Society is Dead, Long Live Liberty

O 2020, thou harsh and cruel year.

I won’t recap all the things that we’ve been trying to live through this year, those are matters for history books and YouTube videos. What we’ve all experienced is unlike anything the world has seen since the 1920s, an era that most of our current population has no memory of, and regards as little more than topics for … well, history books and YouTube videos.

But it’s been more than a pandemic, more than Black Lives Matter, more than political instability. In 2020, we came to realize the death of common civility.

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My Hip Stories

In two days, I’m going to see The Tragically Hip play at the Saddledome. I will freely admit that, somewhat stereotypically Canadian of me, The Hip is my favourite band. So I will also state that I’m excited to see them play. However, I’m also somewhat dreading it, too. It’ll be the last time I see them live, in person. It’s their final tour.
Not all Canadians care. I don’t know how many do (I’ll optimistically suggest 40%), but a few of us are more passionate. But it’s not because we’re that passionate about the band per se, it’s more about how The Tragically Hip have affected our lives (past and/or present), to the point where we have defined stories that involve or revolve around them.
Here’s mine…
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A musical evening in Red Deer

I know what you’re thinking: Red Deer? Music? Honestly, what on Earth are you thinking, Geoff? You haven’t exactly had the most … inspiring of times in Red Deer. Okay, I admit, I’ve not got the best stories of this, our third largest city in Alberta, but it’s far from the armpit of Alberta. And I had good reason, y’know!
Back in July, during the Calgary Stampede, the Tragically Hip played the Calgary Roundup, the outdoor concert of the year. I had wanted to go, but I totally messed up where the tickets were sold (stupid me, I thought it was Ticketmaster), and by the time I’d realised it … it was too late. Sold out, and I was out of luck.
This is what brought me to Red Deer.
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Christmas Blitzkrieg

When I have those moments when I think I’ve gotten too old, and I think I’m starting to feel like my age, I’m thankful for sudden sustained bursts of activity that remind me that, really, I just lead a much duller life than I used to, and my exhaustion is usually due to lack of sleep than from trying to do too much.
Heck, it even makes me feel a bit young! Ish. Sort of.
Except for the prolonged yawning, anyway.
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Why Disney buying Lucasfilm could be a good thing

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that today’s news totally threw me for a loop. I, like almost no-one else, saw that coming. I, like everyone else, immediately wondered what was going on, and what could it mean?
The first thing that came to mind was that the last time a major media mogul sold a widely-loved empire to Disney, he died not long after.
Okay, so the deal fell through at the time. Bear with me on this, already!
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Bronze is still a medal

I had a debate with my neighbour the other day over the Olympics, and notably how Canadians are approaching our successes at the Games. I love having debates with my neighbour — he’s well-educated, open-minded, (loves beer), and is a pragmatist when it comes to opposing views (he explores ideas, rather than shooting them down).
He was perplexed that Canadians — media, especially, but also actual people — were jumping for joy at winning medals other than gold. The idea of not winning, but getting second or third, seemed utterly bizarre, let alone the jumping for joy we exhibit when we get a medal.
That was my point, though: it’s a medal. And yes, it’s worth celebrating.
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An evening with the crew of the Starship Enterprise

Calgary’s Comic Convention seems to be growing by leaps and bounds every year. While I’ve never been, I’d heard how Leonard Nimoy had been scooped a couple of years ago (they even managed to take him out to Vulcan — no joke). Last year’s event was the biggest, ever. This year? Well, “record-setting” isn’t the right term, really. When the Fire Marshall has to tell people to disperse, you’ve got a number of problems — good and bad — to work yourself through.
But in particular, this year was important, because they’d somehow managed to arrange for the first-ever complete reunion (and the first gathering in celebration of the 25th anniversary year) of the complete (original) cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And for one night only, they’d all be on the same stage in an event called “Star Trek: TNG Exposed“.
Like I wasn’t going to go…
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TV is dead. Long live the internet!

I feel like an old man. I can now look at my kids, and say with far too much vigour: “When I was your age…” I refer to, of course, having to get off my ass, walking over to the cathode ray tube-based television set, change the dial to UHF, and move the oversized dial that changed the direction of the UHF antenna…
I’ve lost you, haven’t I? I shudder to think how few of you have an inkling of what I’m talking about. Yeah, that’s how old I am. I remember when there were only a handful of channels, when almost all of the content was on ABC, NBC, CBS, CBC, CTV, Global, and a few independent stations (such as the awesome CityTV and the the extremely nacent Fox). I remember the introduction of cable. I remember having to wait for the summer reruns because I missed that crucial episode of The A Team that everyone was talking about in class the next morning. I remember when the season debuts were a big thing. I remember when missing a live televised event was significant, because it was gone forever.
It seems somehow just as bizarre a concept as the Spanish Inquisition.
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The end of the individual experience

A few years from now, my kids will be old enough to ask me questions that will require a lot of explanation. Like, for example, what the internet was like when I was their age, how I survived without a mobile data device, did I watch TV in black and white (interestingly enough, I did, but only because the TV was black and white), and what did I name my pet dinosaur (‘cuz, you know, every kid makes that joke of their parents).
One question I also expect them to ask is how I watched TV without having my computer in front of me, firing off notes through Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social media network will be in vogue in 5-8 years from now. I’ll look at their cute, adorable little faces, and tell them as seriously as I can: There was a time when we watched TV on our own. We went to sporting events in small groups, we went shopping without telling everyone what we were doing, and we could vanish for hours on end without anyone knowing where we were.
The idea that we exist solely as individuals is rapidly becoming extinct.
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I Believe

Dear Canada,
I must, in true Canadian form, say “I’m sorry”. I doubted. All I could see was fault, all I could see was mediocrity, all I could see was the world laughing at our attempts to be more than our humble selves.  I thought that Vancouver was the wrong place to hold the Winter Olympics (having lived there a couple of years, I know how finicky the weather can be).
And I wasn’t alone. Thanks to media mainstays, such as The Guardian and the Denver Post, and CTV’s frequently slipshod and amateurish approach, there was little reason for me to think otherwise.
I find myself, now at the end, relieved to be wrong, and fiercely proud to be a repatriated Canadian.
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The failure of the electric car

In our Inconvenient Truth world, popular desire is starting to change the way some companies think. We’re seeing large companies produce “green” products, such as biodegradable detergents, packaging from recycled plastic, and tables made from recovered wood. We’re asking our service providers to show us how they’re working to reduce their output, through paperless billing and electronic messaging.
A few years ago, the “hybrid” car was introduced, a shining new example of how to make vehicles more efficient, and spawned a new movement of environmentally-aware manufacturing. Today, Nissan stands ready to finally release the first mass-market all-electric vehicle, amping up the competition to become the centre of the environmentally-friendly transportation universe. I, for one, welcome the arrival of the electric car, long overdue from formal acceptance in North America. At the same time, however, I also curse its arrival because it doesn’t actually address a primary problem.
The electric car strives to perpetuate a bad idea: that we all need a car.
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2009, A Year in Review

The year past was one of the toughest ones I can remember. It’s been a year of extreme highs, some pretty darks depths; my share of awesome joys, mixed with an unhealthy dose of stress. And that’s not when you consider the economy, I might add — things are even worse when you roll all that in.
The year closed out on a more sombre note for me, in many ways. Much quieter, and I got to spend a lot of time with my family (which I cherish now, and cannot regret in anyway), but the future is a little less certain. I’m less concerned about that fact than I thought I would be, however.
On with the year that just was… Continue reading “2009, A Year in Review”

Day of the Ya Ya

Well, Monkey, today was your Ya Ya day. In case you don’t remember what “Ya Yas” are when you get around to reading this, this is your name for The Backyardigans. And a couple of weeks ago, Mommy noticed there were commercials on TV for a live show, about a half second after you screamed “YA YAS!!”.
Naturally, that evolved quickly to us getting tickets for the show, which was today. I think both Mommy and I had an idea of what we were going to get into, but having never been to an “infantil” show before, there was a considerable amount of guessing.
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WALL-E: What is Disney-Pixar not telling us?

I had an epiphany this morning as I waited for my carpool. I don’t know why it came to me, it just did. I can’t even remember how I got onto the thought. But as I stood there, I had the clear vision:
There are no old people on the Axiom.
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Forty years from one step

Like almost everyone in my generation (who isn’t more than three years older than me) has lived in a world where humans have set foot on the moon. For us, this isn’t just an historical event — it’s a part of our culture. Almost everyone knows the phrase:

That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

It’s more than a line from a movie. It’s more than a scene from a newsreel. It’s more than a footnote from a history textbook. It’s the moment when the sheer power of human will and imagination proved that the impossible is not beyond reach.
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What I think of the new Star Trek movie

Last night, I saw J.J. Abrams’ re-envisioning of Star Trek. It didn’t suck. But I’m not about to stand up and laud the praise that so many others had. I’m not convinced it deserves it (or the #71 ranking in the IMDB’s Top 250), but it’s a vast improvement over some of the shlock that Star Trek movies have been of late.  
I went in, admittedly, with higher than normal expectations (press is hard to ignore entirely, and even Wil Wheaton claimed it was awesome). So there is a certain amount of disappointment. But now that I’ve had time to ruminate on the film, the plot, the acting, etc., I’d like to think I’ve got a decent view.  
And for those of you who haven’t seen the movie: Beware! Thar be spoilers ahead!
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Music industry's future: Creators and Performers

The music industry is falling apart. Not in the way your under-maintained 1991 economy car with rust spots is leaving a breadcrumb trail of broken parts, but in the way your high school clique drifted apart as everyone got older and started looking for new direction. This is the order of things, both natural and man-made — everything trends towards its own destruction.
Sadly, the music industry hasn’t quite figured this out yet. They’ve been fighting blindly to retain the status quo, and failing miserably. RIAA take note: suing your core audience for using your content, thus alienating them and their sphere of influence from future purchases is not good business acumen. Where did you get your MBAs, from Sally Struthers’ International Correspondance School?
It’s high time you accepted that you are no longer in control of your own future. Your audience is.
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Which Beatles is better: British Invasion, or Studio?

The other day, as Mark was driving us to work, we were treated to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da on Radio Dos as we were inching our way through the daily Lindora grind. I’ve heard this song at least 100 times (iTunes reports a mere 43, but I’ve reset the counters a couple of times). I was humming along when I thought of something:  
I’m listening to The Beatles. Studio-era Beatles.
I started to wonder — which I did aloud, as I often do when commuting with Mark — which of The Beatles’ incarnations were more popular? Depending on whom you ask, Studio-era gets more airplay. But does that make them more interesting?
Allow me to dig a little deeper on this one…
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Where Star Trek went wrong

Many years ago, I wrote an article for the University of Waterloo’s student newspaper, The Imprint, where I laid into Star Trek: Generations (page 24) as a not-so-great adaptation of a television show to a movie. To say that I was a tad harsh is to characterise me as a tad off-beat. The fact that I referred to William Shatner as a “carpet head” is now thoroughly embarrasing (I have significantly more respect for him than I did 15 years ago).  
I considered this a bit of a coup, myself. Not the lambasting of the movie — the fact that I managed to get the article into the school’s newspaper which, at the time, had a policy of first-received, first-published. For those of you who won’t know, the University of Waterloo once held the lofty position of Geek Central. (It’s now a trendy school, apparently. I’m having trouble coming to terms with that.) There were more Trekkies per capita at that University than for 1,000 kms in any direction.  
What I didn’t realise at the time was that I’d actually missed something extremely significant about the movie, that would come back to haunt Trekkies and Trekkers alike many years later. Something so important not only to Star Trek, but to the genre as well, that there’s a serious need to retcon that movie.  
Kirk shouldn’t have died.
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A few of my favourite movies

I’ve had a lot of people ask me over the years what movies I have in my Top 10 (or Top 5 or Top 3) list. There’s a lot of good movies out there, and a number of them definitely get listed among my favourites.  
But make no mistake, I have no actual Top Whatever list. I rarely ever rank movies because that suggests that I place one movie over another. Which I don’t and can’t. There are some movies I watch because I’m simply in the mood to watch them. Others remain special for me, even if I haven’t watched them in a long time.  
The key thing of every movie in this list: I’ll watch it if I see it on TV, and if someone hands me the DVD, I’ll be happy to sit down to watch without a second thought.  
And now, in no particular order…

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My 10 favourite cover songs

In the annals of music, there will always the be homage to the giants that came before, who created the sound, and inspired the ones yet to come. That usually lends to things like the ubiquitous cover track — a performer’s version of a previous performer’s work.  
As we all know, the vast majority of said covers are … well, crap. People don’t spend the time to consider the message or the music that went into the piece, and are quite happy to churn out a version that doesn’t sound much different than the original, or sounds so substantially worse that you really have to imagine what on earth they were thinking.  
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Steve Jobs blows it. Again.

Sigh.  There’s nothing more frustrating than watching Apple come so close to finally tying the knot, only to leave threads dangling.  
I speak, of course, of yesterday’s Let’s Rock event where the apparently-not-dead (but much gaunter-looking) Steve Jobs talked at length about iTunes and iPods. And they played Jack Johnson, who is somehow the most popular male performer on iTunes to this point in history. (Yeah, I don’t get that either. Don’t get me wrong, Jack, you’re a great performer — just didn’t see that coming.)  
But why — oh why! — does Apple have to continually deny us a complete entertainment experience?  
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Is America ready for Obama + Clinton?

I love American politics. It’s my form of WWE — all the cheers and jeers with all the spectacle to go along with it. One day, I think the American presidency will go the way of the President of the Galaxy from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and be little more than a distraction from the real power.
Heck, it could be like that already, for all we know.
Today, it was announced that Hillary Clinton would be willing to consider a Vice-Presidency with Barak Obama as top billing. But here’s a thought: Are Americans ready for this?
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Web 2.0 Expo: Friday Keynote

Maybe it’s just me, but running keynotes every single day of a conference seems really silly, and waters down the value of the concept of a keynote. But I digress. Either way, this morning features Tim O’Reilly (again), Jonathan Schwartz (Sun Microsystems), Fake Steve Jobs (aka Daniel Lyons), Matt Cutts (Google), and Matt Mullinweg (WordPress).
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80th Oscars

Well, the annual Oscars show has come and gone again. And I almost missed it this time! It was by mere fluke that I happened to come across the E-Talk Red Carpet pre-show tonight. If I hadn’t caught it during a brief pause in my harried running around, I might have missed the show.
Not that I really would have missed much, admittedly. I have to admit, it was one of the more boring years.
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The Dirty Jobs Drinking Game

Everyone thinks their job sucks. It can be for any number of reasons. But there’s one guy out there who looks for the dirty jobs. The ones that no-one really wants to do, but does anyway. The ones where if the job wasn’t done, the world would (in many cases) come to a halt. They’re dangerous, often nauseating, and usually done by people far more interesting than we’d ever believe.
That’s what Discovery Channel‘s Dirty Jobs is all about. If you haven’t watched it, you really should check it out. It’s one of the few decent things on television, and one of only three shows that I’ll go out of my way to watch (the other two being Dirty Jobs’ sibling, Mythbusters, and ABC’s Pushing Daisies).
But there’s something about Dirty Jobs’ host, Mike Rowe, and the way he handles the content of the show, that really adds another layer. Namely, poo.
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Colbert no longer for President

Okay, yes, everyone’s heard about Stephen Colbert‘s run for the presidency. Those of you who watch his show regularly (sadly, I do not; though Alex is becoming a massive fan) know what Colbert is like. Perhaps not the most serious — or informed — person to be on the ballot.
And let’s be sure we’re talking here — he was aiming to be on the ballot in South Carolina. But the Democrats down there decided to throw him off.
Big mistake.
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Could Google do evil?

My coworker Martin sent around a link to an article that paints Google as being a great big source of evil, tantamount to being the core of a near-police state. To say that it’s a little alarmist is putting it mildly.
I have one fundamental issue with the spin this article (which is more a work of fiction than journalism): Just because people use Google data for malicious intent does not make Google itself evil.
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10 Years Ago

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago? Today is the tragic anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. As I write this, services have already been conducted in England. I was reminded of where I was 10 years ago, and the things that followed since.
I gotta say — it’s been a very interesting decade. I definitely could not have predicted the things I’ve seen and done, or where I’d have ended up.
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