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The Medium is the Massage

(Views of various modes of transportation: 797s and Airbuses thundering in for landings; high speed rail pulling in to train stations; lines of personal automobiles passing through customs)

Announcer’s Voice: “As dangers the world over and within their own country increase, American citizens increasingly look north for their vacation paradise.”

(Camera cuts to fast images of: Mountie dog sledding; nude sunbathers on Wreck Beach1; smiling blonde skiing in the Rockies)

Reach Out and Mug Someone

(Partial transcript of phone message to Dale MacDonald)

Dale: “Hello?”

Operator: “This is Bell Canada2. We are pleased to be your new telecommunications server for this area. Please indicate now if you would like to proceed to your incoming call immediately, or if you would like to hear about some of our fine…”

Dale: “Jesus! Incoming call!”

Operator: “Thank you for your choice. We will contact you shortly regarding Bell Canada operations and specials. Please proceed.”

Dale: “Hello?”

Caller: “Dale MacDonald. This is the Human Resources Department for Natural Resources Export Corporation. Our records show that as of 2400 hours today you have been drafted. In keeping with federal government regulations owing to Bill C-79823, your position is terminated. Separation pay has been deposited in your account, and at the end of your service you can expect to be offered an excellent entry-level position. Thank you.”

Dale: “Shit.”

If A Tree Falls in the Forest and No One is There,

Can They Still Make Junk-Mail From It?

Your name is Dale MacDonald, and the mail is late. You’ve just lost your job, informed of this disaster by a computer with a reasonable tone of voice. If the computer knows, then you should as well.

But Canada Post4, bless them (no, really), is late with the mail today. They don’t deliver for anyone but the feds now, the feds and advertisers who all claim to use recycled paper for their junk mail5.

Maybe they recycle each others’ ads.

You are a handsome young lad, Dale. Six-foot four by the new system, one hundred and eighty-five pounds6. You have a curly shock of brown hair, blue eyes that all the girls say are to die for, and pretty decent body tone. But today you feel and look quite sick.

Drafted! Kick the concrete porch on the outside of the old tenement you live in. That’s it. Again. Ouch! I bet that smarts, doesn’t it? Got to be careful, can’t afford a broken foot since they delisted it from healthcare7.

Ah, the mailman. Walk to meet him at the sidewalk, Dale. Have your I.D. ready so you can prove it really is you.

No? Well, then, follow him down the street to the superboxes8, wait for him to deposit your letter, and then pull it out.

Wait! Don’t read it out here! Look up and behind you first.

Yeah, you see? Old Lady Laurier has floated another spy balloon. You can see the sunlight glinting off the one hundred sixty times lens as it tries to focus on the letter. Consider dropping it with one of your pocket missiles, but not for too long. Easier and cheaper just to go inside and read the damn thing.

But give her the finger first. Well, give the balloon the finger.

Inside now. What is your reaction, Dale, when you read the words? Do you stagger to the wall and slowly slide to the floor, paper crumpled in your hands? Imagine that you do. Now, flatten out the paper (so precious, so wasteful) and let everyone else read it.

Sure enough. A draft notice. And get this. You’re to be assigned to the Nelson Eddy Division of the True North Corps. How exciting!

Nobody even knew that you could sing.

Beer! Beer!

Dale turned on his notebook, phoned Jimmy. “This is Unitel9 North. There has been a stockholder’s purchase, and we are pleased to announce that we are your new telecommunications supplier. Please allow us a moment to tell you about some of the exciting options . . .”

“No! Continue call.”

One ring. Two rings. Three rings.

“Hello?” Jimmy, squished and funny-looking on the tiny screen, image compressed and recompressed so he almost looked real-time.

“Hey. I need a drink.”

“Sure, man, what’s up?”

“I got drafted.”

Jimmy grimaced. “Oh, man, that sucks! I’m sorry.”

Dale let himself smile, but it didn’t feel real. “It’s okay. See you at Stormin’ Norman’s in an hour?”

“Done. See you there.”

Dale thumbed the notebook back to standby and reached over his cot to pull a T-shirt from his closet. He chose one with a picture of American troops in hi-tech cold weather gear gunning down penguins that looked decidedly Chinese. The logo on it read: “Antarctica—The New Cold War.”

The Cultural Yoke is Somewhat Runny

(Images of a burning building, firefighters hard at work, police and army troops dealing with civilian unrest)

Announcer: “The riot at Stormin’ Norman’s American Bar and Cheesecake Hangout10 (detailed map of location and description of Stormin’ Norman’s runs across lower quarter of screen) started at about three a.m. today. Although police sources are being circumspect (definition of circumspect flashes in upper right corner of screen), this reporter (image of reporter accompanied by curriculum vitae and news stories he has done in the past three months drifts down left portion of screen) has received an exclusive interview with two patrons of the club.”

(EXCLUSIVE! in bold type runs at the top of the screen. Thrilling music swells in the background)

(At least sixty other channels fall prey to a pirate burst informing their viewers that the EXCLUSIVE! is running on a rival channel. Twenty-six of those decide, in turn, to pirate the broadcast itself in an effort to keep viewers. In a sweeping decision handed down forty-three years later, the CRTC11 rules against all of the offending stations, of which one is still operating. But that’s another story).

Cut to image of two teenagers, one female, one possibly male, both with shaved heads, the one who might be male has two ringlets of hair growing from the cheeks, each ringlet dangling about two inches, curled. Tattoos track across the face of each youth, literally like tire tracks on the female, more like a cross between chicken and elephant tracks on the other)

Youth One (female): “We were dancin, yeah? Dancin’ and jitterin’ and humpin’, some sex on the floor but only for show, yeah? Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, Jackie Wilson (access codes for information on these and other new buzz artists are offered to viewers) . . . all their new stuff, yeah? Even the new dance buzz by, by . . .”

Youth Two: “By Buddy Holly (access code offered). Honkin’ shit, yeah? Galsanboys on speakers, dancin’, some fights, but only for show, yeah? Couple get thrown off speakers, little bitta blood, not bad, yeah?” (Images of youth of today dancing to buzz music)

Youth One: “So couple guys, yeah? They go up to the BJ booth, I spy they got somethin’ in their paws, yeah?”

Youth Two: “Thinkin grandomatic, got some new buzz spottin’ here!”

Youth One: “Was not buzz they put out.”

Youth Two: “Was a disc, man, old stuff indeed. Punk, somebody say, Young Canadians12 (picture of Art Bergmann, details about punk music in late 20th-century Canada). Song called ‘No Escape.’”

Youth One: “Joyboy beside me starts jumpin’ up and down, hoppin’ like wackyow grasshopper. Then he stops, pumps his fists in the air and yells, ‘Time to shed the imperialistic cultural yoke of our Yankee bastard neighbors!’”

Youth Two: “Don’t know what the fuck he mean, but seemed like a good reason for party and fight.”

Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull a Mountie out of My Hat

“Squad! You have been selected to serve your country. To serve your country must be the highest honor to ever be visited on your measly little lives!”

The man who speaks wears the traditional red serge of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. His hat is broad-brimmed, his boots spit-polished. Big-eared mouse pin, brass buttons and buckles shine, almost unnaturally. Service revolver sits in holster, looking menacing to the new recruits.

But it is his face that inspires the most stares, the most awe. His chin extends a full five, maybe even six inches beyond where it should stop. The cleft at the end of the chin is also enormous. Makeup covers the worst of the scar, but it is obvious that cosmetic surgery has been used to enlarge his chin.

Blond curls poke out from underneath the hat, and Sergeant Do-Rite’s voice also sounds funny. Like he forces it from his throat or something.

“Squad! Join me in singing ‘Rose Marie’! And that’s no request, mister!”

His singing voice is really quite lovely.

Foster Hewitt13 Rolls Over in the Broadcast Booth

(Excerpts from New-Net TV Guide, week of June 26)

Saturday 6:00 P.M. CBC (PAY): Hockey Night in Canada Double Header. Los Angeles Kings vs. Louisiana Acadians. Montreal Levesques14 vs. Oklahoma Oilers.

Sunday 2:00 p.m. TSN215/ESPN6: CFL16 pre-season. Austin Stampeders17 vs. Poughkeepsie Stallions. A rematch of last year’s Grey Cup.

Sunday 9:00 p.m. BBC International3: The Antiques Road Show18. This venerable show continues its visit to Canada with a visit to the former Alberta Legislature.

Monday 5:00 p.m. CBC (PAY): The New Front Page Challenge19. Mystery guest this week; former BCTV20 Host Michael J. Fox21.

Tuesday 9:00 p.m. Global22: Jerry Lewis Comedy Fest and Retrospective.

Wednesday 8:00 p.m. CBC (PAY): Wayne and Shuster23 Retrospective.

How’s It Goin’, Eh?

Large groups of youths now wander the streets, day and night. All wear toques24 and earmuffs and green army surplus jackets, drinking from the new-style, stubbie, beer bottles. Miller Canadian25 is the most popular brand. Moosehead26 ranks a close second.

As with other trends today, this does not crop up in one city and then slowly spread cross-country. Everyone is online, patched-in, wired and wigged. A trend one day is a tidal wave the same day.

They call themselves “Hosers.” Over fifty networks pick up reruns of the long-forgotten SCTV27, formerly relegated to late-night status on an obscure cable channel called TVO28. TVO responds by playing Strange Brew29 24-hours a day. The Ontario government, holed up in their offices now for over thirty years without talking, responds by finding a document that claims they own TVO. A takeover ensues.

After the initial shock of finding that they still have a provincial government, the people of Ontario (well, okay, Metro Toronto, but the rest of the province really doesn’t count) let their anger, pent-up over years of mismanagement and no management, explode. Riots unlike anything ever seen are dragged into the living rooms of millions of Canadians, and for thirty seconds every half-hour into the homes of Americans.

Troops are called in, but soon decide that they want to side with the “Hosers” and everyone else. The government resorts to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but image deals with Disney and years of training for the Musical Ride30 and singing Hollywood classics leaves them ill-prepared to deal with actual fighting.

One casualty is suffered by the Mounties before they decide to withdraw: Sergeant Do-Rite’s jaw is broken. He returns home a disgraced and dejected man after finding that Nell has left him for a Rich Little31 impersonator.

Louis Louis

The Assembly of First Nations announces that they have successfully created a clone of Louis Riel32. And while they were going to wait until he grew up before they made their move, now seems to be the appropriate time.

The Prime Minister, full of bluster, says that “We hanged the bastard once, and we can hang him again!” The press gallery falls in love all over again with this man. Their belief that he had slowly succumbed to the boredom of the job and that they would never again be offered another interesting quote is shot down with this one line.

Tabloids the world over bring interest in Riel to new heights. And in schools across Canada, Hangman becomes a very popular game.

Natives and Métis across the nation declare their independence. The crisis deepens.

Nothing Binary About 101

Old animosities still lingering, the government of the Republic of Québec offers financial aid to the native and Métis secessionists, as well as hinting at military assistance. Some tense moments pass by on the border between Ontario and Québec after an older gentleman sneaks across and erects and English-only No Parking sign in retaliation, but soon fall to the side when the Québecois troops are recalled to deal with native unrest in their own land.

Reforming 181233

The Prime Minister panics. After consultations with his ministers, he does the only thing he can think of. The phone call is not unexpected. Troops move across the border, officially as a measure of concern to protect American citizens. Resistance, except for in a few rare pockets, does not last. The troops stay. The tourists leave, and do not come back.

1 Wreck Beach is the nude beach in Vancouver, British Columbia. A popular place.

2 Also known as Ma Bell. Was a monopoly until very recently. Of course, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone while he was in Nova Scotia, Canada.

3 Every Canadian government bill begins with the letter C.

4 Much, much worse than the postal service of our kind neighbors to the south.

5 It is a law that Canada Post can deliver all the junk mail they want, and no one can stop them. They deposit in every mailbox, often regardless of stickers requesting otherwise.

6 No, metric isn’t dead yet. But there are a lot of people up here who would like to see it go away. Many miles away.

7 Healthcare is what most Canadians think defines the difference between them and Americans.

8 No more home delivery to new subdivisions, just to big boxes that stand on the street so you can get it on the way home.

9 The people who broke Ma Bell’s monopoly.

10 Places with “American” or “Cheesecake” in the name are cyclically very popular where I live.

11 The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission. Sort of like the FCC.

12 Go back to the story. I explain who they were right after this footnote.

13 For decades, the voice of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC Radio and then TV. The man who came up with that most important of Canadian phrases, “He shoots, he scores!”

14 Rene Levesque was the first separatist Premier of Quebec. The party he lead, the Parti Quebecois, came back to power in 1994, looking for a way to break up the country. They almost succeeded at the end of 1995, and vow to try again.

15 The Sports Network. Canadian version of ESPN.

16 The Canadian Football League. Three downs, 110-yard field, 15-yard end-zones. The CFL has expanded into the US, and the Stallions, at the time with Baltimore and calling themselves the Cs (because Colts was owned by the NFL) came this close to winning the Grey Cup in 1994.

17 Currently the Calgary Stampeders, but a threat of moving the team has been made.

18 A BBC show that runs on CBC Newsworld (sort of like CNN) every Sunday afternoon.

19 What was probably the longest-running show on Canadian TV; ran for around thirty years. A bunch of journalists sat around and tried to guess who the mystery guest was. They were given a few clues and then asked the guest questions. And people think Japanese TV is tough to figure out.

20 British Columbia Television. Currently a government-owned channel used for educational and more high-brow purposes.

21 Famous Canadian actor. Really.

22 A TV mini-network based in Toronto.

23 Once-big Canadian comedians. Made more appearances on Ed Sullivan than any other guest. Many are proud of that bit of trivia, which is really sad when you think about it.

24 Head gear for winter. Sort of like watch caps.

25 Well, actually Molson Canadian. Currently.

26 Famous beer from Atlantic Canada.

27 This all refers to Bob and Doug MacKenzie, as played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas.

28 TV Ontario. Ontario’s version of BCTV.

29 Bob and Doug’s movie. A classic.

30 Famous routine where Mounties ride their horses and carry pikes, all to music and in formation. Also, the Mounties recently signed a deal with Disney to be the only authorized purveyor of the Mountie image world-wide. One pictures RCMP members collaring drug dealers in formation and to swelling music from cartoon classics.

31 Famous Canadian impersonator.

32 Métis rebel from 19th century. Hanged for treason.

33 Referring the War of 1812, where Canadians like to point out they handily kicked U.S. butt. Few, if any, point out that Canada didn’t actually exist until 1867.

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