Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Power of the Interwebs

What I've always loved the Internet for is that every single thing I ever loved as a kid in the 70s and 80s (cartoons, late night television, video games) can all be obtained.  Any cartoon I used to watch I can download, stream on YouTube or buy on DVD.  Any game I ever played can be emulated in a tiny program.  It's like all those things that I experienced a tiny part of (the end of an episode of V:The Series caught in the TV section of a shopping mall at Christmas, a Colecovision game played at a cousin's house one time) can now be mine easily, cheaply and entirely (so, those two episodes of Blackstar that I cherished since 1982, that episode of Speed Buggy, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Incredible Hulk or Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle that I still remember now can sit on my shelf or in my hard drive, with every single other one of its fellows.)  It's quite an emotional experiment to have a fairly clear memory of a cartoon I saw once or twice in the mid 70s or early 80s, and which I haven't seen since, and sit down and watch it through my now very grown-up eyes.  So much is so different from how you remembered it.  

Some things have eluded me until now.  The Six Million Dollar Man was very slow to become downloadable.  It still has never been manufactured on DVD in North America.  I downloaded it and bought a UK DVD of it.  Spenser:For Hire was the toughest.  It has never been released on DVD, and it isn't generally streamed or downloadable in Canada.  I think the main reason is that it is streamable for free on America Online in the States, and blocked in the rest of the world, though it is not on Canadian cable television, and not available on DVD, apart from those abysmal reunion movies.

Spenser:For Hire was based on the books by Robert B. Parker which I still love to this day.  It was more film noir, more psychological than most detective dramas at the time.  But it was on TV opposite Miami Vice.  Good luck.  (I never liked the Vice much.  I think it depicted everything that cocky assholes in the 80s wore, listened to and did.)

This week I found a source to download Spenser: For Hire and am overjoyed to be watching that show again.  If it was for sale, I would have bought it long ago, and if I lived in America, I could watch every episode online,  free.  Stupid.  It's like "Here is my money.  Any takers?  No?  Anyone?"  No, I do not want to buy all of the seasons of Friends, Seinfeld, The Simpsons and Family Guy.  It's not like those shows are hard to get a chance to see.

So, happy.  Also got some ancient cartoons like The Archies and The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan and such.  Some of those I bought.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Trials and Defibrilations

So the school year ended with a moist-eyed farewell to our principal and librarian and now it's lazydays time.  A colleague of mine amusing himself by telling kids looking to hand in late work after report cards had been entered "Sorry.  That train has sailed."  Not a kid found that pronouncement odd.

I have been reading my Screwtape Emails into my laptop and making mp3s of them, hoping the rather challenging text will be more apt to find its way into people's heads if I'm reading it to them.  No clue if anyone has listened to a single one yet.  It's a lot of work, and I'm not done all of them, but there you go.  C.S. Lewis, in wanting to talk about how people screw up their Christianity, came up with the novel idea of writing a book of "letters" written as if to a man's 'guardian devil' from said demon's fiendishly bureaucratic supervising over-demon.  He called it The Screwtape Letters.  It's very cool, and the book on tape is read by John Cleese.  I did the same thing, only with "emails" and set in the 80s rather than the 40s, and with the guardian demon of a whole Christian group, rather than one man.  It is a bit challengingly dense with thought, and writing more or less in the same style as the original made it hard to cut through the barriers that keep modern people from being able to hear what people who spoke more formally were saying.  I hope it is also amusing in places.  I try.

Finding it natural to take a bit of a big step back from my usual summer tendency to fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way, usually alternating between Internet and DVDs.  I have a modded XBox networked to a 1 terabit hard drive filled with things, and surround sound speakers hooked up, so the experience is all the more convenient and cool, but I want to do things that actually take me outside.  Making stuff with computers I feel slightly better about than just taking it all in passively, though.  Also, doing things like making my five year old niece a DVD full of episodes of Jem and the Holograms seems pretty fun to do.  It was precisely girly enough to mesmerize her completely.

I decided yesterday to go buy a used bicycle.  I am kind of out of food, so I (foolishly) went downstairs to the always ironically named Superior Restaurant for a simple breakfast special.  The whole process took forty minutes.  The part where actually ate the food took three.  Everyone in there was old.  The couple next to me reminded me of how appalling, inane, pointless and insincere the conversation of seniors usually is (I'm being mean like this, because this is what they continually and thoughtlessly say about the vapid conversation of teens, and I hear a lot of that.  At least teen conversation is rapid-paced).

I then went to the Royal Bank of Canada bank machine up the street to get money so to buy a bike, and it was out of order.  Strike one, Royal Bank of Canada.  

I drove into the city, seeing the Fuel Low light come on midway through the trip.  I went to one of those cool, quaint little places in Ottawa where they have what should be a house, but is a store, filled to overflowing with decades of bike parts in piles like Watto's junkyard, and picked one out.  It was a Canadian-made Rocky Mountain Sherpa.  A bit battered, but very light and strong.  Of course, being hippie "cars are evil" folk, they had no means to take anything but cash, so I walked to the bus terminal to use the Royal Bank of Canada bank machine there.  It said to contact my bank immediately, and gave me no money.  Strike two, Royal Bank of Canada.

I have no cell (since mine was stolen, back when LCD screens weren't in colour) so I went to a payphone.  After all of the usual wrestling with menus and being put on hold, I got someone who said there'd been evidence of someone trying to guess my PIN after I'd used my Royal Bank of Canada Client Card someplace, and they'd put a freeze on my Royal Bank of Canada Client Card.  I told them I was trying to buy a bicycle with my money and told them how much money I needed (I asked for $100 more than the price of the bicycle, so I could buy gas and food this weekend).  The Royal Bank of Canada Security Department lackey said to use the bank machine in four small withdrawals.  I tried this, and after three small withdrawals, it stopped working again.  Strike three, Royal Bank of Canada.

I called them up to ask WTF and they said "Give us two minutes and try again."  I gave them two, and five, and fifteen, but it wouldn't work.  No longer counting strikes, Royal Bank of Canada.

I called for a third time, and after being put on hold for a very long time they said they couldn't help me.  I pointed out that what they were saying was that they, my bank, were unable/were refusing to give me my own money, because they were keeping it secure.  From me.  They spoke of visiting a branch to rectify the situation and I pointed out that no Royal Bank of Canada branches were open, had been open for the past 24 hours, nor would be for thirty hours or so, and this suggestion was, therefore, absurd and unhelpful in the extreme, and that I was now good and truly screwed as to weekend plans, and that I saw this as due entirely to their feckless machinations, and not to anything I had done, let alone done wrong.

I had taken out just enough money for the bike, so bought it, put it in my van and drove home on fumes and a prayer.  As is often my wont when in a state of choleric agitation, I played White Zombie rather bracingly.  

I managed to get back to my apartment, though visiting my family an additional forty minutes drive away had originally been on the agenda.  Then I had a brainstorm: I paid rent to my landlord using the Internet, right?  And my landlord owns a money store downstairs? (well, collectible coins, foreign money, medals and things)  Why not get the landlord to agree for me to use the Internet (which is, of course, not a canceled Royal Bank of Canada Client Card) to put money in his account like when I pay rent, and then he could give me some money from his money store's till?  I went downstairs to make it so.

He was in Toronto and his mother was working.  I eventually made her somewhat aware of my plan (she was courteously bewildered) and then she made me aware that she had pretty much no money in the till (of the money store).  She offered me $20, which would certainly give me enough gas to take me to Smiths Falls, so I went upstairs, gave my landlord's account $20 using the Internet, and then was given two soggy ten dollar bills from the till of the money store.  Success!

I then got some gas in my van, and with the bicycle in the back, drove to Smiths Falls.  I ran out of White Zombie on the way, so Type O Negative filled in and I once again was reminded how much I'd like to take a break from my usual acoustic country-folk-rock stylings and do something really dark and deathy.

I arrived to see that one of the cars was missing.  I came into the family abode to see no sign of my sister, brother-in-law, niece or nephew.   "Sigh," I thought.  I was standing in the kitchen, when suddenly a naked little blonde baby wearing a red hat and purple Crocs ran by the window screeching.  My nephew.  They were out back in a newly mowed area of the back field which now had a little kiddie pool.

I'd intended to try my bike on the farm roads, but ended up sitting around and chatting, with beer, and burgers and Pepsi and so on.  Showed my brother-in-law the Classic Albums episode for Plastic Yoko Band, because he's such a huge Beatles fan.   He put on Dark Knight to show off his new Blu-ray system.  I'm not sure his TV was quite up to it.  Super sharp, but also weird video artifacts like sparkles in eyes and other highlights/reflections that looked a bit odd.

I came home and took my light-less, reflector-less bike for a tour around the town, verifying my fond hope that it would entice me to exert myself to exhaustion without getting me overheated, because biking around a dark town at night is pretty cooling, if there is a breeze going on.  I found that biking one's legs rubbery, and then carrying stuff up a three-storey fire escape to one's apartment is tricky work.