Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Should Also Cast the Sailor Moon Movie

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #2: The Kids are Alright

Another thing that PGSM got right-- and I say this with all seriousness-- was in casting actual, 14-16 year old kids in the roles of the Senshi. To explain what I mean, I first have to summarize, in brief, the basic story arc of every previous incarnation of Sailor Moon.

In essence, it goes something like this. We start off Usagi (and her friends in later series), who can be described as a person whose imagination and capacity for love is dominated by a childish attitude. She is impatient, which leads to laziness, which in turn leads to a habit of just scraping by in her endeavours, academic or otherwise. She also suffers from a sort of behavioural myopia which, for all of her good intentions, often manifests itself in the form of selfishness, impulsiveness, and gluttony. She's easily frightened, which leads, in combination with her impatience, to her easily breaking down and turning into a crybaby. Add to this an incapacity for subtlety and a flow of psychological energy with precisely two settings-- "Off" and "Turn it Off! For the Love of God Turn it Off!"-- and you have. . . well, a kid.

Out of the blue, this kid is then told that she is basically responsible for saving Tokyo the entire world from energy sucking monsters. Given how well she responds to the duties of ordinary life, you can imagine how well she takes to this news. She gets scared-- terrified-- during battle. The fact that she often makes stupid mistakes (a consequence of inexperience) only adds to her insecurities. She resents the impact her new responsibilities have on her life, and often reneges on her duties. She uses her powers for selfish ends. Yet, gradually, as she acquires new and similarly superpowered friends (one of whom, Sailor Venus, is more experienced than any other), and learns more about her and her friends' shared past (literally a past life), and eventually finds true love, she matures. This maturity does not lead to the squelching of emotions, or to Usagi giving up her hopes and dreams. Instead, it leads to the realization that these things are the ultimate source of her power-- they need only the proper focus. Understanding this allows her to defeat her, and humankind's, enemies. Add a slew monsters of the week, recurring miniboss underlings of gradually increasing difficulty level, friends captured/"killed", a huge power-up that saves Sailor Moon just in the nick of time, a loved one possessed by ultimate evil only to be brought back by the power of love, and a scary big bad destroyed/redeemed by the very same, and you have Sailor Moon in a nutshell (except perhaps the live action series, but that would be spoiling, as well as weakening my argument).

The various incarnations of Sailor Moon all followed this same arc, albeit differing in the details. The Usagi of the manga matured relatively quickly, which is one of the things I like about the manga. The anime had childish Usagi dominate the majority of each season, mature, rise to power, defeat the supreme enemy, and then inexplicably revert to her earlier immature self. All the while, she and her only slightly more mature friends friends were all depicted as, well, definitely not girls in their early teens. Combine this with the fact that they are always being saved by a glorified jewel thief with no superpowers and. . . well, let's say that I can sympathize with the critics of Sailor Moon who insist that the show is sexist. This is why PGSM did the right thing in casting real teens. These actresses, despite being professional models, never once looked a day older than the characters they were portraying. While the anime kept saying that these are kids, PGSM showed it.

So where am I going with this? There are two points I wanted to make in this post. The first was in outlining the basic arc of Sailor Moon. I'll explain in later posts how that arc can be implemented in a Sailor Moon movie. Indeed, that's pretty much one of the main points of this entire exercise.

The other? To suggest my ideal choice of actress to play the role of Sailor Moon.

Abigail Breslin.

Yeah, you heard me, Abigail Breslin! And just to show that I haven't made some horrible typo:

Abigail Breslin, pictured above.

Okay, I won't lose any sleep if Breslin isn't in my movie, because quite frankly this entire film is almost certainly never going to happen anyway. But if it were up to me, Sailor Moon would be played by Breslin, or at least another actress in the same mould.

Why? First and most obviously, she's a kid, just as Sawai was when she first accepted the role back in 2003. Second, while she may be pretty, she's not some kind of J-Barbie nymph. This was true of Sawai as well. While she may have grown into a beautiful woman, Sawai was gawky and awkward as hell, in both her mannerisms and, to some extent, her acting (though her talent matured, throughout the series and afterward). Third, on a related topic, Breslin was nominated for an Academy Award. Sawai. . . wasn't.

So that's the actress who plays Usagi. But what about the other senshi, and Mamoru, Usagi's one true love? Who'll play them? What will their characters' role in the film be? And what about the villain? You'll find out, in future installments of Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie.

Sailor Moon Says! Hee hee-- ow, ow! Oh God, oh God! Stop hitting me-- ow! Ow! Goddammit! Ow! Okay! Okay! I'll never say that again! I promise.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pop Quiz, or Maybe More of a Survey:

Please choose one of the four answers below.

Jeremy didn't like E.T. beacuse:

A) Having long ago lost any semblance of childhood innocence and wonder, he is fundamentally incapable of understanding an allegory of childhood bonding and loss. As such he is, like many jaded cynics, utterly perplexed by the subtleties of a movie that speaks in a deep language of emotions, though any child can pick up on those same subtleties with ease.

B) E.T. is an overratted sacred cow featuring a cast of cold, detached and uninvolving actors essentially improvising their way through a long string of non-sequiters trying to pass itself off as a plot, and whose success or (in this case) failure as a film hinges on the audience's ability to empathize with a puppet that makes Yoda look look fucking Gollum, as well as on their willingness to pretend the John Williams isn't peddling a slightly re-written version of Holst's Jupiter Suite.

C) All of the above.

D) None of the above.

Oh, and if I hear any "Man, that's rich coming from the guy who wants to write the Sailor Moon movie" I will fucking end you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Should Supervise the Music for the Sailor Moon Movie

I think the reasons for including a J-pop cover of "Neverending Story" in the Sailor Moon movie are pretty self-evident.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie

A couple of years ago, there were rumours that a Sailor Moon movie was in development-- it would be directed by Joss Whedon and star Lindsay Lohan in the title role. Back in the nineties, 20th Century Fox proposed a remake starring Alicia Frickin' Silverstone. These never came to pass, fortunately, but that's no reason to breathe easy. Just as comic book movies dominated the last decade, anime remakes may well dominate the coming one. Speed Racer and Dragonball have already been adapted by Hollywood. In the works are remakes of Akira, Macross (with Toby MacGuire!), and Ghost in the Shell. Sooner or later, amidst George Clooney's portrayal of Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist and the violent, pretentious ascent of Neon Genesis Evangelion from the depths of development hell, Sailor Moon: The Movie is going to be made.

And I want in. I want to write the Sailor Moon movie. And I want to show you, my reader(s), why I am the man for the job. Hence, I present the first entry in a new series "Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie."

Yes, I know I'm ripping off MightyGodKing-- actually, I'm ripping off Spoony's ripoff of MGK, making this a ripoff of a ripoff. And yes, I know that it's almost certainly not going to happen. I've definitely not been paying my dues as a writer. As a physicist, yes, but not as a writer.

The point of this exercise, for me, is not about whether my vision of Sailor Moon will or will not be made. The point is that it can be made. The ideas that I'll be sharing with you have simmering in my head for a long time, and before Sailor Moon comes to a theatre near you, I want to get them out of my head and in words.

So, without further ado, the first reason I should write the Sailor Moon movie.

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #1: The Ugly American

The image shown above captures the true genius of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, the live action adaptation of Sailor Moon which aired in 2003.

To understand what I mean, imagine if a North American company, like Saban, decided to make a full on live action adaptation of Sailor Moon. Would it be silly? Absolutely. Probably even sillier than the Japanese version in some ways, especially if they got the writers of the English dub onboard ("She's not a Sailor Scout! She's a Failure Scout!" LOLZ!). But it wouldn't have the same kind of particularly uncomfortable hilarity that the real, Japanese series did, and the reason for that is simple: an American series would cast a blond haired, blue eyed, white actress. And no-one would so much as bat an eye. What the live action series accomplished, by virtue of its very existence, was to expose a central paradox at the heart of Sailor Moon.

What paradox, you ask? Well, consider the character of Sailor Moon as originally conceived and presented in Japan. Sailor Moon is actually a fourteen year old schoolgirl named Usagi Tsukino, born and raised Japanese, surrounded by Japanese friends, and by all accounts considered ethnically Japanese. Sounds reasonable enough, right? A Japanese main character in a Japanese story.

But then, well, look at her:

This is our hero, our Japanese hero, as drawn by her Japanese creator, Naoko Takeuchi. And again, no-one the world over so much as bats an eye. The reason for that is simple, of course: the vast majority of manga and anime depict their Japanese characters in this manner. Why should Sailor Moon be any different?

What happens, though, when you try to translate this to the medium of live-action? That was the problem faced by PGSM. On the one hand, the character of Usagi Tsukino is supposed to be Japanese, but on the other hand, all previous incarnations of Sailor Moon have depicted her as practically Aryan. Appealing to mukokuseki can only take one so far, especially where live-action is concerned. So what did the makers of PGSM do instead? Simple: they put a blond wig on the head of a Japanese actress! You're welcome.

Now, clearly, that shit ain't gonna cut it in Hollywood. The typical American viewer can't appreciate true genius has some standards. So what's to be done by the studio tasked with adapting Sailor Moon to the big screen?

Here are two things they could do, but won't: a) create an animated adaptation; and b) retool the character to look more convincingly Japanese. Doing a) would miss the point-- why try to do something that Japanese studios could do just as effectively, especially when this option will limit the potential audience? Likewise, b) is out of the question since, well, American audiences are more likely to identify with an American character.

Here's what the producers will likely do: set it the United States. San Francisco, perhaps. In this way, they would have no problem justifying the use of a white actress. This, however, I cannot abide. The setting of Sailor Moon has always been the Azabujuban neighborhood of Tokyo. To take Sailor Moon out of Azabujuban would be like removing Spiderman from New York (the Japanese, it turns out, already tried that). The town, in its own way, adds a certain character to the series that would be lost by setting it in America.

So here's what I propose: go the Grudge route and have Usagi Tsukino be an American living in Japan.

There's more potential to this than you might think. As I said earlier, anime characters are typically portrayed as ethnically Japanese and yet, by and large, do not have what we in the West would consider a particularly Japanese appearance. This is especially true in the case of Sailor Moon, where the character is depicted as pretty much Caucasian. But what happens when you try to play out this contradiction in real life, as opposed to anime? What happens when a white teenage American ex-pat tries to go Japanese?

For your consideration: Serena, the fourteen year old daughter of a reporter for NHK World's English language news broadcast, has lived in Japan for about five years. She has learned to speak the language well (even if her grasp of Kanji is limited compared to others in her age group) and can navigate her way through the social structure fairly well, earning a respectable circle of friends, the closest of which being Naru Osaka. She's a little flighty, a little lazy (she was a strong student in elementary, but hasn't kept up with her studies since entering junior high) and is, as described by Takeuchi herself, "a bit of a crybaby." Quite a few girls are the same at this stage of their lives, and yet somehow, everyone seems to see these qualities more in Serena than in other girls. When she makes a mistake, in her studies, her hobbies, her speech, everyone seems to notice, even when other girls make the same or even worse mistakes.

It's never outright cruel, or at least not intentionally so. We've all done certain things at this age that we thought were funny or cute or just harmless but actually turned out to be embarrassing, hurtful, or even traumatic. The most overtly hurtful thing to ever happen to Serena is to be bestowed with the nickname Tsukino Usagi, "Rabbit of the Moon," on account of her distinctive hair cut and head-in-the-clouds attitude. Even this, though, eventually works out in "Usagi's" favour, as she, and everyone else, decides that the nickname is cute.

Nevertheless, Usagi lives her life in Japan in ways that are subtly different from those of her friends. Sometimes young girls, elementary age, will giggle when they see Usagi and talk about her "dumpling head," even though they know she can hear them. She'll call them out, of course, and they'll apologize, somehow surprised at what happened. Sometimes older people will whisper to each other when Usagi is nearby. Occasionally, she and her family have been turned away from certain dining establishments-- one time, when Usagi was about 10 or 11, she and her dad couldn't even get taxi service. In addition, though Usagi is not terribly interested in her father's work, she has heard him talk at times about the strange things he's heard influential Japanese people say, like one politician insisting that food imports should be limited because the extra length of Japanese people's intestines prevents foreign food from being properly digested (And yes, all of these are based or real anecdotes). Of course, she thinks this is funny, and so apparently does her father, even as he tells his story with a tinge of bitterness.

On their own, they're little subtle things. But taken together. . . well, it recontextualizes things a bit, don't it?

P.S.: This isn't the first time I've devoted an unhealthy amount of mental energies to an epic scale remake. For years, in the back of my mind, I toiled on a spinoff of Star Trek whose plot spanned the final four decades of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the one-two punch of Enterprise and the 2009 film destroyed any desire I had to keep working on it (the 2009 film actually dealt with an idea I had been working on but, being the 2009 film, did it in the stupidest, sloppiest way imaginable). But with Sailor Moon. . . well, I guess the best way I can explain it is that as long as it still has not been made, there's still some reason to get it out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Ugly Canadian

AKA CAP Congress Part II + Colorado.

I started this blog post in August, and I've been putting off for months. When you see how long it is, you'll understand why.

For the first twenty-five years of my life, I never set foot outside of my home country of Canada. Hell, the only other province that I ever visited was Alberta, and that barely even counts when you're from central BC.

However, this past summer, I travelled to the United States of America not once, but twice. The first visit was my return journey from the CAP Congress in Moncton, NB, with my sister Naomi. The second was a camping trip in Colorado that I went on with my parents. These journeys have taken me through two great American metropolises (Chicago and Denver), numerous towns small in size but grand in character, great plains, high mountain passes, lush forests, priceless national monuments, and one really overrated national park.

And in the end, it has left me feeling like dumb tourist.

For one thing, stereotypes be damned, I found Americans to be friendlier and more polite than Canadians! Granted, I spent the majority of my time in mid-west states like Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, which might well be friendlier-than-average parts of the country. And granted, for the purposes of the above comparison, I am deliberately forgetting about just how pleasant the people of New Brunswick were. But still. . . I'll give you a couple of examples. First, during the Colorado trip, when me and my parents were stopped at rest area after crossing the Montana border, an American couple returning from a trip in Alberta came up to us, expressed what a wonderful time they had in Alberta, and wished us Canadians safe and pleasant travels! I know this should be stroking my national ego somewhat, but never in my life have I encountered Canadians that warm and open. It made me feel like a classless bum, not to mention, as I said earlier, a dumb tourist.

Another instance of American friendliness occurred on the return trip from Colorado. Me and my parents drove in separate vehicles-- I drove the tiny, spunky Pontiac Vibe, while my parents took turns driving a pick-up loaded with a camper. As you can imagine, there were times when I would take a considerable lead on the highway. At one point I got so far ahead that I had to pull over and wait for them at the side of the highway (this was near Casper, Wyoming, a nice little town that has the distinction of being the birthplace of Dick Cheney). As I waited, a pair of passer-bys (a mother and daughter) pulled to the side of the road in front of me and asked if I needed assistance! Again, never in Canada has that happened to me.

What makes this even more weird was that Naomi seemed, at some points, to have the complete opposite reaction to mine when it came to Americans. I remember stopping at Subway restaurant in a small Minnesota town just off I-90. We had to contend with the lunch rush, so it was crowded, but I enjoyed it-- the Minnesotan townsfolk seemed pleasant, in spite of limited space. However, when Naomi and I returned to the car, the first words she said were "Americans are such stupid classless assholes." This aroused my curiosity, so I probed further. "I was holding a door open for some guy and he doesn't say anything, so I say 'you're welcome!' and he says 'oh, oh, thank you.' God!" So, yeah.

I will note that there was one unpleasant encounter I had with an American, but that has to do with the overrated national park I mentioned earlier, so I'll come back to it later. For now, I will segue awkwardly into discussing the many sights, sounds and other attractions I partook upon during my American sojourn!

Chicago! Went by too fast for me to really take it in. But Sears Tower is... I'm sorry, Willis Tower is pretty impressive.

Albany! Naomi and I stayed there for a night! Then we ate at the local IHOP! There we heard real blue collar New Yorkers speak. And it was good. Though I have to say, the McDonald's service there is shitty, at least if the place I went to was at all indicative.

The Mississippi! We crossed the famous river, which essentially formed that part of the Wisconsin-Minnesota border through which we were driving. And yes, I did say "M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i" to myself to make sure that I would spell it properly.

Cleveland! Yeah, so that would be a third great American metropolis that I forgot to mention. We drove a convoluted route through the city on our way to Chicago. It wasn't as bad a Calgary, though. Driving through Calgary is like trying to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, except both the gold and the rainbow are buried at the horizon, and your only hope of finding it is with a treasure map, only the map itself was burned, so you have to rely on a recorded transcription of the map that can only be played on Thomas Edison's original prototype phonograph, and the transcription itself was translated from Japanese Haiku into Chinese Shi and then into French Rondeau. Yeah, it's a strange metaphor, but you trying connecting from Highway #1 east to Highway #2 south in Calgary sometime!

South Dakota! Near the Minnesota border, me and Naomi stopped at a small gas station. I after filling up the car, I went in to pay for the fuel, when the clerk, a man in maybe his sixties with a slow drawl that-- and I'm not trying to insult the man-- suggested a head injury, said "So what state are you from?"

"Actually, I'm from B.C.-- er, British Columbia."

"Oooh." the clerk said. "So. . . I heard you got the, uh, B.C. bud up there?"

"Er, yeah. We got that," I replied.

A fellow who was standing nearby, and who seemed to be a regular customer based on his interactions with the clerk, seemed to take interest. The clerk asked for the price of gas or something like that, and the other man remarked "you asked that three times today"-- this is the other reason I though the clerk might have had a head injury.

Turning to me, the other man asked "I heard that B.C. Bud is pretty good stuff."

"I wouldn't know myself, sir," I said. This provoked a fit of laughter from the two.

Then the clerk, committing the mortal sin of explaining the joke, said "I'll bet he thinks we were trying to pull a fast one on him!"

Asking for a receipt, I left with a smile on my face. For some stupid reason, I felt a little bit clever. Maybe it was just because I thought, at the time, that this is gonna make really a good story.

Mount Rushmore! It was cool. Not as big as I thought it would be, but still impressive. What surprised me was the amount of tourist-y build-up we encountered on the way to the place. I should have known better, but I kind of expected something like a highway pull-off, basically a parking lot with a gift-shop. In reality, the mountain is about a thirty mile drive south from Rapid City, SD. The road, as far as I can tell, was purpose built for travelling to Rushmore and the near-by Crazyhorse monument. A couple of miles before you even get to the parking lot, you encounter a propped up little tourist town consisting entirely of gift shops, restaurants, and resort lodges. After you've paid the ten dollar admission fee to get into the parking lot, you come up to a huge entrance, followed by a few historical exhibits and even more gift shops. Then you pass a fairly impressive avenue of all the state flags. Then, finally, you come to the monument itself. Naomi and I did take our own pictures, but we have yet to upload them to an online photo album. Naomi was not particularly enamoured of how crowded the place was; we arrived at around eight o'clock at night, and there were still at least three hundred people in attendance! Being surrounded by Americans at a fairly patriotic attraction, we were denied our God-given right as Canadians to be sarcastic about the United States. (Recall the title of this post.)

A warning about the pictures that follow. This is the first time I've ever posted pictures of myself on the internet. Now, I am not an especially good looking man at the best of times, but combine my undistinguished looks with 13 straight hours of driving, like these pictures from Mount Rushmore, or with extreme heat and a shirt one size too small, like in the pictures from Denver, and. . . well, if you're a reader who has never met me before, and have built up an image of me in your mind, prepare to have that destroyed. Again, I didn't call this "The Ugly Canadian" for nothing.

The Path:

The Mountain:

Two Awestruck Tourists:


Denver! When I was young, our family used to have a TV satellite that could pick up various American stations. One of the stations I remember fairly vividly was based in Denver. It was from this station that I first learned of the concept of time zones (since Denver is in the mountain time zone, all the programming was ahead of us by one hour) and it was our family's one stop source for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The station made a point about being based in Denver, Colorado, which any station in any city would do. Still, because of that, and because of it's impact on my childhood, when I entered Denver I felt a strange sense of coming home, even though I had never been there. So what was it like?

Duh Sssthoo Wath FUUN! Only Naomi will get that joke (it involves Matthew Broderick looking like a dumbass. . . more so). But. . . me and my Mom, during a day-long expedition to Denver, did visit the apparently famous Denver Zoo, and it was indeed fun! It was hot as hell, though, and the mile-high air did not help much. At one point, my Mom got so dizzy she had to sit down. In addition, we visited the state legislative house and Denver city hall, where we met a very nice Wisconsin family who also noted the unappealing combination of heat and thin air. We also visited our first American Wal-Mart. This was a surprisingly distressing experience: the Wal-Mart, in terms of appearance and overall layout, was exactly like the Prince George Wal-Mart, but it was far bigger. This led to the strange feeling of being back in Prince George, and yet of also being a tiny child lost in an expansive mall. The fact that my mother was with me the whole time somehow did not help to alleviate this feeling. The strangest thing about Denver, for me as a Canadian, was that it was pretty much English-Spanish bilingual. Bilingualism is our gimmick, dammit! Next you'll be telling me that President Obama is trying to pass single payer government health care, too! Fine, we'll just build up a massive military-industrial complex and ravage our environment. . . oh, wait, that last one is already underway. Never mind.



Georgetown, CO! The entrance to Guenalla Pass lay past Georgetown, a community that virtually defines Charming Small Town America. Granted, much of the "small town charm" may well just be a cynical, carefully crafted, moneygrubbing tourist facade. I don't care. They work hard for the money!

Guenalla Pass! Guenalla Pass is a roughly twenty mile long pass through the Colorado Rockies beginning in Georgetown, located about fifty miles west of Denver. It's highest point in nearly 12000 ft in altitude. We had to drive the pass in order to reach our campsite. Despite its short length, driving the pass took quite a long time, owing to construction (which limited traffic to a single in some parts), the fact that it was a winding mountain road replete with near-180 degree turns, and the fact that my parents were driving a pick-up loaded with a camper and hence had higher center of gravity than most vehicles. Some were not pleased with this. At one point, two Suzuki-esque "off-road" vehicles driven, based on overall appearance and behaviour, by douchebags, passed me and my parents during a fairly short straight stretch. I wouldn't have minded this, had not they driven through a puddle, and had not both my parents driver's side window and mine been open at the time.


But we got pictures.

As for the campsite itself? My parents-- my father, specifically-- were attending a "potlatch," a gathering of "tramps". The tramps are a society of mainly Czech ex-patriates who fled communism, seeking the wide open spaces and sweet, sweet freedom of the North American wild. This particular potlatch was an especially big deal: while most potlatches would gather all the members from a single region, province, or state, this was a gathering of tramps from across the continent. That was the theory, at least. From what I could tell, the attendance at this potlatch was about the same as the more regional events that I had attended in BC. The other tramps spoke English passably enough, but preferred Czech, and enjoyed, among other things, singing old Czech folk songs around the fire. Anyone care to guess whether I stuck around?

Not that there was a shortage of campers, though. It was the Fourth of July long weekend, after all. Incidentally, me and my mom witnessed one of these campers nearly kill herself. We were driving back to our campsite down the main dirt road when out of nowhere, some stupid girl on a ATV came barrelling down the road at what must have been at least eighty kilometers an hours-- and she was headed straight for us, seemingly out of control! She managed to veer out of the way just before hitting our car.


Speaking of the Fourth of July. . .

The Fourth of July! I witnessed my first Fourth of July parade in Georgetown. The entire populace was gathered on the town's main street or in the park, while firetrucks and police cars blared their sirens loudly and proudly. There was also a parade of Corvettes. Not just any sports cars, but Corvettes and Corvettes only. I'd make a joke about this being some bizarre memorial to GM and the faltering American auto industry, but since the U.S. was pretty nice to me on the whole. . . I'll just refer you again to the title of this post. I was quite disappointed by the lack of Hot Dogs-- I had to get lunch at, of all places, a restaurant specializing in eastern-European cuisine owned by a Czech! Never mind the strange coincidence. . . it was the fucking Fourth of July! Who the hell wants to eat Hungarian Gulash on the Fourth of July? I mean, it was good Hungarian Gulash, but still!!

Some more pics of Georgetown:

DUBOIS, WY! On July 5th, we started for home. However, we decided we'd take a little detour through Yellowstone National Park. After hitting Casper, we broke off toward western Wyoming. On the sixth, we passed through the small town of Dubois, which is to the Wild West what Georgetown is to small town Americana:

Yellowstone + Grand Tetons! We arrive at last to the nadir of my American experience: Yellowstone National Park.

After passing through the Wyoming desert, which included the above-mentioned Dubois, we reached the turn-off for Grand Tetons. I made the turn into Grand Tetons, but my parents did not. You see, I had the funny idea that if I took the road with the sign "Entrance to Grand Fucking Tetons Down This Fucking Road", which was not coincidentally the same road that had all the fucking toll booths saying "Pay Here To Enter Grand Fucking Tetons," I would perhaps-- and I state again that this was my just my own supposition-- GET TO GRAND FUCKING TETONS! My parents did not have the same idea, however. They chose instead to go straight down the road we were on and park at a nearby pullover. This resulted in thirty minutes of me driving up and down the same stretch of road trying in vain to re-establish useful radio contact. The most I could get was "-we don't know where you-" and "-we drove down-" which, believe you me, helped out one whole shit. Ultimately, I had to call Naomi, who ended up calling Mom, who ended up calling me. We reunited and ate hot dogs.

Now, I'm gonna be badmouthing the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks for a little while, but let it never be said that the Grand Teton mountain range itself is not beautiful.

Anyway, we made our way back to the toll. I already paid, so I went in the entrance for ticket-holders while my parents paid for their tickets. Unfortunately, I was so focussed on my parents, ie making sure we don't get separated again, that I missed the stop sign at the entrance. Noticing my mistake, I first slammed on the brakes, and then noticing I was holding up someone behind me who was already pulling up to the toll, I drove ahead about twenty feet and pulled to the side, completely out of the way of any motorists.

Now, as you can imagine, I felt pretty sheepish about this. Still, I figured, just a simple mix-up. I pulled to the side already, so it's not like I'm trying storm the gates of Grand Tetons. I figure if I apologize and smile, maybe make light of the situation, it won't be too bad.

But no. . . Ranger Fucking Smith of the Grand Teton Republican Guard had to give me a cute little lecture. All while my parents, with whom I had hoped to remain close, drove away.
Me: Oh, man, I'm sorry about that, I didn't notice the stop sign until--

Ranger Fucking Smith: Did you see that big red sign over there?

Me: Well, yeah, I--

R.F.S.: (takes my ticket) That means stop! You know what stop means? And that sign over there with the number fifteen on it? That means fifteen miles an hour!

Me: Yes, sir. I'm sorry sir.

R.F.S.: You need to pay attention. Are you going to pay attention?

Me: Yes sir. I will. Thank you sir.

R.F.S.: Pay Attention!

Me: Thank you sir.

If you're thinking that I'm trying to make myself look more polite than I really was because I'm telling the story, let me tell you that I felt like an ass having to smile and nod so that I don't get in more trouble with this guy. If I were telling this story the way I would have wanted it to happen, well. . . it would have involved many cheap shots about R.F.S. never making it past the tenth grade and remaining here on glorified mall-cop duty whilst I would be moving on with my shiny master's degree. Yes, I am smarter than the average fucking bear.


Okay, to be fair, I did mess up. And it was a very busy time of year so I imagine R.F.S. was not in the highest of spirits either. But considering all this still didn't make me feel any better. In fact, after I caught up with my parents, I was fuming.

The parks (Grand Tetons and Yellowstone) themselves did little to help matters. Tetons was pretty enough but didn't last very long, and Yellowstone. . . well, Yellowstone was a tragedy. See, it turns out that a huge forest fire swept through Yellowstone in 1988, devastating much of the forest in the park, particularly the part of the park through which we passed. Looking back, I realize how sad it is for the park to have been damaged this profoundly, but at the time I was driving through, the devastated scenery, combined with the heat, the ludicrous amount of post-fourth of July traffic, and road construction that seemed to bring everything to a screeching halt every five miles. . . well, let's just say if Yellowstone blew to pieces at that moment like it did in 2012, I probably wouldn't mind.

(On a related note-- I will swallow every other stupid thing in 2012, but the idea that John Cusack and his kids could drive down an empty road and enter Yellowstone without passing so much as single toll-- well, that I simply cannot abide.)

Still, there was a glimmer of hope left: Old Faithful, the world's most famous Geyser.

Now, I had learned my lesson from Mount Rushmore. I expected a national landmark like Old Faithful to be an all out altar to the Tourist gods. What I did not expect was the population of a small city to be packed in around it. "Small city" may be exaggerating, but not by much-- I'd estimate about one thousand people gathered on the wooden walkway ring surrounding the geyser a hundred feet away (there's a tragic story behind that too--apparently, it took the death of a young boy for park officials to realize that allowing people near a geothermal vent whose outer shell is of the same thickness and approximate strength as pie crust might not be the wisest move). Plus it was hot, combination of Yellowstone's climate and the geyser itself. So, I can't say it was terribly fun, which is sad since this was the highlight of out day-trip to Yellowstone. But Old Faithful promises nothing more than a periodic vertical gush of boiling water, and after thirty minutes of waiting(ten minutes after the promised eruption time-- "faithful" indeed) that's what we got. Sideways photo of the Geyser behind my Mom below:

After leaving Yellowstone, we passed by Earthquake lake (created by the 1968 earthquake which nearly destroyed Old Faithful) and through the mountains of southern Montana, and I have to say it was far more pleasant, and beautiful, than the national park we had just left. In fact, pretty much the entire western half of Montana is beautiful. If you do plan on travelling down to the States (or up to Canada), I recommend entry through the Post of Roosville. This will take you through some very nice parts of Montana.

Bye bye Mrs. American Pie. . . for now.

So. . . my ultimate impression? Well, all I can say is that, during the Bush years, I swore would never set foot in the U.S.. Now, having seen a tiny glimpse of the country, I hope to return someday, as does my Mom. Until then, for any American readers, farewell from Canada.
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