29 November 2008

IKEA in Winnipeg?

Having heard rumours of IKEA opening a store in Winnipeg for as long as I can remember, I'm always skeptical when this story pops up in the media every few months. That being said, after listening to this report on CBC Radio, and reading these two items in the Free Press, it would seem that it might actually happen this time. Although not for a few years. The company has apparently even identified a site in Winnipeg that they would like to develop. Generally speaking, I'm against big-box stores and the like but, to paraphrase the American president-elect, this would be urban sprawl that we can believe in.

For whatever reason, I happen to love their stuff. Perhaps it's because of my Swedish roots (which I'm sure are clearly discernable from my Blogger photo), or just because I'm an aesthete who happens to be poor. Either way, they make well-designed stuff that I really dig, and they sell it very cheaply (the latter being the key to their future success in Winnipeg). Going to the store is part of the experience too; depending on the time of day, you can go to the restaurant and eat Swedish meatballs or one dollar breakfast (eggs, sausages and hashbrowns). They even have a Swedish grocery store! It's all just too much fun...

IKEA in Winnipeg would be very good news indeed. I've had the experience of ordering a table from their website, only to find that they've left it at the post office because I wasn't home when they came to deliver it (in the middle of the working day, when no one is ever home). I believe they've since improved their mail-order delivery service, but nothing beats the same-day, flat rate delivery that you get when you have a store in your city. Although I now live only 15 minutes away from an IKEA store (5 minuites bike + 10 minutes bus), as someone who has dragged IKEA products home from the post office on Corydon Avenue I can sympathise with all those people back home desperate to get a store there. If I had had a reliable car back in those days, I would have done my shopping in person in Minneapolis, currently the closest city to Winnipeg to have an IKEA store. But that's still an 8-hour drive away, plus the Canadian dollar is once again losing value vis-à-vis its American counterpart, plus, since Americans seem to think that the September 11 terrorists came from Canada, it's becoming more and more difficult to cross the border. What I'm trying to say here is that Winnipeg really needs an IKEA store.

The main obstacle to building an IKEA in Winnipeg has always been the old rule of thumb that IKEA only builds stores where they can draw from a minimum population of one million people (Winnipeg's population is only 750,000). There apparently used to be a store in Halifax, which is a city much smaller than Winnipeg, but that could draw customers from all over the atlantic provinces. It ended up closing down in any case. In the same CBC Radio item, someone asserts that a Winnipeg store could draw customers from neighbouring Saskatchewan (also sans IKEA), but this has never been true, has it? After all, why wouldn't they simply go to Edmonton or Calgary where there is no provincial sales tax. At best, a Winnipeg store could regularly draw people from Northwestern Ontario, and perhaps from Grand Forks if the Canadian dollar loses enough value.

Anyway, I really hope this happens. If H&M (that other pillar of stylish, low-cost living from Sweden) were also to open a store in Winnipeg, I might even be able to move back for good. Until then, I'll keep on pretending to be Swedish out here. There's something called Tiger of Sweden opening in Montreal in spring 2009, and I can't wait to find out what it is!

11 November 2008

L'Histoire criminelle des anglo-saxons

New from the wonderfully zany world of Québécois publishing, we have L'histoire criminelle des anglo-saxons (literally, The Criminal History of the Anglo-Saxons) by a chap called Normand Rousseau.

Although best known as the publisher of dodgy new age books (as seen on her website), Louise Courteau has varied her output here with a violent, anti-English polemic. The description on the back cover reads as follows:

L'ethnie anglo-saxonne est née dans la violence des affrontements avec les Celtes et les Vikings.

Les Anglais ont torturé presque à plaisir l'Irlande pendant sept siècles la réduisant à la grande famine qui fit plus d'un million de morts. De plus, ils ont conquis par la force les Écossais et les Gallois qu'ils ont assimilés.

Les Anglo-Saxons ont été responsables des guerres de Cent ans et de Sept ans qui ont fait des milliers de morts.

Les Anglo-Saxons sont partis à la conquête de la terre tout entière pour fonder l'Empire britannique. En Australie, ils ont commis des génocides envers les Tasmaniens et les Aborigènes. En Nouvelle-Zélande, ils ont écrasé les Maoris et leur ont volé leur pays. En Inde, ils ont détruit l'économie d'un grand peuple, ont réprimé dans le sang la révolte des Cipayes et sont responsables du massacre d'Amritsar.

Les Anglo-Saxons sont responsables de la Traite des Noirs, de la déportation des Amérindiens et des Irlandais. Ils sont responsables des génocides des Beothuck de Terre-Neuve.

En Afrique, ils ont volé l'Afrique du Sud aux Boers, ont inventé les camps de concentration bien avant les nazis où 26 000 femmes et enfants sont morts; ils ont pillé l'or et les diamants de ce pays et pratiqué l'apartheid envers les Africains.

Les Anglo-Américains ont exterminé les Amérindiens, pratiqué l'esclavage des Noirs, volé la moitié du Mexique, ont agressé le Canada, Cuba, la France et l'Espagne.

Ils ont pratiqué la discrimination et la ségrégation envers les Noirs jusqu'au milieu du 20e siècle.

Ils ont été les premiers à utiliser la bombe atomique contre un autre pays et ils ont écrasé un petit peuple comme les Vietnamiens.

Les Anglo-Canadiens ont volé le Canada à la France, ont déporté les Acadiens, ont dépossédé les Amérindiens et écrasé les Métis. Mais ils n'ont pas réussi à assimiler les Canadiens-français, malgré tous leurs efforts.

Les Anglais ont inventé l'eugénisme et les Anglo-Américains l'ont mis en pratique, bien avant les nazis.

Les Anglo-Saxons ont imposé au quart de la planète leur langue, leur religion ainsi que leur culture par la force des armes, de l'économie et de la politique.

L'ethnie anglo-saxonne domine la planète depuis les deux derniers siècles et sa domination n'est pas finie. Ce livre la met devant ses crimes et apprend aux autres ethnies à bien la connaître et à s'en méfier.

Ce livre invite les Anglo-Saxons à réparer tous les crimes qu'ils ont commis depuis des siècles. La belle image qu'ils tentent de se donner ne doit pas nous faire illusion.

For those of you who don't read French, I've translated the best bits (my comments in parentheses):
  • The Anglo-Saxon ethnicity was born of the violent clashes between Celts and Vikings.
  • The English tortured the Irish and assimilated the Scots and the Welsh.
  • The Anglo-Saxons were responible for the Hundred Years' War and the Seven Years' War, which led to thousands of deaths (yes, thousands!).
  • The Anglo-Saxons are responsible for the slave trade (it's not like the French, Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch had anything to do with it...).
  • They stole South Africa from the Boers and invented concentration camps well before the Nazis came up with the idea.
  • They discriminated against Blacks until the mid-twenieth century (that never happened in Quebec, did it? And in France? Unthinkable! Impossible!).
  • Anglo-Canadians stole Canada from the French (how can people that the author himself identifies as Canadians steal Canada? Only a clown would fail to recognise that Europeans collectively stole America from the Aboriginal populations.).
  • The English invented eugenics and the Anglo-Americans put it into practice long before the Nazis got around to it.
  • Through military, cultural and economic force, the Anglo-Saxons have imposed their language upon a quarter of the planet.
  • The Anglo-Saxons have dominated the world for the past two centuries (obviously, the French were never in a position of dominance, right?).
  • This book is an invitation to all Anglo-Saxons to repent for the crimes they've committed over the centuries.

Golly! I'm not sure if I should apologise for being Anglo-Saxon, or demand an apology from myself for the slave trade that brought my paternal ancestors over to this hemisphere in the first place. Skipping lightly over that conundrum, it has to be said that this is quite simply a brillant satirical book from an up-and-coming talent of the Quebec comedy circuit. It actually makes you proud to be Canadian, to be able to live in a country that supports the arts (as seen on the left-hand sidebar of her website, Louise Coutreau's publishing programme is subsidized by the governments of Quebec and Canada). And thanks to the first-rate system for new releases known as la grille d'office, virtually every bookshop in Quebec received at least one copy of this little gem, whether they requested it or not.

I invite all interested readers to go and have a laugh with Monsieur Rousseau at his upcoming stand-up gigs at the Salon du livre de Montréal on 22 and 23 November 2008. Sacré farceur ! Qu'est-ce qu'on rigole bien...

07 September 2008

Making Friends in English

Perhaps one day I'll get the hang of it...

31 July 2008

Tout cela pour en arriver là

After reading this last week I got all excited because I thought something good was finally going to happen in Winnipeg, but in the end it seems that rapid transit for Winnipeg is going to come in the form of a busway. *yawn* By the way, isn't this the same plan that Glen Murray came up with several years ago (except that it was cheaper back then) and that Sam Katz cancelled because he wanted to spend the money on Community Centres for Families™ (even though he ended up closing community centres anyway?). Yeah, I thought so...

Fake rapid transit is not what going to have me running back to live in Winnipeg. Once you've had rail, you'll never go back to bus. Sadly, the people of Winnipeg are not likely to get a taste of rail any time soon. After all, it's not like Winnipeg has rail lines running through the whole city already and it's not like Winnipeg is the capital of a province that's a net exporter of hydroelectricity, so it makes sense to use diesel buses instead of electric trains. Oh wait, Winnipeg is all of those things, so no it doesn't.

Anyway, while we wait for this to come into being I'll go on enjoying this

Plan du métro

08 June 2008

Following Euro 2008 from Canada

Well, Euro 2008 is in full swing now and, as ever, it's not that easy to keep on top of everything when you're stuck in the backwater footballistique that is Canada. Obviously, things get easier with every major tournament as the amount of coverage available on the Internet increases, but none of the British Home Nations have qualified this time round, and the amount of English-language coverage of Euro 2008 has suffered as a consequence. Fortunately for the Canadian who has taken one of his country's fundamental principles to heart, there's still plenty of French-language coverage available to go along with what remains of the British coverage. After all, France are qualified for the tournament, and Switzerland, one of the host countries, is partially French-speaking.

Here then, without further ado, is The Canadian's Guide to Following Euro 2008 From afar.

The Basics:
Television Schedule [English]
Television Schedule [French]

Feed your feed reader:
If you do the whole RSS thing, I've put together a feed that you can subscribe to. It features a good mix of Euro 2008 news and views, in both English and French. You can also view the items as a web page. The most recent items from this feed will also appear in the right-hand sidebar of this blog for the duration of the competition.

Listen on the go:
There are also plenty of Euro 2008 podcasts out there to listen to. I'm currently subscribed to the following:

RTL has plenty of audio on its website, but the podcast feeds (if they even exist), en bonne tradition française, are very well hidden indeed.

This post will be updated as new information becomes available. The custom Euro 2008 feed that I've put together is being fine-tuned on an ongoing basis.

28 April 2008

I'm back with scars to show

I haven't posted here in almost a month, but I have lots of good excuses:

  1. I'm never sick, but was sick three times during the month of April. Feeling better now, fortunately.

  2. Tax returns. Yes, tax returns plural. In Quebec you have to file a completely separate provincial return too. Killer.

  3. I really enjoy listening to podcasts (MP3 over RSS), especially French and British ones, but my MiniDisc setup just hasn't been letting me enjoy them in the way I want to. I'm so tired of Sony and SonicStage and all that they've done to cripple the MiniDisc format. Consequently, I've been thinking about getting an MP3 player for a couple of years now. While I was ill and feeling depressed a couple of weeks ago, I finally caved in and bought my first iPod (6th generation iPod Classic, 160 GB), not because I think it's particularly hip or well designed, but because of the seamless podcast integration in iTunes. I can no longer deal with all of the complications of transferring files via SonicStage, nor the inconvenience of swapping MDs when I want to listen to different music or different podcasts. So I've been happily busying myself with adding podcast subscriptions and transferring all of my music. The thing is already half-full!

  4. In turns out that in Quebec, if you don't give your landlord three months' notice that you're moving, your lease is automatically renewed for another year. I find it a bit odd to provide this kind of protection to property owners at the expense of poor, impoverished renters, given that this is supposed to be the paradise for progressive social policy (in North America at any rate). After all, in Manitoba there was always a form to sign every year, and none of this implied renewal business. Anyway, what I'm getting at is that my current lease expires on 31 July 2008, so I had until the end of this month to tell the landlord that I want out of this overpriced trou pourri that passes for an apartment. Consequently, I spent most of the past month desperately searching for something better, with the April 30th deadline hanging over me the whole time.

    I signed the lease on much better place last Tuesday, so I can finally breathe easy. I'll be moving from being right next to Université-de-Montréal Métro Station, to being right next to Mount Royal Train Station. I'll be a bit further away from downtown, but only a nine minute train ride from Gare Centrale, versus the 20 minutes it currently takes me to reach essentially the same destination on the Métro (including transfer from the Blue Line to the Orange Line). Technically speaking, my new apartment is not actually in Montreal proprement dit, but in the independent Town of Mount Royal which is located in the centre of the Island of Montreal. This is neat because Mount Royal was designed and built by the old Canadian Northern Railway, the same company that built the inland freshwater resort at Grand Beach in my home province of Manitoba, a favourite childhood destination of mine.

  5. I'm now on Twitter (see sidebar for live updates).

  6. The 2008 edition of the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival is happening this week, and I'm running the English-language section of the festival bookshop. Stress, stress, stress!!! Tomorrow we're bringing all of the stock downtown (several trips with the van) and setting up, then the festival runs from Wednesday to Sunday, and Monday we're returning the unsold stock to the publishers. Lots of twelve-hour days in perspective. On the bright side, I'm hoping to meet Nora Young, a favourite CBC personality and adolescent radio crush of mine, who will be hosting an event on Saturday night.
Don't expect too many posts anytime soon, as it won't be long until I start to stress about the move, and that should keep me occupied until well into July.

02 April 2008

La manipulation de l'information par Radio-Canada

On 25 and 27 March, Radio-Canada (the French-language division of the CBC) reported, in outraged tones, that "more and more" [they never actually quantify this notion] students from France are coming over here to study at Quebec's English-language universities, thanks to a 1978 agreement between the governments of France and Quebec that allows French and Québécois students to attend university on the opposite side of the Atlantic as if they were locals. The facts indignantly enumerated in the article include:

  • French students come over here and pay almost as little tuition as would a Québécois student, which is apparently a "great savings" for these foreigners, representing a veritable "gold mine" for them.
  • The number of French students currently studying in English in Quebec is greater than the total number of Québécois students currently studying in France [whose fault is that?].
It wasn't long before one of our usual suspects weighed in on the affair. Jean Dorion, head of the ultra-nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, declared the situation to be "scandalous", especially while "our" university students continue to see their tuition fees increase [oy, boyo! Petit un, they're still the cheapest in North America and, petit deux, that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this debate!].

Thankfully, in the 2 April 2008 edition of Le Devoir, François Alabrune, the Consul general of France in Quebec City, was given the opportunity to respond to the polémique. Il a relativisé as follows:
  • 6,400 French nationals are currently attending Quebec universities, representing 3 out of every one thousand French university students.
  • Approximately 1,000 Québécois are currently studying in French universities, representing 4 out of every one thousand Québécois university students.
  • Québécois students in France have enjoyed the same low tuition fees as the locals going back to well before the establishment of the 1978 agreement, that is to say long before the French enjoyed the same privileges over here.
  • University tuition in France is only $400, versus $1800 over here, so maybe it isn't such a great deal for those freeloading French students after all [désolé Monsieur Dorion].
  • According to Quebec Ministry of Education, 85% of the 6,400 French nationals studying in Quebec are doing so in French-language universities.
  • Of all the countries in the world, France has the third-highest number of foreign nationals studying in its universities, and Québécois students are more than welcome [we complain that more French students come over to study in English than the total number of Québécois that go over there, but that's because only 1,000 Québécois have chosen to go over there! How can you blame that on France?].
The only useful point made in the Radio-Canada articles is that the 1978 co-operation agreement was meant to "strengthen the French fact in Quebec", and that French students coming over to study in English-language universities in Quebec goes against the spirit of that agreement. Michelle Courchesne, the provincial Minister of Education, has said that she'll look into "renegotiating the terms of the co-operation agreement", and that's fine by me.

All the rest of it, getting worked up into a tizzy and the like, was just another opportunity for the Québécois to go after what appear to me, after having lived here for 20 months, to be their two favourite scapegoats: the local anglophone population (and its institutions), and France and the French.

01 April 2008

Damn You, Cineplex Entertainment (An ONEX Corporation)

So, according to Le Devoir, Cineplex Entertainment is blackmailing art house film distributors into helping kill off the network of independent salles parallèles cinemas in rural Quebec. Basically, because K-Films Amérique, a local distributor of foreign and domestic art house fare, has decided to show the forthcoming French film Un baiser s'il vous plaît (which, by the way, is supposed to be quite good) in salles parallèles in Rimouski, Victoriaville and Sept-Îles, in addition to Cineplex locations in Montreal and Quebec City, Cineplex has decided to pull the film. Never mind the fact that they were never going to show this film in those towns anyway (art house films weren't even being shown in towns like that at all until the salles parallèles came about), they just for whatever reason feel they should have exclusive, Quebec-wide rights to any film that they screen in Montreal, even when they themselves do not have any intention of presenting them across Quebec. In the past few months they've also pulled 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (last year's Palme d'or at Cannes), as well Up the Yangtze.

Cineplex, and the other mainstream commerical cinemas represented by the Association des propriétaires de salles de cinéma du Québec, claim that the salles parallèles represent unfair competition, because they are partially subsidised by the SODEC. But these are the same mainstream commercial cinemas that refuse to show art house films outside of the major metropolitan areas, and whose refusal to do so led to the creation of the salles parallèles in the first place! When it comes right down to it, the salles parallèles do $600,000 of business a year, versus $450,000,000 for commercial cinemas in Quebec. This competition argument hasn't got a leg to stand on. They just want to kill off all cinéma d'auteur so that the only option remaining for people is to go and see the same Hollywood rubbish they've been forcing down our throats since long before I was born. When I was just on the cusp of my twenties, I graduated from this to this, and there's no way I'm going back now!

What is wrong with this company, anyway? Notice how they renamed the Paramount Cinema in downtown Montreal the Scotia Bank Cinema? What has Scotia Bank got to do with cinema? No doubt this has more to do with Gerry being on the board of both Scotia Bank and Cineplex (via ONEX) than anything else. He may be a fellow Winnipegger and University of Manitioba old boy, but I'm afraid he's trying to do to the culture of cinema in this country what his wife is doing the culture of books.

Let's just boycott the whole thing, shall we? Independent cinemas like the Cinémathèque, the Globe Cinema and the Park Theatre in Winnipeg, as well as Ex-Centris, Cinéma du Parc, Cinéma Beaubien and the Cinémathèque Québécoise in Montreal are definitely the way to go. Stay away from Chapters/Indigo while you're at it too.

By the way, ridiculous commercial practices such as this give rise to the following comments that find their way into Le Devoir

«Cela veut-il dire que c'est à Toronto qu'on décidera si le cinéma d'auteur pourra être vu en région au Québec?», dénonce M. Dussault.
«C'est Toronto qui applique sa loi, et c'est le public francophone qui écope», a tonné Michel Gagnon.
«Il faut que Québec s'en mêle pour remettre un peu d'ordre dans tout ça. Ce n'est pas Toronto qui doit décider de ce qui va se diffuser au Québec», ajoute M. Gagnon.
which in turn continues to give the rest of Canada (as represented by Toronto) a bad name in Quebec. Thanks a lot Gerry. Well done!

24 March 2008

Melody Day by Caribou

I've been so out of touch with the scene lately that I didn't even realise that the sublime intro music to Louise Bourgoin's weather report on Canal+ is actually a Canadian indie song. La preuve en images:

This impossibly lush song is in fact Melody Day by Vancouver's Caribou. Before this Dick threatened him with legal action, Caribou used to be called Manitoba, which is where I come from, and last night he played Montreal, which is where I live. Et voilà, la boucle est bouclée.

23 March 2008

Long Blondes Promo Videos For 'Couples'

Couples, the new LP from The Long Blondes, is coming out over here on 8 April, as announced by these somewhat cryptic promo videos:

Video n° 1

Video n° 2

A perfect representation of what I like to call une certaine idée de l'Angleterre, that is to say, that appealing quality of Englishness.

And then there's this one, which just rocks my socks:

You can hear the first single from the aforementioned new record here:

The Long Blondes will be in Montreal on 20 May 2008 at the Cabaret du Musée, 2111 St-Laurent. Not to be missed!

Common People

If you're like me and grew up with Archie comics, and thought that the answer to Blur v Oasis was Pulp, then this is for you.

This synchronisation to music is based on the original work of comic strip détournement published by Chris at his Invincible Super-Blog.

Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ

Happy Easter to one and all!

Chocolate bunnies are all well and good, but in my old age I've reached the point where I would rather sit back and have a listen to Bach's Easter Cantatas. Below, I've compiled pour vous an mp3 sample of Easter cantatas from Deutsche Grammophon catalogue no. 463 580-2. This recording was part of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, during which Sir John Eliot Gardiner, together with the musicians of the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, performed all the surviving church cantatas by Bach, on the liturgical days for which they were composed, in different churches around Europe.

In terms of the Bach Werke Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue), tracks 1 to 6 are taken from BWV 6 (Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden), and 7 to 12 from BWV 66 (Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen).

Click on the first track to commence playback, and enjoy!

PS - What is it with Easter, anyway? Seriously, can anyone explain to me why it's never on the same date?

22 March 2008

The Best Indie Record Store in Canada

CBC Radio 3 has initiated a contest to indentify Canada's Best Indie Record Store. My submission to the nomination committee went as follows:

Located at River & Osborne, the hipster equivalent of Portage & Main, Music Trader has got to be the best record store in Winnipeg. They have EVERYTHING (new & used, tons of indie), they host live, in-store performances of local and touring bands all the time, and they're open until midnight!

They've got knowledgeable staff, a kooky mascot and, of course, the famous wall of customer polaroids. Plus, their long 'bar' of listening stations in front of windows facing out onto Osbrone Street is perhaps the best spot in the city for people watching.

For a kid from the suburbs, the plan was simple. Listen to RadioSonic (the predecessor of Radio3 for you kids out there) on CBC Radio 2, then go to Music Trader and buy the records. What could be easier? My taste in music is due in large part to the existence of this store.

I've been in Montreal for about year and a half now, I haven't really found anything that compares, so I'll be curious to check out the recommendations posted here.

Music Trader
97 Osborne Street

On that note, I await your recommendations for a good indie record store in Montreal, preferably one with a fun atmosphere and all the week's new releases.

By the way, we also have an annual contest to designate the best independent English-language bookstore in this country. But no one cares.

Germans and the French language

A hundred years after it was written, Robert Walser's »Der Gehülfe« (The Assistant) is finally available in English. Susan Bernofsky's translation was first published by New Directions in July 2007, but I held off because I already had a copy of Bernard Lortholary's masterly French translation first published in 1985. But then this month Penguin UK had to go and release a gorgeous edition of Bernofsky's translation in the newly redesigned Penguin Modern Classics series, and so I was forced to import the book from the UK, at great personal expense I might add. Les salauds!

Here's an amusing passage, pertaining to the prestige enjoyed by the French language in foreign lands:

"Une jolie petite française", the conductor's wife said, evidently overjoyed at having an occasion to recite a few French words she knew by heart. This is always the case in Germanic lands, people love to be able to show that they understand French.

"Frau Tobler," Joseph thought, "knows no French at all, the poor thing!"
Robert Walser, »Der Gehülfe« (The Assistant), 1907, translation Susan Bernofsky (2007)

« Une jolie petite française », dit en français la femme du contrôleur, manifestement ravie d'avoir l'occasion de débiter de mémoire quelques mots en français. C'est toujours ainsi dans les pays de langue allemande : les gens sont contents de pouvoir montrer qu'ils comprennent le français.

« Ma patronne, pensa Joseph, ne comprend pas un mot de français. La pauvre! »
Robert Walser, »Der Gehülfe« (Le commis), 1907, traduction Bernard Lortholary (1985)

... and we're back

After a brief hiatus of nine months — brought about by the new version of Blogger that not only linked my Blogger account to the wrong Google account and then wouldn't allow me to de-link it, but also completely messed up my template and sidebar — I'm finally back. Let's see if I can keep it up for more than a couple of months this time, shall we?