A refresher course in connecting the dots.

I just had a conversation with myself.

Head: Weezer’s Green Album. When did that come out?
Mouth: That was, like, 2000.
Head: That’s not right. Remember that mixtape?
Mouth: The one with At the Drive-In!
Head: You played it on your truck.
Mouth: I was driving! I was 16.  
Head: There was no snow.
Head and mouth (together): Spring 2001!
Head: I still hate you.

And it occurred to me: That’s how I can explain the Google algorithm to my mother.

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One of these things is not like the other.

Recess-gang

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If you talked to any of these strangers online in the late 1990s, that was me.

At 27, I’ve lived over half of my life as a full-time resident of the Internet and I’m a richer man-boy for it. I have no regrets about the summer days and temperate winters I missed as I pursued boobs, funny dudes and other less alliteratively attractive shit online. Along the way I’ve obtained an encyclopedic knowledge of the cast of Freaks & Geeks, a rudimentary understanding of Photoshop and — briefly during summer 2000 — enough computer programming skills to make Pong in QBasic. An uncoordinated high-five goes out to anyone who remembers that ‘Basic’ was an acronym.

And while I’m reminiscing: OMG ICQ (Microsoft) ME MSN.

My rolodex of memories reads like translated Japanese in a budget video game.

I’ve lived through more than a few fun-at-the-time trends (What the eff is Friendster?), but email has remained a constant, even I’ve had more usernames than sexual partners. I abused the generosity of the fine folks at Microsoft (free?!) and claimed my share of Internet real estate. (Remember Hotmail? How retro. My generation’s children will grow up and snicker at the name, not knowing that we were snickering at it back in the day. Let’s call it the Rip Taylor principle.)

Beginning with the address I made to complete the requirements of Mr. Donovan’s Grade 7 computer class — Log onto Internet. Discover email. 80 percent? — I made dozens of handles, many of which were some kind of lame teenage statement or just a reading of my resume’s ‘Hobbies and Interests’ section. Adults are comparatively boring: What’s your email address? Oh, it’s your name? Don’t tell me who you are. Tell me who you are, man.

Here are my five favorite teenage email addresses broken down with a
Haiku (just because):

snoopdedog_5@hotmail.com (circa 1998)

Impressionable,
I watched a lot of TV.
Timely reference.

(Sadly, only three of the other snoopdedog’s attended this year’s reunion).

gamer_64@hotmail.com (1998)

If I got the one
minus the gross underscore,
I’d have made dozens.

mick_foley_is_god@yahoo.com (1999)

Wrestling is always
going to be popular.
You’re so wrong mother.

happystatus88@hotmail.com (1999)

Possible name for
the ska band I imagined.
How embarrassing.

themandantheman@hotmail.com (2000)

Pretty clever, huh?
Do you see what I did there?
Used it way too long.

My biggest teenage regret? Dennis Miller.

Dan Yates has called yatesdan@gmail.com home since 2005.

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I’ve got a Wrestle Crisis: When my interests jump from embarrassing to sad to embarrassingly sad

Several months back, I booked a four-day trip to Toronto and sketched out an itinerary that catered to all of my nerdy interests. Through careful consideration and coincidence, I’d be able to eat an assortment of meats, see Roy Halladay pitch against the Blue Jays and catch shows from Bad Religion, The Flaming Lips and Radiohead.

Nothing short of inventing a masturbatory time machine could please my inner 16-year-old more. But plans changed.

I returned from the trip earlier this week and can report the following: Halladay got hurt because he hates me, I skipped Bad Religion, tragedy struck the Radiohead show and while the Flaming Lips were/are great, it was my third time with the band and I think it’s time we started seeing other people.

The meat, however, was great, retractable roof baseball is fun regardless of what million-dollar arm is chucking the ball, I caught a surprisingly enjoyable hip hop show and I got to indulge another of my shameful interests, independent professional wrestling.

(Brace yourself for a flurry of nerd words. If you’re my mother, I’ll explain what they mean when we chat on Sunday.)

Image

That’s the best photo I could get because, you know, you can’t get THAT close to the animals.

Toronto is the cultural capital of Canada — or at least the capital of commercially viable culture — and I did my best to burn it to the ground, paying $15 to watch a dude dressed in an Elmo costume and a woman undressed like Nintendo’s Princess Toadstool pretend to fight a gang of copyright-infringing Mortal Kombat characters — only one of which was a racial stereotype.

So, yeah, Wrestle Crisis — Toronto’s video game-themed pro wrestling league — is a pretty great night out for hyucks and geek-gasms. Indie wrestling isn’t big league entertainment, and this promotion suffered from some familiar pitfalls — technical difficulties and poor attendance — but its stable of not-ready-for-prime-or-day-time players still delivered the kind of fun best described in caps lock.

The highlight of the show would’ve been my view up Princess Toadstool’s skirt — technically a skort, I googled it — BUT THEN a better-than-Topher-Grace’s Venom choked out Elmo with a rope, only to be saved by Spiderman, who delivered a top-rope Canadian Destroyer to his rival (just like in the comics, I presume). Memorable, for sure, but I’ll never forget THAT TIME WHEN Chuck Norris and Waldo came to Super Mario’s rescue, who would later use a bat, wrapped in barbwire, to escape harm instead of, you know, just turning into a raccoon and flying away like he’s totally capable of doing. Weird, I know. ALMOST AS WEIRD AS the Jewish wrestler, Tomer Shalom, who wasn’t a totally insulting caricature, although he was still a little bit of an insulting caricature. Pro wrestling has taught me to keep my expectations low, so I was happy to see Tomer doing strong guy things and not just stealing gold chains from pro wrasslin’ Cuban immigrants while yokels yell “Punch him in the change purse.” Neat. Good for pro wrestling.

Oh, and there was a Power Ranger, a Foot Clan member, a muscley snake guy …

The 16-year-old me didn’t get everything he wanted out of Toronto, but the nine-year-old me was ecstatic.

I’m racking my brain to remember more from the show. It’s difficult, because for part of the night I was distracted by SMITH HART’S BACK TAN. Uh huh. The brother of former WWF champion Bret Hart entered the show from the stands. Part-time wrestling fans would’ve guessed he was Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler, but the saddest folks in the audience knew he was doing a dead-on impression of his father Stu, the patriarch of Calgary’s most famous carny family. And longtime Canadians would’ve picked up on his imitation of former prime minister John Diefenbaker when he overstayed his welcome.

Smith threw popcorn at another wrestler, threw some punches and threw off his shirt, before returning to his seat, three rows ahead of me. AND THEN I WATCHED a kinda naked middle-aged man eat popcorn as another dude, dressed like fictional Italian plumber, defended America’s honor, or something.

As a kid who grew up watching Smith’s shirtless brothers, Bret and Owen, on WWF television, this was a big deal.

Needless to say, if I ever get married, it’ll be in front of a Wrestle Crisis card. To a very unhappy woman. Or a tolerant Princess Toadstool.

Dan Yates is skipping the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of ‘Something Uninteresting’ to check his emails at yatesdan@gmail.com.

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Mass Effect 3 is good, but it’s not that good, which is good

Mass Effect 3 was released earlier this week. If you don’t know what that is, here are three things you need to know:

  • Mass Effect 3 is a video game.
  • Mass Effect 3 follows Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, which were both a big deal.
  • Mass Effect 3 is an even bigger deal.

To its fans, Mass Effect is more than a series of video games. It’s a science fiction epic set in a fully conceived universe; Think Star Trek, Star Wars or, heck, even Avatar. There’s lots of big picture stuff — good guys and bad guys, planets and races, each with its own history of diplomacy and violence — but there are fine details, too, right down to alien cuisine and blue-skinned strippers that make me feel all gushy. It’s a game. It’s an enthralling story. It’s a feast for obsessive nerds.

And if you like reckless comparisons, brace yourself: It might be the Citizen Kane of video games. Read the reviews (here, here and here). There’s no shortage of praise being thrown at Edmonton-based developer BioWare.

And rightfully so. The game is way more fun than Citizen Kane. Mass Effect is made by competent storytellers and plays out with a sophistication largely foreign to gaming. This is a medium, after all, that brings us games as dumb as they sound (See Killzone, Muscle Bomber — The Body Explosion and Nuts and Milk). Imagine if Hollywood, in its entire history, had only produced a series of Dirty Harry clones and Over the Top. You’d be pretty excited by even the schlockiest James Cameron flick.
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Family Day is a day for something, probably

It’s Family Day in Saskatchewan, an annual holiday that celebrates … I’m not sure what, but I’m positive it exists for more legitimate reasons than Christmas.

This is the sixth time in Saskatchewan’s history that residents will take this strange February day off work and I’m happy to join them. And good for us. As one of only three provinces to mark the occasion, we’re early adopters. So if statutory holidays were political beliefs, that makes Family Day libertarianism. Not everyone understands it, but those who do are awfully effing proud of it.

Let’s reflect on my memories of Family Days past:

2007:
2008:
2009:
2010:
2011:

But I won’t forget Family Day 2012, because today I decided that I hate money.

That's a Mario Kart track and car and, ugh, a Lego Batmobile and bank robbery set.

I went to Walmart for eggs and motor oil and came home with that. Sometimes the pull to relive the childhood I didn’t have is too strong.

I grew up on Tinker Toys. Today I graduate to Lego.

Best Family Day ever.

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1990s commercials are my acid flashbacks

I can close my eyes and remember the order of every song that appears in this commercial. It’s possibly the closest thing I have to a reflex … I watched a lot TV during my childhood.

It’s not on this compilation, but an ad ran on Canadian TV — seemingly for years — that featured “Lady in Red” followed by “Think of Laura.” I don’t know either tune individually, but the commercial is engrained in my memory, welding those two choruses into one mighty Megazord of a song.

And if you don’t get that reference, you didn’t watch enough TV in the 1990s.

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