Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Return of the Jedi, with commentary by a three-year-old

This is a few years old, but I didn’t have a blog at the time, so it ended up as a very elaborate status update on Facebook. (Which I don’t use much anymore, owing to privacy concerns.)
Watching Return of the Jedi with my son Milo, who was then three, I decided to write down what he said about the movie:

Monday, February 10, 2014

On names

Before I get complaints from any more relatives, I should explain: yes, I misspelled my own name.
My last name is officially spelled Lepock, pronounced LEE-pock. It’s some immigration officer’s attempt to render the Croatian Lipak, which I’m told means rosehip. My great-grandfather was from Glina, a small town in Krajina, a majority-Serbian region of Croatia. I visited Croatia once, but I stayed on the gorgeous Adriatic coast and skipped a pilgrimage to Glina.
When Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia, Krajina seceded from Croatia and most of the Croatian residents fled in fear of ethnic cleansing. A few years later, the Croatian army retook the territory, destroying everything in their path, and most of the Serbian residents fled in fear of ethnic cleansing. The generals who led the invasion were convicted of war crimes at the Hague, but acquitted after appeal. You may be wondering: if the Croats fled, and then the Serbs fled, who lives in Krajina now? Apparently: not very many people. Wikipedia lists Glina’s population as having fallen from 23 000 before the war to 10 000.
Glina was also the site of a series of massacres during the Second World War. And people wonder why I’m suspicious of nationalism.
I’m rather fond of the name Lepock, but people find it hard to pronounce. Most of them think it’s French and convert it to LePock – except, in my experience, for the French. They know a French name can’t end in ‘ck’, and just find it weird.
Calling myself Christopher L’Époque would be awesome, but maybe a teensy bit pompous. Going back to Lipak has its merits, but it’d be mispronounced “Liepack”, which would be unfortunate and not at all an accurate description of half of what I say.

Canadian literary types often misspell my name Leapock anyway, probably thinking of Stephen Leacock. (I occasionally get people who call me “Leacock”. I also get people who call me “Lepcock”, which makes me spend the next forty-five minutes trying to suppress the impulse to misspell their name by adding “youreadick” to the end.) So Leapock it is. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Justin Trudeau and the Chamber of Secrets

I’m often struck by how much Canadian politics resembles genre fiction. You have the evil villain, the friend-betraying science-hating electoral-playing-field-rigging development-aid-into-corporate-welfare-turning Stephen Harper. (But don’t let that suggest that I think he’s a purely malevolent force. He’s the only politician who hates my cellphone company as much as I do.) And you have Justin Trudeau, the scrappy hero who, like Frodo Baggins or Harry Potter, must save the country from certain doom with only his courage, his wits, and a motley band of plucky friends.
I wish it didn’t seem that way, but there are too many parallels. Trudeau is the scion of a noble house, anointed by fate to return the nation to the pride it enjoyed under his father’s benevolent rule. Yet his early life was humble – he was a mere schoolteacher. Even after entering politics, he was reluctant to take up his quest, preferring to canvass Papineau on foot until Michael Ignatieff’s self-immolation left the elders of the party begging, “Help us, Justin! You’re our only hope.”
He’s adopted radical new tactics (like Ender) chosen with disarming honesty. (“Well, let’s just legalize marijuana. Heck, I smoke a little myself. Why is everyone staring at me like that?”) The agents of the enemy are never far behind him, falling on his every misstep like screeching Nazgul. Sometimes Trudeau only escapes by the skin of his teeth (like that time when he accidentally praised China for having a nice efficient dictatorship). His hair is unruly no matter how much he brushes it.
Last week Trudeau expelled all Liberal senators from the party. The Senate has been embroiled in corruption scandals - two senators were charged with defrauding the government with fictitious expense claims earlier this week, and two more are under police investigation. For anyone not familiar with the Canadian constitution, our unelected Senate also doesn’t do anything except for providing a world-class retirement plan for party hacks. Trudeau declared that the Senate should be nonpartisan, and started it on its way by booting all his partisans.
(I figure what he has in mind is something like the House of Lords. But constitutionally our Senate is much more powerful than the Lords. So it’s unclear whether that would work.)
This strikes me as the moment when the hero finally sets off alone into the wilderness, giving up all support except for a trusted friend or two. Trudeau has severed ties with the old fundraisers and strategists of his party, just as Frodo left the Fellowship of the Ring and Harry snuck away from the Order of the Phoenix. The parallel’s made even stronger by the rumours coming out of Ottawa that Trudeau made this decision without consulting anyone.

Godspeed to you, Justin Trudeau. Our fate is in your unlikely hands. I hope Hermione remembered her purse. 

Fate Soup

So like I said, I write a bit. My main project right now has the working title Fate Soup (unless I come up with something better). Set in mythological Greece, it follows three heroes on a quest to save the world: Lizzie, a beautiful warrior with impulse control problems; Athos, a wizard who can’t cast spells or do pretty much anything else; and Bertrand, the sprite who has to keep them pointed in the right direction. Along the way they face incompetent gods, nonsensical prophecies, riddling trolls, a lobotomized dragon, and a fire-breathing chihuahua.
The book is widely considered by people living in my apartment to be Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the Harry Potter generation.
Along the way, it also reveals the mysteries of the universe, such as “why do bad things happen to good people?” (short answer: the gods are idiots) and “why are your testicles on the outside of your body?”
Here’s an excerpt from the current draft: