Thursday, March 29, 2007
I heard it. I really did. I had to strain my ears and really concentrate, but I definitely heard it.
Someone was talking to me, saying how he was "about to head out for lunch", and I finally caught that subtle elongated O that foreigners say is typical of the Canadian accent.
I have heard it said that you can't hear your own accent. I'm not completely convinced that this is true in all cases. I've noticed, for example, that Scottish people can ratchet their accents up and down: a subtle brogue in casual conversation that turns into a roaring, booming timpani of r's and k's when they're excited, agitated or, most significantly, when they are doing a self parody. All of this suggests to me that they have some sense of and control over how their voices sound.
But while the Scottish may or may not have such an ability, most North Americans clearly do not. I'm pretty sure that almost everyone who lives on this continent thinks they talk TV Generic English.
It's a funny thing about the TV Generic accent. I have yet to find where it comes from. The United States is full of a bunch of funny little accents but none them sound the way people do on TV. It's not Midwestern, that's for sure. Average people on the East Coast sure don't tawk like dat. I used to think maybe TV English was Californian, but visits to California disproved that too.
Likewise, I used to firmly believe that everyone in English Canada outside of the Atlantic region spoke with a perfectly homogenized generic North American accent. Then, on a trip to Florida, I was haggling with one of those ubiquitous Orlando street-corner ticket vendors when he suddenly interrupted and asked if I was Canadian.
"Why, are we notoriously cheap or something?" I asked.
"No, it's just the way you guys talk. Those certain words - 'out' and 'roof' and so on."
I was astounded. Of course, I had always heard the gags about the alleged "oot aboot the hoose" Canadian trademark, but I'd always thought that just applied to people from Nova Scotia. I had no idea I sounded like that.
So since then I've been listening carefully to see if I can catch it. Finally, like a faint radio signal it came through. Sort of like a heavily watered-down, somewhat coarser version of a Scottish accent. Does that sound about right?
[Bob and Doug McKenzie - Twelve Days of Christmas]
Of course, none of this is to suggest that the great linguistic blight of TV Generic English doesn't exist. I think throughout the continent people's accents become more watered down as they become more educated and/or watch more TV.
On one occasion, I met a Newfoundlander who was studying law in Western Canada. Now, we Canadians, you know, love our Newfoundlanders. I think we all secretly wish that the whole country talked that way, 'cause it's so much cooler than generic English. But this guy had no accent whatsoever.
"Where's your Newfie accent?" I asked him.
"Back in Newfoundland," he said curtly. What a shame.
On the other side of the coin, there's your blog friend and mine, the inimitable FiL, born and raised in the USA but lived for a long time in the UK. Unlike so many North Americans, who stubbornly refuse to adapt to their surroundings, FiL clearly "went native" when he was in the UK and his voice still carries faint British inflections, making it tough to determine just where the hell his accent is from, like some sort of clever linguistic camoflage.
Good on him, I say. I think it's a shame we've allowed ourselves to be so totally homogenized and Walmartized on this continent.
And that's all I have to say aboot that.
What do you think? Got a favourite accent? Got a funny/sad/quirky accent story?
posted by Mentok @ 1:15 PM, ,
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
It's hard to believe, but the most marvelous Contrast Podcast, evil handiwork of that limey bastard Tim from The Face of Today has turned the Big Oh-One today.
If any of you, dear readers, haven't yet partaken, I urge you to go click on over to the CP site right now and give your ears a treat. No, right now. Quit reading this and just do what I effing tell you... go now.
Good music. Good people. Good times. What more could you possibly need to know?
Thanks, Tim, for inviting me to join. I am unworthy but grateful. And, no, you are neither evil nor a bastard, as far as I know. Just teasing.
posted by Mentok @ 1:34 PM, ,
Monday, March 26, 2007
Another theme party! It seems my life is an endless succession of theme parties.
Thanks to my kid parties and Oscar parties, I've started to get a rep amongst my friends as the guy to hit up for goofy theme party schtick.
One such friend was hosting a charity dodgeball tournament and thought it would be fun to add elements from the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
In case you haven't seen it, that film was an entirely forgettable Vince Vaughn / Ben Stiller gross-out comedy involving, obviously, a dodgeball tournament.
The sole saving grace of the movie was the inimitable Rip Torn as Patches O'Houlihan, a curmudgeonly, wheel-chair bound, down-and-out former dodgeball champion who agrees to serve as coach.
His unorthodox training methods include hurling wrenches at the players. "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."
[Below is a clip from the movie in animated gif format. Might not show up. Let me know whether or not you can see it.]
I was drafted to play Patches at this charity tournament. I had had a few drinks when the recruitment pitch was made, so it sounded like a good idea at the time.
As the date approached, it dawned on me that performing in front of roughly 70 adults was not going to be the same as playing the clown in front of a dozen children at a birthday party, which was about the extent of my previous acting experience.
To make matters worse, the suppliers of the wheelchair required a measurement of my ass. My friend, the tournament organizer, tried to short-cut this by simply describing the requirement as "medium", god bless him. Not good enough: the supplier insisted on an actual tape-measure measurement. I had not counted on such humiliation as part of the deal.
I soldiered on and worked diligently on my props for the party. My role was to explain the rules of dodgeball to the crowd. I didn't trust myself to memorize the rules, but I didn't think it would be in character for the down-and-out Patches to sit there with a regulation handbook. Instead, I used an ultra-fine Sharpie and painstakingly wrote out a set of cheat-sheets on a roll of toilet paper.
Long story short, everything worked out fine. My friend supplied a bag of plastic wrenches which worked to great comic effect on the crowd. Likewise, the roll of toilet paper got a good laugh. Generally, the players found it tremendously entertaining whenever I verbally abused them. I spent the evening being completely uninhibited - insulting, leering, griping - and totally getting away with it. It was glorious!
I stayed in character most of the evening, which means I had to get around in a wheelchair. It wasn't so bad. People are always getting out of your way and helping you. You can butt in line at the bar and no one dares complain. I'm sure it would be a giant pain if you had to do it 24/7, especially with stairs and such, but wheelchair life has the odd plus here and there.
Possibly the funniest part of the evening was when I decided to break character. Apparently, not everyone had realized that it was all an act, so there were some stunned faces when I suddenly got up and walked away from the chair.
All good fun, but I'm in no hurry to extend my acting career. I understand now more than ever why the stress of live comedy drives some stand-up comics into the loony bin. Not for me!
Now, how about you? Tell us all the goofiest thing, intentional or accidental, you've ever done at a party or sporting event.
posted by Mentok @ 4:40 PM, ,
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
My review of 300 has been reposted under the Movie Reviews tab. A shortened version focusing on the political elements is posted under Opinions.
posted by Mentok @ 11:27 AM, ,
Saturday, March 17, 2007
You guessed it, the obligatory St. Patrick's Day post.
I must admit that I have a complex relationship with the Irish people.
Growing up, I was always told that my ancestors came from Ireland. But all we could confirm historically was that their ship departed from Ireland. Our last name is one of those bland, generic anglo-saxon names that could be from anywhere in the British Isles. Our family culture is entirely Canadian and preserves nothing of our alleged Irish roots.
I happen to know this because for a time, as a teen and a young man, I rejected my Irish roots and took every excuse to distance myself from them. When I backpacked through Britain as a college student, I was swift to conclude that my real heritage must be Scottish, since I developed such an instant affinity for that nation.
The reason I had come to feel averse to my Irish roots is that I had come to see the Irish people, like the Quebecois, as examples of supremely bad karma, of unquenchable desire destroying one's soul.
It seemed, from my reading of Irish history, that the Irish people had turned their backs on any number of reasonable solutions that would have brought them peace and prosperity with honour (the great sad history of Michael Collins, the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the resulting Irish Free State being only one example). I concluded that I could not respect a nation that would deliberately choose to suffer rather than accept the smallest compromise.
Aw, but that was when I was all young and principled and shit. I just really don't care so much about such things anymore. Besides, as the years have gone on, I have felt a gradual, perhaps genetic gravitational pull to all things Irish: the music, the personalities, the literature and even the brogue.
Besides, I confess, my real personality has a strong dose of Irish pugnacity and mendacity to it, in case you hadn't noticed.
These days, I must admit, when I look at people like Elvis Costello or Samual Beckett, a small voice very deep inside seems to say: "There is my countryman."
So today I'd like to honour the great, wonderful and perpetually screwed-up Irish nation with a selection of tunes I feel convey the real soul of Ireland:
Elvis Costello - No Action
The Clancy Brothers - Minstrel Boy
Declan Hunt - Come Out Ye Black and Tans
The Chieftans - Whiskey in the Jar
The Chieftans - O'Sullivan's March
The Pogues - Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six
The Pogues - Recruiting Sargeant / Medley
The Pogues with Sinead O'Connor - I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day (this was the departing waltz for me and Mrs. Mentok at our wedding)
Tonight, we're off to O'Hanlon's to drink Guinness and curse out the English. How about you folks? Doing anything special for St. Patty's?
posted by Mentok @ 12:15 PM, ,
Monday, March 12, 2007
...And we're back!
Not that anyone, apparently, noticed, but I've had a busy couple of weeks with no time for blogging.
Today, to ease back into things, I wanna talk about half-baked ideas, especially half-baked business ideas.
Those of you who know me in the real world know I'm famous for such things.
I once read a biography of Stalin in which the author observed that Stalin's curse was that 30 per cent of his ideas were brilliant but 70 per cent were either stupid or insane. The problem was that he had no ability to distinguish which was which.
This is, in fact, the curse of all idea people. Personally, I would have given up on my loopy business ideas long ago, but I am haunted by the notion that one day, by sheer random thousand-monkeys-at-a-thousand-typewriters chance, I might actually come up with a good one.
I am further encouraged in my quixotic devotion by the success of a colleague of mine. He is likewise a loopy business idea guy and, in my objective opinion, his ideas are no saner than mine, but through various conspiracies of good fortune and skill, his ideas have consistently taken off. He has, for example, made a thriving home business out of fine-art fridge magnets. His latest venture is selling carbon credits to environmentalist types (in spite of the fact that my colleague's own beliefs, I'm sad to say, lean towards the global-warming-denier end of the spectrum. Capitalism in action!)
So, I live in hope....
Here's a selection of some of my hare-brained greatest hits:
Action Jesus - even though I'm not Christian, I figure there's a huge market selling toys to Flandersian America. My toys would bring the Bible to life with the excitement of superhero-style toys :
- Pharisee, with stone-throwing arm
- Lucifer, with Get-Behind-Me backward leaping action
- Quick Change Saul/Paul, with bonus Road to Damascus action stand
- St. Matthew Piggy Bank, with automatic tithing function.
Reviving the Rhino Party - this will mean little to you foreigners. There used to be a parody political party in Canada that ran on joke platforms but actually got listed on the ballot. The Electoral Office eventually went on a vendetta to drive them out of business on the grounds that they were making a mockery of the electoral process. I say that such mockery is exactly what free speech is all about and important dose of perspective in the midst of over-wrought election ads. At first, I figured political finance laws could be used to the advantage of such an initiative, but ultimately concluded the hassles would, sadly, outweigh the fun.
I have a current scheme on the go involving developing resort property, but this time around I seem to be getting a lot of people nodding their heads when I talk about it. So, on the off chance that this is the idea that's going to work, I think I'll keep it close to my chest.
Now, how about you, dear readers? Do you have any pet ideas that you've been afraid to say out loud? Do you know of anyone who, successfully or unsuccessfully, risked it all on a half-baked notion?
posted by Mentok @ 9:48 PM, ,
Friday, March 02, 2007
Wow, has it already been a week since my last post? The week has just flown by.
Dino aka Katy has requested some pictures from our Oscar bash. We forgot to take any, so I thought I was going to have to tell her she was out of luck, but fortunately some guests took some shots. Hope you enjoy them.
We were busy with house-cleaning and renovations right up until party time.
The guests started to arrive about 6:30 pm.
Parking was at a premium!
Mrs. Mentok was busy preparing a festive spread.
Everyone got into the spirit of things as the show got started. Love that Ellen DeGeneres!
OK, I'm kidding. But here's something totally serious. This is a real picture of the view out our back window this morning:
Welcome to spring on the Canadian prairies!
posted by Mentok @ 10:18 AM, ,