Sunday, July 22, 2007



I was talking, recently, with a Canadian square dance caller who's also a fellow dancer, a fellow IBM'er, and a fellow Barry, about “Can-Con”, the practice of using some percentage of Canadian content, observed by Canadian media. Barry doesn't particularly worry about that, though he does often pull out a recording of “Taking Care of Business”, by the Canadian band Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

That always makes me think of the wide variety of Canadians who entertain us, many of whom we don't realize are Canadian. We have Randy Bachman's bands, the aforementioned BTO and his earlier one, The Guess Who. And most of us know that most of The Band was Canadian (all apart from Levon Helm). But do we think about these?: Steppenwolf (“Born to be Wild”, “Magic Carpet Ride”), Barenaked Ladies, Men Without Hats, Crash Test Dummies?

Then there are Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Paul Anka, Shania Twain, Alanis Morisette, and Bryan Adams. Classical guitarist Liona Boyd, jazz great Oscar Peterson, big-band man Guy Lombardo, songwriter-poet Leonard Cohen. We have Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Nelly Furtado, and Avril Lavigne. And many, many others.

Actors: Jim Carrey, Jason Priestley, Mike Myers, Keanu Reeves, Michael J. Fox, Dan Aykroyd, Christopher Plummer, Yvonne de Carlo, and Mary Pickford. For Star Trek lovers, both William Shatner and James Doohan are Canadian. Donald Sutherland and his son Kiefer are, too.

And there's more and more filming going on above the 49th parallel. TV shows used to be set in New York or California, most of the time, with a few exceptions (the occasional Chicago or Miami... or Dallas). We're seeing other locations more and more, and quite a few in the Pacific northwest. In the early '90s there was Northern Exposure, set in Alaska and actually filmed in Washington. More recently, we have an failing attempt to clone that, Men In Trees, set in Alaska and filmed in British Columbia. Grey's Anatomy and The 4400 both take place in Seattle, and the latter uses many filming sites in Canada, as well as several Canadian actors in principal roles (and Grey's Anatomy has Canadian Sandra Oh).

I've recently started recording and watching the late‘90s revival of The Outer Limits, which is a Canadian series that uses many Canadian actors (the accents are often notable), and has many of its episodes set in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. It's a well done show, if a bit trite sometimes — its attempts at commentary on morality are sometimes somewhat strained.

I'm not sure where I meant to go with this, except to say, “Thanks, Canada. We don't always acknowledge you, but... thanks.”


Lisa said...

On behalf of Canada, "you're welcome."

I seek out Canadian music and literature myself, asking my sister and mom for recommendations now that I live in the other CA. I find that Canadian music has celtic influences that I really enjoy, and Canadian literature has cultural references that can be like little in-jokes to me.

My recommendations or favorites that you didn't mention:

Music: Sara Harmer, Jane Siberry and Great Big Sea.

TV: "Due South" and the very recent "Little Mosque on the Prairie" are potentially interesting to Americans.

Literature, I really love Jane Urquhart (magical realism), Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy), Jan Wong, Robertson Davies and Mordecai Richler. (Other famous Canadian authors, since you didn't mention literature: Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Cory Doctorow, WP Kinsella, WO Mitchell, Farley Mowat)

Movies: the Canadian cult classic "Highway 61", with its incomparable scenes of the Devil playing bingo, and Jello Biafra as an American border guard.

Janet said...

Have you seen the movie "The Canadian Conspiracy"? (

Now you know what they're trying to accomplish (*grin*)