Wednesday, December 12, 2007

a backalley.

This is the back alley behind my apartment. The snow helped cover up all the ugly bits quite nicely. It also made it very quiet since almost no one drove down it that day, except for the garbage collectors.

There is something special about garbage collectors in Montréal; nothing ever stops them. They might be a touch grumpy and their truck smells pretty bad, and they don't always get everything, but twice a week, there they are.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Painting the walls.

Montréal is a complex city.

In Mile-End graffiti flows over the gates and walls of nearly all the alleys. I’ve been walking the back alleys a lot lately. Things are looking good.

But apparently, in West Montréal, you can’t even paint your own garage the way you want to. Any form of expression involving paint and what you own can be considered ‘visual pollution’ and might not be considered ‘harmonious with the neighbourhood’.

I’m not a home owner. I prefer to rent, at least until that great multi-million dollar a month career move happens. But if I were, I’m not sure I would care so much about my property values that I would complain about a neighbour’s poor choice of colour and paint. When did we start looking a roof over our heads in terms of ‘If I sell this shelter now, I can get a bigger shelter with a fridge that has a teevee in the door’?

I was under the mistaken idea that when you owned a house, you could do what you wanted, providing you weren’t endangering folks, or painting other garage doors with a pirate flag.

And that’s what I would say should happen more often anyway.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

an alberta farm.

Sometimes, like today, I miss the prairies.
When I was smaller, I thought they were boring.

I was wrong about that.


It snowed here in Montréal. It's very pretty and, for a day or so, it really had a happy impact on traffic. And by that I mean, not so many people drove.

The snow didn't make as many people as happy as I would have thought. Angry muttering about the lack of snow removal started surprisingly quickly. No wonder city workers are so grumpy. No one is ever happy with them. How do you think parking ticket people feel about their snow day? How do you even find the windshield to hand out tickets?

Kids got monday off of school. Two of my friends under 10 were busy building snow forts and watching movies while sipping hot chocolate. Seems like a reasonable way to spend a snow day.

I'm not sure I understand adults.

If you saw your car in the state of the above photo (yup, there is a car under that) wouldn't you just call it a day and build your own snow fort?

Get a life, fellow adults, or you'll drop of a heart attack while angrily shoveling snow and muttering about city hall while kids laugh and throw snowballs at you... kids are useless at CPR and will think you are just screwin' around anyway.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

a warning

A warning.

There is a distinct possibility that a rodent uprising is upon us. I have a reliable source.

A friend of mine works at a library and has informed me that the rate of squirrel related injuries is on the rise. If libraries are reporting this, I can only imagine what hospitals might be currently facing. A library is a very fine thing, but it is pretty low on the list of health facilities.

I suggest that instead of attacking first, which doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to, we befriend the rodents. They are impressively smart and could be reasoned with.

I would also recommend not feeding them by hand for the time being.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

not so smart cars

I know I should welcome the 'smart' car, but I don't. Calling an object smart makes me nervous. Could it be that I might be outsmarted by a car or a toaster? To me, smart implies a certain level of sentience.The thought that an object might have a more rewarding life experience than me because it has figured out all that I cannot, is not comforting.

My mother decided she wanted one this past summer. I don't know why. My parents have two SUVs and a truck as well as a tractor (plus a car up on blocks). Granted, they live near the top of a mountain on a west coast island... but how does a smart car fit in? That little pod of a auto surely couldn't make it up the 1.5 km switchback drive way. I believe she thought it was cute. I also believe she told me about it to fill in 30 minutes of silence that I was enjoying before the phone rang.

In the end, she didn't get the 'smart' car. The deciding factor was the complete lack of cup holders. Cup Holders!

And that is how decisions are made.

If you happen to feel guilty about all the climate change and you want to do something about it to show the world you care, don't buy another car. Park the one you already have and walk. Cause in the end, a smart car is just another car on the road, and a pretty ugly one too.

Monday, November 26, 2007


It seems cruel to expect dogs to read french.

I'm not sure that it is at all clear to an illiterate dog that pooping is pas permis.

No one tells Roofdog where to shit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

a lamp post

Apparently I have nothing much to say today.
My brain is mostly empty.
I blame Stockwell Day.

Why do we elect morons?


I could tell that these birds were planning to shit on me, but they didn't.
That's a good lesson to any of you who might have been planning the same.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

too much negative

This sign post is nothing but confusion and negativity. It somewhat explains why I don't drive in Montréal. I'm not even sure what the bottom sign means. Is it no parking between noon and 1pm on tuesdays and fridays from April first to December first? That seems oddly specific.

Then someone added a bicycle logo with a red line through it. I guess that means no biking at this particular corner? Or does the above timeline apply to bicycling too?

This sort of sign is why the philosophy of logic is such an important class at universities the world over.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

leaves in my back alley

This is just some leaves.
I thought the alley looked nice in yellow.
There isn't any deeper meaning.

I've been spending too much time inside lately.

Monday, November 12, 2007

sunday at a café

We had a house guest over the weekend. She is 8 (almost 9), and it was a sleepover. The three of us watched a retelling of little red riding hood, Hoodwinked. I'm not sure why children's animation does not receive more respect. I'm not sure why animation does not get more respect.

Then, despite all the halloween booty that was eaten by all of us, everyone fell asleep around 11.

The next morning our friend's mom showed up and took us all out to this café around the corner that French Panic and I had been ignoring due to the expensive looking decor. It looks pretty much what I imagine Paris cafés look like; tasteful and elegant. Our young friend chose it because instead of bread in a basket, you get a basket of little pastries.

It was a pretty nice start to a sunday where I got next to nothing I had planned done. I'm going to give up trying to get things done on the weekend.

Friday, November 09, 2007

squirrels are taking over

They don't seem dangerous.

But wikipedia assures me that these frighteningly intelligent rodents
(as smart as a dog)
have brought down the NASDAQ, twice.

I don't know what the NASDAQ does exactly.

I don't have an MBA or investments.

But I am humbled that this little monster,
that insisted I take his picture,
knows exactly how to take down the system

and I don't.

Monday, November 05, 2007



Well not so much, I suppose, here in Québec.

Recently a commission has been traveling through the province in which I live, exposing a level of intolerance that causes me to blush with embarrassment the same way I do when I watch Steve Carell on The Office. It has been named the Reasonable Accommodation Commission. I’m not entirely sure what is so reasonable about it.

The theory is that immigrants are coming here to Canada and, holy shit, sticking together as cultural groups. They wear their funny hats, they say their prayers in strange languages, they have their very own customs. [Excuse me while I try to remember my own customs... oh yes, my morning cup of coffee while I come up with excuses for not going running that morning.]

This is apparently very upsetting to many people, including my mother, who lives in fear that someone will one day walk into her home and demand that the christmas tree be taken down because it offends someone.

First, let’s just clear up the christmas tree problem. It isn’t a christian symbol. It is a pagan symbol. Remember christians? The folks you burnt up in a rage claiming that they were at best heathens, at worst, witches and in league with the devil?

Besides, the only people who seem annoyed by christmas trees are far left liberals in the US suffering from white guilt, concerned that a tree placed inside a building might offend someone.

So I suppose the next worry is that these immigrants might band together and get up to no good. Kind of like, oh I don’t know, colonial expansion perhaps?

The first time I ever left North America, I found myself waiting, for 6 or more hours in the New Delhi International airport. The bathroom scared me. The masses of people scared me. The loud foreign language over the intercom scared me. So what did I do? I hung out with the other Canadians waiting. There was 6 of us. We spoke english, talked about how malaria wasn’t prevalent in Kathmandu, but it was in the New Delhi airport (none of us having anti-malaria pills or repellant on hand). More fear, as we created a sort of outward facing circle and swatted at any mosquitoes near us. We probably looked like retards at the zoo.

The point is, we huddled together and were bonded by two things; our Canadian citizenship and fear. Nothing else. When you are scared and unsure, you stick with what you know and learn when you feel brave.

As if the ignorance of Québecois rednecks (I can confirm my suspicion that ignorant rednecks exist everywhere and tend to have the loudest, most insistent voices around) wasn’t hard enough to stomach, the Parti Quebecois decided to propose a new law. This law would demand that all immigrants to the ‘nation of Québec’ take a french exam to establish their Québec citizenship.

Since this was announced, I have been having nightmares involving all of my french grammar teachers from grade one to university. These folks can easily be recognized for their high pitched call... ‘en français, s’il vous plait!!!’

I imagine them, together with a possibly justifiably angry bureaucrat, sitting around a large board room table, writing a french exam specifically for me. The kind that asks me when I should use the plus-que-parfait verb tense. The sort of test that is mostly the exceptions to the rules. The type of exam that involves a lengthy dictée (to those of you who weren’t in french immersion, that is a spelling test suspiciously full of silent letters).

This is the test of my nightmares. One covered in red ink, just like the ones I grew up with, except this one would actually prevent me from running for office, donating money for someone else to run for office, and denying me the basic, oh so Canadian, right of bitching and complaining to my government.

I wish I were joking.

The reason for these proposals is the fear that the french culture and language would be utterly destroyed if not for some level of protection. This could be a reasonable fear, if it wasn’t for the fact that Québec has remained french for well over 244 years of English and Canadian rule.

NO REASONABLE PERSON WANTS TO REMOVE FRENCH FROM QUEBEC. I promise. It would simply kill tourism and allow Stephen Harper one more reason to join the USA. (no offense meant towards American readers. I just don't happen to think of Canada as America's hat.)

But, my worried separatists, if you want the immigrants to the province of Québec to speak french, you have to make it an attractive proposition.

Many of these out of country folk are scared shitless. They sought out a safer, happier, cleaner place to live. Some of them probably just followed family and would have preferred to stay home. Why does everyone expect automatic happy feelings upon entering Canada? I’m sure not all of the Europeans who showed up in North America were overjoyed when they saw all the snow and ice.

So the solution is banal. Sit down for a coffee or a tea or just whatever and talk. Sell the advantages of the French language and culture. Here are some; Few languages have embraced the graphic novel as the French have. It is a wonderfully diplomatic language, current xenophobia aside. Many Americans find french irrationally sexy. 54 different countries use it on a regular basis and it happens to be one of the official languages of the UN. Chances are that the African immigrant already speaks french, albeit with a more different accent.

Just don’t introduce the new folk to Bonhomme Carnival. That is one scary fucking clown.

Friday, October 26, 2007

my favorite movie maker

This post is a bit of a cop-out. Currently I'm battling procrastination, and I promised to do just one post before I get back to the work.

I'm not a big fan of embedding youtube videos, but I am a big fan of Wes Anderson.

For those who don't know about him, he is the director of The Royal Tenenbaums, Bottle Rockets, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited. All are brilliant films, and I recommend them. Each of them come close to perfect movies (if only in my mind).

Some people just don't seem to understand them though, and a quick google search will reap a large number of critiques of The Life Aquatic with jealous folk claiming Anderson is all washed up and that the movie doesn't work.

The movie certainly does work. They just don' t get it.

Perhaps it is because a major theme through all of his films is failure after initial success and the fear that comes along with that. It is essentially the fear of getting old, an uncomfortable aspect of life that we rarely talk about.

He obviously has an impressive creative team behind him, and I'd somehow like to attach myself to it. Perhaps, maybe, he has procrastination issues too.

Here he is in a commercial.

I'm gonna get back to 'mixing it all together' now.

(the new banner is special for halloween)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

haiku for a seagull

seagull with pizza
you fly quickly through the park
i hope it tastes good

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

questions about gravestones

French Panic and I were just wondering if you can put anything you want on your gravestone. Does anyone know for sure?

Ever since I watched my favorite movie, The Royal Tenenbaums, for the first time, I’ve tried to think of the perfect quote, an utter lie, to have carved into stone. So far, I’ve come up with not too much.

I too would like to simply write ‘HOLMES’ and leave it at that. But I think it would be too subtle, and people would just think that was my name, and not a greeting, even if I wrote ‘hey’ at the beginning.

Do we have to have the proper dates carved into a gravestone? Could I just say I was born in 1532? Because I would like that.

I’m too lazy to do any actual research on my own, so if someone could get back to me with theories or an actual answer, or even just a creative lie that I can pawn off as the truth, that would be super.

what's wrong with the rich people?

This perverted little scene was in the shop window of an Outremont boutique.

Outremont is the neighbourhood right next to Mile End. Everything changes when you cross the street, though it may be hard to see the difference at first. The back alleys are spotless, as compared to our back alleys, which often smell of dog shit and sour milk. The street signs are more pleasant. The grocery store charges just that little bit more for the bottled tap water, and the dairy section never ever smells like the dairy sections of Mile End grocery stores. On surface, it is on the right side of the tracks.

Mostly, the residents of Outremont are wealthy francophones (including the slimy mayor of Montréal and Brian Mulroney - that sort of folk) and Hassidic jews. It is an odd mix of society, which don't actually mix.

The mayor of the rich little borough was fired a week or so ago for running a private bar for himself and his cronnies using public funds, which certainly adds that Montréal style corruption to the community. I must confess to giggling with glee at the news, however, I've never had to sit through a city council meeting. Perhaps a thousand dollar bottle of scotch is a legitimate business expense.

I'm not sure why anyone would make statues of bent over Chinese kids. I'm even less sure about lining three of them up in a row in the front window of a chichi boutique.

I am hoping that there is a reasonable explanation for decorating a living room with this motif.

Not wanting to explore what all of this potentially represents, I'm just content knowing that is unlikely I will ever become a rich francophone yuppie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

haiku for an ex-boss/tormentor

rich fat businessman
pounding on your blackberry
you are such a turd

(photo censored to provide plausible deniability.)

coffee for two on a sunday

Monday, October 22, 2007

bébé à bord

Baby on board signs
on parked cars make me nervous
please remove baby

Sunday, October 21, 2007

painted hole covers

I live in Mile End.

It is the coolest neighbourhoods that I’ve ever lived in. Some days I just don’t feel cool enough to live here.

Everyone looks vaguely familiar, as if you should know them because they’re in a band, or are mildly famous artists that the local art weekly has been going on and on about.

Proof of this is that the guy living downstairs from us is a well known DJ and the next place over is the home of a writer.

Someone told me that this area has the highest density of artists and filmmakers and musicians.

I don’t know about that. Seems like one of those made up statistics (73% of statistics are created on the spot, which is astonishingly high, but there you are).

Still, some artist has decided to take the time to paint every single person hole (or can we call them manhole covers again?) to match the colour scheme of the businesses and homes around them.

This wouldn’t fly in Edmonton. I’m sure it would be considered some sort of anti-establishment style vandalism.

The city of Montréal even approved of it. Probably because it was free maintenance of hole covers.

Anyhow, painted hole covers make me very happy... like an episode of Sesame Street. I fully expect Mr. Snuffleupagus to wander out of a back alley one day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

breakfast at Ém café

This was my most excellent breakfast on Saturday. The bananas are inside the crêpe, and I got two different kinds of cream... I didn't even know that I needed two kinds of cream. My eyes have been opened. I will now demand that all dairy needs be backed up with a second, more different, option.

Another café has opened in Mile End. This one is very clean and simple and oozes good taste. It is called Ém Café, and since I said something nice and took a pretty picture without asking for money, I think I deserve free coffee.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

a to do list

This is a to do list that my friend Kat wrote when I visited New York City for the first time. She is the very best tour guide, if you have the energy to keep up.

1 - Turkish Bathhouse: This was a very strange experience. Besides already being in awe of the city that I had only experienced through my small teevee screen, I now found myself mostly naked with many strangers in a strange and cavernous bathhouse. I saw a topless women get beaten with some branches, which apparently is supposed to feel pretty good. I was wearing rented shorts and not feeling all that great about it. There was just a mess of human beings in a very small room that was far too hot and dark for my taste.

Just when I was feeling like it was junior high all over again, a cute girl said, 'Hi, [my real name here], how's it goin'?' I talked to her for a bit, completely confused as to how she knew my name. When I found Kat again - she knows most of New York, apparently - I asked her who would know that I was here. It turned out to be a friend of hers that I had met several hours before, but couldn't place the face.

I'm not sold on the Turkish Bath. It scared me.

2 - We took the Staten Island ferry. We also managed to get a New York Pretzel, and I got to say that Montréal actually does a better New York Pretzel than New York.

3 - We only walked part way across the Brooklyn Bridge, but I was impressed.

4 - I don't know what the Bulgaria is. I imagine a club. We didn't get to this one.

5 - Kat dragged me through Harlem and her old neighborhood. It was amazing to be so white and probably obvious Canadians when we opened our mouths. Everyone recognized Kat, cause she is just that lovable. We even hung out with some of her friends in an apartment. I felt pretty white, but people seemed willing to smile. There seemed to be an eerie number of funeral homes.

6 - We walked by Katz's diner, but I hardly cared about this movie icon.

7 - Never saw the Sunshine theater. Maybe next time.

8 - B and H is a famous camera store. We didn't make it to that one. Good thing, cause I didn't have much money and I would have come out of there bankrupt.

9 - I went to the MET. It was my first few hours alone in NYC since Kat had a statistics exam. I could have spent the whole 3 days in that building.

10 - I did not get roughed up.

11 - Freedman was an old boss of ours. He wasn't home. Just as well... I'm not the prank call sort of person.

12 - I don't eat greasy breakfasts. Mostly because you need to have sausages and eggs for a greasy breakfast and I hate eggs and meat (possible exception for bacon) should not be eaten before lunch in my world.

13 - Had the pretzel, but missed out on the hotdog.

It was a good trip. I took the train down from Montréal. I think that is the way to travel. Kat is still the best tour guide ever.

haiku for a cup of coffee that french panic drank

lipstick on coffee
does that make it taste better?
I did not try it

Monday, October 15, 2007

haiku for a cool car in the fall

This is a cool car
I'm sure it goes very fast
It looks better parked

Saturday, October 13, 2007

what I did on a thursday

Last Thursday, instead of watching the fabulous number of good television programs (mostly The Office, which I find funny and painful to watch which makes for active watching as my butt cheeks squeeze together in anxiety), I bravely headed off to learn something new with several francophone strangers.

The photo is the result of me learning how to do polaroid transfer onto japanese paper. In fact, that is actually two attempts photoshopped together to make it prettier. If you are wondering where this portion of bridge is, it is in Peace River spanning the Peace River.

Getting out of the house is good. Get out! Get out! Maybe it's on fire!

Friday, October 12, 2007

le Bibliothèque nationales du Québec

Last week me and French Panic took the metro machine to the library... the national bibliothèque. It was terribly exciting as we have been talking about doing this 20 minute trip for about 2 years now.

I forgot about the excitement that a library offers. All those books, albums and movies. All borrowed for free. Everyone playing along with the rules of the library, helped by all the nicely dressed and quiet security folk.

I think this sort building is what the United Nations meant to do for the world.

Because we like to spend Saturdays getting nothing much done at all, we only had about 40 minutes to look around. The 30 minute warning came not long after we found the music collection.

I grabbed whatever looked vaguely like reggae in a panic. Apparently it falls into the category of world music. By definition, isn’t all music world music? Or is most music coming from off planet now?

When I think world music, I think of that crazy hippy chick I dated briefly before ‘a wall came between us’ (that’s what she told me. I never saw the wall, but I’m quite grateful that I ran into it.) She would dance to anything earthy and chastise me for not joining in. But the world music always seemed to combine pan flutes, rain sticks and white hippies badly banging on bongo drums... and I never really got it. That and the neo-hippie attitude that looked down on everything, abandoning pot and electricity while constantly trying to outdo each other.

All that to say that Toots Hibbert and the Maytals are not world music. Toots created the term reggae, and that’s something pretty special.

So the album I grabbed was True Love. It is one of those duet albums where other, often more mainstream names, pay tribute by singing along. Mostly I regard these cds with about the same contempt as best of albums which are for housewives and little girls (I stole that quip from Bruce McCulloch).

However, I didn’t see Bono’s name in the liner notes, so I grabbed it.

It is rare that a reworking of a classic ever exceeds the original, but I’m happy to report that this duet/tribute album comes very close. Funky Kingston which matches Toots and the Maytals with Bootsy Collins and the Roots, is as good as that song will ever get for me... short of them all playing together on stage, in front of me, and some friends, probably. It would be real creepy if it was just me. I don’t think I’d like that so much.

All this excitement from one visit to the national library.

Next Saturday I’m gonna tackle the graphic novel corner... thousands of comics just sitting on shelves. Then I’ll come home and sit in my tub listening to Toots while I read book after book. My ex-hippy girlfriend would never approve.

So go to your local bibliothèque, now 85% hippy free.

Friday, October 05, 2007

danger, danger

Never trust a hole cover. They only work because of gravity, and how many times has gravity let us down?

Monday, October 01, 2007


You aren't supposed to put pictures up with strangers in them, cause they might get mad. I'm gonna take a chance that Metroman won't mind though. He's my favorite superhero.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

danger squirrel.

This is the fastest squirrel in the park.

She is so fast, she leaves half of her behind whenever she moves.

When you are the fastest, you can afford to be dangerous.


the jesus finds a starbucks

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a book report: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Since my time at university, I have become less able to simply enjoy a book. It may have something to do with no longer having parents restricting my television and movie consumption. My habit, probably due to reading text books, is to put a bookmark where my goal for the day would lie. It is a horrible habit and creates the illusion of work. Thus I read far less fiction than I did before the demands and requirements of so called higher learning.

However, Bukowski’s novels have always captivated me from the first page. I never look ahead to see how much more of the book is left to get through because I never want it to end, despite the seemingly complete lack of plot. This is what Jack Kerouac tried to do, but for me, never succeeded.

Bukowski hardly ever uses big words. He is quite unpretentious. He is almost painfully honest. These are rare qualities in anybody, but most especially writers. Honest unfiltered observations don’t get printed often enough. We all seem scared of offending an invisible reader or being too bleak or even boring. Mr. Bukowski was seemingly immune to such worries and refreshingly unconcerned about the audience.

POST OFFICE, more than anything it is about the soul crushing reality of a job.

I think most of us lurch through our working life doing work that does nothing more than pay the bills. Not everyone can be astronauts, and if everyone did exactly what they wanted to when they were 6 years old, we’d have a world full of firemen, nurses, pilots, doctors, lawyers (though I never understood the kids that wanted to be lawyers so young) and police officers. No one would be around to fill out forms, scrub public toilets, and lie to the electorate.

Charles Bukowski fell into a job at the US Postal Service. A steady paycheck became an addiction in itself, and he copes in a way I’m sure many of us do; by occasionally altering his reality. The women come and go in his life. Despite his calloused view of love, he writes about them with sympathy. One has to admire his ability to wade through multiple failed relationships without pausing for self pity.

Mostly the adventures revolve around his impressive and fearless fashion of facing off with the famously overbearing management. It is no mistake that folks that go nuts in the workplace are said to have gone postal.

The US Postal Service had known management problems during the timeframe of this book. I’m quite sure such issues have been resolved to some degree, or, more frighteningly, our society has merely accepted the nature of the work world. The book does a fine job of describing an atmosphere where humans are reduced to the role of robots, while the engineers work to create actual robots to replace the humans. Sound familiar?

Poor management and how to deal with it is well outlined in the Post Office. It should perhaps become a cautionary tale for all of us, especially to those of us who do find themselves accidentally in a manager’s shoes. (It has even happened to me on occasion.) There are some fine lessons about how to face off with bureaucracy. Simply bury them with more paperwork than they give you.

I won’t give away the ending. Though it is predictable, it does not involve a gun and isn’t even dramatic. Despite the bleakness of the story, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Perhaps it is the realistic view of work I enjoyed, or just knowing that I’m not alone.

Reading this book is like listening to a good friend tell you about the harshness of their job over coffee, which leads to beer, which eventually, if you let it, leads to drunken laughter and strength to at least consider dreaming of becoming an astronaut again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

outremont by-election

Democracy is so inefficient.

Tonight my ‘roommate’ and I headed over to vote in the Outremont by-election. We have had to do this trip three times since I moved here two years ago. The whole exercise has become routine. I fully expect to be returning to the polls in another few months when the new guy gets bored of his job like the last guy did.

I suppose we could have not gone, but I never don’t vote. Long before I formed my own opinions, I was taught that democracy was a ‘for the people, by the people’ sort of thing, and it only really works if we all participate. I don’t think I’m better than you if you don’t vote. My brain was wired in a way that forces me to do unpleasant things out of a distorted sense of duty. Some people call it a protestant work ethic. I call it not that interesting.

As anyone who got through junior high knows, democracy only works out on paper. Sure the popular kid wins, but that kid will do whatever she/he wants because no one else really cares past the popularity contest. Then it becomes a drag as the person in ‘power’ discovers that they have no control over the homework level and now have to organize the school dance and speak in public.

Adult democracy works goes more like this: you stand in a line, choose the least objectionable person on the little strip of paper, and then go home to find that the most objectionable person actually won. The main problem is that the people who want the job are exactly not at all the people who ought to have the job; democracy's greatest oversight.

When we lived in Edmonton, voting was a perfect excuse for a nice walk through the neighborhood. Here in Montréal it becomes a nasty sample of inept bureaucracy. We stood in line as three people, maybe four, tried to manage two separate lines into the school gym and failed utterly.

These three or so people couldn’t quite grasp that the lost little old lady didn’t speak French. I guess physically prodding her to go to the back of the line was easier than some simple instructions in English. It’s nice to know that Elections Canada has taken it upon themselves to allow manhandling of the electorate.

When it was finally my turn to vote, they read my very anglo-saxon name out loud. I guess this was the cue to speak to me rudely in English, even though I had spoken in French, and tell me loudly and slowly, ‘Now, GO VOTE!’

Jesus. Sorry. For voting. Or being an anglo. I’m not entirely sure what she was angry at. Such rude petty little folk, drunk with moderate authority. Sure her job sucks, but it only sucks for one day.

I won’t say who I voted for, because I was always taught that that is rude. Besides, why else would they put up the cardboard cubicle?

I will say that I did not vote for the NDP though.

It wasn’t because I have any real bias towards any particular party. In fact, they could have easily had my vote. But they lost it.

They called my house 3 times with humans, asking who I was planning to vote for. Then their phone robots called, 3 times, to tell me to vote for them doesn’t matter because I hung up on the robots each time.

To the guy from the NDP: I hate being bothered at home unless it is by my friends. You are a politician. By definition, you cannot be my friend. You are therefore relegated to leaving a flyer, outlining why I should vote for you in particular, or knocking on my door and asking if you can explain yourself to me in person. Don’t think you can win me over with telemarketers and phone robots. Nobody in the world likes those things, not even people who don't have phones.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

one horrible lunch experience

This restaurant is the worst.

It is the worst because we waited well over an hour after ordering for our food, or even our coffees to show up.

Other people got their food straight away. Perhaps we were not cool enough, or didn’t look enough like smelly hippies.

What’s so hard about getting a couple of coffees? That’s the easiest food service task that there is.

The sandwich contained many of my favorite food stuffs, but that’s all I got for my 10 bucks. One sandwich. No side order of something – anything. Coffee was extra.

We got ignored like junk mail.

So the waitress got tipped like junk mail, which is to say, not much at all. She only got any tip because I didn’t want to wait around any longer.

Aux Vivres vegetarian restaurant, on St. Laurent in Montréal, you suck.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

sometimes nothing is something

the cult of facebook

I’m writing again, after having my soul slowly sucked from me as I sit at this very computer over the past week and a half.

Never again will I do anything for long lost friends who pop out of the facebook world and ask for help. I thought I was doing a nice thing for someone, cause I thought I had the time. Apparently communication got a little screwy from the beginning, and I’m merely an employee in this person’s eyes, reduced to taking abuse through email and phone for an embarrassingly low amount of cash.

Really, I’m less than that, cause it is pretty much charity work at this point. I’ve been shafted by someone I once thought 10 years ago was a pretty close friend. Turns out she just wanted something for nothing and was prepared to shit on me to get it. Don’t ever piss off a volunteer. It will hurt you later.

So today’s post is about the dangers of facebook.

Facebook is a cult. If you doubt this fact, think of how you ended up with an account. Were you actually seeking a brand new way to email your friends?

Probably not.

Probably, like me, you barely remember that fateful click of the mouse. You just got tired of invitations clogging your email program and thought, ‘what harm could this do?’

After you clicked, suddenly you had to accumulate friends. The thrill of competition is very addictive. How many more friends can I have than that guy I worked with 10 years ago. Or my spouse. Then the website asks you to kindly search for other friends that you know through email.

Before you know it, you are tied to the computer trying to gain acceptance from the masses. Reconnecting with old friends and forgetting why you aren’t close friends anymore. (Anyone reading this who is an old friend of mine, it probably doesn’t apply to you. Of course I would say that, wouldn’t I? Please don’t deny me the virtual friendship.)

Then come the groups. Oh how I always wanted to be the popular kid in junior high and high school. Sadly, as is detailed in my post Trousers of Terror, this was well beyond my control. Of course I’ll click and accept any group that will have me.

You are rewarded on facebook for being active. You can add all sorts of very stupid doo-dads that promise hours of clicking fun. I don’t really get it. Sending people icons of perverted ideas doesn’t really contribute anything, does it? Sure, send me a hand job.... it’s still not a real hand job, is it? Kind of useless. Even the thought of a handjob without the actual follow through is not that appealing. It’s just sad and frustrating.

It reminds me of that strange plan to end world hunger by clicking on a website. Apparently that doesn’t really work otherwise we would have moved on to ending the genocide in Darfur by now and would be well on our way to halting climate change.

I’m not sure what the motive is behind these stupid games. Someone is creating them, so I gather someone is making money off of this. But who, and why, and, most importantly, how... and who (again)?

Perhaps it is the makers of icy hot causing a plague of carpal tunnel syndrome as we all click our way to the inevitable computer geek posture. Once we all have the same aliment, it will be easy to dominate us as a society. No one will be able to even raise their good hand to fight. Our opposable thumbs will be useless.

And just like a cult, people will object to those who question the wisdom of facebook. I’ve heard people get rather defensive about it claiming that this will bring the world closer together.

No it won’t.

People always respond that this is merely a conspiracy theory. But there are real conspiracies. It really does happen. Isn't this also what fellow members of a cult would tell you when you’d suggest that things aren’t on the up and up?

We bitch and whine, with good reason, that the government is trying to spy on us. (They are.) They don’t have to spend money on spying on us anymore. Just a couple of guys in front of facebook can find out pretty much anything such as where you have been throughout your life, who your friends and acquaintances are, what you are up to that very day.

Last night, I even managed to track down the wife of the stupidest and nastiest person I have ever met in the world, only to discover that she is pregnant with his demon child. It made me slightly sick to think that such a man is now reproducing. It may even drive me to reproduce to offset the effect of yet another spoiled little rich kid to populate this planet.

It’s really not healthy for me to have access to such information.

We just pour our guts out on this site and not enough of us are getting suspicious.

Think hard before you accept friendship from that guy who bullied you in elementary school. Is he really your friend? Or does he just want a chance to bully you some more from the safety of the interweb, cause he’s fat now and couldn’t possibly really hurt you in the real analog world.

It is time to revolt against the facebook cult.

Oh, and don’t drink the facebook kool-aid.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

a photo of america - don't be stealin' it.

I think I took this shot at St. Paul's chapel across from the World Trade Center site. If I remember right, then this picture has marginally more significance. Feel free to insert your own interpretation of any symbolism I missed. Just be sure to send me your theories so that I can use them when the smart people ask me what this photo represents.

I didn't mean to visit the World Trade Center site, I ended up there by accident. I thought it would be a little crass. It wasn't. Some miracle of good taste prevented the selling of memorial coins or 'kill osama' hats.

Seems like it's popular to hate the USA. I worked with someone who hated Americans. I guess she only met the ones on bus tours wearing ball caps that say 'USS Iowa', and saw military dominance in their eyes. She was a little nuts though. I think her boyfriend told her the lunar landings had been faked and she took it personally.

You just shouldn't judge a population by their government. The tricky thing about modern democracy that they don't teach you in grade school is that you need to have a nasty disposition and money to try out. I suppose they do cover that in junior high student council elections.

It's too bad about the stereotypes, because Americans I have met hold the record for fastest stranger to helpful new friend transition.

Well, not all of them. I have met the bus tour people as well.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

what happened to the internet?

I have been posting quite a bit in the past couple of months. I have also been leaving comments on other blogs. Usually I do this when I see or read something I like. I was told that this would drive more people to look at my blog, and though that is somewhat self interested, why else would I put things up on the information superhighway unless I wanted strangers to have a look? It sure makes the whole process worthwhile. Maybe I would even make real internet friends that didn’t want to sell me on a bigger penis.

My best friend in the world is French Panic. She also leaves posts on blogs. Sometimes people think that her comments are mean and cruel. I know they aren’t, but then I have the advantage of knowing her in human form, others do not. Without using emoticons (which don’t count as letters or language, you know) it is hard to establish the subtleties of human speech. Thus, she finds herself misunderstood far too often.

I had the mistaken impression that when you put a comment section on your website or blog, you expected to receive feedback and had accepted that some of that feedback may be negative, or at the very least, it wouldn’t always be ‘you rock!’

So Panic pointed out something that wasn’t quite right in a blog by some person that she had nothing against really. It was not meant to insult, but apparently one is not to disagree with the blogger or she/he will incur the wrath of the blogger and all of the blogger’s friends.

What did I do about this? I saw how the electronic conversation was going and added my own informed opinion. All that schooling has to have some practical use. I thought that what I had said would maybe clarify the issue. I did spend some time of my life dealing with the topic at hand.

One of the blogger’s friends decided that I didn’t have the right to reply. Somehow the logic of said friend rushing to defend the original blogger didn’t apply to me.

You can read the whole affair here, but I wouldn’t comment if I were you.

Apparently I caused someone a headache with all my properly spelt words. I hate having headaches myself and I felt pretty bad about this, so I re-read my initial comment. I did suggest that the person was ill-informed. But I tried to soften it up with a ‘have a brilliant day.’ Again, if only I would embrace the emoticon, the lack of irony in my ‘brilliant day’ sign off would have been more obvious.

It is probably a flaw in my character that I can’t let an argument just die. Why should I care that someone disagrees with me? More to the point, why should I care that a perfect stranger, that could just be another computer programmed to respond with random letters, doesn’t like what I’ve typed out?

I thought that the internet would provide for better communication between people. That was the intent. When blogs came along, despite the fact that I hate the word ‘blog’ I figured it was a great way to have your own soapbox outside of a university class. Write something or show a bit of artwork and you have an instant forum to discuss without having to pay several thousand bucks a year.


There is a strange code of behaviour within the blog world with even more made up words. Apparently what I was doing was ‘flaming’ a comment section, and that is frowned upon.

Now had I said, “You dumb shit. You don’t know anything, fucking loser” I would agree. That would be hateful, mean, and wrong. But I just thought we were having a debate.

What the whole experience has taught me is:

1. Reasonable, articulate people are harder to come upon than I imagined.
2. Folks don’t like disagreement, even polite disagreement.
3. Emoticons are stupid, but until people find a way to read something without adding their own perceptions to text, it might be worth learning a couple. Maybe just the smiley face one... oh and that winking one would be good too.
4. The kids out there really do need to learn to spell. Come on. If I can get most of my words right, surely those that believe themselves much smarter than me can manage the same.
5. I have far too much free time on my hands at the moment. I need a proper hobby that doesn't involve my precious computer.

If you wish to leave a comment on my little blog, feel free. When can discuss things reasonably. I will even agree to admit that I am wrong. You can blast me with hate even. In the end, I just really want traffic... (and maybe a couple of faceless internet friends.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

concrete rooster terrorizes small vietnamese town

Yup, it's happenin'. Concrete birds are gettin' angry. I blame bird flu .... and president bush, cause why not.

depressing urban landscape

I took this picture on my daily walk to school in Edmonton. I miss school. It was so educational, and there were people to talk to everyday. Mostly it was a reason to put on pants.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bill O'Reilly, the Boss, and me

Until a year or so ago, Bill O’Reilly wasn’t a name I really knew. He hadn’t yet made any impact on my life ‘cause I have the good luck to be Canadian and am not subjected to Fox News except where it makes an appearance on the Daily Show.

About a year ago I was working at the world’s smallest and stupidest newsroom and the Boss had been bragging about talking to the presumably good folks at Fox. The Boss was very excited. I was not. I knew that Fox News was one of the great jokes in journalism. The sort of joke that really isn’t all that funny.

Overworked and simply counting the paychecks, I lacked the enthusiasm that I had had when I first started working there.

For a month or so, before I realized the boss was nothing more than a spoiled child in a chunky man’s suit, I believed what he told me and shared in the excitement of working in a newsroom.

Those days were over.

I watched the first Fox News clip that came into the office. It was Bill. He did a marvelous job of shocking me out of my work induced coma.

I think he was interviewing Cindy Sheehan, the lady who lost her son to the Iraq war and was now protesting said war. To call it an interview is wrong. It was a form of bullying that I had never witnessed on television outside of an after school special. Bill belittled her cause claiming that were her son alive, he would be very angry with this protest, and how dare she. The war was a raging success in all but the minds of those unpatriotic liberals who would probably have allowed the Nazis to win the second world war.

Perhaps because of the Fox claim of ‘fair and balanced’ reporting, O’Reilly gave Cindy the ‘last word’, which he preceded to talk over anyhow.

He does this with everyone he disagrees with. The only people allowed to have an actual last word seem to be military types and Republicans.

The idiot boss was phoning from his Blackberry every 5 minutes wanting to know the status of this brand new exciting clip from Fox. I warned him that it was not truly journalism and was certainly offensive.

‘Are you sure you want this up? We also carry clips from BBC and Reuters, I’m not sure this is up to the caliber of journalism you keep going on about.’ I said.

‘I agree with you about thirty percent, 80% of America watches Fox News, and that makes it important news. We want people to see both sides. What is the video clip about?’ said Idiot Boss.

‘It’s a piece by this guy Bill O’Reilly. It isn’t even journalism, he’s .....’

I got cut off by an exclamation of ‘RIGHT ON! PUT IT UP NOW! HOW LONG UNTIL IT IS LIVE? THIS IS GREAT! O’REILLY’S A BIG NAME,BIG NAME!- hold on, I’ve got another call’

And that is where I’d be left on hold until I realized that he had completely forgotten he was talking to his lowly video editor.

That is how the Boss talked, with made up numbers and overbearing exclamations. Idiot Boss also loved punching the air with a circular movement when he was excited. Sort of a modified Arsenio Hall whoop. I believe he developed this at his frat house where I’m sure he was quite popular.

I realized that he was not that much different from the moron on the computer monitor in front of me.

I was fired a few months later, but not before I was forced to endure O’Reilly drivel every morning. I learnt a lot through Bill and my Boss. Here is a short and incomplete list.

- Free Speech is important, but listening to it is not.

- Yelling your own opinions over the free speech is good way to make it go away.

- Never let facts prevent you from telling a good story. If someone questions your facts, yell out their personal shortcomings.

- Pointing your fingers at people violently is a fun debate technique and a good way to show off your expensive suit.

- No one ever questions statistics, they just assume that you have done your homework and must have read it somewhere. Make up your own.

- Don’t allow your lack of mathematical prowess get in the way of your statistics. Yelling will eventually silence your detractors and other purveyors of numerals and facts.

- Key words are important. Read the first chapter of important business and political books to get a feel for some new ‘it’ words. Repeat them several times in conversation. People will think you are current and in the know. Fun tip: magazines are a faster read and have more pictures. Keywords and quotes are usually repeated in large fonts somewhere in the layout. Use them.

- Quote big thinkers in media. Actually you only need to know one; ‘Media is the message’. It doesn’t matter that you can’t elaborate on that quote. Very few people can. However, it does show that you attended a class on media.

- Pretend to give a last word to your guest/employee, then talk over them until they give up.

- Comparing your opponent to a nazi after they have left is a good way to nullify any damage they might have caused your argument. Pointing out their hate conceals yours.

- People don’t like yelling and will eventually go away to avoid it.

If you have your own lessons learnt from various jerks, please do post them on my comments section. I firmly believe that assholes can teach us things too.

Monday, August 13, 2007


For three summers, I was a treeplanter. It was a hard job. Probably the hardest.

When you’re little, the schools fill you with the idea that pioneers had it tough, that the work never ended, and no one ever got rich doing it. The proper response was to show admiration and be grateful that we didn’t have so many chores to do. I’m not sure why teachers and parents fill kids with stories of how rough things used to be. Why do lessons taught to kids have to be fraught with so much guilt?

The fact is treeplanting is probably at least as hard as being a pioneer in terms of pure physical labour, not to mention similar mental anguish.

A planter of trees, at least during my time, was only paid for the number of trees put into the ground. The average for the time when this photo was taken was about 12 cents per tree, more if the terrain was especially difficult. Then there was the 25$ per day for camp and food costs. Then you had the amount owed on the gear you had to purchase from the company and whatever your tent and boots (at least 2 pair per season) for the year cost.

You only got paid if you planted the precious trees correctly each time. And there was always a company man/woman walking around making sure you did it right, or you started again... this time no money made, since you had already put the trees in the ground. They also had a habit of making sure you wore your hard hat, despite the fact that in your average clear cut, there aren’t actually any trees standing.

Payday was generally more stressful as the reality of your work was played out for you on a piece of paper, ironically made by the trees that you just replaced. Some people came out of a season owing the company.

Add the bugs (mostly blackflies and mosquitos, but also wasps, deer flies and other strange bitey ones), the bears (which leads to inevitable bear mace can explosions) and no escape from the rain, sun and hail... and that is about as hardcore a job as one can find in Canada.

One day this cool cat I worked with was sitting on the ground. He stared back at me. Since he was a rookie and looking pretty sad, I asked him if he was alright. He replied, "You know, if someone on the street came up to me, dropped a dime in front of me, and all I had to do was pick it up and put it in my pocket, I wouldn't do it."

His logic was impeccable. The saddest part as he left the job for good was that it was another week until black fly season
Hence this picture of an old friend who is rolling a joint at the top of a hill, trying not to let the wind catch our communal stash of precious marijuana.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

alberta hippy - not a myth

A hippy from Alberta is as annoying as any other sort of hippy.

When I was a kid, I asked my parents what a hippy was.

My mom said they didn't exist anymore.

I said, 'like the dinosaurs?'

My dad said, 'yes.'

They giggled like they knew something.

I don't know why.

It isn't as if they were ever hippies.

I know cause of their vinyl collection. It tells no lies.

work clothes for the unemployed

Last week I bought a suit.

I haven’t bought a suit since French Panic and I worked our way through Vietnam (Saigon to Hanoi via multiple bus trips, if you’re curious).

Although the Vietnam suit was tailored to me, that was the slightly more svelte traveling version of me. I don’t eat as much in tropical heat, apparently. It seemed like a good suit at the time and it only cost me 30$. I know many good deals can be had in Vietnam, but there is a strange bulge in the jacket, and the pants split a couple of hours before my brother’s wedding last year. Apparently, the sweat shop saved some money by buying thread from thread pirates who aren’t known for their attention to quality.

Thus despite the kinda cool asian collar that looks like Canoe Reeves’ collar in one of those Matrix movies, the suit has gone largely unseen except for two weddings. I also have to note that while it seemed cool at the time, I fear it makes me look more like a priest than a science fiction hero. Sometimes a good deal is not actually a good deal.

So now I have a suit that I’m much more comfortable in. As I don’t have regular employment other than my pretend job of super spy, I’m was not immediately sure when and how I was going to wear my new suit.

My idea is now as follows: I’m going to do the morning commute with everyone else in Montréal. I will get up, starting this Monday, put on my suit, head to the closest Metro station and take that metro ride all the way around. Then I will get off at the station where I started, or maybe another station that is also close, walk home with my satchel over my shoulder and a travel mug of coffee in my hand, sit down at in my little home office, and work away - possibly at this blog, probably at the couple of largely ignored projects I should have finished a year ago.

I enjoy a good morning commute. So much people watching to do. No need for small talk, since no one wants to talk. And then there’s the metro ride. I do love a good train trip.

The afternoon commute is not so enjoyable, however, so perhaps I’ll just walk around the block, buy a couple of samosas and announce that I’m finally home when I get back.

It’s fun to pretend to be a contributing member of the workforce.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

man purse

Man purses in public are not cool. Not cool at all. Some things can only be pulled off by a woman. It's what make us different. Like how some birds have different coloured feathers between the genders to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

My dad carried around a man style clutch for a year. I'm glad he had co-workers who I imagine teased him until he gave the thing up. Thank god he didn't jump on that short lived man-skirt that was also being thrust upon north american men in the mid 1990s.

If you are a man and need to carry a bunch of stuff, but not enough for a backpack, why not get an old military satchel like Indiana Jones had. No one would call that a man purse.

on the mountain

Montréal has the incredible good luck to be centered around a very large hill that the locals call a mountain. It's like someone planned it that way. Sometimes when the hippies aren't banging on bongo drums, usually on weekdays, it is surprisingly quiet.