Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wherein I Complain About Things

Using Germany in 1933 and the United States in 2000 as examples, we can see that democracy simply doesn’t work. With that in mind, consider that a benevolent dictatorship, guided by one man’s iron-fisted though well-meaning hand, provides us with the best form of government.

That said, sometimes even a benevolent dictator has his indulgences. The following are rules I would impose after the upcoming February Revolution brings me to power:

Wait... Ror Dawg?

1- Men outside the house should have to wear hats, as in olden times. It makes them look classy and respectful, and people would behave better around them.

2- The number of TV stations will revert to 3. In this world of hundreds of channels, nobody seems to be on the same page with respect to the popular culture. Who are these Desperate Housewives? What the hell is with this Amy Winehouse? These are things I wonder because my attention has been diluted across too many sources of interest. Narrow my options, and everyone else’s, and maybe then something will outrank the M*A*S*H finale as the most-watched program ever. Then we can all talk about it the next day.

3- Movie posters will be painted. What’s with all these shitty movie posters that just show the actor’s face in front of some blurry, non-descript background? I could literally make these myself in Photoshop. Once I’m in charge, we’ll go back to the olden days of imaginative, eye-catching, painted movie posters. On this topic, Bond movie titles should be written in wacky, distinguishable typefaces again, too.

4- News shows can’t trumpet the fact that they were the “first to bring you” something. Really, this is just petty. Even the CBC is getting into the game.

5- All collapsible umbrellas will be replaced with those cane umbrellas. Like men wearing hats, it’s just that much more dignified.

6- Waiters who say that they’re here to “take care of you tonight”, instead of “I will be your waiter”, will be killed. I don’t want to sound as though I have contempt for the working poor, but this whole casual, chipper attitude I notice creeping into my waiters has no place in a dignified society. You perform a service and I pay you a tip. It ends there. I’m not your friend. Don’t be friendly with me.

7- All top 40 radio stations will be shuttered. Morning drive-time DJs will be killed. This one really speaks for itself. There is no greater cancer on society than the top 40 radio station, destroying music for everyone. The worst of it all is that they don’t even know it…

8- Jay Leno will be put off the air, while Carson Daly will be killed. There are no two greater blights on the face of late night TV than these two. Daly is so patently unfunny, so obviously in his job because of family connections that not a soul would care if I did this tomorrow.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just What Is A Gladrag, Anyway?

Wait... could it be?
What’s that? You want to hear about my trip into Slough? Oh, well, take a seat! Just as fans of Mary Tyler Moore have Minneapolis, WKRP fans have Cincinnati and Lost affectionados have… letters falling through space, I have Slough.

Slough, of course, is the setting for the BBC version of the Office. I obviously knew nothing of it before watching the show, but evidently it has a reputation for being a boring, soulless parking lot of a city. Picture Mississauga without Hazel McCallion, only drearier.

Now, none of the show was actually filmed there; other than the Slough-centric opening credits, I understand everything was done on soundstages elsewhere. But, jeez… what an opening credits! If you wanted the essence of Slough distilled into a 30-second video, you need only look here.

This would be a lot more effective if YouTube hadn't deleted the video of the intro, trust me.
Before I go any further, I need to state that The Office is probably the best sitcom ever produced (Peep Show running a close second). I think every word, every frame, every glance given by David Brent to the camera is pure genius. Because of it, I have now divided my friends into those who watch it and “get” it, and those who don’t. Finding myself in London, not a 20-minute train ride from Slough… how could I not visit the sights seen in the iconic opening montage? So I did.

Not a kilometre from the train station is most of the action. Within a hundred-yard radius, one can find the bus station, roundabout, and car park. I spent a solid half hour wandering about here, taking in the Sloughness of it all. Do try and match my photos up to the intro above. Rather unfortunately, I think a shot or two was taken from the roofs of adjacent office buildings, access to which I… did not have.

Is that the roundabout?! Yes, it is!
The next stop was the Slough Trading Estates, home to the actual office of The Office fame. I don’t exactly know what a Trading Estate is, but Wikipedia says that Slough’s is the largest in England. At any rate, like Tim, Keith, Garreth and Finchy, I hopped on the bus, went around the roundabout and made the crosstown journey to the office. Eagle-eyed, I spotted it from the bus and made a little hike towards it.

Whatever a Trading Estate is, it seems to be some sort of commercial zone full of office buildings. Companies whose names I forget have their national headquarters around here. It’s a little like that area down by the lake in Oshawa, only less… industrial. Two office workers, presumably out on a lunch break, were more than happy to point me in the direction of the building from The Office. I wonder if they get that a lot.

The teal building sticks out like a sore thumb. Very difficult to miss. Walking up to it, a ridiculous sense of pride and accomplishment washed across me. Here I was, a smalltown boy not a month out of smallertown Saskatchewan, arriving at some useless tourist destination nobody in the world would care to visit.

There she is

Having had my fill of looking at and photographing an office building, I decided to find a pub at which to have a pint – as they say. Now, Chaser’s doesn’t exactly exist, but I figured there had to be something within walking distance. I figured wrong. So, after a fruitless walk around the neighbourhood, I hopped on the bus and headed back to the train station.

And that, my friends, was my afternoon in Slough.