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...