Goodbye, Mr. Williams

 

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You know a person has touched people deeply and often – by using the gifts they were born with – when the mediasphere suddenly stops and almost universally covers that person’s death… regardless of how tragically meaningless said death was.

Even the White House made a statement in regards to Robin William’s death.

When Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton eventually O.D. from whatever party drugs are in vogue at the moment, sure the media will blurb about it over the course of the day, but people will collectively shrug while TMZ treats is like a national emergency.

I’m sad that such a vibrant and often brilliant man had come to a point in his life where he thought there was no other escape but through the veil to whatever exists after this mortal coil – but in some ways, I don’t think there could have been any other outcome to Robin’s life: when a person has such a manic and larger-than-life energy, you could hardly imagine the depths of the inevitable lows when all the laughter ran out.

In our daily lives, there are certain universal constants that we all assume will be there the next morning after we go to sleep – and the presumption that Robin Williams would always be there with a movie (regardless of how shitty or uninspired the plot might be) or TV show or stand-up comedy special was something most of us were guilty of.

In some ways, Mr. Williams was the toy that we forgot we had: the one that slowly creeps to the back of the bedroom closet until, one day, your parents come along and toss it in the trash because they never see you play with it  – and the very next day, you remember you had that toy and go to play with it… only to feel the guilt and sorrow that comes from the realization of all the fun possibilities that you’ll never get to make good on.

Robin had surely felt the lack of love on our part since we had lost interest in the trademark zaniness that had been pasteurized and shaped into a formula by studio focus group testing – which is both our own fault for not embracing edgier material, as well as not holding studios to a higher standard with our hard-earned dollars.

As with all suicides, both of the celebrity kind and that of regular everyday people whom you know personally, we don’t realize how much someone means to us until they’ve gone – leaving us all to gaze inwards at ourselves and wonder why we didn’t do more to make that person understand that they had people who loved them dearly.

The prevailing wisdom on the topic of suicide is that it’s “a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, but those who are in the dank pit of depression completely lack the perspective to make that kind of differentiation – which means that all of us have a moral obligation to make sure that we help them find the path back out into the light… and it’s something that we’re woefully inept at since most of us are all too caught up in our own little lives to be bothered with helping a fellow soul out in their time of need.

If Mr. Williams had been able to witness the outpouring of love and admiration that came after his death today (well, yesterday since it’s now after midnight as I write this), I’m absolutely certain that he would have been able to get through the darkness that was consuming his troubled soul.

While unnatural celebrity deaths are one of the unavoidable truths of Hollywood, they fall into a few different categories.

The first is accidental: where a celebrity meets their end due to forces mostly beyond their control – like when Paul Walker met his end in a car wreck… and while these events are sad, they fall in line with the rules of the universe.

The second is accidental drug overdose: where the party-hard lifestyle of Hollywood’s A-list crowd collides with the vicious downside of the illicit drug trade – but that downside is always a possibility since there are no strict quality standards for illegal substances, nor are you always going to be able to use appropriate judgement of how much drugs you can safely take while you’re under the influence of drugs… which is a lesson we learn from the death of someone like Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

And then we have the third, the celebrity suicide: the last, pathetic cries of a usually washed-up actor or actress who has pissed away their fortune and alienated the Hollywood establishment by either generally making an ass of themselves in public forums or signing on to any piece of drivel that comes along in order to make some quick cash so they can fuel their own self-destructive tendencies with shit tons of alcohol or street drugs.

Having reached rock bottom, these former celebrities stick a shotgun in their mouths at a seedy motel and pull the trigger, which generates a few headlines due to our collective morbid curiosity about such things.

But I don’t think Robin Williams was anywhere near has-been status, nor could he have been conceivably poor since he surely still makes plenty of coin through royalties on past hits – as well as having been recently the star of a network television series, regardless of how well it was or wasn’t  received by critics and audiences alike.

In many of today’s articles written after his death, it was revealed that Robin had been fighting substance addiction… which I suppose would be almost unavoidable given his manic personality, but it also underlines one of the facts that we at home overlook: actors, actresses, music artists, and sports celebrities are still human beings – and if any of us mere mortals were to endure the kinds of pressure these people do in their highly performance-oriented lives, many of us would crumple under the weight of endless demands.

I say that last part not to excuse the alcoholism or pill dependency that many celebrities develop, but to simply understand that each and every human being needs some downtime where they are free from worry or stress.

In the end, I truly feel for Mr. Williams’ family who have been left with both a gaping hole where their loved one used to be and a three-ring media circus that will spend the foreseeable future scrutinizing Robin’s life in the months leading up to his suicide in the supposed search for answers, but mostly just to sensationalize the final few sad and lonely moments of an apparently broken man.

 

My View: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

First thing’s first: The Hobbit trilogy is NOT in any way going to be like the Lord Of The Rings trilogy – and that’s okay.

Where the three LOTR films were a tale of direness and doom, the Hobbit films will be decidedly more airy and light… and before you complain, that’s the way the actual book is.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a book for younger readers, and as such, you won’t find the darkness and moral terror that the LOTR books brought to the table.

However, even as a “children’s” book, The Hobbit graces 300 pages or so in novel form – and when you factor in material that bridges the 60 years between The Hobbit and The Fellowship Of The Ring from Tolkien’s exhaustively written appendices for the realm of Middle Earth, there’s still plenty of material to craft out each of the Hobbit’s two forthcoming sequels.

Yes… Peter Jackson and the Brothers Warner are milking the franchise for your hard-earned dollars, but as long as the movies themselves are good, who are we to care?

Which brings me to why I’m here: is An Unexpected Journey any good?

Quite.

(BE WARNED, YE WHO READS PAST THIS POINT: THERE BE EXTENSIVE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON)

Again, I must stress the tonal differences between the two sets of movies: this movie might turn off those of you who can only tolerate fantasy genre films if they’re monstrously epic and carry the fate of the world in the balance – because there’s none of that in An Unexpected Journey.

Well… that’s not entirely accurate as there is foreshadowing of Sauron’s return to Middle Earth – mostly in the form of a parley between Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman.

However, for the majority of the film, we in the audience follow the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he’s enlisted into the Company Of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage from the first season of Strike Back – who’s character in that show had to be terminated at the start of the second season in order for him to play his part in The Hobbit trilogy).

During the opening minutes of An Unexpected Journey, we join Ian Holm’s elder version of Bilbo Baggins at Bag End – his lovely home under a hill in The Shire.

This sequence of the movie actually takes place mere hours before we were introduced to Middle Earth at the start of The Fellowship Of The Ring – and thusly concerns the preparations for Bilbo’s 111st birthday… and naturally brings back Elijah Wood’s Frodo Baggins (in a nice feat of continuity segueing) before his own tortuous adventure began.

Bilbo has finally sat down and put pen to paper in an effort to document his many adventures that have earned him a certain reputation amongst the denizens of Hobbiton – and we see in his eyes a mixture of fondness for the memories and a tiredness that carrying the One Ring around in his vest pocket for 60 years has inflicted.

Quickly, we’re transported backwards in time to find Martin Freeman’s younger Bilbo outside his home and enjoying some quality pipe smoking on a fine morning… only to be distracted by a tall shadow falling over him – a shadow belonging to none other than Gandalf The Grey.

Now, I must take a moment to point out that while Gandalf still looks like he has spent 2,000 years in Middle Earth, the make-up and costuming for Ian McKellan somehow manages to make the wizard look a bit more youthful – I think mostly by making him appear a bit more plump while enlarging his wizardly hat… while attaching a fetching scarf that I don’t recall him wearing in Fellowship.

After a bit of dialogue that goes back and forth between Bilbo and Gandalf – which played out a bit awkward in places, but lifted up by Freeman’s excellent carriage of a confused Hobbit – evening falls and Bilbo sits down to a nice plate of pan-fried fish… only to be interrupted by the arrival of a Dwarf, and another, and another, and another, so on and so forth until Bag End is positively bursting at the seams with dwarven merriment as they proceed to eat poor Bilbo out of house and home.

You see, Gandalf had left a little bit of runic graffiti on Bilbo’s front door before he departed – a rune that seemed to mean something along the lines of “Meeting Place For The Association Of Hungry & Homeless Dwarves”.

After the re-appearance of Gandalf, and the arrival of Thorin Oakenshield (played with great subtlety by Armitage that minces nobility, stoicism, and world weariness), it becomes clear that Gandalf has come to enlist Bilbo on quest for treasure… one that lies under the Lonely Mountain – sometimes referred to as the Misty Mountain – in the former dwarven kingdom of Erebor, which was once the greatest city to ever grace Middle Earth.

There’s one small catch: the city and it’s ridiculously tall piles of gold have been usurped by the fearsome dragon Smaug.

It’s made clear that for their plan to succeed, the company of dwarves (and one  Mithrandian wizard) need someone that could sneak by Smaug… one who possessed a scent that the dragon had never encountered – and since dragons weren’t overly concerned with the halflings who lived in The Shire, it made sense to Gandalf that an adventuresome Hobbit would fit the bill quite nicely.

However, when it was made adequately clear (to great extent by one dwarf) that there was a more-than-fair chance that Bilbo could end up incinerated at some point during the journey to reclaim Erebor, Bilbo decides that he doesn’t want to indulge in childish fantasies that would take him far from home and place him in harm’s way.

At this point, the scene to which I lead this article with takes place… and I must say, it’s quite a marvellous bit of a capella and one of my few bones to pick with the film as the scene is cut short far too short (and I honestly hope that there is a longer recording that will be unleashed at some point in the future… as it is, the version on the current soundtrack CD is precisely the length seen up top).

Needless to say, Bilbo changes his mind and signs his name to the rather lengthy dwarven contract that makes it clear that 1) the dwarves that comprise the Company Of Thorin Oakenshield bare no liability should any harm come to him, and 2) he is entitled to one fourteenth of any treasure recovered on their quest.

And so begins his unexpected journey across the lands of Middle Earth, on an adventure of the likes that very few hobbits had ever been on – one that brings the company into conflict with all manners of creatures: orcs, goblins, trolls, and wargs.

It also brings these adventurers to the Elvish kingdom of Rivendell – the same Rivendell in which we first meet Lord Elrond in The Fellowship Of The Ring – and as with Gandalf, the movie accomplishes the goal of making Elrond seem younger (in spite of the fact that elves don’t age) by having him ride in on horseback after slaying a marauding party of orcs.

It’s here that I feel I should discuss the one issue that seems to have taken over these Hobbit films: the frame rate.

As you’ve probably heard – either with a positive or negative slant, depending on the critic – Peter Jackson filmed this Hobbit trilogy at 48 frames per second (meaning that for every second of movie on the screen, there are 48 separate frames going by) instead of the industry standard of 24 frames per second that has been around for about a hundred years.

What a higher frame rate brings to a film is a level of clarity – some have likened it to looking through a large window while a theatrical group enacts a play based on The Hobbit – that audiences have never experienced before.

A great number of people have said that the clarity is so distracting that they can’t pay attention to the story because they are overloaded with set and make-up details.

Personally, I find that to be total and utter bullshit – mainly because I’m a person who works with filmed media… and since I know what frame rate does, I know it’s advantages.

When you have a movie like The Hobbit, which has an abundance of fast-paced battle sequences and lots of running around,  you get a strobe effect  while the action goes across the screen: it can be challenging for the human brain to make sense of fast moving action at the standard 24 frames per second because it seems that the objects on the screen are stuttering as bits of movement are lost between each frame of film.

Logically, as you add more frames to each second of film, more of the action is captured and then displayed when you play it back at the cinema – which makes a battle between 13 dwarves and an entire city of goblins (which is already pure chaos) seem a lot less like a jittery sequence of photos, and more like the fluid dynamic that it really is.

More frames = more information… and since your brain prefers to make it’s decisions with the most information possible, 48 frames per second (or higher) makes much more sense than the archaic 24 frames that was established with the advent of movies with sound – because it was easier to apply a linear audio track to film that ran at that speed.

Many of you who have HD video cameras at home may have played with the FPS settings on your own – many of these cameras come with a 1080p/30FPS option – and have discovered that higher frame rates actually result in a better picture.

This image clarity lends itself even better to 3D films since your brain has to assemble two different data sets into one image simultaneously for the 3D to work effectively… and you may have experienced the difficulty that 3D movies have when the objects on screen start moving around erratically: you doubly notice that strobe effect that’s inherent to 24FPS film.

Add in the polarized glasses that you wear while viewing 3D films at the theatre which reduce the amount of light that reaches your eyeballs, and the data rate that’s going into your brain drops even further.

So, yeah… there’s a lot to be said for clarity.

And since the technology of today’s cameras, digital cinema projectors, and home HDTV screens all have the capability to show high frame rate video, the traditionalist’s urge to keep filming at 24FPS for no reason other than it’s just the way audiences have been used to seeing movies doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Your average HDTV screen now supports 60Hz – which means it can effectively display video at 60 frames per second!

So I can only hope that the eventual Blu-Ray video release of An Unexpected Journey is at 48FPS without having to pay extra – as the majority of cinemas around the world are only showing the movie at 24FPS… and I can tell you right here, the action sequences were jittery as hell in that format, as I was unable to attend a showing with 48FPS.

Anyway… back to my analysis of the actual movie.

There are great stretches of the movie’s nearly three-hour run-time where not a lot happens – where the scenery and cinematography take the place of narrative… but that’s okay as it gives you plenty of time to soak in New Zealand’s countryside, and to pay attention to all the little things that make fantastical events and characters actually gel in Peter Jackson’s films.

Every now and then, you may find yourself looking at your watch – mostly during dense expository – but rest assured that these moments are far in between… and are only natural when converting Tolkien’s material to the big screen as he was very fond of run-on sentences that could last entire pages.

I’m not a Tolkien nerd by any stretch of the imagination, so I can’t tell you precisely what was in the books that made it onto the screen – or what scenes or characters in the movie were made up by screen writers on the whole/were imported from Tolkien materials outside of the originating Hobbit novel.

What I can tell you is that not much screen time was truly wasted – if any at all.

I can say here – with absolute confidence – that every bit of casting for characters we didn’t already know from the LOTR movies was pitch perfect.

Every actor seemed to live and breathe their individual character, and played off the other people in the ensemble brilliantly.

Every dwarf was splendidly dwarvish… and Martin Freeman was note-perfect as the young Bilbo Baggins – so much so that you couldn’t even imagine another actor performing in his hairy foot prosthetics.

Of course, all of the returning actors and actresses bring their ‘A’ games as well – adding small flourishes here and there to make you believe that their characters are indeed younger… whether it be they are quicker with a smile, or a fit of eye rolling when darkness is suggested to be at hand.

Gollum is once again on the screen, and Andy Serkis is able to flesh the miserable creature out more completely than he could a decade ago: while the LOTR films employed early, Oscar-winning motion capture technologies to bring Gollum to life via Serkis’ physical acting, An Unexpected Journey allowed Serkis to use his own facial expressions this time around (instead of them being purely animated during the previous films) – which really helps bring Gollum’s tortured psychosis to the forefront.

In the end, my only quibbles with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the frame rate issue, some make-up processes could have been a bit more refined between orcs and goblins, and that maddeningly short song about the Misty Mountain.

On the whole, I give An Unexpected Journey 8.95 stars out of a possible 10.

What’s maddening is that I have to wait a year for the next one! >.<

Thorin Oakenshield

Farewell, SGU.

I’ll freely admit that I was near tears when the episode faded to black after watching Destiny’s hyperspace trail disappear into the stars.

“Poor Eli,” was all I could muster.

And for a moment, every episode of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe that I could remember played in reverse order – right back to Jack O’Neil sitting on his boat before Daniel asks him to come back to the SGC.

As much as it hurts those non-haters in this crowd, the franchise did deserve a rest – 13 or so years of constant production is almost unparalleled in TV history outside of soap operas (which are also dropping like flies).

Outside of Star Trek, what genre series has come even close? And, no, Doctor Who doesn’t count because it went out of production for a spell – unlike ST:TNG, DS9, Voyager, and eventually Enterprise… which had been in production from 1987 thru to 2005.

But back to Stargate.

The end of SG on Syfy is all about dollars and cents, and not a lack of faith in the producers – a move to service the dumb-as-rocks viewers Syfy and their new Comcast overlords want to chase with advertisers in tow.

The only space opera left is the BSG: Blood & Chrome – which goes back to the tried and true “shoot ’em up” that makes the CroMags (tee hee… name check) happy, and thusly lifts the spirits of each advertiser that will want to shill Budweiser, Cheetos, and Snuggie For Pets.

As many have pointed out in various forums, Syfy should change their slogan to “Check Your Brain At The Door’… so a series that requires a little thought would naturally get shit canned.

It was funny: a few nights ago, I was watching 28 WEEKS LATER after a number of years and was amused to see Robert Carlyle in it – and couldn’t keep from making Rush jokes to myself.

And that’s how it will be for the time being – us at home seeing SGU and other SG actors in shows made after and before the SGU cancellation and wondering…

Wondering whatever became of their SG alter egos  – of all the dramas, plots, and character developments.

We can only hope that the time between now and the time SG comes back to us will be filled with SGU comics, novels, and other licensed tie-ins.

At least then we’ll know what happens to Eli.

Me, personally? I think he’ll let Ginn out of her computer stasis so it can be just the two of them until the lights finally go out.

How The Canadian Population Just Got Raped

…And we’re not even allowed to feel dirty about it.

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission today ruled against the tax paying public in favor of the Canada’s two privately-held national broadcasters.

Assuming that the Federal Court of Appeals doesn’t rule against the CRTC in the coming  months, each and every Canadian citizen that has to subscribe to a cable or satellite television service will now have to pay the long discussed ‘TV Tax’ come 2011.

Why does that matter?

$10 may not seem like a lot of money when it’s going to support Canadian networks – but it really is when you consider most Canadians already pay approx. $80 a month for their service – meaning they’ll be paying $90 come January.

In Ontario, this is doubly worrisome.

Come July 2010, all of Ontario’s cable/satellite subscribers will have  to pay an additional 8% on their subscription bills due to the blended HST kicking in – bringing that bill closer to $97 in January.

Getting back to the ‘TV Tax’, some of you are saying it’s okay because that $10 per person is going to go towards more local and Canadian content.

Nope.

On the same day as announcing the TV Tax, the CRTC also dropped the minimum requirement for Canadian Content hours to zero and mandating that the total CanCon percentage drop from 60% to 55% – meaning your local TV station can carry 5% more episodes of C.S.I.

The only good thing – and I say ‘good’ loosely – is that the CRTC declared that CanWest Global and CTVGlobemedia (CTV) must spend 30% of the money they take in on Canadian produced material such as news programs, public interest programming, etcetera.

An additional 5% of the network revenue must be spent on programs of ‘national interest’ – which translates to Canadian-based dramas, telefilms, and documentaries.

So in some ways, Canadians have made gains in the things they watch, but are being penalized for that privilege.

The glaring issue here is that the CRTC has once again sided with Big Canadian Media without at all listening to Little Canadian Taxpayer – which is a hallmark of the party currently controlling the CRTC’s strings: the Stephen Harper Conservatives (and I made that distinction on purpose).

Steve Harper and the assorted cronies that he’s put in charge of the plethora of Canadian governmental institutions have all come from business backgrounds and are more than happy to sell the country out to private interests.

Never in the history of Canada has Big Business had such an advantage over Small Taxpayer – especially in the media sector.

From the signing on to ACTA behind closed blast doors, to letting the networks rape our pocketbooks – there is no company or industry’s ‘special interest’ lobbyist that Harper won’t invite into the Prime Minister’s Office in that most vaunted of buildings in Ottawa.

With Harper seeing that the Liberals are polling neck and neck with the Conservatives, Steve has to know that the next election – which is going to be sooner than later – is probably not gonna work out for him and his associates.

Which means that now is the time that he needs to sell out the country before it’s too late

It’s a FIRE SALE, folks!

Everything must go!

…Must go to the country’s billionaires, that is.

What can you do, John Q. Public – other than vote the bastards out of office next election?

Nothing, really.

You know… other than bend over, grab your ankles, and let Big Canadian Media sodomize you without the courtesy of lubricating first.

Did you really expect anything else from this guy?

Dear Bell Canada: We Hate You

All of us across Canada have been taking part in a mass experiment for the past 17 days or so.

This experiment was called The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Why is that an experiment and what does it have to do with Bell Canada?

Dear reader, I will tell you ‘cuz that’s just what kind of blogger I am – always looking out for those who don’t know.

For those of you out there who live in countries that are not named Canada, a little background is needed here.

The official Canadian network of the 2010 Olympic Games was CTV – one of only 3 national Canadian networks – and was the only Canadian source of Olympics broadcast over it’s hydra-esque collection of stations: CTV, TSN (The Sports Network), MuchMusic (the Canadian alternative to MTV), and MTV Canada (the Canadianized MTV).

CTV was formerly owned wholly by Bell Canada (now about 20%), and now you’re up to speed.

(UPDATE: Bell Canada has repurchased the entirety of CTV as of September 10th, 2010)

On the whole, the CTV broadcast of the Olympics was completely and totally shit – I’m not gonna mince words here.

The fact that the Canadian-origin Olympic broadcasts were shit is endemic of Bell Canada’s general attitude towards the Canadian public and none of us should have been really surprised at the epic failure of the endeavor.

The technologies employed for the Olympics broadcasts were seriously lacking when compared to the station most Canadians turned to when comparable programming was on offer: NBC.

Why is that?

The answer – to put it simply – is competition.

In the United States of America, NBC had the sole rights for broadcasting the Olympic games to the entire country – but they had to deal with new shows or counter programming from their two rivals, namely ABC and CBS.

NBC was in a position where they had to use absolute top notch video, audio, and graphical technology to make the Olympics palatable to the average American to ensure good Nielsen ratings performance against shows like CSI and LOST.

I give a tip of my metaphorical hat to Mr. Zucker, the president of NBC, for making these strong decisions and reaping the benefits.

However, the corporate masters at CTV didn’t really see the need to go all out on the technical standards because they had the Canadian viewers by the balls – so to speak.

Why?

Two things.

Patriotism and lack of choices.

If a Canadian wanted to watch the games, they (at least in the heads of CTV masters) would have no other option than to watch the CTV family coverage.

And what Canadian DIDN’T want to watch the Olympics hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia – which happens to be in CANADA?

What Canadian citizen didn’t want to watch our Canadian Olympians win more gold medals than any other country in the history of the Games?

There was simply no choice for a lot of Canadians out there across our great land (2nd largest country in the world, by the way) who only got two or three channels on their televisions due to lack of cable or satellite service.

You see, CTV’s corporate masters give it lots of money to spend on licensing of the lion’s share of top rated American shows – meaning that even if you wanted to watch American Idol or other supershows instead of the Olympics, and you didn’t have cable, you were stuck watching the Olympics because your feeble rabbit ear & coat hanger setup can’t pull in an American network.

These are the facts of the previously mentioned experiment.

I’m not really aware of the total ratings breakdown of the CTV broadcasts, but from what I gather, it was a resounding success for the big wigs at Bell Canada’s broadcast division.

Which only serves to reinforce the way that Bell Canada operates throughout our vast country.

You see, Bell Canada used to be a complete and total monopoly of the Canadian telephone system – that is up until the past fifteen years or so where the CRTC (the Canadian telecommunications authority) opened up the phone market to other companies.

Bell had to deal with outside companies all of a sudden competing with them for the Canadian telecom dollar.

American companies came in and tried to run services for a while – specifically Sprint and AT&T (both of which eventually folded their Canuck operations into the Canadian telecom company Rogers).

With the fear of losing massive monopoly sized profits, Bell Canada decided to buy CTV and it’s associated networks to shore up it’s bottom line through the often mystical art of television tradecraft.

For the average Canadian, nothing really changed on television – save for the inclusion of Bell’s corporate logo at the bottom of CTV’s original local programming credits.

And in the years since the CTV takeover, nothing has really changed either – aside from some graphical makeup applied to the CTV brand.

Why?

Bell Canada loathes Canadians – or, at the very least, holds Canadians in total and utter contempt.

For all the water that has passed under the bridge since the monopoly breakup, Bell Canada still operates as a monopoly.

An alarmingly large amount of Canada’s telecom assets are still owned and operated by Bell Canada – including (and the most troubling of all) the entire Canadian internet backbone system.

Bell Canada owns the Canadian internet – despite not having a monopoly on how people subscribe to internet services.

Independent internet service providers have to buy their backbone access through Bell’s infrastructure wholesale.

A Canadian citizen might get their internet through a local company, but that internet is ultimately controlled by Bell.

To borrow something from the Matrix movies, Bell Canada guards all the doors and they hold all the keys – at least as far as the internet is concerned.

That local ISP may not have restrictive content filters that would slow down internet applications like BitTorrent or other P2P programs – but your data traffic cultivated by those apps will still suffer speed delays because Bell Canada does filter.

So in the end, no matter who you’re signed up with, Bell Canada still controls what you do on the internet.

Also, your internet is going to suck when compared to other developed nations.

According to a recent study by eggheads at Harvard University, Canada is 18th on a list of internet service quality.

Why eighteenth?

Because Bell still operates as if it’s a monopoly – and it is the one true  internet God in the realm of Canada’s cyberspaces.

In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, or the United States (among many other countries ahead of Canada on the afore-mentioned list), internet services improve over time due to market forces in a wide open internet marketplace.

Let’s use the United States as a working example, shall we?

In the U.S. there is a plethora of companies offering internet access via their own, wholly owned data networks that are in direct competition which each other for American customer dollars.

In hopes of attracting new customers, American networks are constantly upgrading themselves to offer bigger and better products.

Case in point, Verizon has wired large portions of America with a fiber optic transmission network so they can offer blazing data speeds when compared to their competition (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) who are still relying on century-old metal wire network technology.

Competition is the heart of progress in all systems on the planet – both technological and biological.

For something to become better, it has to have incentive to do so – and as it is, Bell Canada has ZERO incentive to improve itself.

I’m sure that somewhere in Bell Canada’s executive building(s), there’s a large brass plaque that reads in bold letters WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?

Until the CRTC grows some balls and forces Bell to divest itself of the Canadian internet backbone, Bell Canada will not invest one measly dime in network upgrades than it has to – and believe me, it doesn’t spend one penny that it isn’t forced to.

Except…

Except for internet service via cellphone.

The cellphone service sector is wide open in Canada with many competitors vying for 34 million Canadian’s hard earned cash.

Rogers, Telus, Koodo, Virgin, Wind Mobile – all nipping at Bell’s subscriber base, which forced the company to innovate and try to offer a technological edge to it’s customers that wouldn’t be available to other services.

If there weren’t other cellphone service providers in the Canadian market, Canadians would not have access to 3G or the oncoming 4G.

Bell users now have the opportunity to use the vaunted iPhone (gag me with a spoon) because Bell was forced to upgrade it’s network to compete with Rogers who was already offering iPhones.

That’s the process of competitive evolution in action.

The dinosaurs went through this hundreds of millions of years ago in our planet’s distant past, but the dinosaur that is Bell Canada simply refuses to evolve because there isn’t another corporate beastie big enough to take a bite out of it’s gnarled hide.

For this, we Canadians are in the technological third-world – which really, really sucks.

As much as we love to brag to our quarrelsome American neighbors about how we have superior, free healthcare and how we mopped the floor with them in the 2010 Olympic gold medal count, we must continuously hide our shame in regards to how friggin’ slow our internet speeds are.

I sit here in envy of whichever American cities get selected for Google’s internet service experiments that promises speeds of 1GB per second: yes, one gigabyte per second compared to my 300 kilobytes per second as I write this blog.

No, 300kbps isn’t a national average in Canada.

The average data speed in high-speed enabled communities throughout Canada is 10 megabytes per second via DSL service, 12Mbps via cable internet service – and I’ve enjoyed connection speeds of up to 5Mbps via DSL in the past, but those were anomalous and based on living in the right areas where Bell spent some extra money on their wiring .

Yes… I could subscribe to my cable company’s (Cogeco) internet service and get that 12Mbps, but there’s a gigantic catch to that blissful speed: a solid 60 gigabyte data cap – which is fairly standard amongst North American cable companies.

60GB isn’t enough by far for my demanding usage as I regularly move 200GB or so a month via gaming, uploading to social media sites like YouTube and Flickr, and downloading music/TV shows/movies.

So I’m stuck on this crappy Bell-supplied architecture.

And we, as Canadians, were stuck with the crappy, Bell-managed CTV Olympics coverage when we couldn’t turn to NBC for the same event – which was sporadic at best since NBC’s coverage was very focused on American Olympians and would skip events where the U.S. wasn’t competing, and completely blanked the Canadian cultural portion of the Closing Ceremonies.

AARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH! @$#%&!

Seriously, Bell Canada… what the hell?

The next time I stop to use a pay-phone, I hope you choke to death on the two quarters.

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Oh… and that experiment and it’s purpose?

To figure out how much shit we as Canadians are willing to put up with.

And by the looks of it, Bell Canada will continue to use the Canadian market as it’s own personal outhouse.

Thoughts On The 2010 Golden Globes

First thing off the bat that I noticed was the directing SUCKED.

Camera people were consistently out of place, and the coordinators had almost no idea of where anyone was seated.

WTF? How do you screw that shit up?

But I digress…

Big winner of the night were the Na’vi – who walked away with Best Motion Picture and Best Director – which A) really primes the movie for Oscar glory, and B) was inevitable.

Robert Downey, Jr. got some love for SHERLOCK HOLMES – but I was really puzzled about the category: Comedy/Musical.

Me thinks I’ll have to check that flick out to properly gauge the jokes and musical numbers.

Hollywood’s most overlooked workhorse, Jeff Bridges, finally got an award for his country music flick CRAZY HEART – which I have yet to see (anyone want to send me a screener copy?).

One of the most dumbfounding moments of the night was Drew Barrymore getting some hardware for GRAY GARDENS – not because she won (she’s always charming) but the fact that she’s never won a Golden Globe before, especially since she’s been coming to the awards since she was 7 or 8 years old.

It was cool to see what Michael Giacchino actually looked like (musical score for UP) as I’d never laid eyes on him before – so now he goes into the mental gallery with Danny Elfman and John Williams.

It was fitting that the scene-chewing Jew Hunter from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS won a trophy as Cristoph Waltz is actually a pretty decent dude.

The TV awards were pretty lame as nobody from any worthwhile shows won awards – though MAD MEN picked up Best Show (obvious, no?).

…Which brings me to the show’s actual Golden Globes:

Mmmm... global

Oh… and Ricky Gervais’ shot at Mel Gibson? Priceless!