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20070627

jPod

Entry 313 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


So I finished Douglas Coupland's jPod this week. It took me that long because I waited for the paperback version that only landed on the shelves of my local Fnac last week. Louvain, that contains the oldest still existing catholic university in the world, doesn't has an English bookshop anymore since the excellent American Book Center closed down a few years ago.

Must be that these catholic students still fancy Latin or simply buy their books from Amazon (link intentionally directed wrong).

Everybody warned me that jPod is a Microserfs upgrade, now situated in the post millennium era instead of before. What is it with these 'enhanced' remakes anyway? Why does anybody need those? After a few horrendous albums Mike Oldfield tried to revive his Tubular Bells extravaganza by recording Tubular Bells II in 1992. Now TB2 isn't a bad record at all, but it hasn't got the panache the original had when it hit the stores in the early seventies. That is my opinion, but my 6 years younger brother-in-law, who first succumbed to TB2 and only listened to TB1 when I virtually harassed him to do that, still believes the opposite. We also have diverting opinions when it comes to Start Trek TOS and Star Trek TNG by the way. It all has to do with your first impression. That is the one that is stamped inside your memory. I even heard from people who pretend that A Momentary Lapse Of Reason got them into Pink Floyd.

Can I go on about Mike Oldfield a bit longer? Because this dude really insulted the fans afterwards with a declining series of Tubular spin offs: Tubular Bells III, containing some leftovers from the Eighties' album Crises and an appalling The Millennium Bell. It made the music magazine Q wonder that here was an artist who could only sell albums when they bear the title Tubular Bells. But not all upgrades are bad. As a matter of fact my favourite version of Tubular Bells isn't the original 1973 stereo version but the quadraphonic remix that appeared on the Boxed set in 1976. Ha!

But this text is in fact about Douglas Coupland's jPod remember? Microserfs urgently needed an upgrade. If you happen to wonder why I invite you to go to this Microserfs fan page and start counting the 404 errors the links produce.

Microserfs already had all the typical Coupland ingredients: some wacky people and some wacky situations and basically for jPod this setting has been enhanced with some more wacky people and some more wacky situations. While Microserfs was mainly about a bunch of ex-Microsoft programmers who wanted to build a virtual Lego application, jPod is about a bunch of game designers who are anti-programming a lame game by adding some hidden levels featuring a murderistic Ronald McDonald (personally, I have always found the McDonalds clown rather creepy and scary for kids). But that is not all. Next to virtual gore feasting in a computer game there is the real world to reckon with, and that real world contains:
a) the loving mother, who happens to deal in drugs, who sometimes murders 'by accident' and who re-discovers her femininity by joining a commune of fanatic lesbians run by d)...
b) the loving father, a would be movie actor who loves ballroom dancing...
c) the Chinese businessman, who is a professional smuggler in all things living or dead and is also a ballroom fanatic...
d) the lesbo fanatic, who turns into heterosexuality after her first encounter with c)...
e) a writer, aptly called Douglas Coupland, who appears quite literary as a deus ex machine when one of the protagonists tries to rescue a slave in a Chinese shoe factory and who is, according to the author Douglas Coupland, a general asshole.

Remember SimCity 2000? This game was the ultimate gaming experience in 1993 and I've played it several times from beginning to the end. Later on came SimCity 3000 and SimCity 4. I have these as well but actually they just acquire dust on my hard disk. Because let's be honest, SC3 and 4 are just something more of the same. I'm also one of those guys who gets easily bored with all these intermediate movies in-between game levels. Usually I just press the escape button to make the movie disappear and to get on with the game.

A graph. Useless.

For those who are familiar with Microserfs I can tell that jPod is quite the same game but with a lot of extra movies. A bit like the 1991 version of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Just like Larry Laffer Douglas Coupland isn't afraid to use cheap tricks as well. In Microserfs somebody would have said: 'Here is the list of the first one hundred thousands digits of the number pi.', but in jPod Douglas Coupland simply prints these digits: 27 pages long. Included in the novel are also all 3-letter words allowed in (English) Scrabble (4 pages), 8363 prime numbers (22 pages) and a list of 58984 random numbers (27 pages). So these gimmicks alone make up for 80 pages out of 556: 14 percent for which the rain forest thanks him. These pages all contain a single error and it is up to the reader to find it. Up till now I couldn't find a single webpage that lists the solutions, apparently nobody cares...

How different things were with Microserfs. That novel also contained some easter eggs and the solutions to these can be found on the web even now.

OK, I feel this review is dragging and I still haven't made a point apparently. That's a bit the problem with jPod: what is the point? Unless the point is that there is no point to begin with... a bit like life actually...


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Heinlein Manoeuvres In The Dark