(Last modified 8 July 1997.)

Wanderjahr: Week 45

Locations: Edmonton
Dates: 6/22/97 - 6/28/97

I woke up too early Sunday and couldn't get back to sleep, so I finished the book I'd been reading and updated the travelogue (and map).

In the afternoon, PJ (whose day off it was) and I drove through pouring rain to what she tells me is officially known as the Big Stupid Mall (though it claims to be called West Edmonton Mall). It's rather remarkable. I've been to a fair number of big stupid malls, so was expecting this one to be about like those, but it's far more impressive (as I told PJ, "...and I come from a country renowned for its lapses in taste!"). Shortly after entering, we came across the ridiculously small pool (70' by 25', maybe?) where they keep four performing dolphins, adjacent to the much larger pool/indoor waterway where the animatronic Undersea Adventure takes place. We passed by this region and encountered the concrete ocean beach (complete with artificial waves and picnicking families) in the next section over. Fleeing in terror, we dared not enter the wing of the mall styled to look like New Orleans; instead, we passed quickly by the 3D simulation ride zone and one of the two or three multiplex theatres, into the full-scale amusement park squeezed into about 1% as much floorspace as one would expect such a park to occupy. We watched the rollercoaster run three loops around a pedestrian walkway (probably the only time I'll ever get to look "down" into a sky-bound rollercoaster car from fifteen feet away) and then spin up a helical section of track at high speed; we paused to watch the gravity-drop ride plunge 40 or 50 feet in free fall; we glanced around at the half-dozen other rides. We looked at some tourist brochures that revealed we'd missed entirely another waterpark (several giant waterslides) in the mall; then we looked up and saw the place that seemed to me to epitomize the entire mall experience: fluorescent blacklit indoor miniature golf. What more can I say?

The approximately two zillion standard mall-style stores that surrounded all these attractions were almost an afterthought. We had malteds and fries at Rocket Johnny's (?), a '50s-themed soda fountain with branches all over the world (the waiters spent a couple of minutes singing and dancing in unison when a particular song came on the sound system), stopped in the Millennium store (New Age/Goth fashion accessories mixed with wargaming miniatures, with walls styled to look like high-tech papier-maché Egyptian tomb walls), and eventually stumbled back out into the rain, sanity barely intact, musing on the terrors of rampant consumerism gone horribly awry.

We tried to have dinner at an Ethiopian place near PJ's domicile, but they were closed so we settled for mediocre Chinese food, then stayed up late talking and doing email.

Monday I had the place to myself while PJ was at work. I lazed around for a while, took my first bath in several years (no, silly, that just means I usually shower instead), ventured out to drop off film to be developed and ramble around a nearby bookstore. We dined at the aforementioned Ethiopian place, which turned out to also be nothing to write home about, food-wise.

chess photoTuesday had the place to myself again. More lazing about, headed out in the early afternoon (in my last clean shirt) to do various errands and see various local places PJ'd told me about. Picked up pix, found a natural-foods store in a food court, showed my watch (inoperative for weeks) to a watch-repair guy. When I tried to demonstrate the problem with my watch, I found it worked perfectly; the repair guy fiddled with it for a couple minutes anyway, to convince me to come back if there were any further problems. Visited the small mall a few blocks away, saw a cool giant-chess game going on (also more indoor mini-mini-golf, thankfully not fluorescent this time), considered a matinee but decided against it. (Turns out that Tuesday is cheap movie day in Edmonton -- all the movie theatres have reduced prices all day. Odd.) Picked up laundry detergent and cough drops. Had a mediocre Indian snack back at the food court; stopped by a Greyhound station for some story research; returned to PJ's only to find her keys didn't open the laundry room.

Spent some time playing with an odd HyperCard stack (Uncle Buddy's Funhouse) that PJ had. See sidebar for amazing details.

When PJ came home we went to a laundromat, then to a Cajun restaurant (decent food, ridiculously slow service), after which it was late again. So instead of getting some sleep we watched a bizarre slow Canadian movie on video.

Wednesday was another slow day. Finished a book I'd pulled off PJ's shelf, finished updating my journal and travelogue, lounged about the apartment. In the evening, accompanied PJ to her second job at Tesseract Books.

Thursday PJ had the day off. We ended up, midafternoon, at Edmonton's planetarium/science museum, where my AAA membership got us both in for the price of one admission. We browsed the museum store (much like most other science museum stores), had some lunch in the cafeteria, wandered through their exhibits. Most of the exhibits were very low-tech, small isolated pieces of the sort scattered about amongst the bigger items at the Exploratorium. There was a small house of mirrors (which I got pleasantly lost in for a few moments, despite my thinking it was too small for that), various optical-illusion displays, a room on weather and seasons featuring a documentary videotape about the tornado that plowed through Edmonton ten years ago, a very nice computer program showing how light and heat on Earth change as it orbits the sun (with the ability to change the axial tilt and shape of the orbit), and so on. We attended the UFO show at the planetarium, mostly kinda dumb but with a couple interesting points (description of some air force pilots who got together to run a UFO hoax, and a demonstration that eyewitnesses are not necessarily terribly reliable), then found the space room, lots of cool stuff about the planets, stars, the solar system, and so on. One very nice four-foot model of an interstellar spaceship, with accompanying text which completely failed to indicate in any way that said spaceship does not actually exist. (The text was written as though the model were in a museum of the far future; there were no other exhibits of this sort in the whole museum.) We had, alas, missed the NASA simulation, in which you can see into the mission control center while (I think) people act out running a space mission. Eventually we went home. I think we saw a movie that evening.

Friday is, at this point, a blank to me. Perhaps I was kidnapped by aliens.

Saturday we took our computers to the shop. I had an internal modem I no longer have any use for, and PJ has almost the same model of computer as I do, so we asked the store to transfer the modem from mine to hers. All fine and dandy, but I also had an 8MB RAM chip that I no longer had any use for (it had been lying around in my car, in its protective packaging of course), and we asked them to install that in her system as well. Oops. The store claimed that the RAM was bad and that it had burned out PJ's daughterboard -- making it impossible to simply replace her previous RAM chip, leaving her with half as much memory as she'd had rather than twice as much. eep. I checked with Apple and they confirmed that this could indeed happen; I can only conclude that the chip got fried from sitting in a black piece of luggage inside my car on a hot day. Sigh. Replacement of the daughterboard was going to be exorbitant, and it didn't sound like the store was likely to spring for it (they said it was our fault for supplying faulty memory). As a stopgap measure I gave PJ my copy of Ram Doubler (which I also wasn't using). Have yet to hear whether any further developments have transpired.

Saturday evening was supposed to be PJ's long-overdue birthday party, which was going to consist of several of her friends meeting us at a hotel bar, where one of her friends was performing live jazz that night. Unfortunately, only two of the people she'd invited actually came, and they didn't show up 'til fairly late. It was nice to chat with them -- meeting certain kinds of sf fans, I feel comfortable, like we're from the same culture, or at least share certain key points of cultural reference and background. Eventually we all went to our several homes; I began preparations to leave on Sunday.

Movies, Books, etc.

Saraband of Lost Time, by Richard Grant
Much funnier than I expected (the cover, with a highly misleading blurb, makes the book appear very somber and overblown), and moves along much quicker than I'd expected. Still, despite generally liking much of the book, I was obscurely disappointed in its mysticism and its resolution -- problems similar to those I had with Grant's Rumors of Spring, but I was more ready to forgive any faults in that book because it drew me in much more effectively.

La Salla
A delightful eight-minute movie that marks Canadian animator Richard (The Big Snit) Condie's first foray into 3D computer animation. Quite possibly the silliest computer-animated mini-opera ever to contain the line "there's a cow in my nose"; highly recommended.

Tales from the Gimli Hospital
A bizarre, semi-surreal ultra-low-budget Canadian movie (they were denied funding by the National Film Board) set in the New Iceland region, filmed largely in black-and-white and largely without spoken lines. A few nice moments and a couple of strange plot twists (involving disease, a pair of fish shears, and a bit of necrophilia) give way eventually to bagpipes, angels, and total incomprehensibility.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams
I wasn't thrilled by Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, so I'm not sure why I thought I'd like the sequel; I guess I figured it would be slight, fun, and not take much concentration. All of which are true, but I forgot that the book (though it contains half a dozen lines that made me laugh aloud) would also be largely constructed out of Adams' two standard approaches to humor: juxtaposing precision with negatives ("The huge golden space ship hung in the air in almost exactly the way a brick doesn't" being the best example, from Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy), and exaggerating bureaucracy and other aspects of a cold and unfeeling universe, an approach that always reminds me of someone sitting around in a bar whining, "Don'tcha hate it when..."

Con Air
Despite the stellar cast, this disappointing flick never really gets off the ground. Lots of big explosions, some very tight parallels with the far superior The Rock (I'm told the same people made both films), some entertainingly silly bits; but the few female roles are ridiculously minor, the dialogue is largely laughable, some of the bluescreening is dreadful, and there's just nothing much to distinguish this from the generic action flick I was hoping it wasn't.

Jed Hartman <logos@kith.org>