Why A.I. First Spoke With a Canadian Accent: The Canada Letter

As I was getting ready to leave the film board, I thought that this is an interest of mine and that I could dig a bit deeper into it and so I wrote to Douglas Rain.

Did the film have a similar effect on Mr. Rain?


Douglas Rain at the Stratford Festival in Ontario 1968. The year before, he recorded HAL’s voice for Stanley Kubrick.Credit Doug Griffin/Toronto Star, via Getty Images

It was just a job for him. It doesn’t really mean anything to him and he’s never seen the film.

Why A.I. First Spoke With a Canadian Accent: The Canada Letter
Why A.I. First Spoke With a Canadian Accent: The Canada Letter

He was hired to do the narration for what was going to be an elaborate prologue to “2001.” They filmed interviews with all these amazing scientists and thinkers to set up the premise for the film and explain the context. But Kubrick stripped it away and didn’t use the narration he’d hired Rain to do.

I think if Kubrick had kept all of the explanatory things it wouldn’t it wouldn’t be the classic that it is.

So how did Mr. Rain move from there to becoming HAL?

It was going to be Martin Balsam’s voice. And even before that it was going to be a female voice. HAL was going to be an Athena.

So the voice was probably just a combination of circumstance and a gut choice by Kubrick. He literally said to Rain, ‘I’m not happy what I have in the can,’ meaning the Martin Balsam recording that had been done a year before. ‘Would you like to play the computer?’ And then, in a day and a half, it was done.

When I spoke to a linguist he said absolutely that HAL does not have a mid-Atlantic accent as Kubrick kind of thought. It’s Standard Canadian English.

Why is Mr. Rain indifferent toward the film?

Even though it was done quickly and I don’t think Rain had a very good time doing it, it was fantastic combination of Rain’s performance, Kubrick’s decision to use that voice and to edit it in a way that really brought that character to life.

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But I’m sure if I were Rain I wouldn’t want it to define my career. It would be like Alec Guinness being known just for Obi-Wan Kenobi and nothing else.

Read: The Story of a Voice: HAL in ‘2001’ Wasn’t Always So Eerily Calm

Your Thoughts About Facebook


Mark Zuckerberg at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif.Credit Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The disclosures surrounding what Cambridge Analytica did with Facebook users’ data continue. This week the company estimated that the political consulting firm connected to President Trump’s campaign improperly used data from about 87 million accounts, including more than 600,000 in Canada. Its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to explain what happened next week to Congress.

A large number of you send thoughtful replies to my questions last week about how the misuse, which was initially revealed by Canadian whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, has changed the way you use Facebook. Here are a few of the highlights:

I was pretty confident that an organization such as Facebook, with so much success and resources, would act smart and responsible. That is not the case we learned — not at all! I am shocked and I will surely do something.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it is that on the long run, free stuff is fishy!

—Guy Pierre Poulin, St. Sauveur, Quebec

I was a relatively early adopter to Facebook back in early-2005 as an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta.

Since 2012 I have deleted as much data associated with my profile as possible and have not logged on or messaged anybody through Facebook.

I had privacy concerns and it was a source of distraction and agitation. But I was also perceiving others in my peer group as moving swiftly ahead with their lives, in all aspects, whereas I had felt inadequate.

Quitting Facebook about six years ago has been very positive decision. It’s allowed for more focused “deep work” and to be more engaged fully with people.

—Ravendra Naidoo, Ottawa

The last few weeks of angst about Facebook has not changed my mind about continuing to use social media. It is the way I stay in touch with others with like interests around the globe. I do not put anything on my FB page that is not for public consumption. I limit those who can view my information and posts to friends. I unfriend anyone who posts disgusting things and stop following people who post too much. My social media account is my enjoyment and pleasure. Why would I give that up?

—Louann Hansen, Alberta

I suspended my Facebook account a few months ago and never looked back. I really felt it was designed to be addictive and my brain couldn’t resist. I still think about friends who I may have known a bit more about if I had stayed. But those thoughts also prompt me to reconnect with them in a more active way, like email, phone or in person. I can no longer vent about politics by posting. So I now realize that any anger I feel should either be ignored or focused on something more active than pressing “post.”

Suspending Facebook made me much happier right away, an instant gratification that no social media activity ever gave me!

—Tim Wilbur, Toronto

Monthly Offering

Although the weather doesn’t seem much like it in many regions, it is April, and time for the latest post from Watching, The Times’s guide to viewing, tailored for Netflix users in Canada. The recommendations include “The Florida Project,” “‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “‘Lost in Space,” a Netflix revival of the 1960s television series. As always, please be aware that Netflix sometimes changes its mind about what it will show in Canada after Watching has compiled its viewers’ guide.

Read: The Best Movies and TV Shows New to Netflix Canada in April

New Access

And for those of you who are sticking with Facebook and its subsidiaries, The Times’s new gender initiative is now on Instagram.

Trans Canada

In Opinion, Jesse Brown, the host of a podcast about the Canadian media, argues that Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto psychologist and author who is seen as leading a challenge against political correctness and activism, is much more typical of Canadians than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 15 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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