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Spending Time on the Borderline

10.11.07 | Permalink

An interesting thing happened shortly after we got back from the U.K., which was every bit as expensive as people had said it would be. (After a while you just had to stop calculating the exchange in your head because it was simply too painful.) Here in Canada, our dollar rose in value to become on par with the U.S. dollar, which doesn’t happen too often. I guess the Canadian dollar hasn’t been this high since 1976 (ie. before I was born), and is expected to stay strong for a quite a while. Living only about 15 minutes away from the U.S. border, it’s always been a pretty common thing for people around here to go shopping in the States at times like this. (Fun fact: 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border.)

American list prices for most products are usually anywhere from 10 to 20% cheaper than the Canadian ones, with the assumption that our dollar is always worth about that much less. So when the dollars are equal, we can usually indulge in some pretty great deals. (Example: The Xbox 360 Elite is $449 in U.S., $499 in Canada.) Unfortunately, if you spend too much, you get slapped with a duty fee, which can cancel out the savings. Not to mention the fact that the whole practice usually ends up bringing our economy back down again… but it’s great while it lasts!

A week or two ago, Alicia and I decided to take a quick drive over to Niagara Falls, NY (also known as going “over the river”) for some shopping, and it brought back a lot of memories from the 80′s when my parents used to take my brother and I shopping over there.

The store names have changed, but a lot of it still feels the same. There’s an army base nearby on Military Road that always seemed so intimidating when I was younger. It really ingrained in me, even as a kid, the view that America can’t get enough war! It used to be a Dwyer family tradition to stop for some Cherry Coke as soon as we arrived (one of the many “exotic” soft drink flavours that very rarely came north of the border), before heading over to Child World (now Toys R Us), Hills (now Ames I believe) and K-Mart (still K-Mart). I swear they had such a better selection of toys there than anything we had in Canada (and probably still do now). My brother and I would wander through the aisles in awe, staring at things we didn’t even know existed. My favourite toy line when I was a kid was M.A.S.K. (sort of like Transformers, but with special agents driving vehicles that could transform into another form). In stores around St. Catharines, we were lucky if they had one or two M.A.S.K. toys, but over in the good ol’ U.S. of A, there was no limit to the bounty that they offered. In the end, we’d each pick out one small toy and then my parents would drag us over to the Factory Outlet Mall where we suffered through a couple hours of clothes shopping (ugh!).

I also recall making frequent trips years later to a store called Media Play with various friends. The franchise no longer exists (I think it was bought out by Best Buy) but last time I was at this particular location I wasn’t too impressed anyway. They used to have the best assortment of CDs and VHS movies I had ever seen in our area. I remember Jay C. used to always buy more stuff than everyone else in the car, so we’d always have to lie and say we bought some of it to try and save him from paying the duty! It was all worth it though, since he does have a killer laserdisc collection to show for it.

There’s also a certain nostalgia about the actual act of crossing the border and getting grilled by the customs officials on the way over and then again on the way back. Some people really crack under the pressure. I can recall a few times having people in the car make some smart ass comment which lead to us getting pulled over to have the car searched. I remember one time my good friend Cesar drove, and I think it must have been his first experience with a border guard because when they asked what we were going over for, he replied, “We are going… visiting.” At which point the incredulous look on my face must have raised the suspicions of the officer questioning us. “Umm, actually we’re going shopping. At Media Play.” Eventually he let us cross without incident, but for a minute there I thought we were going to get strip searched.

So what was my point here? Hmm. Well, I can say that if you want to buy HD-DVDs, you’re better off shopping in the U.S.A. Aside from that, the economics of foreign currencies seem awfully complicated and are probably something I will never comprehend. All I know is, I’ll take cheaper prices wherever I can get ‘em. For this reason, I’m definitely going to change all my money over to the new intergalactic space dollar the first chance I get.

You may have noticed that this blog and Muzak For Cybernetics have been getting thrown on the back burner a lot lately. It’s been almost two months since the last Muzak For Cybernetics Mixtape. The guilt eats away at me, until I realize that I’m really only letting down a few people… and to those few people, I apologize. I blame Fall TV mostly (and some new video game releases), but it also has to do with the changes and improvements happening over on Film Junk. We’re excited about making the site cleaner and more user-friendly and I think we are slowly building a great community there. Our good friend Kevin Watts is the man who’s helping us realize this vision. Please bear with us. I could probably do a lot of quick posts here and there, but for some reason I like to take my time writing and this has been my downfall. In the meantime, I will try to get another mixtape recorded in the near future, and I hope to get back to posting more regularly here as soon as I can. And those travelogues are coming. Eventually.

My friend DK introduced me to the wonderful world of Austin Stevens: Snakemaster this past week. If you are still mourning the loss of Steve Irwin, this guy will totally brighten your day. In some ways he seems crazier than The Crocodile Hunter, if such a thing is possible. He gets in the face of venomous snakes and just generally annoys the hell out of them, all in the name of getting the perfect photograph. The best part of the show is that when a snake tries to strike, they insert this ridiculous Matrix-esque bullet time effect of the snake in slow motion from multiple angles. Check out this clip on YouTube and see what it’s all about. Then watch this clip of him actually getting bit by a cobra and getting rushed to the hospital.

I have my doubts about how real this is, but apparently someone has invented a wearable device called Massage Me, which allows you to actually play a video game while massaging someone. It’s a sort of vest that has pressure sensors built into it that act as a substitute for your video game controller. “Because giving a massage can be a boring and rather tedious task, the interface simultaneously acts a game controller which motivates the masseur by involving him in game play.” Next thing you know, Nintendo is going to come out with a massage game for the Wii. Just you wait and see.

I’m calling it now… “Don’t Tase Me, Bro” will go down in history as the single best catch phrase of 2007. Not only can you buy Don’t Tase Me, Bro t-shirts, but it seems that taser use is catching on in somewhat disturbing ways. This past week, a man in Florida was arrested for tasering and killing a possum. Keep on top of the latest taser-related happenings over at this fine blog called

If you’re jonesing for the next season of The Amazing Race and you just can’t wait until next year, you might be interested in this innovative internet TV show called Around The World For Free. Alex Boylan, winner of Amazing Race 2, has set out on an interactive trip around the world with nothing more than a small backpack, relying on viewers to tell him where to go next and to help him find accommodations and transportation. It kind of reminds me of that One Red Paperclip guy, seeing how far you can get on the generosity of others, but also it’s just an intriguing DIY travel show.

Is it sad that I actually considered buying a Sony PSP just so I could pre-order the new Castlevania game and get this cool pixellated Simon Belmont figure? Well hey, I actually wouldn’t mind playing the game either. But still… yeah, I know. Pathetic.

Speaking of pathetic, I have absolutely no comment about the video embedded below, I’ve included it merely for the sake of nostalgia for the few people who know what it is. I might be the guy wearing a wig and hopping around on stage like a complete doofus. Then again, I might not. Thanks to Gordo Productions for the memories!

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