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Wednesday, February 26, 2003
 
At my part-time job (you know, the one you go to so to definitely, positively, without a doubt whatsoever pay the rent, bills and put food in the growling belly), a client from Texas asked me about my opinion on the subject of Quebec separation. Immediately cautious, I jokingly retorted, "I don't care for change." What I don't care for is mixing politics with business, especially when I know my opinion on the subject is outnumbered. Then a day or two later, at the bakery where I was picking up a treat, the Brazilian owner and I somehow got onto a similar topic: language issues. She is Brazilian and she was complaining that it's taken months for her to get her Brazilian passport renewed, not like the local consulate has a backlog of requests considering there isn't a great Brazilian population here like there is in Toronto.

Always enjoying the opportunity to comment on something I'd recently read, I replied that it probably has something to do with the statistical fact that although many foreigners land in Montreal, they don't stay because attempts to learn two languages (i.e. French and English) so to integrate into society is twice as difficult, and it's difficult enough to just be an immigrant learning one new language; most immigrants try Montreal, but if they aren't already conversant in one of our (Canada) two official languages, they tend to leave Quebec for less complicated lifestyles. Nodding and smile, the Brazilian lady declares that she finds French utterly useless.

Her comment surprised and amused me considering the conversation was happening in French between two fairly fluent but accented speakers. A few more things were shared, and then I finally expressed the feeling I've had since I've been here. A feeling that is frustrating but no less valuable. In all the time I spent in France, not once did I resent being treated as an outsider. I don't carry that passport. They had every right to differentiate, something Ithey rarely did, or at least, were polite enough not to do it in my face.. While here, in my own country, in a province in my own country (let's not split hairs on the fact they have yet to separate even if there is a will or desire for this; they haven't; not yet), I am sometimes ridiculed and most definitely perceived as an outsider; a foreigner, so to speak.

Ce qui me fâche quelquefois c'est le fait que chaque personne dans ce pays, même dans ce province, ne peut porter qu'un passeport. Quelque soit la langue, on partage le même pays et le même citoyenneté.

Until Quebec either gives up the secessionist rhetoric or actually puts their mouth where the boundaries are, I doubt the friction between Quebeckers and the ROC will every really die.

So what do I actually think about Quebec separation? Well, I'm not a fan of change, nor do I believe this country can be geographically carved up without shedding the soulblood of the people. Add to that this week's reading of Beowulf and other classic English war lays ... How many of you have forgotten that what is now known as England was occupied by the Romans until 500 AD, then Germanic tribes until about 1000 AD, and then the French until about 1400 AD?

By the way, I don't find the language useless. In fact, it's endlessly fascinating. Having said all that, I'm going to bang my head against the phrase "pour ne rien arranger". I'm almost, almost sure it's equal in meaning to "to top it off", but then again, 'til I actually find someone who speaks the language to confirm... That's another funny thing about living here. This week I've walked around asking a number of french people to explain certain phrases to me, and they all just kind of get vague and blank. Strange.

Posted 7:00 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Monday, February 24, 2003
 
Canada continues to win the American popularity contest. (I love how our identity is co-opted for those save your ass moments.)

In the NYTimes:
Ms. Owens said she shared the center staff's discomfort. She said she had never before encountered as much anti-French sentiment in 42 years of living in the United States as in the last few months. Recently, she said, a salesclerk at Sears asked about her accent.

"The young man said, 'If I were you, I would say you are Canadian, because we don't like the French right now,' " Ms. Owens said. "I canceled my order right there. I have never heard such comments before. My accent had always been a plus for me."
When I was in Bordeaux during the last Gulf War in '91, the American exchange students from Colorado were being advised to place Canadian flags on their bags and say they were Canadian because, well, they had a lot to fear, as they do now. I could understand not liking someone for being an agressor (i.e. Bush) but not liking a country, i.e. France, because it is bent on preventing war??

Posted 10:01 AM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Saturday, February 22, 2003
 
Warning: May give owner a terrible fright.


In today's NYT Magazine:
"Little Nina is one of six kromfohrl?nders in America, and one of her favorite pastimes is chewing up fashion magazines.

To get a kromi into America is no easy task. Breeders are insanely protective and prefer to keep their dogs close to home, where they can monitor their health. Owners must adhere to a contract issued by the Kromfohrl?nder Society, requiring that the dogs' eyes be checked every two years for cataracts. They are also bound to care for the dog for its life span, generally 10 years. Those who break the terms are fined more than $2,600. E-mailing snapshots of your kromi to the breeder on a regular basis is an unspoken rule. In fact, it is customary for an artist to sketch a portrait of each offspring. The portraits, submitted to the Kromfohrl?nder Society, form a visual record and are indispensable when it comes to making breeding decisions.

Always on the lookout, [Nina's owner] Horobin recently had a terrible fright. Last fall, he saw Natalie Portman leaving the Zac Posen show with a puppy that looked suspiciously like a kromfohrl?nder. A frantic call was made to Portman's publicity agent. Was her new dog a kromfohrl?nder? ''No,'' came the reply. ''Just a mutt.'' Long pause. ''What the heck's a kromfohrl?nder, anyway?'' "


Posted 10:37 AM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Thursday, February 20, 2003
 
Q: Maman, why do we need a law telling us how much rye can be put in wheat flour?
A: Well, my darling, in 1951, a certain curious crime took place...
"Another bread shock has been even worse—the mysterious madness, agonies, and deaths from the poisoned bread in the village of Pont-St.-Esprit, near Avignon, composing a medieval nightmare tale. It seems that the lethal bread came from Briand’s Bakery, the best in town, on August 17th. The mystery was not solved until August 31st. By that time, four Spiripontains, as the villagers are called, had died in anguish, thirty-one had gone raving mad, five were in grave danger, and two hundred were sick. Even cats, dogs, and ducks that ate crumbs of the bread had fits. People seized with the affliction acted possessed; they saw monstrous visions, and burned with inner fires. Charles Graugeon, aged eleven, tried to strangle his mother. Mme. Paul Rieu needlessly attempted suicide, for she died anyway. Mme. Marthe Toulouse tried to leap into the Rhône to quench the fiery serpents inside her. One citizen fired his shotgun at the monster he thought pursued him. A peasant named Mizon, who missed buying his favourite evening petits pains at Briand’s on August 17th, came by for them the next morning, went mad, and died on August 20th. In the insane asylums of neighbouring Nîmes, Avignon, Montpellier, and Marseille, where the frenzied Spiripontains were sent, they frightened even the other lunatics. Only one photograph of a victim appeared in the press. It was of a M. Guignon, being carried to an ambulance, his legs and arms raised to fight off whatever he thought he saw, his elderly face, with open, distorted mouth, looking like a Gothic carving of an old man screaming in Hell.

The slow solving of the mystery, followed with palpitating interest by the French, was like a detective story. It started with a rumour of a mass political poisoning, developed into a fascinating study of the functioning of provincial authorities, and ended in a sort of Balzac formula. Professor Jean Olivier, chief toxicologist of Marseille, suspected poisoning from the chickling vetch, Lathyrus sativus, which produces lathyrism, or spastic paralysis.then he discovered the presence in the bread of rye ergot, Claviceps purpurea, that little black abortion on grain heads that comes in wet weather and, it has been claimed, contains, among dozens of other chemical elements, about twenty alkaloid poisons, three of them virulent. The Montpellier 14th Brigade Mobile of the country police did a brilliant, slow job of deduction. Little grain is raised or ground in the Spiripontain’s Département du Gard. There were twenty-three suspects, the mills in two nearby wheat-raising départements. Finally, one miller, Maurice Maillet, of the mill at St.-Martin-la-Riviere, in the Département de la Vienne, confessed that he had ground into his wheat granary scraping of ergot-bearing rye, furnished to him by a dishonest local baker (it seems the baker’s cashbooks were not even in order, which also shocked the French), who had bought the diseased grain illegally from unscrupulous peasants. Maillet, who now ways his conscience pained him, sent the sack of bad flour to Pont-St._Esprit “because I did not know anybody personally there.” The Balzacian dénouement was, of course, cupidity. The two men were avoiding twenty francs sales tax per kilo on the grain, were dealing in spoiled goods for profit, and were using more rye in wheat flour than the law allows. Maillet has been arrested for homicide and “involuntary wounding” of others." From Janet Flanner Paris Journal, September 19, 1951.


Posted 3:12 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Monday, February 17, 2003
 
In between fathering a child for Bjork and playing college sports, Matthew Barney does Art in that got-a-show at the Guggenheim. Here's a biography and interesting bit of queen bee reality.

Posted 12:20 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

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The other day, Saturday, when it was so cold not only my nostrils burned but my eyelashes froze and I felt seriously depressed and exasperated for the first time this winter, we found safe haven at our regular cafe Chez Jose where the seafood soup is my all-time-favourite in this city. Now, the place is very small and almost always packed, probably because the food is excellent, the staff is entertaining, and the walls are so distracting, there is no room in your brain for depressing or worrisome thoughts, so caught up you become in the sensory explosiveness of the environment, an environment that grabs you by the shoulders and forces you to get lost in the details.

Exactly what I needed.

So, falling into the moment and meditating on the most recently painted wall, strange fat white loopy squiggles on blue or vice versa, an immediate association sprang to mind: Keith Haring, one of those artists everyone knows and yet doesn't because his imagery has become such a common part of modern American visual vocabulary. The association game didn't stop there with him, what with Basquiat also immediately springing to mind.

Now I completely understand new wave.

***

For some very impressive (finally, and thank god) numbers on this weekend's peace marches around the world, visit M's blog.

Posted 11:25 AM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Friday, February 14, 2003
 


I really needed a laugh after listening to CO-lin Powell's tight little voice push for don't-say-the-word-once-and-we-might-just-get-lucky "war" against Irak, and lucky me, thanks to wood s lot and (who the hell is) tony pierce (am I so out of it??), I got it, in spades. Presenting: George Bush: Like a virgin.

Who the hell is Tony Pierce?

Posted 11:46 AM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Wednesday, February 12, 2003
 
Is it surprising to think this world is becoming more like a Charles Dickens nightmare?

Posted 9:41 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Monday, February 10, 2003
 
Just plain strange: "One other business partner of Kennedy was the Bronfmans, who are powerful Illuminati figures in Canada." And that is the tip of a very strange web site. Illuminati, conspiracies, new world orders, and all I was trying to find was a list of aristrocratic Italian families.



Posted 7:13 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

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Rain, shine or frigid and freezing temperatures, there is a man who stands outside the local pharmacy holding pens and pencils, gently rocking on his tired feet, greeting passers-by with a smile. He's slow, he's sick, he's invisible, he's what we don't want to acknowledge; he is a certain type of beggar that society cannot dismiss as easily as those other beggars who seem to still have their wits, and by logical reasoning, should be able to get a job, find a roof, become another fuctioning cog in this great machine known as society. Each time I go to the pharmacy and see him, my heart hurts and my brain acknowledges that whatever I give him is inconsequential, and not being the wealthiest person on this planet, I can't give every single time. Today, my hand reached into my pocket while my other chose amongst the pens and pencils, a courteous question escaped my lips, "N'importe lequel, monsieur?" [Any of these, sir?]. To accompany my sudden black mood, I picked a black ball point, walked around the corner and out of sight so to privately kick the pharmacy building in frustrated anger at our fucked up world, a sense of overwhelming guilt temporarily strangling me.

Now I'm listening to Fischerspooner (very cool site). You can too (I updated this month's mp3). I'm warning you now: I'm having flashbacks to a youth wasted at a private Catholic school circa 1987 but with a soundtrack culled from the current electro scene, which happens to be much more aggressive than anything produced in the 80s. Next up: Ladytron

Posted 6:26 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

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For all you doubting anglos and francos:

"Canada has been a bilingual country pretty much from the start (1867) – with all the richness and conflict that it invariably entails – the Official Languages Act of 1969 firmly sealing the deal (and Bill 101 that served as justification for the removal of giant apostrophes with a crane, but let’s not get into that)." more at Openbrackets



Posted 12:00 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

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"When I was young I copied my father's pictures, sold the originals and put the copies in their place. No one noticed, and I discovered my vocation in life" - Picabia (1879-1953)

"While Dada's origins were partly to be found in New York, with Picabia playing a decisive part, the Dadaist explosion was generated by his initial contact with Tzara in Zurich in 1918-19. However it was in Paris a year later that their collaboration reached its high point: the Dadaist happenings of 1920, like the deliberate provocation of Picabia's entries for the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne, triggered resounding scandals every time.

To the surprise of all Picabia broke with Dada in 1921, although without ever abjuring its spirit. After working on the ballet Relâche with Erik Satie and making the film Entr'acte with René Clair, he left Paris in 1925 to settle in Mougins, near Cannes. He then began making collages (Feathers, Vase of Flowers) and undertook his "Monsters" series, a biting, vividly coloured view of the society around him expressed in portraits of the "winter colony" in carnival costumes (Mi-Carême) or with a popular postcard feel (Le Baiser, The Kiss)." more...

Plus an article in the NYTimes: Picabia: Precursor of Most Things Postmodern


Posted 11:32 AM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Tuesday, February 04, 2003
 


Not for the arachnophobic:
The effect is startling. Laid out in multiple patterns, the carapaces have turned the once classic and formal hall into an enchanted space, vibrating with colors and shapes that change with the movement of each viewer. Depending on the angle of the light, the myriad wing cases gleam in fluorescent green or turn blue and shift again to emerald green, then to ochre or to a deep, velvet moss color. The mosaic's texture also evolves. From some vantage points the carapaces seem soft as feathers, from other spots they resemble a daunting layer of scales. The overall impression is one of opulent splendor. The large hall has been endowed with a shimmering, organic canopy that for all its stillness seems to grow and teem with life. (more in today's New York Times)


Posted 10:54 AM:: Home:: Guestbook

___________ Monday, February 03, 2003
 
the wartime project: "reflections on and reactions against wars, past, present and future by digital and network artists". Avoid the 3D version - it failed to initialize properly. After "There is Nothing You Can Do", an audio collage of war memories, "peace_time", and "Destroy Evil", I stumbed across Montrealer Tobias C. vanVeen's ...messages with love. In one of the pulldown menus, you will find a rather honest (if not real) letter from President Bush. Here's a tantalizing excerpt:
I AM WRITING YOU IN ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE PRIMARILY TO SEEK YOUR ASSISTANCE IN ACQUIRING OIL FUNDS THAT ARE PRESENTLY TRAPPED IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ. MY PARTNERS AND I SOLICIT YOUR ASSISTANCE IN COMPLETING A TRANSACTION BEGUN BY MY FATHER, WHO HAS LONG BEEN ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THE EXTRACTION OF PETROLEUM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND BRAVELY SERVED HIS COUNTRY AS DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.

An older, but no less releveant war site is the POW Camp Site: "An interactive project initiated by artists from Beograd as it is being bombed. It is about art being a prisoner of war." Sometimes intriguing, relatively unshocking, perhaps (in the spirit of war is) contrived imagery. Nods to The Curvature of Truth, or its disappearance wherein the slideshow images hypnotically recede into a vanishing point that leaves the viewer meditating on the subject of war and its futile absurdity.

Posted 12:21 PM:: Home:: Guestbook

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