1992 Douglas Coupland Interview Transcript

I remember picking up a copy of Douglad Coupland’s Generation X at a book store on Granville Street just after it came out and reading it cover to cover immediately. In fact, I remember finishing it on the 246 Highland bus in North Vancouver, just before I got home from school.

Around that time I was a student at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design and I was writing for the school paper, The Planet of the Arts, along with Paul Shoebridge and another guy named Mohammed. I somehow learned that Coupland was a graduate of ECCAD. And then I somehow figured out how to navigate the wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers to gain access to Coupland for an interview about his time at ECCAD. I was invited over to his west end penthouse apartment for a chat. I remember him being cautious, maybe even paranoid, but very gracious and very interested in the subject of ECCAD.

When I heard about his new book, Generation A, it reminded me of that interview that I was lucky enough to do with one of Canada’s very best writers when he was just beginning to discover fame. So I went and dug up this transcript and, after reading it, thought that other people out there might enjoy the information it contains. It’s about how Coupland evolved into a creative professional and, almost accidentally, took up writing. It’s also an interesting insight into the earliest days of ECCAD and Granville Island. Continue reading

Whitehorse Sells Municipal Roads to NorthwesToll

The City of Whitehorse has sold its municipal traffic infrastructure to a local private business, NorthwesToll.

The government was locked into the sale after a long period of secret negotiations between the mayor and representatives of the company (which is a fully-owned subsidiary of an Ontario-based consortium of liquor producers named Bomb).

Those who have seen the contract describe the mayor’s signature as “drunken.” The Bomb members of the negotiating team were overheard describing the Whitehorse mayor as a “suit-struck hick.”

NorthwesToll immediately institutes a toll system. (What, you thought the name of the company was a joke?)

Monthly rates are established based on the distance drivers may travel and the speed at which they may drive. Continue reading

Press 1 to Read This Column. Press 2 to Be Confused and Frustrated

We’ve all been met with that seemingly impenetrable wall of technology whenever we call a large business.

That press-1-for-this and press-2-for-that maze.

The old we’ve-recently-changed-our-menu thing.

Then there’s the classic we’re-experiencing-a-higher-call-volume-than-normal cliché that lasts for years and is probably just a cover for layoffs.

(Bell’s been broadcasting that last one since 2003, which makes me wonder what the company even considers normal.)

What’s unfortunately become normal to us, of course, is the seeming fact that humans don’t answer phones any more. Continue reading

Microsoft Flips the Bird to Early Zune Adopters

So I read in the Washington Post this morning (First Look at the Microsoft Zune HD) that Microsoft has introduced a new device, the Zune HD.

At the same time the company has reportedly axed support for all previous Zune models. The newest Zune will offer all new accessories, a new interface, and a new software ecosystem.

This act, in essence, cuts all previous Zune owners off from the new Zune environment.

It’s a cruel act by Microsoft, a proverbial flip of the bird to customers who invested early in the company’s fledgling (and faltering) iPod competitor. It essentially renders all of their devices end-of-life and turns them into obsolete bricks.

It also says that Microsoft lacks a cohesive long-term strategy for their handheld device. Compare that to Apple’s successful iPod implementation: I can still plug the very first iPod  ever – an 8-year-old device – into my modern Mac and it’ll sync with iTunes.

Meanwhile, the Zune somebody bought last month is already trash.

So buyer beware: how long until Microsoft shuffles their executive again and the brand-new Zune HD becomes a non-functioning remnant of the company’s indecisiveness?

BTW, AppleInsider’s Prince McLean has posted a great critique of the Zune HD’s questionable hardware engineering: From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD.

The Day I Met Terry Fox

It was just before I turned 9.

My mom drove me and my two little sisters out to a barren shoulder on the highway to wait. It was probably somewhere around Burlington, where we lived at the time.

We sat in the car and watched a few other vehicles show up. My sisters and I were probably fidgety and uncooperative.

We watched him come from a long way down the highway. There were police cars, I think. And a white van led the way. It seemed that he took forever to reach us with his steady, limping gait. But I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

When he arrived he sat down in the sliding side doorway of the van and had some water, then caught his breath.

I walked up to him and he looked at me and said something. I was so bashful, all I could do was lift up my hand and offer him my week’s allowance. It was maybe a dollar or two. He took if from me and said thank-you.

And then it struck me: he was honestly grateful. My measly two bucks was actually of significance to this man and his cause. My little contribution mattered. I was gratified. And probably honoured, if I even knew what honour was at that age.

He reached out to shake my hand. I held his hand. It was sweaty and warm. His grasp was firm, gracious. Then I looked at him and noticed how sweaty he was. He looked tired, there was a sense of exhaustion about him. But his blue eyes shone, glowed even. I didn’t want to let go of his hand.

It was a quick stop. And then he was gone, headed down the highway. And I felt this yearning sense of wanting to spend more time with him.

That was the day I met Terry Fox.

Visit the Terry Fox Foundation.

Have We No Shame? Thoughts on the Death of Privacy

I’m just teaching my son about the concept of privacy.

How it’s polite to close the bathroom door when you’re in there doing your business. How certain aspects of one’s life should stay within particular conversational contexts.

Like, his grade one teacher doesn’t need to know that Dad turns into a gas bomb when he eats onions.

Oops, but neither do you. And there’s my point.

Too often people seem to drop the concept of privacy, even self-dignity, when online. They share too much. Say too much.

Browsing Flickr the other day, I happened upon a photo of a prominent local public servant responsible for the members of a sensitive social constituency. She’s naked in the bath. Continue reading

Games Don’t Need Cameras?

I don’t buy it. When asked about the lack of a camera in the iPod touch today, Steve Jobs told David Pogue (Q&A: Steve Jobs Snipes at Amazon, Praises Ice Cream):

Originally, we weren’t exactly sure how to market the Touch. Was it an iPhone without the phone? Was it a pocket computer? What happened was, what customers told us was, they started to see it as a game machine. Because a lot of the games were free on the store. Customers started to tell us, “You don’t know what you’ve got here — it’s a great game machine, with the multitouch screen, the accelerometer, and so on.”

When Apple first released the iPhone and the iPod Touch, they had no idea that it would be so successful as a gaming device. They had no idea that the multitouch screen and accelerometer would contribute to a new stream of gaming. They owe all that to an imaginative developer community and a lot of bored consumers.

So for Jobs to say, in essence, that games don’t need cameras is ridiculous. I think that game developers could come up with a million uses for a camera as an additional source of interaction for a new game.

Either Apple is having technical difficulties putting a camera into an iPod Touch, or they’re being as naïve about cameras and gaming as they were about multitouch screens and gaming. I’m guessing the latter. How disappointing.

Hello, Solo Mobile? Is Anybody There? (UPDATE)

Sometimes I experience such a resoundingly bad customer experience I can’t help but relate it to the world at large.

I called up Solo Mobile this afternoon to ask about their rates and plans. I used the number on their web site, 1-877-999-7656.

It seems this is their customer service number, as I was asked for my Solo Mobile number. When I didn’t enter one, the system told me to hit the # key if I wanted to ask about becoming a new customer. So I did this.

Then I received a message that their call centre was closed. The system informed me that they are open from 8:30am to 9:00pm Monday to Friday. Odd. I was calling at 3:00pm on a Wednesday.

The system told me I could hit 1 to leave a voicemail message, which I did. Then the system told me that the voice mailbox belonging to Solo Mobile was full. That sort of made me chuckle. I hung up.

I went back to their web site, as I’d noticed a callback button. Here’s what I got when I clicked that:

Unfortunately, our callback system is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later. For Service during our regular business hours, please call 1-877-999-7656.

Been there, done that. Something is clearly wrong here.

There’s enough information on their web site, so I thought I may be able to complete the transaction myself. So I clicked on the phone I liked, but quickly discovered that their shopping cart system is broken. Despite having added a phone to it, the amount I was going to pay was a mere $0.

I followed the purchase process through anyway (more to see how bad it could get than anything) and ended up with this message:

Internal Error

An Error has Occured

Please return to home page.

Okay. Last ditch effort. Email.

I clicked on the “Send Us an Email” link on their Contact Us page, filled out the form there, and submitted it.

Moments later, I received this email message from Solo Mobile in response:

Good day, We regret to inform you that due to technical difficulties with our systems, all the information contained in your message was lost. We sincerely regret the inconvenience this situation may cause.

That’s about when I decided to write this blog post. Does anybody even work at Solo Mobile? Aren’t they aware that their entire system is FUBAR?

Oh, wait. They’re a subsidiary of Bell. Well. That explains everything, then.

The Next Day…

I received this message from a Solo Mobile representative today:

Good day Mr. Robulack,

Thank you for using Solo Mobile’s Internet Customer Care. My name is Darine. I have read your message and I am pleased to assist you.

However, I wish to clarify that your question refers to products and services provided by Bell Mobility, which has its own client care service. We suggest that you submit your question at the following URL address:


Thank you for using Solo Mobile’s Web site. Don’t hesitate to e-mail us again at:


Have a really nice day

Darine (6026572)
Solo Mobile Internet Client Care

Well, at least she was polite, even if she didn’t quite comprehend the gist of this blog post. Whatever.

My experience makes me wonder if we won’t be seeing this sort of memorial service soon:

Solo Mobile Memorial Service

Solo Mobile Memorial Service

Too bad the company’s customer intake service doesn’t match the quality of their advertising because the Solo Mobile commercial I pulled this image from is actually very funny. Check it out: