Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Great pothole initiative

Lui Tao, a photographer in China, captured some spectacular photos of a cyclist flipping over after riding into a pot hole on a city street.

Liu defended himself, saying: "I just [learned] that the city government has paved the pit, and without my pictures, the pit would not be noticed by the government, and there would perhaps be more people falling over."

Someone ought to do that in Montreal. A great photo sequence of a car slamming into a known pot hole could finally shame the city government into fixing our pot-hole problem.

See what happens to the Chinese cyclist next...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Contraband Cookie Crisp in Canada

Canadians like to believe that we get all the same fine consumer products as they do in the United States. But it isn't true.

For instance, for years Dr Pepper was not available here (or at least in Quebec). We don't have as many brand extension choices for Tropicana orange juice. The chocolate bar 100 Grand is not sold here (except in a handful of spciality shops at higher prices). And Canadian kids must go without some great cereals.

I think scarcity makes many of these products taste better. It's exciting to drive to Plattsburg, NY and return with 10 packages of fat-free Lays (the ones with Olestra that Health Canada prohibits) or cans of Coca-Cola with Splenda.

Perhaps the most famous item not sold in Canada is Cookie Crisp cereal by General Mills. I'm not sure why.

The good news is I discovered a major supermarket in Montreal that sells the cereal with it's illegal English-only packaging. I won't say where. I don't want to get them in trouble. They have lots of other US-only stuff. E-mail me if you want to know.

Anyway, is there anything better than the sight of Cookie Crisp in the cereal aisle?

Contraband Cookie Crisp in Montreal

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Separated at birth: Couillard and Grissom

Quebec Minister of Health Phillipe Couillard
Fictional Las Vegas forensic investigator Gil Grissom

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Survey says... lawsuit!

The Prime Minister of Canada
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Richard Dawson
circa 1980

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Remembering Steinberg's

Steinberg's car order sign
This old Steinberg's sign is still posted outside the Mountain Sights exit of the Métro supermarket on Queen Mary Rd.

Found pr0n on Queen Mary Road

Here's my entry to Maxim magazine's Found Porn? monthly contest.

This photo was taken on Queen Mary Road near Coolbrook, but these phalluses are found all around town.

Maxim pays $150 US if they use your find. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Comrade Duceppe says...

Comrade Gilles DuceppeAt the first English-language leaders debate of the 2005/06 Canadian federal election, former member of the Worker's Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) Gilles Duceppe said:

"We should not revisit this question. I think that was decided, and we have to understand that we have to respect each individual. I think that English speaking Quebecers the gays and lesbians have the same right now on in our society, and society is not really free when someone is not free."

The irony extension I installed on Firefox just hit 9! I... can't... hold it... much... longer... captain!

"That referendum on secession was decided, and I think we have to live with that, and people, I think, will get used to that because it is now normal, and I don't want to live in a society where some people don't have the same kind of rights than other people."

In a related story, Comrade Duceppe no longer lives in society.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Storm of 2005

The first big winter storm of the 2005/06 season hit today. More than 40 cm (16 inches) fell on Montreal.

This is what my car looked like when I returned home today.

It took 30 minutes to brush the snow from the top and to dig a trench around the sides and front. In that time, several pedestrians and a Métro supermarket delivery van guy volunteered their thoughts about my situation.

"L'hiver est beau!" said one lady. Yes, lady, it's a delight. Oh, were you being ironic? F you.

The chain-smoking genius in the white supermarket delivery van confided to me that the large pile of snow on the driver's side was caused by the snow plows. How insightful. Maybe you can next tackle the mystery of how the bread gets dark when you put it in the toaster oven.

My favourite idiot comment wasn't even a comment. It was a slight giggle from some dude holding what looked like an old-fashioned styrofoam hamburger container in his hands.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Maudite drivers, part I

It's always been my dream to photograph idiot drivers and document their idiocy on the Web for all to see. Today, the dream becomes reality. Here is the first in a series of photos of dumb drivers doing dumb things on the road.

This photo, taken yesterday at around 3:45pm, shows a grey Honda Civic stopped in between the inner middle lanes of René Lévesque Blvd. W. at Bleury Street. The Civic was a few cars ahead of me. He went through the green light, even though there was no chance of clearing the intersection. The traffic light changed to red and instead of (belatedly) clearing the intersection, the Civic decided it was less illegal to block traffic by staying in no man's land.

Maudit driver blocks Rene Levesque Blvd. W. at Bleury
A few seconds after I snapped this photo, a car driving westbound tried to make a left turn onto Bleury Street. He was prevented from making the legal left turn by the moron Civic.

I think most people are good drivers, in the sense that they know how to operate a motor vehicle. But I don't think most people are aware of the basic rules and customs of the road. Don't block the box. Slow traffic keep to the right. Don't blow the horn after dark. These are simple rules. Yet too many people are blissfully unaware. And the government does nothing to educate them.

Maybe the government should include a voluntary paper test in your driver's licence renewal package. If you complete, return and pass the test, then the government will erase two demerit points from your record. You'll receive a scorecard with your results and an explanation of the rules related to those questions.

TVA responds to my compaint about Julie Snyder's anti-anglo comment

TVASo, I decided to see what would happen if I complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council about those anti-anglophone comments Julie Snyder made on Star Académie a few weeks ago. For the record, here's what the Council says it does:

The CBSC is a national voluntary self-regulatory organization created by Canada's private broadcasters to deal with complaints made by viewers or listeners about programs which they have seen or heard broadcast on a member station. The CBSC administers four industry codes, namely a code of ethics, a code concerning television violence, a code concerning sex-role stereotyping and a code of journalistic ethics, which set out the guidelines for television and radio programming. [Emphasis mine]

I sent a complaint letter about Snyder's comments to the Council on November 6. I got a reply on November 16 from the Council saying, in part, the following:

By copy of this email, we are asking CFTM-TV to respond to the concerns you have raised and to hold a copy of the logger tape of the broadcast which concerned you. This is always the first step taken by the CBSC in pursuing a complaint. You should know that broadcasters who are members of the CBSC take their responsibility to respond to audience concerns very seriously. The dialogue between broadcasters and members of their audience is a cornerstone of the CBSC's complaints resolution process. Concerns are often resolved satisfactorily through this dialogue phase.

Today, I received a reply from TVA. In short, TVA says (1) none of the four codes listed above were violated, and (2) Julie Snyder wasn't making fun of Quebec anglophone, just anglophones in general. You know, like Americans and Brits. But definately not Quebec anglophones.

Sir, The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (« CBSC ») has sent us your correspondence of November 6, 2005 for review and response. Your complaint was more particularly about the humorous comments made by Mrs. Julie Snyder : « Enfin un anglophone qui parle français comme il faut », following her conversation in French with popular singer Chris de Burgh.

First of all, we apologize if those comments have upset you. However, with all due respect, we are of the opinion that the different codes supervised by the CBSA were not infringed. Mrs. Snyder’s comments were not particularly about the Anglophone artists of Quebec, but the Anglophone artists in general, of whatever country.

That's... how you say... ah, yes... bullsht. When the average Quebecer listens to Jodie Foster speak French in an interview, he says "wow, an American who speaks French," -- not "wow, an anglophone who speaks French comme il faut."

To a Quebec audience, the term "anglophone" is strongly associated with a particular community in Quebec. People in Ontario or BC are commonly referred to as "English Canadians." People in the United States
are "Americans." But only English-speaking Quebecers are commonly referred to in Quebec as "anglophones." And the "comme il faut" line suggests that Snyder was refering to Quebec anglophones... they speak French, but not very well.

So, I don't buy argument that the "anglophones" Snyder was referring to are those in Sydney, Johannesburg and Cleveland -- none of whom speak French. Snyder was talking about the ones in Kirkland, Cote St. Luc and Westmount who speak French, but not "comme il faut." And I contend that was crystal clear to her audience.

In that context, it is certainly not far from the reality to pretend that most English-speaking artists, coming from an English environment, rarely speak French to Quebecors the way Mr. Chris de Burg did it.

I swear that's the way the TVA dude spelled "Quebecers". Was it an innocent typo? Or was it an ominous tell about the plans for us all by (TVA's parent-company) Quebecor? Is the Péladeau-owned company planning a new world order in the province of Quebec Quebecor? (If so, I apologize in advance to the Péladeaus if my blog is taking up too much space.)

Finally, Mrs. Snyder said the comments on a very humoristic tone, as we know her, insisting on the fact that she has a lot of difficulties herself speaking English, and that consequently, Mr. Chris de Burgh had a superior French than her English.

This is true. I agree.

Therefore, the audience was amused about the whole situation, knowing that the comments were aimed at the author of the comments only.

His conclusion doesn't follow from his premise. I agree that Snyder acknowledged her own shortcomings in her second language.

But the "comments" were not "aimed at the author" -- the comments were aimed at anglophones and their (relative lack of) ability to speak French properly.

Once again, we are sorry if this matter has upset you in any way, and we thank you for taking the time to inform us of your concerns. Hoping the whole satisfactory, we remain,

So, that's TVA's reply.

TVA still doesn't get it.
Imagine if Jay Leno said about Will Smith: "Wow, a black guy who can speak English properly!" And then imagine if NBC responded to compaints by saying, "Mr. Leno was referring to the black people in Haiti, Niger and Congo who don't speak English properly."

I guess TVA doesn't see a problem in promoting negative stereotypes about anglophones in Quebec.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

City of Montreal versus Alan Alda

AldaLike other Montrealers, I received my 12-page city newsletter this week.

Titled Montréal en tête (“Head in Montreal” or something), the cover features a tuqued man and his vaguely multi-racial grand-daughter. The headline announces: Montréal, ville solidaire.

It features articles on fire safety, theatre, rights and responsibilities, the new city government structure, important public works phone numbers, a list of winter activities and more.

One problem: all the articles are in French. (So much for solidarity.)

I understand that 53 percent of Montrealers speak French as a first language. But 18 percent speak English as a first language. And another 29 percent learned Chinese, Greek, Italian (or other languages) in childhood and (most) probably use English today with their friends.

Bottom line: at least 33 percent of Montrealers self-identify as English-speaking but the city government sends unilingual French newsletters oozing comically ironic messages of solidarity.

Perhaps I’m unfair. The English-language version must be available upon request, no?

Yes. In fact, in small type at the back of the newsletter readers are informed that “[t]he English version of Montréal en tête is available at all Accès offices and other points of service.”

I guess I could use the exercise. But I don't imagine I'll be sprinting to a point of service in the next few months. (It was -19C with the windchill factor today in Montreal.)

Fine print

Which brings me to Alan Alda. Apart from being a fine actor (especially on live TV), Alda figured out how to provide better service than an entire North American city government.

A few weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to Studio Fan Mail, a sub-contractor that stars use to manage fan photo requests. Today, I received a photo of Alan Alda. In the mail. I didn’t have to visit an Accès Alda office. Nor an Alda point of service. I sent an e-mail message and I got what I needed in my mail box.

I’m not sure what kind of fictional president Alda’s Senator Arnold Vinick would make. But in real life, Alda does a better job at serving his public than does the City of Montreal at serving its own.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

An accidental dose of Gomery radiation...

During the last election in 2004, Liberal Party leader Paul Martin made a habit of showing his teeth and raising his fists. Scary, unnatural stuff.

The December 2005/January 2006 election campaign is only now underway. Whatever you do -- and especially if you're a reporter named McGee -- don't make him angry. You won't like him when he's angry.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Comrade Duceppe sports winter fashion

Quebec Block leader and former member of the Worker's Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) Gilles Duceppe is sporting a royal blue scarf on the front of his party Web site.

At first I thought he was going for a Hugh Hefner smoking- jacket-and-ascot look. But it turns out Comrade Duceppe is merely cold.

New metro station name recordings: a good thing

Photo courtesy of MetroDeMontreal.com Web sitePhoto courtesy of MetroDeMontreal.com Web siteOn my way home Friday on the Orange metro line, I rode in one of the older MR-63 metro cars (see bottom photo). Those are the ones with the speckled off-white seats that are (almost) exclusively used on the Green line.

The transit authority only recently added an automated station announcement recording to the older MR-63s. Years ago, the driver would announce the station. Or not, depending on his level of hatred for his employer/his passengers/his life in general. It was always fun to hear how the driver would pronounce names like Atwater or McGill.

To recap: I'm riding on the Orange line, but in a "Green line" metro car. It was weird. Like that time David Banner half-changed into the Incredible Hulk and we got to see Lou Ferrigno without the green skin. Or was it Bill Bixby with green skin. I forget. Anyway, who cares.

I found a seat and began experiencing the weirdness. The lighting is different on the MR-63s. The door openings and closings sound different. But the most noticeable difference is the PA system. Surprisingly, the older MR-63 metro cars have a better, clearer PA system. Also, the station name announcements are said more slowly. Same narrator, I think. But slower.

(Editor's note: If you are still reading this, thanks. I'm boring myself writing it.)

It was what happened before the Lucien l'Allier station that shocked me. The recorded name for this station name pierces my ears at the first "U" in Lucien on
the regular MR-73 metro cars. Every day, I brace myself for inevitable "L-UUUUUUU-cien..." redlining. But on this day, my ear drums got a rest.

The new recorded station name flew into my ear with the care and gentleness I have not seen since the passing of The Joy of Painting's Bob Ross. It was a beautiful thing.

Bottom line: The Montreal transit authority should use the new recording in the MR-73 metro cars.