October 4, 2009

J-Pop Culture: Meeting Douglas Coupland, Reading and Watching 'jPod'

I had been familiar with post-modern Vancouver artist/novelist Douglas Coupland and his work for awhile. However, not until his excellent 2008 Arts Last Lecture during my graduating year at UBC, did I become a fan of his. He was an affable, charming, and delightful speaker.

I managed to get my (still) unread, second-hand copy of All Families Are Psychotic signed by him while we chatted very briefly about how he worked at the same factory my parents both worked at before he became an artist. I found Coupland to be endlessly intriguing and engrossing.

Out of curiosity, I started watching the criminally underrated and unwatched television adaptation of his book jPod on CBC, produced by Coupland himself. I was struck by the strange, unconventional tone and storytelling of the show where murder, drug trade, sexual deviancy, multiculturalism, and pop culture were treated in cavalier, offbeat ways with lots of references to Vancouver culture while mirroring an everyday, dysfunctional lifestyle. As I started to follow the show more and more, I was delighted and hooked by the unique narrative and engrossing cast of j-characters.

I recently finished reading jPod the novel and was thoroughly entertained by its narrative structure and original storytelling devices inspired by internet and tech culture, which was heavily modified and re-imagined for the weekly series. The book and show are quite different but true the same offbeat tone and storytelling. The most notable change from the novel to the series is the absence of Coupland himself as a strange, darkly mocking version of himself among the rest of the podsters.

The book reads lightly as a series of misadventures in the suburbs of Vancouver with colourful antics of questionable substance but great depth, entertainment, and cultural insight. The absurdity and honesty of the character portrayals and dialogue give a true sense into west coast culture influenced by modern technology. The book is a really easy, fun, quick, light read, even at 500 pages. The CBC series was a really great, original show about disaffected, twentysomething Canadian youth culture.
"Here's my theory about meetings and life: the three things you can't fake are erections, competence and creativity. That's why meetings become toxic—they put uncreative people in a situation in which they have to be something they can never be."
The entire jPod television series is available streaming online free and on DVD. I look forward to catching up with more of Coupland's work.

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