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Calgary

Sympathy for the derpvil.

Having just come back from a trip to Spain (more on that later), I’d been experiencing some post-trip malaise. I’m sure the feeling is familiar – where you become convinced that life should consist exclusively of sitting around sun-dappled cafes, drinking white wine from tiny glasses and wearing linen shirts.

However, Calgary is fully not cooperating with my mood, and keeps dragging me back to feeling good. This has been doubly impressive as I managed to come home from Spain with an extra souvenir in the form of a burst appendix, which led to a week in the hospital and a further week off recuperating.

It’s easy to forget that Cowtown brings the thunder in the summer. I’m not sure if it’s because of Calgary 2012, or just the continuing maturation of the city into a place where real people may actually want to live their lives, but the overlapping festivals, cultural events, random street parties and beautiful weather is really doing a number on my badditude. As much as I occasionally rag on Calgary because it isn’t Montreal or Vancouver or Paris, it has its own unique charms and lord knows I’m keen to defend it when other people criticize.

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Nose Hill is a deathtrap. Have you met a deer? Chuck Norris could have a baby with a Tomahawk Cruise Missile and it would be less deadly.

This has been particularly acute since the arrival of the Nose Hill Gentleman. For the six people who read this blog, you probably already know about this guy, but if you don’t – Walt Wawra, a cop from Kalamazoo and apparently not a character from a Dr. Seuss book despite his name and residence, recently had an encounter with a couple of young guys in Nose Hill Park that compelled him to write a letter to the Herald. These two apparently asked Wally Wubbles if he had been to the Stampede yet. To be clear for the non-Calgarians, this is the equivalent of asking someone in London if they’ve been to the Olympics. It is the equivalent of asking a Torontonian if you have felt smug yet. It is the equivalent of asking a Syrian if they are nervous.

What I’m trying to articulate is that it’s a pretty commonplace question. However, Winnifred Westeros apparently took this question as an aggressive act, and responded (after the two asked the question again) that he and his wife had no reason to talk to them and then walked away, to the admitted bewilderment of the two young men. There’s been some disagreement about whether these two guys were actually simply asking the question or were somehow giving out free passes to the grouds, but so far this is just an example of how a cultural difference may lead to some misunderstandings.

Then things get wonky. Waterhouse Wiggles’ response was to pine for the handgun he had carelessly left in his home in Kalamazoo, as he would have felt safe with it in his possession. This led to an internet explosion, with coverage on news sites including all the major national papers in Canada, Gawker and a Twitterspaz of derision. I have to admit that I was right there along with the majority of Calgarians and Canadians in condemning Wilhelm Wonka for his ignorance and passion for shootin’ from the hip, both literally and figuratively.

However, as the dogpile has continued, I’ve been thinking about that difference in attitude between Wifflebat Wowee and myself. I was just in a foreign country, too, and there were times when I felt a bit uncomfortable or worried that the person I was talking to maybe didn’t have the best intentions. Just because I didn’t feel the compulsion to pull out my nine and start blastin’ suckas doesn’t mean that my sense of dislocation and embarrassment at not being able to understand everything that was going on around me wasn’t real.

You know what’s real for Windshield Washerfluid? MUUUURRRRRRDAAAA. Everything is made better with a little Ja Rule

As a cop in Kalamazoo, he is dealing with a homicide rate of 0.12/1000 residents. Pretty low, right? In a city of 76,000 people, that’s nine murders a year.

Calgary had 8 murders last year. In a city of 1.1 million people. That’s a rate of 0.007/1000.

A visit to the Kalamazoo public safety website reveals something startling; the pages are dominated by guns. Guns are everywhere. The website’s FAQ is revealing – of the top ten questions asked, eight are related to firearms. They had an officer shot and killed in the line of duty last year. The local Fox affiliate that keeps a running Faces of Meth section on their site, conveniently listed under their /entertainment section. This is a very, very different world than Nose Hill Park on a sunny summer afternoon. My neighbourhood had one reported incident of crime last year – one. Somebody broke into a car on the street about six blocks from my place during a house party. That’s all we’ve got. Our community policing representative was the Calgary Police Service’s version of the Maytag repairman.

As much as Calgary should have its hosannas sung for being safe, the culture in the city is (at least compared to some places we visited in Spain) as paranoid as Kalamazoo. Bilbao’s homicide rate is half of Calgary’s. It is, apparently, entirely normal for women to meet people at a bar and then hop in their car afterward for a drive through the countryside with zero expectation of something nefarious happening. Canadians pat themselves on the back for being polite and friendly, but I’d never encountered anything like Marivi and Bilbao Greeters. We are talking about a service wherein a person comes to your hotel, takes you for a customized guided tour of the city and flat-out refuses any form of payment whatsoever. It was like having Batman as a tour guide or something.

The gang with Marivi, Dustin liked her so much I think he started calling her “Mom”.

I’d say we still have a long way to go in the we-rule-at-friendly category, but I’m not saying that Walter White gets a pass. He is, after all, the living, breathing stereotype of ‘Murrica made flesh – but the guy has led a very different life than I have, and apparently in a very different culture. As much as we love to give America the ol’ facepalm, I can’t help but feel like we still have a ways to go to build the sense of community that I think really makes a place special, and not a place where we need to lock our doors and oil our guns to feel safe.

I’d say Calgary’s doing a pretty damn fine job this year so far. I hope it just keeps getting better.

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Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument – finally decided by Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart.

Okay, by their action figures, but still.

Wait for 1:46 for the rare but beautiful Double Picard Facepalm.

There is literally nothing better in this world than this video.

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Calgary

My three things for Calgary.

New Years’ resolutions are horrible. Not only does it make the gym unbelievably busy for a month until everyone falls off the wagon and starts taking baths in bacon fat again, you end up unconsciously assessing yourself every time someone asks you what your resolutions are. This leads to the sort of introspection that is dangerous; I’m never very sure I want to actually know what I think of myself and what needs to change. It’s a bit like that moment in The Ring when the lady opens up the closet door and oh my God I’m freaking out just thinking about it.

After feeling like a walking disasterpiece for most of the last two years, watching my self-regard slide downward in rough parallel with my weight and anxiety spiralling upward, I’ve decided to make a number of changes to how I’ve been living my life. It really began with a change in job – as of November 1 I’ve been the Web Communications Officer for Mount Royal University, escaping the vortex of PwC and moving into an environment and role much better suited to my skills and temperament. Finally leaving PwC gave me some perspective and helped me see where my day-to-day and long-term priorities had really stopped reflecting the things that mattered to me. I’ve been extremely lucky to have an incredibly supportive wife who is as eager to see me move forward as I am.

Among my 1600 goals for 2012 (consistent trips to the gym, completing my outstanding course work, cutting down on drinkingHAHAHAHAWHOAMIKIDDING), I’m focused on rekindling my passion for public life. To keep me happy, stimulated and fulfilled, my world can’t just be work, family, friends and Meak. Part of that energy that I have needs to be devoted to the world at large – to politics and policy.

For someone who spends a significant portion of his day scouring Google Reader for news on Canadian politics and trying to cram as much policy wonkitude and information into my face-hole as I can manage, I’ve become increasingly disaffected with actually doing anything when it comes to public life. Since the volunteering for the Liberal Party during the pray-for-death results of the 2006 Federal Election (in which I stood out in -25°c weather getting spat on by engineers for a piece of legislation that was passed before I was born), I have been essentially hiding underneath the bed when it has come to politics in Canada. Living in a Tory-blue province like Alberta, watching the Liberal Party go through a revolving door of leaders and generally feeling like Canada has become a slowly-deflating hot air balloon of recycled American legislation and head-in-the-sand back-patting hasn’t helped.

However, just like in a clichéd Hollywood film, just when all hope is lost – a new hope emerges. In this case, Calgary’s Luke Skywalker has been a purple-clad Mount Royal professor-turned-Twitter-machine-turned-Mayor, Naheed Nenshi. Early on, Nenshi’s brand of pragmatism coupled with refreshing honesty was attractive, and his ideas for a better Calgary were compelling. I love my home town, and despite its countless horrors and near-sighted obeisance to new home development, there are real, manageable things to do that can make the city (and world) a better place.

For this year, I’ve decided to start small. In many ways, the ways that Canadians interact with their government isn’t at the Federal level – it’s at the provincial and municipal. As a PoliSci nerd, it has been easy for me to think that what matters is the big, global stage, the clash of world powers, the grand narratives of nations, but for most citizens government is about roads and schools, parks and hospitals. In many ways it is the Polis, the city-state, that dictates and potentially enriches the lives of citizens.

The Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee apparently thinks so, too. They’ve launched an initiative called 3 Things for Calgary, where every citizen is encouraged to:

  1. Think about 3 Things you can do to make Calgary better. These things could be for your street, your neighbourhood or for the entire city.
  2. Do those 3 Things.
  3. Encourage 3 more people to do the same.

So this year, I’m doing my 3 things. More than anything, I want to use these things to get me out of the house, to build a better community and know that I’m contributing in a meaningful way to the lives of my fellow Calgarians.

  1. Join my local community association. Already done. The Parkdale Community Association’s executive had a hole, and they’ve been kind enough to give me a shot at filling it. Say hello to the Director – Communications for the PCA, whose responsibilities include, but are not limited to, editorial oversight on the community newsletter, establishing and maintaining a web presence for the PCA to help articulate and deliver our services to the community and acting as the mouthpiece during our ongoing dispute with a tenant who seems to believe that they have the right in perpetuity to a portion of the community association without having to pay for it.
  2. Engage in Calgary’s local cultural scene. I love going to live shows, readings, plays and other events in this city. Committing to do this more is an easy sell for me, since it puts me in contact with things and people I enjoy and this year Calgary is the Cultural Capital of Canada. If there was ever a time for me to get involved and check new things out, it’s going to be this year. Also, Sled Island is being co-curated by Andrew Fucking W.K. I’m taking the whole four days off to PARTY HARD. 
  3. Write more. Here. About Calgary. I love my blog. I think about it all the time, about what I should write about, and then I get frozen in terror that I’m going to write something dumb or too long or embarrassing and I end up doing nothing. This is unacceptable. So now I’ll write about whatever, but especially about Calgary. About the things I care about in the city, about the cool stuff I see or want people to know about. Resatarunt reviews, plays, stupid photos, whatever. It’s going on here.

Anyhoo, that’s the dream – the vision. I sure hope it works out. We’ll see.

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Oh, Sister(s).

It has been an amazingly busy (and great) summer. As the cold, iron grip of another busy season at my work continues to tighten ’round my throat, I wanted to stop and write about one of the best moments of the summer for me.

My cousin Missy got married on September 10th to her girlfriend Amelia. Unfortunately for Amelia, I can’t call her Amelia, because I got introduced to her as Ed and ever since then she’s been Ed (or Edmazelington, for short – why that is apt, I’ll get into later). Why Ed? Well, there’s any number of reasons.

Missy and Ed let me stay at their place for a couple of days before their rehearsal, and having gone through the whole wedding thing not that long ago, I gotta say – they handled the whole thing like champs. It was just awesome to see them both so relaxed and happy through a really emotional, crazy and busy time. I know that weddings are supposed to be these times of joy and great feelings, and they are, don’t get me wrong – but they also happen to be a terrifying crucible that uses the white-hot flame of emotions to forge people (and families) together. People get burned by that heat, there is pain involved. Goddamn it was strange to watch it happening to someone else, not only because it makes you feel less alone, but somehow getting married turned me into the world’s biggest wuss when it comes to weddings. Case in point – my Grandfather sings one verse of one song a capella at the wedding and I dissolve into a puddle of tears that takes me half an hour to recover from. OH FUCK I AM CRYING AGAIN LISTENING TO THAT FUCKING SONG ON YOUTUBE.

Missy is three years older than me and we grew up together until her family moved away to Minnesota, just before I started elementary school. We were raised in that classic Ukrainian way, where everyone in the family just sort of communally raises each other’s kids. It’s convenient, because it means you can share the burden, giving you plenty of opportunities for smoke breaks and a chance to refill your wine glass. I’ve always considered her to be less a cousin and more a sister, and growing up a sensitive and pretty friendless only child it was really her and my cousin Kyle that were my siblings, my best friends, and the only people who really made me feel like it was okay to be whatever the hell it was I was. Our family has gone through some crap over the years, but I’ll say this – my cousins have always stuck with each other. Even when some of us (read: me) acted like jerks, there’s always a hand out and an understanding word when it really matters. Also, Missy has terrified some ex-girlfriends. For someone who weighs about as much as my left leg, she comes off like Ray Lewis coming at a dude when she wants to.

However, Missy still acted like my sister, and like all decent, upstanding older sisters she tried to drown me in the pool and tied me up and left me in the basement with the Casio keyboard demo going for 2 hours playing a MIDI version of “Little Red Corvette” . When I was 5 she told me there was no Santa Claus.

Missy learned the first rule - deny, deny, deny - early. Photo credit to my Auntie Karen and pajama credit to my Mom.

 

There are a lot of stories about this kind of thing for Missy and I, and for years I’ve teased her about how she used to push me around.There’s no question – Missy was older than me, she was cooler than me, and she sure as shit was smarter than I was, so I had better get the hell in line. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with Missy, even now, would totally get what I’m saying. She has this incredible energy and charisma that just seems to bend reality around her. She is hard not to love.

One of the tasks I had before the wedding was to dig through all of our family’s old scrapbooks, looking for photos to use in their slide show. Missy and I were both the first kids in our family, and mother of God our parents loved to take photos of us. So many of those photos are of us together, and we were unbelievably adorable.

Photo by Karen
Please note how I fail at praying. I do, however, look like I'm about to crane-kick the fuck out of someone (please note that someone was most likely my cousin Kyle)

 

What is crazy is that in every photo of us when I’m not looking at the camera, I’m looking at Missy. I can actually remember my Mom shouting Colin, look at the camera at me, when I was busy just staring at Missy, looking for the next thing she was going to do that I was going to copy. That pure adoration was born of a real love for a girl that I always looked up to, who always seemed so cool and forthright and sure of herself even when she probably didn’t feel that way. Missy’s the reason I thought it was totally normal for an 8-year-old boy to take jazz dance, why I played and sang Me and Bobby McGee in front of the entire school in elementary despite a near-complete lack of talent, why I joined choir and football at the same time. I saw Missy doing this stuff, thought that seemed like a great idea, and did it. Some of that stuff was hard, son. I got teased pretty bad, but it was never enough to make me quit; I always thought to myself “Missy did this crap, and she is way cooler than everyone I know, so she’s gotta be on to something.” The best thing is that she was; if I hadn’t learned how to dance, I probably would never have met my wife. And there were a lot of cute girls in choir.

For the past few years I’ve had the chance to see that same amazing girl finding and falling in love with someone who is just so easy to adore – so clever and thoughtful, so giving of her energy and time and willing to commit herself fully to what she loves. And Ed performs in drag as Ferris Bueller.

Watch this video. There will be a quiz later re: my cousin’s cameo. Failure will result in immediate violence.

I just want to thank Ed so much for finding Missy, for loving my amazing cousin so openly and beautifully and for being someone new to adore, and to thank Missy for bringing a new sister into my life. I love them both so much.

Photo Credit to Tim Bonham.
Photo Credit to Tim Bonham.
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Oh, dear, sweet summertime – you make me fail at blogging.

Hi blog! Remember me? Big ups to Rhett Soveran for absolutely nailing the fact that blogging during the summer is made of poison.

Work is finally slowing down after a totally crazy spring, and it’s been nice to take some time off and visit some really pretty country and celebrate Nesi and I’s first year anniversary. Kelowna and Penticton were both just amazing, and wine touring was a blast. We tried some really amazing wines and came back with quite a few bottles as well. Laughing Stock vineyards produces some totally amazing wines, including their Portfolio 08, which might have been one of the best reds I’ve ever tasted. Huge points on the design front, too, as they have some of the most distinct and coherent branding I’ve ever seen (which may have impacted my feelings about the wine, embarrassingly). It was such a pleasure to just hop in our car and cruise from vineyard to vineyard, soaking up some sun (and a few glasses of Pinot Gris), meeting the people at the vineyards who were all very nice and (with the exception of Mission Hill) really genuine. Mission Hill had that vibe where you kept expecting everything that you read or saw was appended with TM or ©.


Of course, the bastards do get to live in a fucking fairytale, so I guess a bit of zombie-speak is probably the price they pay.

Unfortunately things haven’t been entirely magical this summer in the pet department, as our poor kitty Meak satisfied his fever for earplugs with yet more earplugs, which resulted in an obstruction at the point where his stomach connected to his large intestine. If you can imagine the way that a rubber stopper plugs a bottle of wine, you’ve got it. Poor Meakles couldn’t pass anything out of his stomach, and he had to get surgery to remove it.


O HAI. I HAZ A OWIE, BUT NOW I’M WURTH LIKE 2 SWEET LAPTOPS.

Poor guy ended up getting an infection, which led to some awesome medieval medicine-style shit. We had to apply hot compresses to his incision to draw out the putrescence, which made me feel like I should have been wearing a robe and reciting eldritch incantations by candlelight. Meak just purred the whole way though it, which may have been related to the fact that he got to take his cone off. Meak vs. the cone was basically a nonstop comedy classic, as the absence of functional whiskers made it kind of impossible to navigate without bumping into everything while transforming him into EmoMeak, whose favorite band is clearly My Chemical Romance. 

He’s all better, now, and back to being an asshole and peeing on our bed every time I don’t let him outside often enough which I am supposed to say is a good thing. The cone was frickin’ funny though.

Anyway, I solemnly swear to do some more of this stuff before the end of the summer, and probably with more of a point than this post. Hope you’re having a great summer wherever you are.

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Oh god, blogfail

Driving through the Okanagan, I saw the WordPress app on my phone and remembered I had a blog. Sorry, dear reader! And by “reader”, I obviously mean my Mom. Thanks Mom!

20110625-104632.jpg

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I, for one, welcome our new Fembot overlords.

I’ve been listening to the new Britney Spears album at a clip that is completely embarrassing.  Sometime on the bus ride home last night I was struck by how every pop starlet can be summarized by their relationship to the words “fuck” and “awesome”. What, do I mean? See below. Is this an April fools joke? No, I actually frantically wrote this down so I wouldn’t forget. Does that make me a giant loser? Probably, but I thought of it first so screw you.

The Madonna Theory of Fuckawesome

Every female pop star’s image and music can be summarized by their relationship between “fuck” and “awesome”. Using a combination of these two words, you can summarize any For examples, please see below (credit to Jody Rosen of Slate for the genesis of this idea re: Beyonce)

The new Britney Spears album is amazing. It’s as if she took elements of everyone above, went to her producers and said – I WANT THAT ONE. The weird thing about it, at least to my ear, is that it doesn’t sound derivative. It just makes you realize how much this batch of pop stars aped from Britney (and, of course, Madonna before her). And some of the tracks are off the chaiiin, yo. I could listen to the dubstep dance break on “Hold it Against Me” 700 times in a row and still find new, weird shit going on. It’s so amazing that while we all bitch and whine about how derivative and samey some of this music is, some of it is just so amazing. The producers on these tracks deserve so much credit for that. Dr. Luke alone has created so much of the pop music on the radio these days, it’s ridiculous, and props to him – you know he placed a bet with Max Martin a couple of years ago that he could turn anyone into a pop star, no matter how dumb, trashy and strange-looking they are. And now we have Ke$ha.

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Remaking or Covering Psycho?

I was reading Don Delillo’s White Noise a little while ago; the story is bookended by two scenes in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. They discuss a real-world piece of art, 24-hour Psycho by Douglas Gordon. The piece is basically Hitchcock’s original, slowed down to two frames per second, so the film takes literally 24 hours to watch from end-to-end. The book discusses how the alteration of the movie has an effect on the viewer that combines the distortion of time with the contemplation of individual frames, a sort of slideshow that disrupts the suspense in the film but replaces it with a different kind of feeling:

The less there was to see, the harder he looked, the more he saw. This was the point. To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to what is happening in the smallest registers of motion.

This got me thinking about the way canonization happens – how certain bits of art become permanent, mandatory components of our cultural language while others seem to wither and desiccate until they vanish. Psycho is a legendary movie – considered influential and terrifying, even to modern audiences. A movie with that much resonance carries with it a huge amount of expectation upon viewing. Here’s what’s weird – I like Psycho, but the movie is actually kind of ruined for me. It’s ruined because the first time I saw it wasn’t the original Hitchcock version – it was the 1998 remake. Now, the remake is pretty unique because it is shot-for-shot – literally every scene is blocked and shot identically to the original, with different actors and slightly different sets. And it is just awful.

There are so many things wrong with Psycho 1998 – Anne Heche fills the role of Janet Leigh’s character, and displays that strange Hecheiness she has that makes you think she is the human-form representative of a race of oatmeal-based life forms that are due to invade our planet at any moment. There are some god-awful bits of CGI that fill in for when Lars Von Trier couldn’t find a faithful adaptation of the original set or characters. As bad as those are, however, nothing compares to the horror (and not in a good way) of Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. I know that Vince was once considered a respected dramatic actor, but watch this scene and tell me you don’t think at some point he’s going to go off about maple syrup or motorboating.

Honestly, it’s funny how 20 pounds heavier makes him 137% funnier.

What’s so crazy about film is how you just can’t cover it. Remakes of originals in film just seem derivative or outright copies. I’ve been trying to think of an example of a great movie “cover”, and I just can’t think of one.

So what is it with music that makes it more prone to covering? Lord knows there are some terrible covers (and cover bands) out there, and people are going to have great music tainted by bad covers the same way that Psycho got tainted for me. Last Friday I saw a band at the Rose and Crown whose interpretations of terrible 90’s songs were primarily built around replacing all instances of the words “women” or “lady” with “bitches” or “bitch”. This, sadly, was not performance art.

Meanwhile, covering a song can do all sorts of amazing things to your regard for the original. Jose Gonzalez’s covers of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” and “Teardrop” by Massive Attack strip the songs of their electro sheen and expose the songwriting and melodies underneath. Sinatra’s covers of Broadway standards added layers of sadness and heartache to songs that were deeply unpopular with the cool kids. Then there’s Owen Pallet’s covers of Mariah Carey.

Isn’t that what’s so great about covers? It’s like Delillo said about 24-Hour Psycho – by altering the song, changing its basic formulations, remixing, editing and playing with the originals, you not only get a new piece of art, you get a piece of commentary on the original that forces the listener to consider what it is about the original that is changed and what is the same – the “songiness” of the song. What I love about the time we live in is you don’t have to wait for canonization or critical commentary before tracks are getting ripped up, changed, altered and remixed. By giving artists license to use bits and bobs of other people’s work, we are creating an amazing feedback loop on our own culture at an unprecedented rate. There’s a fear of what this means for our culture, that originality is dead and we are just going to reuse our own detritus over and over again until it is devoid of meaning. And who knows – maybe that’s true, but as long as I’m getting James Blake’s Dubstep remake of “Limit to Your Love” by Feist, I’m an incredibly happy camper.

Seriously, watch and listen to this, preferably with some good headphones or some badass subwoofer around. Or just buy the album. It’s incredible, strange and awesome.

 

 

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How my Stepdad is like CBC Radio.

When I was 14 and my parents divorced, there didn’t seem to be a lot of things that were really kickass going on in my life. I was an incredibly awkward kid with few friends. I had pretty much stopped playing sports outside of gym, and I went to a school where the value was less on core academics and more on String Art. In String Art, you banged tiny nails into premarked pieces of wood and then carefully followed a pattern to produce art. If you can imagine a Spirograph, but 1600 times more depressing, you’ve got it.

So my parents’ marriage goes up in smoke and instantly there’s this other guy named Bill in my life, and I have to figure out what in the sweet holy hell I’m supposed to do about that. To Bill’s credit, he never tried to take on the role of “Dad” or tried to assume some kind of control over me. What Bill did do was completely change my life by just being himself.

Bill is weird. Really, really weird. I know my Mom must just stare across the dinner table at him and think how has this guy lived this long without institutionalization? I’m not sure I have the answer to that one, to be honest. Bill’s initial presentation to me could be summarized as follows:

  • Until he lived with my Mom, Bill had never in his life cleaned a toilet.
  • Bill thought suspenders were totally cool, but not in ironic way – in a hold-your-pants-up kind of way.
  • Bill seemed absolutely sure he had the right answer to any question you might have.
  • Bill could cook, and could get me to eat mostly because I wanted to seem like I was cool and unflappable when presented with food that remained alive until you swallowed.
  • Bill was obsessed with public radio.

For me, all of the above couldn’t be further from my Dad. It was like the Anti-Dad had presented himself before me, and I had to learn to negotiate that. One of the first ways I did that was through the radio.

My Mom loves her country, and so long as she was in the car or in the house, it was Country 105, nonstop, no breaks. The alternative – changing the station, thus defying her will – is still pretty unthinkable for everyone around her. To escape her All Seeing Eye, I used to run errands with Bill. Trips to the furthest depths of South Calgary, looking for a hot tub part. Trips to the Asian groceries along Centre Street, picking up bottles of Sriracha and fresh crab. The very second I got in the car, the radio was flipped to Radio One and the conversation stopped. We would sit in total silence, listening to whatever was on. The topic never mattered – with the exception of the dreaded Cross Country Checkup with Rex Murphy, aka. Canada Calls In (and you wonder how they figured out how to use the phone), silence reigned until we got out of the car. Once we parked, though, the conversation started, and that’s how I learned to love Bill.

The great thing about Bill – and CBC Radio in general – is that they’re curious. Every program is about telling you a story, or giving you a fact, or pushing you to think a little bit about something. Can you ever say that about for-profit radio? When was the last time you turned on a Top 40 station, and something happened that changed your mind about something, other than what kind of spray deodorant to mace yourself with before you hit T3H CLUBZ? When I was 14, that happened every day and just like that, I was hooked.

CBC was my first exposure to being an adult. For the next three years, I lived in a nonstop CBC Radio world, and it absolutely saved me. Bill and I would have a serious, seemingly adult conversation about what we had heard on Ideas, we would laugh together with Stuart McLean on Saturdays, and debate the politics of the day while my Mom tried to see if she could actually detach her retinas by rolling her eyes too much. Through it all, Bill treated me like a peer, not a gawky kid who had never done anything beyond placing second in a Science Fair in Grade 6 (first loser, yaay). I love Bill for that, how he trusted me to get it, the same way I love that CBC doesn’t talk down to its audience (or at least tries not to). CBC’s quirkiness – the strange hosts, the occasionally ridiculous topics (I once listened to an hour-long program on the mating habits of a type of vole that lives on Vancouver Island) – is as much a part of its character as Bill’s weirdness is a part of him. CBC has become so interwoven in the fabric of my family, my stepbrother has even been on it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about CBC lately because I’ve been looking at how things are going for Public Broadcasting in North America, and I can’t help but worry. In the States, Congress is voting to strip NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting of all federal funding tomorrow as a consequence of a secret videotape of one their primary fundraisers exposing a left-wing bias. While I understand the ideological reasoning behind it, talk about throwing out he baby with the bathwater. NPR will continue to do fine – federal funding makes up a minute percentage of its overall budget, and I will still get my All Songs Considered, Foreign Dispatch and This American Life. Meanwhile, Congress is defunding fucking Sesame Street – the goddamn program that taught me about how to respect differences and live with others – because somebody said in a private conversation that he thought the Tea Party were a bunch of racists.

In Canada, we’re not doing a whole lot better. The CBC is suffering a death by a thousand cuts at the hands of the last four Prime Ministers, with their funding dropping by an unbelievable 42% over the last two decades. Imagine trying to run your household on half the income you presently have! People can complain about the quality of CBC programming and moan about the golden years, but it doesn’t take much more than this graph to explain to me why the CBC is in trouble.

What the CBC is trying to do right now is the equivalent of asking Bill to run a triathlon after a double amputation. With another election looming, I hope that we realize what a wonderful job the CBC is doing and how grateful we should all be for having a national service that regards Canadians as equals, engaging them in a collective conversation without the expectation that they want to listen to pablum or cut-rate advertising. If the Conservatives can spend $26 Million of taxpayer dollars on a series of ads telling us what a lovely job they are doing, we can spend a bit of time telling them not to screw with the CBC.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some podcasts I need to catch up on.

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Shall we try this again?

Because I am super great at staying committed to stuff, I made this blog months ago to test out for my job; my company is using a version of Lotus Notes that still has the notch in the side for the hand-crank, and I am responsible for drafting the interoffice newsletter in a horrifying format that makes it simultaneously awful to create and even worse to read. It honestly feels like listening to the Eagles’ Greatest Hits CD on repeat while licking the bottom of your mouse until the little rubber nubs fall off. So here, I thought I would be clever and build us a private blog to use instead. The result? Analysis Paralysis, coupled with me trying to explain the internet to people whose relationship to technology is built on the backs of animated gifs of David Hasselhoff.

A perfect representation of me pitching the blog

So, yeah, decidedly mixed results.

Lately I’ve been noticing that I have some pretty great friends with some pretty great blogs, and I figured, hey – what the hell. The fantastic thing about this tool is the diverse ways that people can use it. While my last blog started out as a place for me to put my political rantings so I didn’t start doing them on the bus, it quickly devolved into 2,000-word pieces on America’s Next Top Model and coffee. I abandoned the project pretty quickly as I was getting some serious Livejournal vibes from the whole thing.

I don’t know what this is going to be, yet – I’m taking some great advice from my buddy Rhett and try to find a space and rhythm that will work for me. Anyhow, this thing isn’t ready for prime time, yet, but here’s hoping that it adds a bit of value.