there admitted their whole career was a bad joke it would be a better industry all around.
Damn, still stuck in this galaxy.
If you watch the show, you've seen this generic village set redressed a thousand times and shot from every conceivable angle.
Uwe (left) presents some video game category or other at the Elans. No, he didn't exchange fisticuffs with his co-presenter.
October 07, 2006 04:42Cartoon Jamboree
As mentioned, a whole new round of Pucca has been ordered up by Jetix and scripting should begin in only a matter of days. But that's not the only cartoon work that's keeping me busy. I'm currently working on Ricky Sprocket, Showbiz Boy, a new series from the creators of Bob and Margaret. Poking fun at the Hollywood machine so famous for swallowing child actors whole seems an obvious fit for me. So far I'm under contract for two, but we'll see if I can snag any more before all the first season slots are filled.
More of my recent cartoon work has cropped up on the web, this time legitimately. March Entertainment has a second website that has started hosting episodes of Yam Roll. One of mine – Secret Roommate Man – was selected to be among the first three offered to the steaming public. Split into two parts, you can find it and other Yam Roll adventures here. Merchandise tie-ins are promised in the near future and I'll have to decide if I want my very own Yam Roll plush toy to commemorate my time spent in the Happy Kingdom.