Saturday, August 23, 2008

And the Next Town is Closer Than You Think

Well, you know what, this post had to come sooner or later.

First things first:

Uptown Magazine! You deserve a break today! If you had guessed that I am in this issue, you are most certainly correct.

Usually around this time I would supplement the column by going off in various directions -- rambling on about how hockey songs are awesome, how Busology is straight up stupid (and illogically numbered!), or how ordering the eight-dollar treat at BDI is probably a losing venture (buy it yourself and you'll gain five pounds just ordering it; split the cost with friends and you'll degenerate into unequal portions and hurt feelings and flying bits of pineapple-blueberry-cherry-whatever). But you'll forgive me if I deviate from the form, this time.

As you no doubt noticed, I had disappeared entirely for the past couple of weeks; last word I'd left was that I was working on something, and then it was half a month of dead air. Let me assure you, I was working on something; I had this grand writing project on the go that was going to tie all the top news stories of the day together, with all of the violence and outrage and protesting and plummeting aircraft and terrible football teams that the times entailed. Like most of my great ideas (ha ha ha column callback, yesss, go me), though, I'm afraid this one is going to go unfinished -- because something came up in the middle of last week that demanded my immediate attention.

I was notified last week -- by email, because it would have been too late to send out the forms -- that a spot had become available, my application from months ago had been accepted, and I'd been admitted into my prospective graduate studies program.

For a Masters of Library and Information Science, at the University of Western Ontario.

Starting in September.

This is all very sudden, you understand. To that point I'd had no idea if I was even going to be accepted at all (and don't let my spectacular vernacular fool you, folks -- I ain't that bright), let alone into the very-nearly-almost-full September intake. I'm told that the September program filled up before my application arrived, then a couple people dropped out some weeks later and my application became subject for consideration.

So, uh -- surprise!

I've spent most of my time in scramble mode since then, which should explain my mysterious absence from the ol' blogosphere. I've confirmed my attendance of the program, booked the flight out to London, alerted most members of my family, given my two weeks' notice at work, figured out some of the funding so far, hastily returned everything I'd borrowed from the library, and almost nailed down a place to live once I get out there. (Pending confirmation, of course, that the ceilings in that particular basement apartment are tall enough for me to stand upright.) But there's still a whole lot left to do -- like devise a plan to get my computer out there, cancel my cellphone plan here, figure out how to work things out with my girlfriend (aw shit wait a minute), or admit to myself that I'll probably have to rescind the Uptown gig that I've been so disproportionately proud of for the last several months. (My contact at Uptown went on vacation almost immediately after I got the admission letter, which is only slightly inconvenient for my purposes. I'll still need to get ahold of him and thank him profusely for everything; this isn't really something you drop on the interim contactperson, you know?)

It still hasn't really settled in, yet, I think. Yeah, wow, how about that. I'm leaving Winnipeg, potentially forever. Huh.

Coltrane Motion - The End of Every Movie (We Are the Media We Love, 2003)
[buy | site | myspace]

Teddybears STHLM feat. Paola - Yours to Keep (Rock'n'Roll Highschool, 2000)
[buy | site | wiki stub | myspace]

Shrimp Attack! (Stuart Hyatt and Creative Clay) - Good (Shrimp Attack!, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

Whether or not I'll come back here with my Masters degree, in sixteen months or so, depends entirely on whether or not I can find a job here with it -- and you'll recall the many and varied misadventures that I'd had in trying to get a job with my last degree. If I'm going out there and spending at least four academic terms' worth of time and money and effort to better myself, I don't intend on coming back to draw fifty cents above the minimum wage.

There's a lot that I'm leaving behind here -- the extended family, the girl, the writing gig, the tiny but appreciable local notoriety -- and you might think I'm quite daft to be throwing everything up in the air behind me and hoping that it's still there to be caught when I get back. But, hell! If I'm going to finally make something of myself, I may as well start building as soon as I can. And my first preference would be to come back; all I need is a serviceable opportunity and I'm back on the block. I'm fond of the place, you know? Despite itself.

Anyway, so there's the lot of it. This isn't a goodbye post, not yet; I've still got a week and a bit for that. But, yes, know now that Slurpees and Murder will be on long-term hiatus once September rolls around. I'll start up a sidestory blog, for while I'm out there, but for obvious reasons the updates there will be sporadic and the content will be little more than personal tidbits and pictures of scenery or pets. (Mind you, what else is new.) And after that, well, after that we'll have to see.

Dramatic life changes, you guys! Yeah! Excitement!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How James was overcome by ambitious spirit, and what became of him

I don't know why I ever thought Voltaire would be hard to get into. I'd never read any of his works before, thinking for whatever reason that they were probably way out of my league. But one recent day at work I had finished a book by somebody else entirely, got the whim to give it a shot, and figured what the hell. They must be called Classics for a reason, right?

Anyway! I have been reading Voltaire. I have been reading the crap out of some Voltaire, because it turns out after all that -- go know! -- Voltaire really was quite good at this whole 'writing' thing.

I'm back in the city, and I'm definitely reinvigorated, but I'm also quite majestically sidelined. I'd told you all that I was going to write about the whole sordid Greyhound mess when I returned from the lake, and that's still a point of interest for me, but I've just made it back home and the whole way back I've been carrying a very highbrow, highfalutin' burst of inspired madness along with me. (The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea.)

So, my apologies, but you'll pardon me if I appear to clam up for a day or two. This is one of those times when I get myself stuck on an idea and insist on barrelling headfirst towards it with everything I've got, so you may need to be patient with me.

Boy, do I wish that I didn't have to go back to work tomorrow! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha--

Monday, August 04, 2008

Waiting Out Rain With You

My weekends are Wednesday-Thursday! Yeah! Lucky me!

I certainly hope you had a great civic holiday weekend, because I've been working the whole way through -- and additional miserly pittance aside, a long weekend is an awful time to be cooped up far away from everything cool that's going on everywhere else. So after I finish work tomorrow I'm booking it straight out of town, up to the Interlake where an ancestral wooden shack with no running water sits cheerfully dilapidated but scant seconds away from the beach.

Don't expect any blog updates for the next few days, is what I'm suggesting. But you can look forward to another small flurry of content when I get back; there are no shortage of topics for me to work on, and I've told myself that I'll cave in and write about that incomprehensible Greyhound beheading if it's still in the news when I get back. (And there isn't much chance that it won't be, is there? We're probably going to be hearing about this one straight through to winter.)

But that's for later in the week! Consider me on pause for the next couple of days while I recharge a bit; feel free to picture me as striking manly poses in the wilderness and then fighting bears with my bare hands, because that's infinitely more interesting than my real plan of reading Voltaire and drinking.

Cass McCombs - Pregnant Pause (Dropping the Writ, 2008)
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All is for the best! I'll see you in a few days.

Friday, August 01, 2008

You Ain't Got No Alibi

Uptown Magazine! Anything less would be uncivilized!

You'll never guess who's in Uptown this w... oh. Okay, yeah, it's me. Wow, no fooling you.

It seems the formatting went a little wacky on this one, so there are some periods where some ellipses should have gone and vice versa -- but whatever! I think the message of the article still shines through, the message being that we need better TV.

(Yes, yes, the medium is the message. I see what I did there.)

Our local television scene used to be a vibrant, bizarre, enchanting little world all its own, a kaleidoscope of maniacs and puppets and elderly musicians and brightly coloured, lovingly hand-rendered computer line-art montages. (Oh -- and, of course, twelve-year-old Kaj Hasselriis reviewing movies. Seriously, did anybody on public access television not end up running for mayor?) But now? The best we can do for local content nowadays is to act surprised when a weatherman jumps from one station to another, to feign excitement about watching a Goldeyes game, or to stare blankly at Kinsmen Bingo and have a small existential crisis about whether or not this is all there is to life.

To closer examine the root of my discontent, consider the following video at length.

I'm assuming that you aren't reading this at work with YouTube blocked, because that's just going to look like blank space otherwise. Humour me as I transcribe selected excerpts:

"The channel allows you, the viewing public, the opportunity to express your ideas through the medium of television. The programs you watch on VPW are produced by local people who have something to share with their community.

"If you would like to be part of community access television, either before the cameras expressing your views and sharing your talent or behind the scenes as part of the production team, we will assist you to develop the necessary production skills.

"In addition to programs produced by individuals, VPW also presents mobile coverage of community events. If your group has an up-and-coming event that you would like to share with the community, please call us to discuss arrangements for possible mobile coverage; you may also promote your up-and-coming event on VPW 11, and on Videon's public service announcement channel."

[. . .]

"Stay tuned to VPW, as your community presents alternative television."

Hells yes, 'alternative television'! The very idea! Two minutes of Videon station identification from 1988 serve to highlight everything that we had back then, or more to the point everything that we don't have now; individuals have no access points, no production training is provided for interested community members, anyone looking for a 'public service announcement channel' is probably forced to use Facebook instead, and the only way your community event will get mentioned in passing on (urgh) SHAW TV is if you've got some very high-placed business interests backing you up.

Our 'community' station is a steaming stream of vapid, business-friendly, milquetoast pablum operated exclusively by professionals on the payroll of a Calgary cable conglomerate who have no intention of letting anyone else in on the fun. But, as I mention in the article, even our (openly) privately-owned stations could be chipping in and giving everybody something to identify with. Come on, private broadcasters! Step it up!

Perhaps you recall Buckley and Beave, the anthropomorphic puppet hosts of the MTN Kids Club, and if you do then this next video will both perplex and astound you:

The Environment Canada screens are clearly the best part of this video, but that's beside the point for now. Somebody out there legitimately took the time and effort to piece this... tribute... together, which is irrationally terrifying I will guarantee is not going to happen in fifteen years' time with the crap we're airing now.

I just want Winnipeg to have interesting television again! Is this genuinely so much to ask? Help a brother out here!