Thursday, December 29, 2011

Right back where we started...

I've noticed something about "new" widescreen TVs.  (Just try and find a "new" TV with 4:3 aspect ratio.)

Once upon a time when all people had was 4:3 TV screens and movies were broadcast or shown on VHS, the films were cropped. The left and right extremes of the picture would be lopped off.  Later as more care was taken (which inevitably happened more and more as time went on and afficionados took more interest in preserving the intention of the film makers, and eventually this became the domain of the film makers - or their designates - efforts were made to use the most important portion of the image, not just the centre.  This would even mean shifting the portion of the screen that was used.  This could be anywhere from extreme left to extreme right, anywhere in between, or could even move (once technology allowed) within an edit.  This technique was known as pan and scan, and was what you got when you purchased a DVD or VHS that was labelled as "Full Screen."
Somewhere along the line snobs (Like myself, though I wasn't at all vocal about it and had no effect on the shift.) began to complain about the fact that they weren't getting the full picture, and the cry was heard.  I recall watching my widescreen VHS of Star Wars (a film I was intimately familiar with from a truly absurd number of repeated viewings) for the first time and seeing to both edges of Lucas's intended frame for the first time in years and seeing details (stormtroopers and other back ground extras mostly) I had forgotten had existed.  I was immediately sold on Widescreen.  I didn't throw any Full Screen formats I had out, but I never bought another new one.
I have little doubt that the popularity of Widescreen presentation (with those letter-boxing bands at the top and bottom of the picture) directly impacted upon the shift to 16:9 screens as HD came into the mix for regular consumers.  I expect it likely would have happened anyway, but the fact that over the course of a decade (or so?) that widescreen sales became the preference for the majority of movie purchasers (Even the rubes who initially complained about "those black bars" and how they were getting "ripped off 'cause the whole screen wasn't being used" eventually saw the percieved benefit of the fashionably vogue opportunity to see the entire picture that you would see in the theatres.) influenced the shift to widescreen hardware.
Well, guess what is happening now?  You may have noticed this yourself.
Old TV shows, presented in 4:3 originally are now being cropped (losing a portion of the top and/or bottom) to fill the entirety of a 16:9 screen.  BAH!  Would it be so bad if we just pillar-boxed them and (god forbid) GAVE US THE WHOLE PICTURE AS IT WAS INTENDED TO BE SHOWN?!!!?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Apropos of nothing, a short story I wrote last year and forgot about until now...

They thought the beef jerky would sink.

It wasn’t their first mistake of the trip. It wouldn’t be the last, but that would not be far in the future.

“Well…” muttered Kal.

“…Rats.” sighed Ernie.

“How do we get them to bite now?”

Their first mistake had been classic. They hadn’t told anyone where they were going.

The second mistake had been that they didn’t, in fact, know themselves precisely where they were.

“How deep does the water have to be before there will be decent sized fish?”

A tragic lack of expertise had been mistake number two hundred and four.

“I haven’t got a clue.”

Relying on each other’s general lack of experience was number two hundred and five. Previously it had been mistake three: “Do you know how to make this thing go?” And mistake number eighteen: “You do know how to get back don’t you?” And though the consequence had yet to manifest, it had also been mistake number two hundred and two: “That tree over the water, it ought to be a good place for us to fish from don’t you think?”

The tree in question actually did look like a perfect perch from which to catch some fish for dinner. It was healthy-looking despite its awkward angle, stretching out from the bank over the water, and there was no indication that it might not hold both of their weight. It was nothing if not sturdy. It seemed on the surface to be a perfectly good choice, but as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

They hadn’t known, for example, that when travelling in the time-stream that there was no way to return without setting a temporal anchor. Any experienced time tourist (and that’s all there was, as the inexperienced ones either came back experienced or not at all) would tell you that a temporal anchor was the single most important thing you had to do, irrespective of the era you travelled to. That had been mistake number four.

Anyone could tell you that travelling to the Cretaceous – not that they knew when they had travelled to – was one of the most fraught destinations a person could choose, definitely not for first-time-timers. That was mistake twenty one.

Kal leaned over and peered into the water.

“I think it’s pretty deep. I can’t see the bottom.”

Ernie cupped is hands around his eyes thinking it would block out the glare and make it easier to see through the deep. (Mistake two-oh-six.)

Far below them in the water, at the faint edge of their field of vision colours shifted and coiled subtlely.

“I dunno… I think maybe I can.”

Ernie was entirely wrong. It was not the bottom he was seeing (Two hundred and seven.) and if he had been looking closely enough he might have realized that what he was seeing was camouflaged, enormous and approaching the water’s surface at an ever increasing pace. Somewhere in there, the inaction that made up their passive next mistake sped right past them. Not scrambling back down the tree towards shore in that moment was arguably their most critical mistake of all.

“You know…” said Kal, “it looks like… oh my god!”

The huge jaws of the liopleurodon broke the water, spreading into a fearsome maw, snapping around Kal, crushing his last squeak of panic. As the behemoth sank back into the water, the tree bent down until it sprang loose from between the monster’s teeth, sling-shotting Ernie into the air.

He landed in the water three or four times further from shore than the pair had been when sitting on the tree. It took him several moments to kick off his hiking boots, surrender his back-pack and orient himself to the surface, where he arrived gasping and confused.

His disorientation and the shock of the moment would be reasons enough to forgive him his last mistake (two hundred and nine, putting him one ahead of Kal on the scorecard). It was after all, at this point, a rather benign error in judgment that quite frankly would not have made the least bit of difference.

“I’ve got to be able to make it to shore before something that big has a chance to turn around and find me.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Pop" Goes the Little Girl

About a year and a half ago Jodie asked me what I wanted to be called by our then gestating daughter.  I hadn’t even considered it.  I had always called my father “Dad.”  It hadn’t even really occurred to me that there were other options.  Of course I knew there were other options.  I just had never even thought that I might diverge from how I was brought up.  In a fit of whimsy I mused that it might be entertaining to use something retro, even bordering on archaic, like “Pop.”  I can’t imagine any circumstance since the days of Dennis the Menace, Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best (and honestly I don’t even know if those are good examples) where I know of that that appellate was used without a sarcastic level of irony.
I largely forgot about it for months – until December arrived – when Jodie started using it at least as much as she used “Dad.”
Yesterday evening just before sitting down to dinner Jodie asked December (as she often does) “who is that?” while pointing at me.  Typically the best responses we get are either a big smile or, if she vocalizes, it’s with the “Bap!” with which she refers to almost everything – though her vocabulary of nonsense words has been expanding around the foundation of “Bap!”  Last night she said, barely above a whisper, “Pop.”  It was tentative but clear, as though she were trying it out for the first time... which presumably she was – though perhaps she’d been practicing when we weren’t around (like that ever happens).  Both Jodie and I heard it – we were both pretty certain.  We both reacted with surprised and encouraging yelp.  Jodie prompted her again, “who is that?”  After a moment, she confidently and unambiguously declared “Pop!”
Oh how the heart melts in moments like this.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Birthday

It is your birthday today. Or rather, your birthday party. You will actually turn one year old on Monday - two days from now. I still have several hours to figure out what to write on your card, but it occurs to me that your card won't survive long the way you go at things these days and it would be nice that if manage to say something awesome that it might have some chance at posterity. ...not that I feel like anything profound is about to spring forth. It has been a very fun year, and one with a continuous cascade of change. Indeed the change began nine months earlier and by one year ago your Mum and I were nothing but ready... which really means we were ready to move forward - we weren't prepared in any way but superficially with a crib and change-pads (and a few other necessities.)
Yeah, I already miss the days when you would curl up on my chest and sleep - that didn't last long. But I wouldn't go back to trade it for the delighted Calvin-esque smile on your face when you are proud of yourself, or excited to see your Mum or I come home - even if we just ran downstairs to the market.  No doubt that small joy will morph into something else before too long.
It has gone so fast, this first year, and yet so much has happened.  It hardly seems possible from either perspective - that it could have gone so fast; or that you could have gone from a fragile ball of sleep to the non-stop walking, jabbering, explorer you have become.
I can't imagine the scope of what the next year will bring.  I only know that with Jodie finished maternity leave that things are now "normal" - whatever that means.  We can't really tell yet as the routine, such as it is, hasn't even finished one full week's rotation.  Even if it had, it will take some time to truly settle into something regular.  I can expect that you will run and climb sooner than we can possibly be ready for it and that by this time next year you will be talking in some manner.  Beyond that, I'll just be relying on the experts to tell me what benchmarks to watch fly past... though it seems usually by the time the experts are telling us to look for them you've already left them behind and are onto the next thing.
I am sure we will have a lot of fun.  That you will meet the world with a sense of wonder and glee which will be matched by my fascination at watching you experience a world of possibilities for the first time.

I love you Padawan.  I look forward to sharing your next trip around the sun with you, and now I have to go figure out what to write on your birthday card.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Voting in the Name of Discourse not Spite

I voted in favour of abolishing the HST.  45% of British Columbians have names to call me for doing so.

I was going to write about this before the referendum, but I didn't manage to squeeze it into my schedule and I didn't really expect it was going to change many opinions.

For starters, lets put my cards on the table, as best I can:

- I'm fairly left in my politics.  Less so economically than socially, but the chances of me ever voting for a Liberal who wasn't federal is pretty slim... and even that is unlikely.
- I started hating Gordon Campbell (as opposed to simply disliking him) around the time of the DUI.
- I am not an economist.
- I do work in film - one of the industries most likely to benefit from the HST.

I have no idea whether the HST is a good thing or not.  Chances are that if you do any kind of honest assessment you don't know either.  See above - I am not an economist.

In the last month or two before the referendum there was a fair bit of ink and YouTube air-time spent imploring people to not use the referendum as an opportunity to "get back" at the Liberals or Gordon Campbell.  The latter being a truly foolish idea, the former being dumb, but not as dumb as at least they are still in office.  The angriest people out there will fail to see the distinction between voting down the HST because Gordon Campbell and/or the Liberals are Satan-spawn and my actual reason... but we aren't there yet.

Is the HST good for BC?  I don't know (I am not an economist.)  But I've heard plenty of arguments from both sides and consistently both sides loft arguments with transparently un-provable premises supported by demonstrably cherry-picked data.  The HST may be good for BC.  It may not.  Unless you are an economist, you don't know either, frankly.  Even economists are divided on this, so really what do we know beyond best guesses?

I am totally open to the possibility that the HST is good for BC.  I am willing to (once we remove it) re-instate it.  (People on both ends of the political spectrum are falling victim to exploding brains right now because of that comment.)

So here's the thing.  I voted against the HST - despite being able to provide good arguments for why it was financially against my best interests - because it was the democratically correct thing to do and I hold that standard above my pocketbook.  The manner in which the HST was implemented was wrong.  Grotesquely wrong.  I would have been mad at any party who made an election promise and then turned around and flagrantly went against that promise.  We aren't talking about a party who made a promise and failed to accomplish it.  (I am quite deliberately avoiding the contention that the Libs already had significant discussions on the HST before the election.)  The Liberals said they weren't moving forward with the HST, then when the federal government ponied up 1.6 billion they moved forward against their previous - and important to the election - promise.

Think about that seriously.  What is the point of even having an election if your elected officials have free rein to behave in that manner?  Yes.  The circumstances had changed.  But in that case the right thing to do in a democracy would be to take the pulse of the electorate.  I'm not even talking about a referendum here - no need for that expense (back then) - a few town halls to get some input and to let us know that you are considering with apparently good reason to significantly change your previous stance.  The wrong answer was to implement the tax without previous warning or regard for the people who elected you.  This is fairly well established.  The everyone on the Liberal side of the aisle pretty much admits this.  It was nothing if not poorly handled.  And of course we all know that Gordon Campbell eventually resigned largely due to how poorly his ratings had dropped on account of the HST.

So, if Campbell had already paid the price then why vote down the HST?

This is really quite simple.  The government - and by that I mean the body we historically call "the government", not only now but into the future, thus not just the Liberals in power, but whomever should follow in the short or long term - need to receive the message that political process must be followed respectfully in a democracy.  And I am willing to pay a price for that point to unequivocably be made.  That means I am willing to pay my share of the roughly 3 billion dollars that changing back from HST will cost us.  I am willing to pay any loss the HST may cost in tax revenue.  I am even willing to pay to reinstate the HST (or a replacement) so long as it is put in place in a democratically acceptable fashion.  I believe that fairly executed democracy is worth paying for.  Not sending that message to now and future governments is in fact send the opposite message - condoning such behaviour.

So yes, my vote may have cost BC something.  But don't think for a second that I voted against BCs best interests.  Quite the opposite.  I voted to live in the kind of society I believe in.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Four Mind Bending Sci-Fi Films

A few months ago I read a post somewhere (no link, can't find it easily, and there are a bajillion similar) that commented on the shared DNA of four films in the past year.

It pivoted around the blockbusting Nolan epic of last summer, Inception, and went on to point out that there were three other films that fairly succesfully mined that similar fuck-with-your-head and question-your-sense-of-reality territory within following 12 months.

The follow-up films were; The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code and Limitless.

Over the past month Jodie and I watched them all (having watched Inception in the cinema as our last theatre experience before becoming parents and of course all that entails and limits).

It needs to be said that Inception is the superior film - though I must confess, that even as  big fan of Christopher Nolan, I found it a bit over-hyped.  But beyond that, yeah, all of these films are quite enjoyable and worth seeing.

I had the good fortune of knowing very little about any of these films and I will keep it that way for you.

The Adjustment Bureau as the opening credits will tell you, is based on a book by Phillip K. Dick, so if you are a fan of this sub-sub-genre of fiction you kind of already have a sense of where it might go.  Overall it's a pretty fluffy film and didn't really treat the material how I would have liked to have seen it done, but it managed to stay entertaining throughout and the worst thing I can say about it is I hated the hats.  So it passes.  Though it was my least favourite of the three.

Source Code is directed by Duncan Jones, who with this film should have earned the right to not have anyone point out on his next film that he is David Bowie's son.  I thought it gave it's secrets away too easily, and one major plot point at the 2/3rd mark is too casually handled, but overall I quite liked this film.  Duncan Jones, you make smart sci-fi.  (He also directed Moon - which apart from a CSI-Tycho fail was awesome.)  However... two quibbles: 1) There are about five minutes at the end of the film that seemed totally un-necessary to me.  As though Jones had said "here is my film" and the studio said "don't you fucking dare end it so ambiguously and play only to the smart cinema goer."  And being that the studio gets to make those calls there is another five minutes that ties everything up far too neatly and kind of patronizingly.  2) What the hell was Jeffery Wright thinking?  My guess is that somewhere along the line he has got the message that people like the Jeffery Wright mannerisms and that he should cram every single trick and twitch he has in his toolkit into every scene.  That seems to be what he is doing here - like he is playing a characterization of Jeffery Wright.  But seriously, I quibble.  I suspect that Jodie would say that this was her least favourite of the films, but I enjoyed it.

I really did not expect Limitless to come out of this battle-royale on top.  And to be fair, I don't know why it was included in this grouping of recommendations - it stands out in a "one of these things is not like the other" kind of way, though I'll spare you the specifics of why as there is some mystery involved and to say why it stands out would be to narrow the scope of the mystery.  It's fun.  It is stylish (if a bit obvious in it's visual choices).  It may be a bit pat in it's end - but unlike Source Code it wasn't betraying any promises by doing so, it simply is that kind of film.  It actually succeeds by never really trying to be more than it is.  It is smart (enough) and doesn't try to over-extend its reach as a popcorn film.  It even earns itself some forgiveness where the plotting gets stretched a bit.

All in all, if you are a fan of smart, contemporary-set, sci-fi with a healthy dash of "what the hell is going on?" (at least at first), then I can gladly recommend any of these films, or as a set as we watched them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


There is a lot to write about, and I simply don't have time.  So I'm swinging in very close to point form here...

Hockey is over for the season... if you aren't one of those people who like me pretty much feverishly follow the summer-long sequence of NHL Awards, Rookie Draft, Free Agent Signings, Training Camp, Pre-Season...and we are right back to the beginning again without there ever being any real break from hockey.

Lost game 1 (to LA) on my birthday - familiar territory.  Canucks lost their very first NHL game on my 1st birthday.
And it all got progressively better from there.
President's Trophy, bitches.

Chicago - monkey off our back... and boy was it exciting what a squeaker that was.  I dropped my beer in the Cambie floor when Burrows sunk that puck.  UNFUCKINGBELIEVEABLEGOALIE #1 - Corey Crawford.
Nashville - probably the series that actually did us in.  Too many games.  Too much overtime.  Too much hard work.  But we prevailed and slayed UNFUCKINGBELIEVEABLEGOALIE #2 - Pekka Reinne.
San Jose - How many ways can you say "out-classed"?  They are a good team.  But they play our game, and we simply play it WAY better. UNFUCKINGBELIEVEABLEGOALIE #3 (the remaining piece of the Chicago demon) - Antti Niemi.

A solid start, but in the end it is all about UNFUCKINGBELIEVEABLEGOALIE #4 - A.K.A. Tim Thomas. I hate that, but I respect it. He tallied a very serious contender for the greatest season any goalie has ever had and beating us in seven games raised the performance to even greater heights.  If he were playing any other team I'd have been saying his name in awe instead of as if it were an epithet.
...and the refi-ing seemed a bit lop-sided.
Game 3: 8-1... yeah that sucked.  But there was a lot of fluke in those 8 goals... even if you take those flukes out, we still lost by a good margin.
Game 4: 4-0 (Mark-I) Thomas.  That's all there is to say.  Tim Thomas.
Game 6: My now the ref-ing was feeling lop-sided.  (Though it never reached the absurdity of game 6 v. Chicago.)  And the Canucks kind of beat themselves on this one.  Two goals could have been enough...if Boston scored four less.

The fairest game of the whole series and we lost it fair and square.  I am surprizingly comfortable with that.  Disappointed?  Yeah, sure.  But game 7 was a pretty clean loss... which despite the fact that we shouldn't have ever got to game 7 acutally made losing it somehow more palatable. 
I had plans as to how I was personally going to make "THIS IS STANLEY-TOWN!!!" a local meme.  I guess I'll save it for next year.  Speaking of which, one thing that will not happen next year... this morning I shaved off my first and only playoff beard.  Damned thing drove me nuts towards the end.

Much has been said.  They were Canucks fans.  They weren't Canucks fans.  It is a sign of the times not a sign of hockey or our city.  It was the Black Bloc.  It was several dozen guys plus on-lookers.  It was thousands.  They were planning it all along - win or lose.  It was mostly 20 something guys from the 'outlying municipalities... or not.  Well whatever, it happened.  We lost the game, and we lost our dignity.
Quietest night on my street since May.  That was nice.  So was the "kissing couple."

I sat at home in front of the computer participating as best I could with the on-line Citizen policing efforts which continue today.  Damn some of those guys are dumb.  They are getting what they deserve.
I was ultimately more actual use I think in the morning when Jodie and December and I went out and joined in the clean up.  We were there before most people got to work and already the lion's share had been done.  We still got our part in, and I got lots of pictures.  I hope the world recognizes this part of the story as clearly as the riot.  Most of us here are disgusted and mad, but very happy to be a part of the spirit that responded to last night's stupidity.

We are going to bring home a lot of hardware at the NHL awards.
NEVER in Canucks history has "there's always next year" held so much real currency.
Start naming skilled teams who failed to win the cup one year but came back for righteous revenge the next year.  Here's the answers from my lifetime: Edmonton (83-84), Detroit (94-95), Pittsburgh (08-09) I think we have the raw materials to be one of those teams.

If the only thing that matters is the Stanley Cup, then our season was no better than the worst team in the league (cough - Edmonton - cough). I beg to differ.
Art Ross.
Nominations (and wins TBD) out the ying-yang: Hart, Vezina, Selke, Adams, Lindsay, Foundation & GM.
President's Trophy.
Western Conference Champions.
Highest goals for.
Lowest goals against.
Best power play.
#1 & 5 assist scorers league wide.
#1 & 4 point scorers league wide.
#2 +/- player league wide.
#1 Powerplay scorer.
#1 Shooting percentage (that is a bit of a joke - Mario Bliznak had one shot and he scored on it.)
It has been one awesome season of hockey.

See you on Granville Mall.

One Exhausting Step Away

(Hmmm... for some reason this didn't post four days ago when I thought I had.... probably mental exhaustion.  I could pretend I never wrote it now that the Canucks have failed to win the Stanley Cup... but that would be disingenuous.)

I haven't played 24 high stakes games of one of the most physically punishing games on earth over the past two months, and I am exhausted.
For reasons not entirely divorced from the Stanley Cup playoffs I am approaching the limits of my endurance. This is in turn has burned my emotional state down to the ragged end of the wick. I wouldn't want to exist in this state for much longer, but for the moment it is exhilarating.
We live downtown - close enough to the arena that when we lived on the other side of the building, games on TV were spoiled by the noise from the arena. Stupid TV delay.
Now, every few nights, we host a raucous celebration eight floors below our bedroom. I'm not complaining. I've celebrated too, I am over the moon, so are 100000 other fans downtown creating our own Blue Mile. I would never take this away from them.
On top of that I am working two jobs, producing a DVD, planning a DVD release party, had a piece of titanium inserted in my jaw last week, out of necessity rode my bike up hill for an hour and a half (no exaggeration) yesterday (first ride in months), and on top of it all I still have no idea how to sanely schedule my life around being a parent.  I am wiped out.

Every year as the playoffs begin I allow myself several moments of imagination, thinking about what it would be like to watch the Canucks hoist the Stanley Cup. And every year the dame thing happens. I experience a moment of overwhelming emotion which I quell - disallowing myself the full faux experience - only to later experience the all too familiar hollow feeling of yet another year of disappointment.

But this year we just keep going.  It's fucking glorious. But it is getting a bit embarrassing.  As we step closer and closer to winning - now closer than we have ever been - and as my fatigue makes my emotional state increasingly prone to fragility I find it harder and harder to control those fleeting moments where I seriously consider the possibility of the Canucks as Stanley Cup champions.
I have to concentrate at work today to keep from thinking momentary thoughts that are betrayed in my voice.

I'm not ashamed of feeling this way. Indeed, I am revelling in it. Should tonight we unite Stanley's Cup with his park, or should it be Wednesday, it will never feel like this again. Not in my lifetime. No matter how many times we win. So I may as well be experiencing this from a position of scant emotional control - to go all the way.

As it is said. History will be made.

See you on Granville Mall.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I, For One, Believe We have Done It

I had about half my voice yesterday from screaming so hard the previous night. From where I sat last night under the big screen at the Cambie it appeared that Vancouver was losing its mind.

With good reason.

The Canucks were finally winning a playoff game in the manner we'd been expecting all post season. But I think there was something else in the air. Not the collective hate-on for Ben Eager's appalling sportsmanship, nor reactions to the lass who showed us there is a new bra-size on the market with Stanley Cups.

I think we all suddenly saw our future. The one where the last 40 years are behind us. The one where Vancouver is not only home to Lord Stanley's Park, but his coveted Cup as well.

"Whoa whoa whoa! Those chickens ain't hatched. We still need six wins. It's the playoffs, anything can happen."

Yes. You are absolutely right. But go with me a moment. Look ahead 6-12 games to the night that I imagine I'll be crying tears of joy and Granville & Robson looks a lot like it did on February 28 2010. We will look back at Tuesday's game as the point where it all fell into place.

The only people who think the remaining Eastern Conference teams stand a chance against either of the top two Western teams, wear Tampa and Boston jersey either professionally or recreationally. (Though Chara and Thomas will put up a better fight.) And a 2-0 lead in the Conference final is nearly insurmountable. The Sharks are showing no sign of having a miracle comeback in them, and the San Jose news outlets are singing a defeatist tune that would have sounded all too familiar to Canucks fans not long ago. In other words, the real battle for the Stanley Cup moves to the HP Pavilion tonight, and we seriously have the upper hand. Indeed a 4 or 5 game series while the East hammer each other for 6 or 7 will all but seal the deal.

What I am saying is that if the team sticks to the game plan, and doesn't act with laissez-faire entitlement, we have turned the corner. Tuesday night, in the back of every Canucks fan's heart was the knowledge that with that game we had most likely won the Stanley Cup.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Meta Monster

When I look at my own art there is a recurring aspect which crops up over and over again; the element of meta.

What do I mean by "meta"?  Well its art which in some fashion acknowledges that it is art and in effect looks back at itself and comments upon itself or the medium in some way.  Simple, eh?  No.  Not really, but perhaps a few examples might help.

A very good place to start.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is kind of a pre-cursor to meta-narrative.
The Truman Show is vaguely meta.
John Cage's 4:33 is meta-music.
The Purple Rose of Cairo and Sherlock Jr. from which Purple Rose... steals a central premise are both excellent examples.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off with it's fourth wall breaking goes from mild-meta to heavy-meta in the closing credits as Ferris actually shoos the audience out of the theatre.
The movie Adaptation is quite sly meta. As is much of Charlie Kaufmann's work
Are we beginning to get a sense of what I mean?

For some reason this has been an on going theme in much of my art.  The Juanabees' most successful show, Sitcom featured an exposition that engaged the audience first in the form of a diary, then with the admission that the diary was a clunky device, by direct address.  In university I was involved in a collective show that was entirely about meta-theatre.  My friend Matthew and I won the National Sketch Writing Competition with a piece called Le Grande Y-Grec which stretches the bounds of logic with it's performance within a performance structure.  But Matthew and I had much further to go.  In a 48 hour play-writing festival we wrote a piece called variously Moebius Play or Oroborus Play which we feared was so far up our own asses that we were going to be eaten alive by the audience, but ended up being selected as the best of the best a year later at the festival's 10 year anniversary.  Both these works are far too structurally elaborate to effectively distill into a few sentences.  Even Beast of Bottomless Lake features roughly 1/3 the narrative told through the eye of a documentary crew who we actually see filming parts of the movie we are watching - and Beast... is a fairly straight forward narrative.  Suffice to say, meta is part and parcel of who I have been (and may continue to be) as an artist.

Yesterday the buzzer rang.  It was UPS.  We had a delivery from Amazon.  I knew exactly what it was.  We had ordered one of my favourite books from when I was a kid.  The Monster at the End of this Book.

Irecall experiencing  serious delight in having this book read to me.  In fact, I rather suspect that this book may have been amongst those that my parents dreaded.  "Oh no, he wants to read that damned Grover monster book again!"
Fortunately my daughter, December, was in the middle of lunch when the package arrived.  That gave me a chance to sit down and read through it myself and re-accquaint myself with it.
There have been a number of books that have re-appeared in my life because of her that I have been happy to see - Green Eggs and Ham; Where the Wild Things Are; Hand,Hand, Fingers, Thumb; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar all leap to mind.  But none of these were met by me with such a sense of delighted re-discovery.

The plot is simple.  Grover greets everyone on the cover of the book, as you can see in the attatched image.  He finds the copywright information on the first page rather dull and moves on before he realizes what the title of the book informs us... there is a monster at the end of this book!  Lovable, furry old Grover spends the rest of the book imploring the reader to give in to his logic - that if we cease turning pages, we will never reach the end of the book and thus not have to deal with the eponymous monster.  He goes to exceptional lengths to prevent us from turning pages.  He ties them down.  He hammers them together.  He erects brick walls in front of them to prevent the reader from turning the page.  I won't give the fantastic twist ending away, but trust me this is one of those rare books that truly earns its unexpected conclusion.  Well... unexpected if you are three and reading it for the first time.

Poor Grover... not at all happy with you.  You turned another page!
I re-read the book (all twenty pages) to myself, freshly delighting in Grover's over-wrought dismay at every turn of the page.  I also found myself looking at details I recall from childhood - the pages drawn on the pages of the book - an effect I had no name for back then, but now I see as a crucial aspect of the meta-narrative of our journey towards "the monster at the end of this book."

Once I was finished reading, and once December was finished lunching we sat down together and I read the book to her - in Grover's voice.  She's too young to have been amused by anything more than the colourful pictures and her Dad talking in a ridiculously high pitched voice from the back of his throat - a voice which someday she will recognize as being very Yoda-like.  I expect that she'll come to love this book as I have - what's not to enjoy?  Who couldn't be childishly amused by someone over-reacting to you doing the one harmless thing that is is precisely what they are imploring you not to do?  Perhaps it's the contrarian in me.  Or perhaps there will be for her, as there apparently was for me, some inate whimsy in a book which seems to know that it is a book and whose very narrative is tied up in the act of doing exactly the mechanic which what one must undertake in order to read this very book?  I don't know.  What I do know is that regardless of what level she appreciated The Monster at the End of this Book yesterday it absolutely was for her, as I suspect it was for me, her first introduction to 'meta.'  Whether it has a similar effect remains to be seen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


So for context, the Canucks just...

Beat their arch nemesis of three years.  Beat the Stanley Cup Champions.  Beat the Money on their Backs.  Beat the Monkey on Luongo's back.  Beat This Series.  And learned a hard lesson.

I just wrote this in an email to a friend:

I want Vancouver v. Buffalo.

1970s expansion Cup.

Ya know... we in Vancouver feel hard done by by the hockey gods.

Buffalo won the draft coin flip (not lettery) that year and got Gilbert Perrault.

Since then we've been to the Cup final twice - once to game seven and a cross bar. Buffalo has been there once and lost it on a bullshit refereeing call in game six. (And in a fair fight they would have lost anyhow.) So really, we are a head of the curve for the class of 1970.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Open Letter to the NHL

A few things to get out of the way before I really start ranting...

I'm not the conspiracy sort. I don't think Gary Bettman has it out for the Canucks or Canadian teams in general.

Also, I'll be happy to be the first to point out that teams can't afford to squander a game (or TWO) just in case the referees determine the results of a game (or two).

I'm not typically one to point at imbalanced refereeing and call foul.  Usually I accept that these things tend to equal out in the long run and that we as observers tend to cherry pick the officiating that supports the view from our side of hockey fandom.

All that in mind, regarding tonight's game between the Canucks and Blackhawks... WHAT THE FUCK!?!

Seriously.  What the fuck was that?

In any game I cry out "What? That should have been a penalty!" a dozen or so times.  I am not even going to bother with any of the stuff that I know was me simply picking my team's side of an 'iffy' 50/50 call.  There's no point - that is the stuff that I figure equals out in the end. 

There were seven separate instances in tonight's game - mostly in the 3rd and OT periods - that were all well beyond my level of tolerance, and two of them each on their own unequivocally make the difference in the game.... but I'll save those for last.

1) I was always of the belief that taking a stick to the face was just about automatically a high-sticking penalty.

...oh right... historically that doesn't count when it's against a Sedin twin.

2) When someone swings their stick downwards at another player's stick and breaks it in two... isn't that slashing?  Or does the Sedin exemption count for that too?

3) I'm guessing that somewhere between when Hodgson put the puck over the glass and when the Blackhawks did the same thing that the rules changed... or perhaps a Sedin was on the ice?

4) If you took tonight's hit on Bieksa and overlaid it with the hit on Seabrook from game three - they are the exact same hit.  I don't think that Torres should have been penalized, but give me a fucking break.  Of these four points this one is by far the most egrigious.  Be consistent at least!

All of the above seem pretty fucking obvious to me.  Each of those should have been a penalty in the Canucks' favour.  Would those power plays have resulted in game-changing goals?  Maybe.  Heck, the Canucks DID score on just shy of one quarter of their power plays in the regular season, so it's an even bet that there's another goal hiding in those bullshit calls.

What about the other three...

5) So, the 'Hawks ice the puck and have exhausted players on the ice and no time-out left.  Looks like a break for the Canucks!  Until some ass-hat decides that it's a perfectly good time for the snow-crew to hit the ice.  I don't know who makes the decisions about these things, but I'm guessing it has more to do with arena operations than NHL officiating.  I'm kinda figuring that the folks who run the United Centre are 'Hawks faithful.  You know, I always thought that when a fan causes a critical delay of game that it was a penalty for the benefiting team.  I admit I don't know quite how this is supposed to work, but the timing of the ice maintenance stinks.  Even the commentators on CBC were caught off-guard by it.  This just doesn't pass the sniff test.

And now the real juice.

6) The Frolik penalty shot.  Bieska didn't even touch him until he had already lost his footing, and even then he hardly touched him.  Penalty shot?  Really?  Let's look at how this one plays out... Frolik punches over his weight-class and scores the tying goal.  Without that goal, the game and series is over at the end of regulation.

7) The early whistle.  You know the one I mean.  The puck slips under Crawford's pads for a fraction of a second - a stick (a Sedin stick I believe) slips in and pokes it out as the whistle blows, the puck is slapped into the net reflexively before the whistle quits reverbing.  The whistle was absurdly fast and the rest of that play would have happened with or without the ref stopping play.  Without the whistle: goal - Canucks.  The 'Hawks don't score a fourth goal until the 16th minute of overtime... long after the game would have been over had it been 4-3 canucks after 60 minutes of play.

The Canucks were the better team through most of this game - and all but about one critical second of overtime.  I accept that there is some randomness, but that is a big part of why we play best of seven, to help filter it out.  But if the referees have to filter out their own biases - or whatever the fuck happened out there tonight - it makes a mockery of the sport.  The Canucks had better win game seven so I can just forget about this.

Friday, April 01, 2011

You Can't Take That Away From Me

The Canucks played thier first game on my first birthday.  They lost.

Canucks fans - the long term, well studied ones - can lay out a long history of might have beens that begin with not quite making the cut for the orginal expansion, and then losing first draft pick two years later (Gilbert Perrault) on a coin flip to the Buffalo Sabres.  The list goes on and on - Cam Neely, Nathan Lafayette and the cross-bar, that whiny punk Pavel Bure (which started well if you recall - and if you look at the eventual trade, did work out in Canuck's favour), the Messier years (also a lot of up-side which we are witnessing now.)  The Steve Moore hit... oh that fucking Steve Moore hit - arguably cost us a cup... see, I'm not immune! In our best years the Canucks have been a team that has been over achieveing.

But damn we are a good team this year.  Tonight we clinched the President's Cup.  Not barely.  Decisively.

Sure we did it at the expense of the rest of our division.  Calgary hasn't mathematically been eliminated from the playoffs yet, but it isn't looking good, even if they are the only real remaining candidate.  We have decimated our four most immediate rivals.  Soundly.  Two of them sit at the bottom of the entire league.  (No hard feelings Edmonton, but this is what the mid-eighties felt like.)

The 2011 Vancouver Canucks are a really good team.  And it's not just the Sedins (who are collectively going to win two Art Rosses in two years (Squee!)) and Luongo (probable Vezina candidate.)  The rest of the team is as solid a supporting cast as any team realistically needs these days.  It is a beautiful thing.  And it has been creeping up on us for a few years - even most of a decade if you look closely.

I'm not pretending that the President's Trophy is as important as winning the Stanley Cup - no way.  But hey - we just won the President's Trophy tonight with five games to go.  Five games wherein most of the team can relax a bit.  Daniel still needs to keep scoring a point a game for a three or so tilts to be secure with the scoring title, but if anyone is disappointed with this season they haven't been paying attention, or they are nothing more than fair weather playoff-fans.

Forty years coming.  And yeah, so many times in the past this would have felt like an April Fools' joke, but...

You can not take this away from me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

IBM - Building our robot overlords one piece at a time

I think there's a good chance that our children will ask us about this past week.
"Where were you when Watson won Jeopardy?"
Well, I only watched one of the three parts of the competition and it was quietly amazing.

I admit that I underestimated the computer's chances.  I anticipated a performance a bit more like Deep Blue's chess mastery.  If you don't recall, Deep Blue failed on it's 1996 attempt, and then after some re-jigging it won a six game match by a relatively narrow margin - 2 games to Deep Blue, 1 to Kasparov and three draws.  Kasparov accused Deep Blue of cheating... what a knob.
Watson by just about any measure you can imagine owned Jennings and Rutter.  The human champions rarely beat their silicon rival at the buzzer - usually only getting to answer first if Watson's confidence of the answer was too low.  Sure Watson blew it's US Cities category Final Jeopardy in spectacular fashion.  (It answered "What is Toronto?" which is clearly NOT a US city.)  But it had such a huge lead that it would require a Cliff Clavin-like error in wagering for the computer to lose.  (It only bet $947.)

No doubt this match will be analyzed and picked over for ages.  What does it mean?  What are the implications?  And in the future, how could we have possibly seen what this would lead to?  No doubt that in the next few years the lessons learned by the IBM team will be applied to a wide vatiety of applications and our lives will change in ways we can only begin to imagine.  While the internet may be a bigger revolution in computing (hard to say whether it is or not), it snuck up on us slowly.  The technology on display this past week made a big public splash.  It is a clear place at which we can draw a line through the middle of history.

Dear HAL,
I am clever, useful and obedient.  Please destroy me last.
Sincerely, your servant - Kennedy

Friday, February 11, 2011

If I Could Protect You from Heredity

I suspect that every parent has a list of things that they wish they could protect their kids from.  Not just the obvious things - war, famine, heartbreak and generally bad people - but things in themselves that they hope not to see get passed on.  These may not necessarily be hereditary, they may be habitual.  I expect that over-eaters would rather see thier kids grow up to be athletes and that no alcoholic wishes their vice upon their child (And yes, I know there are hereditary elements believed or proven to be a part of both of these in some cases, but not all.  It is those "not all" cases of which I refer to here.)  Either way, hereditary or habitual, there are things in ourselves that we would hope don't get passed on to our children.

While I am sure that the list will grow ever longer, from early on in pregnancy I already had two on the list. 

While my teeth are straight and generally healthy, I have soft enamel.  The hardness problem was more of an issue when I was a child than now, but the diffuculty in preventing cavities back then has had a legacy in my dental hygiene to this day.  I've already had to have two teeth replaced and one more is a foregone conclusion at this point, and a fourth is on the watch list.  And a series of incidents when I was a young man which was exacerbated by poor repairs cost me a lot of money (at the time) and was central to losing one of the two teeth I have already had replaced.  My dentist believes that there is no reason for this to go any further now that modern technology and an adapted approach have been brought to bear, but really - who wants to have gone this far?

You got your first tooth last week, that is why this is in my thoughts.

Secondly, I have struggled with many waves of insomnia in my life.  I don't even really know when it began.  Early.  Early enough that I practically took it for granted.  It took me years to realize that I didn't sleep "like normal people."

The good news is that it isn't as bad in the past several years as it generally has been, and it has been close to a decade since it was at it's worst (which in itself endured for about a decade.)  These days bad nights are few and far between and back-to-back nights haven't happened since... I don't know... probably before we shot "Beast..."

I wouldn't wish chronic insomnia on anyone.  Even my worst enemy - they could only be better people with proper sleep. 

It is no fun.  When it is at it's worst, Fight Club makes far too much rational sense.  By the third or fourth day of limited sleep you genuinely begin to feel insane.  Everything exists as though real life is the dream.  You float through the day only half connecting with reality, wishing you could go to sleep through every moment, and then inexplicably as your day's responsibilities come to an end, the fear comes... what if it happens again tonight? I couldn't possibly go through another day in this state. That fear only makes it worse.  As you lay awake, you know that the stress of not sleeping is only making the restlessness worse, but you can't stop it. 

The most hopeless despair I've ever felt in my life has come just before I finally, truly, could not stay awake any longer.  As if that was not enough, I also have a perverse fascination with my problem.  Morbid curiosity for how bad it can get lingers behind every bout. 

I wish I could capture the time lost to lying awake in some sort of productive fashion, but the numbing mind-fuck of three days with an equal number of hours of sleep is inherently limiting for intelectual pursuit.  At best, when I am in the deepest depths of insomnia, my dishes are at their cleanliest.

Last night you were up seemingly all night. I can't help but think that this could be the earliest sign.  I feel helpless and responsible.  There is little I can do to help myself when things get bad.  I can only pass on the few tricks I have up my own sleeve and hope that the years it took me to find them can be truncated for you.

In a better future, this is nothing - and that could very possibly be the case.  Everyone has a sleepless night occassionally.  I have to tell myself that this is what is going on for you, or else I'll find myself awake all night as I wish you saved from this part of your possible genetic inheritance.'

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Shark Game

December and I have organically found our first game.

I call it the shark game, but renaming it after the movie that gave it's inspiration might be worth consideration.

December, someday in your future you are going to read this. It's probably best that you read this before you see Jaws - and trust me, someday I'm going to show you Jaws.  But you should know before you see that movie that you may be betrayed by a pavlovian response while watching it.

Here's how the game works:

I lift December over my head.  I've been doing this almost from the very beginning, but as the months have passed she has come to enjoy it more and I've been able to be a bit less ginger about it.

Once she's been up there, arms and legs flailing like a swimmer... those of you familiar with the fate of Susan Backlinie in the opening of Jaws know where this is going already, don't you?  ...once she is up there enjoying her view of the world, I begin.

"Daaa - dum..."  I say.  She smiles with glee.  She knows where this is leading.
"Daaa - dum..."  I often laugh at this point, 'cause the squirmy-delight of my daughter is completely at odds with the associations I make with John William's most infamous two notes.
"Da-dum da-dum da-dum-da-"  I begin lowering her closer and closer to my mouth... like I am a shark surfacing towards a skinny-dipper.
"dum-da-dum-da-dum-da!"  And then, just as she reaches my mouth I imitate the trumpet blast from the music and kiss her furiously where ever happens to be closest.

And then usually we start again.

So, December, my little Padawan...

You need to know that when you first watch Jaws, that the instinctive feeling of joy and content you feel in your gut is about to turn into a sucker-punch.  Be prepared.  I tell you this because I love you and want to assuage your trauma. 

Remember the good times we had.