Monthly Archives: May 2012

May You Live Long and Prosper…

 

In the summer of 2009 on a road trip through Alberta, Canada, my friend Kris, smug grin in place and a sort of heady satisfaction in the gleam of his eye, promised me we’d be “bolding going” to someplace special.

“OOOhhhh… Are we going to Vulcan??”

“Fuck you.  Get in the car.”

Vulcan, Alberta!

The small prairie town that flirted with greatness and then turned to coincidence to make an honest living.  With just under 2,000 people it has, the town’s far-out website pledges, “worked hard to take advantage of its name by creating a fun and unique Star Trek related identity that makes it stand apart from any other small prairie town. Today, Vulcan offers a fun and unique tourism experience for visitors and Trekkies alike.”[1]

* * * It’s Space Tourism!  Here!  Now! In the “Official Star Trek Capital of Canada,”[2]  VULCAN, A L B E R T A * * *

Yours to discover, in wild rose country.

Speaking Vulcan in Vulcan.

Welcome to Vulcan in Vulcan.

Well, why not?

True, “Vulcan’s famous name came from a CPR[3] surveyor, who had a penchant for Roman Mythology. In 1910 the surveyor named the town Vulcan after the roman God of Fire and Forge because it was to rest on the highest elevation point.”[4]  Yet, even the gods themselves can only do so much.  Not all gods are worthy, after all, and we don’t have to love them.

Onward, then, from The Forge to the Final Frontier!

We arrived late in the afternoon, stopping off at the tourist information centre before carrying on to our final stop, Calgary, just an hour or so away.  Outside the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station/Galaxy Gift Shop, so called, there are, the town assures us, “Star Trek inspired attractions.”  Specifically: a Star Ship FX6-1995-A,[5] and a humble memorial to the creator, Mr. Gene Roddenberry himself.  The ship sits atop a pedestal, thoughtfully embossed with plaques welcoming visitors in Vulcan, English and Klingon.

In Vulcan, Alberta.

To seek out new life and new civilizations…

Approaching the ship from below, it takes but a slight fold of the imagination to envision it soaring up, up, up into the cosmos and through the very limits of the Alpha Quadrant before swooping back down to Earth to rest again, “proudly overlooking highway 23, halfway between Calgary and Lethbridge near the Centre Street entrance to town.”[6]

Across the street: a gas station.

Inside, another story.

Stepping into the building proper, “designed to look like a landed spaceship”[7] – a feat which, with its white spires pointed to the sky and across the horizon and its prominent chapeau/dome, succeeds, actually, if you take it as a building that is designed to look like a landed spaceship – the blue of the Alberta sky gave way to a nebulous womb of inky blacks and purplish whorls and silvery trims.   Dangling spheres and soft, suggestive light.

And Wall-to-wall murals… 

…and Postcards and mugs, and costumes and props. And the “Vulcan Space Adventure” virtual reality game.[8]   And commemorative plates and posters and shotglasses and camo hats and jewelry and nutcrackers and candy and cards and t-shirts and bobble-heads and coasters and large people wall stickers and collapsible water bottle-set phasers and Tribbles (medium) and ST Fish Car Emblems and Pon Farr Perfume (for Women) and maps and notepads and Five Dollar Coins[9] and coffee beans and Starfleet beer cozies and ornaments and ST business card holders and Vulcan pens and pins and badges and ST Pizza Cutters[10] and busts and toys and, inescapably mixed into all of this yet somehow at the forefront and most of all, Them.

“Life-sized Star Trek character cutouts…waiting to pose with you on the main bridge of our Star Ship.”[11]  Yes.  The Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station/Galaxy Gift Shop has a bridge.  Of course it does.  And there are costumes for those who want to pose along.  That’s what Vulcan promises: a good time, an experience, a sensation.  They are waiting.

Yet, through the distortions and neurosis of memory, that’s not what quite I remember.

Cardboard cutouts of every conceivable ST character, sardined into any available space!  A gaggle of Trois!  A pile up of Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway!  An Archer!  A matching set of Commander Siskos![12]  A baker’s dozen Klingons!  Data!  Why are you pointing that phaser at me, man?  Dude, be cool.  There a Spock, there’s a Spock, there a Spock, there, there, there!

And also something else.  Undeniable.

I am not an observant Star Trek fan.[13]  I used to be able to name episodes and plot twists and stardates and the variously sexy bearding of one Commander William Thomas Riker,[14] and there is a glut of unwritten Ensign Ro fanfic buried somewhere in shallow recesses of my subconscious, but these days I’m liable to get tripped up in the minutia.

Penda Uhura?  Nyota Uhura?  Penda Nyota Uhura? Nyota Penda Uhura? Beyond Uhrua?

I lapsed.

Kind of a lot.

This kind of works for me, though.

Sometimes, too, instead of rapt attention,[15] Star Trek inspires a kind of manageable ennui as I stray from the lessons of the Prime Directive,[16] and focus instead on the actors tugging haplessly away at their shirt bottoms.

Stop.  I still love Star Trek.  But now I can’t always help seeing the cardboard for the cutouts.  And so as I made my slow circumambulation of Trek Station, an odd sensation of having interrupted someone else’s carefully planned fun.  A kind of embarrassment of not knowing, exactly, what to do with myself as my expectant friends looked on.  A feeling of interloping on the Crew, standing there in silent testament of the town’s devotion, wondering all the while whether all this tongue-and-check embrace of Star Trek is a kind of gesture to those of us who aren’t committed.

It was certainly not the homecoming Kris had hoped for me.

I purchased an “American Gothic Vulcan Mug” and a pair of rubbery stick-on Vulcan ears for my friend, Rosena, who had an impressive (in the way that impressive is a kind of scary, penetrating obsession) with a certain Zachary Quinto at the time.[17]

Leaving, giddy, self-conscious, relieved, I impulsively the young clerk standing behind the counter, all decked out in her replicated uniform, “But, though, do you like Star Trek?”

“When you live here, you kind of have to,” is what she said.[18]
 
 


 [1] Quoted from: http://www.vulcantourism.com/?page_id=8.  The website doesn’t denote Star Trek as a title by italicizing it, but for consistency, and wherever I can, I do.

[2] They are serious.  In 2010, the town of Vulcan finalized a licensing agreement with CBS Consumer Products which gave Vulcan the right to create its own line of Star Trek/Vulcan (the town) mechanize available exclusively at Vulcan-area businesses.  The official recognition of Vulcan as the “Official Star Trek Capital of Canada” came with the deal.  A bonus.

[3] Canadian Pacific Railroad.

[4] Quoted from: www.vulcantourism.com/?page_id=173.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it would follow that because Vulcan (the town) rests on the highest elevation point in the vicinity of Vulcan (the county), that Vulcan (the town) would be named after Vulcan (the god), who is said to toil in blacksmith shops beneath volcanoes.

[5] A.K.A. The Starship Enterprise from Star Trek V.  Thank you.

[8] It looked like it cost extra, so I didn’t enquire.

[9] $15.00/Ea

[10] Shaped like the Enterprise.  You can just see it now, can’t you?

[12] By this, I mean pre and post goatee.

[13] The difference between a “Trekker” and a “Trekkie”?  So much drama.

[14] Read: not sexy.  Lt. Thomas Riker was sexier, comparatively.

[15] Back in 1993 I nearly burned down the kitchen while watching the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, dinner-cooking-on-very-hot-stovetop totally forgotten.

[16] I can’t remember, although I can’t shake the impression that the Prime Directive can’t – in the way that “can’t” really is “shouldn’t” – be used against Star Fleet, if it, indeed, ever “can” be, and that if it ever was, that such an unhappy occurrence most likely came from the misplaced arrogance beaming in from the other side.

[17] Around that time Vulcan (despite not having a movie theater) had unfortunately lost an impressive and ambitious bid to premier the new Star Trek (2009) film.  In appreciation of the town’s valiant efforts, a private screening of the film was held in Calgary for 300, um, Vulcanites (?).  Vulcanoes?  Bruce Greenwood was there.  It was nice.

[18] By a similar trick of Fate, I will find myself in Calgary, Alberta June 8 – 10th, 2012 and these dates coincide precisely with Vulcan’s Spock Days and Galaxyfest, a three-day event which turns the whole town into an open convention centre.  But you still have to register.  It is the 20th Anniversary.  Will I make it?

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Question? Answers!

 

“So, what do you do?”

I guess I’m getting to that age where I get asked that question a lot, and with some real expectation attached to it.

This is not unexpected.

People my age (or thereabouts, and in other words by now) have careers, real estate, cars, kids and, like, blu ray.[1]

Me? 

No.

Why?

Because!

No matter.  The question persists:

“So, what do you do?”  

The answer, “Nothing”, doesn’t satisfy and gives an air of cold detachment from the question, not to mention the asker.  Rest assured: it is unintentional, such aloofness!

Or at least I don’t mean it.

Especially since, “Oh, you’re in management?  That’s.  Amazing.”

So, in the spirit of begrudging acquiescence to banal inquiry, it’s come time to shore up a better list, a repertoire if you will, of new! exciting! suitable! answers.

Well, answers anyway.

Q:  “So, what do you do?”

A: _______________
 

1)   I am a Swamp People.

2)   Wrangling.

3)   The Erotic Arts.

4)   Loving you.

5)   Tina Fey Impersonator (not going well).

6)   “Going Greener than anyone has ever Greened before.”

7)   Preemptive Taxidermy.

8)   Icon Repair  😦 Þ 🙂

9)   Two words:  Sock.  Puppets.  Four words.  Six.  Seven.  No, eight.  TEN??

10)  Fish Monger!  (Fishwife?)

11)  “I work exclusively in the medium of Gummi.”

12)  COCKTAILS!!!

13)  Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box.

14)  Hard, industrial solvents.

15)  Pet Psychic (Afterworld Only/Weekends Only/Online Only/No Chinchillas/Cash Up Front).

16)  [Something Else to Do With Fish]

17)  “Well, these days, I’m under there.”[2]

18)  Shafting.

Can you dig it?

Mine too, baby.

19)  Baby Hypnosis.

20)  Subway Pusher (transportation, cold-cut combos, inclusive).

21)  Winston Churchill Impersonator (going exceedingly well).

22)  24 Hour Cosplay.

23)  Human Dryer.

24)  Bouncer.[3]

25)  Lips.[4]

26)  Following Jesus.[5]

27)  Dismantling the Hegemonic Bloc.[6]

28)  “Let me ask you.  Have you ever come face-to-face with a Cassowary in Full Crest after it’s done away with your entire team in the dead heat of jungle night?  You do that.  You do that and come back here and tell me what it’s like before you ever again ask me what I do.”

29)  Popping Caps.[7]

30)  Your Mom.[8]

31)  Homemade Botox.[9]

32)  Hollaback Girl.

33)  Family Tree Fan-Fiction.[10]

34)  Poof Reader [sic].[11]

35)  Ghost Hunter Hunter.[12]

36)  “You’d have to ask Cindy herself.  I am a robot She created in Her image, to deal with matters vis-à-vis this.  You.”

37)  Cryptozoology.  I Find Your Chupacabra or Yeti  in 30 minutes!  Or I don’t.

38)  “You ever notice how Batman and I are never in the same room?  Think on that.”[13]

39)  Abstract Sandwich Artist.
 

Pick and choose! 

But you may as well highlight #30.

It’s on.
 


[1] I do have Netflix depending on how popular Netflix is that day and whether Stephen is downloading anything at the same time I want, say, to watch Shakes the Clown again.

[2] Tee-hee!

[3] OK, yeah.  Me?  I know.  But you have to see the people that this actually works on.  I can’t even.  Wow.

[4] ?

[5] “Hey-Seuss”.  I was going to meet him at a farmer’s market but it was closed, which is perfect because he doesn’t actually exist.  No footprints.

[6] Just kidding.  No one does that.  Um, what’s hegemony?  Like even.

[7] Bap, bap, bap.

[8] Totes.

[9] Faux-tox.  It aspires to Botox but cheaps out, much like my clients.  Yes.  I come to your house and/or hotel room.

[10] Slowly, creatively, methodically, I gratify your desperate need for human connection in this crazy, fractured modern world, with its nuclear family units and hi-speed Internet, whist inflating your generational sense of self-important entitlement by grafting familial branches wherever you want them.  Shit, you can be related to Julius Caesar and David Beckhem for all I care.  Chaka Khan.  Whatever, man.

[11] Poop Reader [sic].

[12] All you have to do is follow the heavy, laboured path of ridiculous.

[13] YOU’RE WELCOME.

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I Don’t Care About Your Daughter

 
“Hey, sorry to interrupt but I have to get going…”

“Oh, no.  Yeah.  We ran overtime.  But we’re finishing up now, you can come right in.”

“Well…as long as we don’t take too long.  I have to go home to take my dog out.”

Yeah.  Yeah, I know.  It’s late, huh?  I’m going to miss my daughter’s bedtime…”

 

Oh.  My. God.

I don’t care about your daughter. 

Our meeting was scheduled for almost an hour ago and I was waiting for you while you sat here, legs crossed at the knee, not letting the other person get a word in edgewise, so congratulations you have a daughter, I guess, but I don’t care.

Because I hate you, David.  I already hate you.  And the fact that you supposedly have a daughter that you can’t be there for because of a job you’re evidently not doing well – the fact my concern for my very real dog is to be equated to or, actually, trumped by your highly theoretical daughter – makes me hate you more.

Now I’m the other person.  Congratulations all around today. 

You realize your daughter, who apparently can fall asleep without you anyway and is not, I assume, sitting in the dark by herself with crackers scattered on the floor in the meantime, is otherwise a total abstraction to me.  An incredible projection of an unbelievable man.  She may as well be made of dragon’s breath and unicorn tears, that’s how real she is to me.

Bigfoot’s ennui.  Pegasus’ grandma.

Is she real?  I see no pictures, but is that a Florence + The Machine poster there on the wall?

God. 

I.

Hate.

You.

 So.

How old is she supposed to be? 2, 4, 6, 18?  She may as well be 10, 000 BC, that’s how much I care.

Is your daughter a narwhal?  I have my suspicions about those too. 

Ogopogo’s chauvinism.  Pat Sajak.  Owlbear. 

I made this for Stephen for his birthday, and had to wait till he fell asleep so I could work on it. This pretty much answers the "GO TO SLEEP STEPHEN, GAWD!!!" mystery that lasted pretty much all of last month.  Thank you.

“A cross between a bear and an owl, which “hugs” like a bear and attacks with its beak” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owlbear.

“Hate”, I know, is a strong word.  But trust me.  I’m experienced, hating you for me.  I know what I’m doing.  Others should join me, I am absolutely so right about this.

Not that I speak for The People.  I can’t even vouch for your daughter.  The People can hate you. How. Ever. They. Want.  

 

“Do you have any more meetings after this?  I hope you get home soon.  Gee.”

 

I hope you find better ploys, or invest in more crackers.  

I mean…

Pixie dust and leprechaun farts!  A leprechaun farted = that’s your daughter.   

For all intents.  For all purposes. 

Forever.

 

THE END

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End Game

When Alexey Pajitnov developed Tetris (Russian: Тетрис) in 1985, it seems unlikely that he knew what, exactly, he would unleash into the world.  As he excitedly shared it with his comrades in those early days and sullenly bided his time until the day it would belong to him alone, finally and again (see Kent 2001: 377 – 381), the game, almost effortlessly, became bigger than even itself and threatened to forsake him.

Always love.

And love.

Tetris was, after all, a sensation, a craze, a frenzy – one that flares up occasionally, like wildfire, consuming all in its path.  It is the ultimate test of skill, endurance and luck under pressure, of one against the inevitable.

In that, Pajitnov wasn’t alone.

My friend’s father nearly burned down the house BECAUSE OF TETRIS.

His entire family of 8 was home at the time, most of them sleeping upstairs.  They were always late risers, but anyway it was the weekend.  The stove was on, there was hot oil on a burner and the drapes caught on fire.  Soon, the entire kitchen was engulfed in flames.

It’s hard to say what transpired that fateful morning.  But picture, if you will, Dad going through his morning routine, half awake but perking up to the idea of a hot breakfast.  Bacon today!  With some eggs, maybe?  But just as he clicks on the burner and begins to pull apart the strips of bacon one by one, placing them in beautiful, unbroken lines on the counter, arranging them just so, something begins to pull at the back of his mind, and before it even registers, he is beckoned from his task by the allure of the computer.

Just one quick game…

What happened next is the stuff of lore, of stories passed from person to person, causally thrown about among friends and strangers and landing, from time to time, just a breath shy of the incredible reality of Urban Legend.

The second oldest daughter came downstairs.  She saw the drapes smoke then explode into flames, and she saw her father sandwiched between stairs and the rising fire.  She tensed.  Took a deep, shuddering breath….

               …and promptly ran outside, screaming “FIRE!” as she went…

…while the rest of the family remained inside, upstairs

Dad kept playing the game – oblivious – in a state of such pure geometric ecstasy that breakfast, fire, home, space and time, all were banished to the realm of the inconvenient and unpalatable.

He was on a roll.  The roll of his lifetime…

                     …until another daughter came downstairs, blinked once at the flames and once at her father, and screamed “FIRE!”…

while still in the house…

                   …and roused everybody up before they all ran outside, together.

                   As a family.

Some say Dad was first to hear her screams, but was last to leave the house.

Some say he lingered, hesitating just long enough at the computer screen to gaze one last time upon his high score – his highest score – and to sear it forever into his memory.

For what it’s worth: Second Oldest Daughter had the wherewithal to call the fire department from a neighbour’s place across the street. They managed to put out the blaze in the kitchen before it truly spread to the rest of the house.

For what it’s worth: She swears she believed, at the time, that they would hear her trailing screams, and rather fancies her actions as a kind heroic multitasking, thank you.

Please?

For what it’s worth: to this day, Dad swears it was the best game of his life.  In that, he has a kind of undeniable proof.

I was friends with the other daughter.

The good one.
 
 
References

Kent, Steven L.  (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched Our Lives and Changed Our Worlds. Three Rivers Press: New York.

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