Happy Canada Day, Eh?

Geek Culture

The 4th of July is drawing close, but even closer -tomorrow, as a matter of fact- is the 1st of July.  And July 1st is celebrated here in the Great White North as Canada Day, our national birthday.  Popular rumor has it that festivities include a Polar Bear ride, all-day hockey tournaments on our outdoor rinks, the infamous moose versus caribou polo match, the hilarious miles to kilometers conversion game, a country-wide collective frowning at Mike Myers for his Love Guru effort and maybe some skiing to conclude the day’s events.

In reality, the celebrations will be much like the 4th of July in the US: BBQs, family events and lots of fireworks to cap the evening off.  We may still do something about Mike Myers, though; the Love Guru ain’t no Austin Powers

Speaking of Mr. Myers, I thought that in recognition of my country and in context of this blog, it might be interesting to note a few Canadians who have helped contribute to those things that Geeks hold dear.  Read about a few Canadian inventors, entertainers and cultural icons after the jump.

Some of the technological inventions that helped lay the foundation for modern communications were invented by Canadians, or by people who were living in Canada at the time.  That second distinction is the cause of endless arguments by historians, but the reality is that early Canada was a colony, so we ended up with a lot of people who settled here from various countries (sometimes temporarily), priming the pump for those country-of-origin dust ups…  Among those under contention are Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of AM radio.

James Gosling of Sun Microsystems, original designer of the Java programming language is Canadian.  For the ultimate in movie viewing, the IMAX projection system is Canadian, as is the Space Shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System (also known as the Canadarm).

Frederick Banting, a Nobel Prize winner who co-discovered Insulin, along with fellow Canadian Charles Best hailed from Canada.  The Banting House museum is located in London, not far from where I live.  I won’t get into other medical advances, but since Banting hung around my city, I have to give the man his props.

When it comes to Geek culture, one of the guys who helped popularize the whole Superhero comic genre, Joe Shuster the co-creator of Superman, was Canadian and reportedly modeled Metropolis after Toronto, including using the Toronto Daily Star newspaper as his basis for Clark Kent’s employer.  The original commander of the Battlestar Galactica, Lorne Greene was Canadian.  And speaking of BSG, Canadian actor Michael Hogan, Colonel Saul Tigh on the current run of Battlestar Galactica, used to live down the street from me when I was a kid- had I known there was a Cylon among us then, I would have been more careful about staying off his lawn…  Last thing I needed was a Toaster mad at me for tromping on his tulips.  One of my fellow GeekDad writers correctly pointed out that Gene Roddenberry actually created the Captain Kirk character and Star Trek, but when you think “Kirk,” tell me you’re not picturing William Shatner.  A Canuck, as was the late James Doohan, who portrayed Scotty. 

Writer William Gibson moved to Canada during the Vietnam War and has since helped popularize cyberpunk, as well as being credited with coining the term “cyberspace.”   Douglas Coupland, the guy who first threw “Generation X” and “McJob” out there is one of us.  Margaret Atwood, Spider Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer and of course, Wired contributor Cory Doctorow are all Canadians.

Comedians?  Canada has become famous (or is it infamous?) for comedic talent.  If you haven’t seen SCTV, you are missing out.  Kids in the Hall, Trailer Park Boys and Red Green (who helped popularize duct tape as a fashion material) have all made inroads internationally.  There’s the aforementioned Mike Myers, Dan Akroyd, SNL Producer Lorne Michaels, Jim Carrey and a gazillion others.

I won’t delve too deeply into the world of popular music, but parents might be interested in checking out Barenaked Ladies if you’re interested in a band that has a lot of energy and has always managed to appeal to both adults and kids.  They’ve recently released Snacktime their first album directed specifically at young ones.  Here’s fun video from that disc:

Oh, and of course there’s Rush.  One of the best geeky bands around, this prog-rock trio is still touring, four decades into it, and still making it into pop culture.  Fans of South Park have probably seen the “Lil Rush” clip with Cartman as lead singer Geddy Lee and Futurama fans will recall Fry’s infamous line “Alright! It’s Saturday night, I have no date, a two liter bottle of Shasta and my all-Rush mixed tape.  Let’s Rock!” as he prepares to do battle with the Nintendian alien invaders in the episode Anthology of Interest II.

So if you happen to live South of the 49th, raise a pint to your Northern neighbors on Tuesday.  We’d be all too happy to do the same for you (well, we’ll use 473 ml) on the 4th.

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