Dispatches From Behind The E-Curtain: Where the Hell is Canada?

I continue to find myself frustrated, annoyed and frequently, screamingly mad at the inexcusably and inexplicably blocked Internet service here. I can find no rhyme nor reason behind it, and my emails go unanswered.

I’ll keep sending them, see if anything happens. With each one, I send the increasingly longer list of improperly blocked sites, and my introduction to the email gets a bit wordier, and perhaps a bit less civil.

The only trend that I can really see so far is the alarming number of news sites that are blocked. I mean, I can understand blocking YouTube, by why block The New York Times? The LA Times? The Daily Gleaner??

(Curiously, the don’t block the ultra-picky Gleanerisms criticism site..)

Interestingly, I haven’t found a French newspaper that has been blocked yet. If I didn’t know better, I would be tempted to assume some basic bigotry on the part of the ISP/lodging host. However, as the old saw goes: “never assume malice where simple stupidity will suffice”. Or, in this case: “massive stupidity”.

I’ve been glad that neither the CBC nor (most of) Google seems to be blocked yet, and Twitter has been my regular lifeline to friends, now that Flickr, Libsyn and incredibly Feedburner have been discovered to be blocked. Google Reader continues to function, albeit without most of the pictures, so I get a little news and get something new to read occasionally.

Now, I don’t really consider myself a newshound. At home, I tried an experiment, and I got the daily local newspaper for a year. (Actually, it’s been almost a year and a half.) I read it, as much as I could, each day. The form factor didn’t really agree with me — I like newsprint, but I don’t really like the massive, awkward paper — but I found it interesting. When I return, I plan to continue to get the paper.

I do read plenty of RSS feeds. I’m not entirely sure if that’s just a distraction, but I do pick up on a lot of really interesting things and ideas. I read lots of tech-related blogs, a few odd-based blogs, stuff for geeks/nerds/dweebs/whatever.

Now that I have an iPad, I expect to do that more and more — well, once I get home, to a reasonable Internet service, of course. Here, I can load it with the many research articles and books I already have digital forms of, but I can’t access the iBooks store (or anything, really) with it.

I’m not particularly patriotic — I like some aspects of living in Canada, and it seems pretty reasonable most of the time when compared to a lot of other places in the world, but I don’t tend to do much flag-waving. Or, arguably, I’m very Canadian, as I’m not really sure what it actually means to “be Canadian”: the Canadian identity is truly a mystery. All I can say is that I’ve bought into the ideal that we are somehow moderate, open-minded, free-thinking, accepting individuals.

But looking over my RSS feeds, I wondered: where’s the Canada there?

I’ve got a couple of CBC feeds (New Brunswick news, general news, the Spark radio show) but the list got thin after that. There’s Lamespotting, a blog about public stupidity, mostly in Saint John. Thoughtwrestling, an eminently readable blog about creativity, problem-solving and more, from the same mind that also brought me Broadcasting Brain. (He’s also from remarkably close to my neck of the woods, which I find very encouraging, as I often wonder if the region hasn’t realized the current date..)

To get even more hyper-local, there’s a blog run by my flatmate where he opines about roleplaying-game design — particularly his own (and various random, bloggy things).

And then…?


Where’s the Canadian tech ‘zines? Where’s the equivalent to Lifehacker? BoingBoing? Slashdot? Gizmodo? Techcrunch?

What about smaller blogs? I find a bunch of blogs through podcasts (and vice versa), but there really don’t seem to be a lot of those, either.. Or rather, there aren’t a lot I’m actually listening to, or are on topics I really am interested in. Or have an episode in the last year..

Someone mentioned Rabble, so I’m checking it out. However, I’m weary of politics — both the ultra-conservative, do-nothing-say-little politics of big government and the cry-to-the-hills, more-radical-than-makes-sense kind. Frankly, neither side seems to do more than be opposed to each other, and thus, no progress is made.

I am about to commit a terrible sin: I am about to start talking as if I really have any sense at all what Canadians are like… It is, from my observation, the one thing that we do have in common, this strange notion that we all speak for each other..

I start to wonder if this isn’t some part of the root of the problem, that Canadians are so busy saying “We’re not Americans!” (and, to a lesser and more historical extent, “We’re not British!”) that we avoid doing anything much at all. I see a lot of “same as it ever was” in Canada, and we’re so busy not being something that we fail to be anything at all..

There are a few really fantastic companies in Canada: RIM, Dream Pod 9, the CBC, and…

Hmm.. that’s all I can name. What’s on your list?

So, tell me where I’m wrong. Tell me that Canada is every bit as progressive, aggressive, forward-marching, eager, expressive, creative, etc as we hope it is.

I don’t want sentiment. I know people filled with each of these things. I also know that most of them are frustrated by backward support architectures, inferior technology adoption, lack of financial support, insufficient public interest, no venue to really shine.

Show me the blogs. Give me the podcast links. Give me details.

Show me that Canada deserves to be thought of as important to the future.

Make me care, but: show me, don’t tell me.

3 thoughts on “Dispatches From Behind The E-Curtain: Where the Hell is Canada?

  1. Um.

    You do bring up a fair point: there are virtually no Canadian clones (that I know of and read) of the blogs that you’ve mentioned. I haven’t really gone looking for them, though.

    I don’t think of my two blogs as being particularly Canadian (thanks for mentioning TW and BB, by the way)… they are more Web-ian. That’s what I aim for (although I tend to favor US spellings instead of the British versions and I have a habit of writing my dates in the format of 07/22/10).

    Silly thought: have you tried looking at canada.alltop.com? You have to scroll past the mass media outlets to find some of the other stuff.

    Here’s another source of mainly Canadian blogs, http://bowjamesbow.ca/links.shtml but it’s pretty loaded with political stuff, so it may take some looking….

  2. It’s not entirely that “Canadian clones” are missing, or even that these sites feature little Cancon..

    It’s that Canada isn’t really producing anything, with a few exceptions.

    If Canada were participating more, then it would also reflect or inspire technology work in this country. Instead, it looks like we are devoid of forward thought, of cutting-edge ideas, of progressive and aggressive “can-do spirit.

    Instead, it feels much like my youth: Canada was the country you kept your stuff in, but for anything really interesting, you crossed over the border to the US.

    As a kid, Canada was boring. Nothing started there, nothing grew there technologically (besides french fries and underwear). Canada was stodgy, second-best, also-ran (but barely even that). Too often, the only “glorious” thing that Canadians would ever talk about was grisly reflection on World War II or other international peacekeeping relations.

    We rested on past laurels, got lazy, complacent, staid. We benefit from the US being so nearby, as it makes us feel like we’re doing something to see a close relative doing stuff, and occasionally they’ll allow us to join in.

    That’s how I felt as a kid — that I came from a generally nice, well-regarded but past-its-prime country that was now gracefully slipping into insignificance. I look about me today, and I still see it, everywhere.

    I’ll keep looking, and wondering what’s wrong, and wondering what I can do.

    I want to be proud of Canada, but it hasn’t done anything to be truly proud of in a while.

  3. Oh, and Alltop does me no good here — it’s just a blog aggregator (a somewhat automated one), and all the links go to sites which are blocked here. I’ll check out the other list of links but it looks like an uncommented linkdump..

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