Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Movies: Nighthawks

We got our first VHS VCR in 1984 around the same time we got our first microwave. I associate the two because I remember watching movies at home that summer while eating... get this... microwaved hot dogs!

1. Put hot dog in bun. 2. Wrap in paper towel 3. Microwave 4. Eat. When you're 10, that is a pretty neat concept.

When you're 10, a Sylvester Stallone movie is also a neat concept. Especially when he gets to be a bad-ass cop put into an NYPD anti-terrorism squad. That is his character in Nighthawks (1981).

The basic story: Stallone and his partner, Billy Dee Williams, are hunting for some German terrorist who has come to NYC to cause problems. There is a good chase. Some good cursing. And a kick-ass ending.

Unfortunately, the movie feels like it was made in 1981. The music is cheese. It lacks the cool camera angles and stuff you see in modern films. Watching movies from that era always depresses me. NYC always looks so dirty and gross in movies from that time.

But Stallone has a beard and taunts knife-wielding street punks by saying things like, "C'mon He-Man!" Which is cool.

To put this movie into context, it was released two years after Rocky II, one year before First Blood and three years before Rhinestone. So Stallone was a huge star when he made Nighthawks.

Here's a blurb from Wikipedia about the film:
Despite receiving good reviews, including one from Variety, Nighthawks was not a commercial success. This marked Stallone's third non-Rocky film in a row to underachieve at the box office. After another flop - Victory - Stallone returned to Rocky III and then the smash-hit First Blood, which consolidated his status as an action-movie he-man, much like his contemporary Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Nighthawks, Stallone - sporting an atypical beard and at one point wearing eye-glasses - plays down the action in favor of plot and character development.

I'm glad I saw the movie again, but it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be. But the ending still kicks ass.

New Quebec rating: 3 / 5

Monday, July 17, 2006

Seen on the Met...

Motorcycle on the Met in MontrealSurvey says... Not sexy

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Distance measurement tool and pedometer

You have probably used an online map service (like Mapquest or Google Maps) to get directions and an approximate travel distance between towns.

But you can also calculate the exact distance of, say, your three-hour Sunday afternoon walk -- including all the twists and turns of your unique rote.

The free service uses Google Maps and adds a calorie burning tool. To indicate your route, you simply plot the exact course by clicking markers on the map. It works in miles and kilometers and you can save the map as a unique URL or in the GPX format.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

TMR to residents: Sorry

The Town of Mount Royal sent a letter to all residents on July 14 apologizing for erasing all the English from its street signs, offering a pretty weak excuse for why they vandalized all the signs.

The town also hints that it will put back English onto street signs in some unspecified way.

(I assume TMR will add stickers with the English street designations on top of the black spray paint they used to censor the English words. I also assume they will make the English lettering half the sign of the French lettering, even though the law does not specify that and it is quite likely that their original signs were legal.)

Click image to read larger copy

Friday, July 14, 2006

Definitons, TMR and Ted Danson

According to the l'Express Mont Royal newspaper, the law on street signs does not specify what is meant by simple "predominance" and how French should predominate. And they say what we have been saying:

"[simple predominance] differs from the requirements faced by businesses, where commercial signs must have French lettering at least twice the size of English.

"French and English street names can be the same size, for example, but the French term would have to be above the English one. Alternatively, the French words such as “chemin”, “avenue” and “boulevard” could also be made bigger than their English translations."
So the French can be above or in bold. But what about on the left, as Mayor Housefather has suggested?

Simply having the French term on the left of the sign, and the English on the right, doesn’t give French enough precedence, says Paquette. “It’s the grammatical rule that French be written on the left,” he noted.
Of course, he forgets to add that that is his interpretation of what the word "predominant" means. My interpretation is that text on the left is predominant over text on the right.

To prove my point, look at the way producers of the television show Cheers were able to give the two lead co-stars equal billing during the opening credits. (See below)

Ted Danson appears on the left (at the bottom) and Shelley Long appears at the the right (but on top). The producers and audience knew what I know: left = predominance.

More articles on the tropic

A step backward

Beaconsfield tries to appease language police

Lack of conviction

Government-sponsored vandalism in TMR

Premier Charest to burbs: Gesetz als Gesetz

As much as I loathe the Quebec Censorship Boardtm bureaucrats who threaten businesses and municipal governments for not complying with their interpretation of language censorship laws, in the end responsibility for the law and its application falls upon elected officials.

And what does Premier Jean Charest (of the Quebec "Liberal" Party) have to say about it? The law is the law.

VIENNA, Austria -- The Montreal-area municipality of Beaconsfield must conform with Quebec's language laws on its street signs, Premier Jean Charest said Thursday.

"Like all citizens, whether they are businesses, institutions or individuals, everyone must respect the laws,'' Charest said in Austria, where he is in the midst of a two-week official visit to Europe.

The largely anglophone municipality, which demerged from Montreal last January, has refused to change street names to give them a more French flavour. Consequently, the city is fighting the wishes of Quebec's language office and a provincial commission on place names.

Beaconsfield's council recently voted unanimously against 200 proposed changes that would conform with French-language charter.

Some of the signs are only in English while others are bilingual but fail to be predominantly French as is required by law.

Municipal officials say the changes are too expensive.

In a situation as delicate as language, flexibility and diplomacy by government agencies are necessary, Charest said.

"When a situation like this comes up, we must be able to talk to each other to find reasonable solutions within a reasonable amount of time.''

Ultimately, however, the premier said the municipality must conform with the law.

"I'm not saying that it must be applied stupidly and unreasonably, but it must be respected.''

The Gazette
This isn't the first time the Quebec Censorship Boardtm has threatened Quebecers for ridiculous infractions. Every time it happens, the premier of the day says something like what Premier Charest said yesterday about how the law must be applied reasonably.

Yet none of the premiers consider that the problem could be resolved by (1) clarifying the law so petty bureaucrats can't inject their own interpretations into the laws, and (2) modifying the law so that it is more reasonable and we avoid situtaions where Quebec towns with "bilingual status" are forced to remove their bilingual signs.

And just because I can, here is a photo of Katharine McPhee in that yellow dress.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

So much for their spine...

After a publicized municpal resolution to tell the Quebec Censorship Board (tm) they would not replace their current signs with French-only ones, the Beaconsfield council has now announced that any new signs that need replacing will carry French-only designation, such as "rue Church". According to The Suburban:

At Monday night’s Beaconsfield council meeting, the city passed a unanimous resolution saying it would not change existing street signs. However, new streets, or signs that must be replaced, will be unilingual French.

The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) has asked in the past that Beaconsfield change street names like Maple and Elm to Érable and Orme. Benedetti said the city won’t do that and added that the only signs that it will change are the ones that need replacing.
Is there something in the water that is making some mayors lose their mind? Once again, let me repeat:

Towns with bilingual status are permitted to post bilingual street signs.

According to the law, the French designation on the sign must be "predominant" -- but not "markedly predominant".

The missing word may seem trivial. But in law, every words counts. Therefore, a few points are clear:

(1) The Quebec government has set a legal precedent through its commercial sign law in which it associated the term "marked predominance" with the rule that French must be twice the size of English.

(2) The law on street signs does not include the word "marked".

(3) That omission suggests that the rule on street signs is less strict than the rule on commercial signs.

(4) Therefore, French "predominance" must mean something less than "twice as big" and it is entirely plausible that "predominance" means, simply, that the French must be on the left or on top -- but not twice as big.

This was confirmed by Cote St. Luc mayor (and lawyer) Anthony Housefather who said that bilingual street signs are:
"perfectly legal under Section 24 of the French Language Charter (Bill 101), which says that billingual municipalities can erect signs in both languages. The French being predominant in municipal signs is not the market predominance that [is required] in commercial signs where the French has to be bigger."
It's sad that our laws are so confusing that only lawyers are able to figure out what's allowed and what's not and the rest of us are left scratching our heads and playing along with the bullies at the Quebec Censorship Board (tm).

All the crazy nonsense that's fit to print

My goal with this blog thingy is to write about things on my mind. A lot of the time, those things include Katharine McPhee, funny videos on YouTube and videos of Katherine McPhee on YouTube.

Sadly, I'm sometimes brought back to reality stories about accused terrorists who attended my alma matter or bureaucrats making people's lives miserable. In the past week or so, I've written a lot about stuff like that.

And today again. New Quebec reader Uncle Ted has another example of bureaucratic and government interference.

My girlfriend's company was yesterday visited by the infamous Quebec Language Police (Office de la langue francaise), who proceeded to inform them of the various violations of Quebec's infamous Bill 101 and associates.

The story includes the suggestion that all PCs must have all their software replaced with French versions rather than English, in spite of the worker's preference, and at company cost, and that keyboards either be replaced with official craparse French-Canadian ones, or have stickers placed over the offending keys (which are lacking cedillas and the like - much like the one I am currently using.)
A friend who works at an unnamed large Canadian company headquartered in Montreal was visited by the language police a few years ago. The company played along and replaced all the keyboards and phones as requested. The inspectors confirmed the changes were made. Then the company changed it all back the next week.

Another friend who works in an unnamed service-based company is currently involved the same mess. The language cops want all employees to work on French-language versions of MS Office, regardless of whether the employees are more comfortable working in English. What makes this especially terrible for employees is that Excel formulas work differently in French. Which means if the company ever complied with the request, its staff would be crippled. I suspect the company would rather pay continual fines than ask their employees to work with a metaphorical arm tied behind their metaphorical back.

Bottom line: I apologize there haven't been more photos of Katharine McPhee here for a while.

UPDATE: I spoke with a lawyer friend familiar with the law and he assures me that Bill 101 does not require all employees to have French-language software/keyboards, etc. All the law says is that a company must provide French language software (etc.) if the employee asks for it. Which seems very reasonable to me.

Here's a CBC report on this from June 21, 2000:

Last Updated Wed Jun 21 14:32:49 2000

MONTREAL-- A provincial court ruling could put into question tough Quebec laws that mandate the use of French in the workplace.

"(The government) has no power, jurisdiction or discretion to require exclusive use of French software under the Charter of the French Language."
Justice Pierre Dalphond

The Quebec Superior Court ruled on Tuesday that the provincial government can't require businesses in the province to use French-language computer software.

A spokesman for the Language Minister says government reaction is expected on Wednesday. There's no word on whether the government would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court decided that a group of French- and English-speaking pharmaceutical employees had the right to use English computer software at work — as long as the French language was still protected in the workplace.

The lawyer for the workers calls the ruling one of the most important judgments on the interpretation of the language legislation.

The government had told the court the employees must use French-language software because it was the equivalent to English-language versions available on the market. It added that its goal was to protect the employees' right to work in French.

People who work at several pharmaceutical companies in Montreal began the lawsuit in 1998.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Beaconsfield to language police: get lost

It looks like the Quebec language police have been busy.

In addition to threatening the Town of Mount Royal (TMR) with fines for its 20-year-old bilingual signs -- signs we now know were legal anyway -- the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) has also threatened the town of Beaconsfield.

Fortunately, the mayor and town council have a spine and are refusing to change their signs. According to the Chronicle weekly newspaper:
The government department’s Commission de toponymie sent a list recommending name alterations to ensure the French language is predominant in all the city’s road monikers. City Lane should become Allée City Hall, East Gables Court to Place d’East Gables and Raspberry Crescent to Croissant Raspberry, the list suggested. Even historic Thompson Point should now be known as Place de la Pointe-Thompson.
According to the 2001 census, about 66 percent of Beaconsfield residents are mother-tongue English-speakers. About 33 percent are mother-tongue French-speakers. But that doesn't matter to the language police whose goal is not to reflect reality but to change reality.

That my tax money supports the sycophants at the Office québécois de la langue française makes me ill. That the (big L) Liberal government of Jean Charest allows this to go on makes me ill. That the TMR council agreed to disfigure its signs a few weeks ago makes me ill.

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. And bureaucrats at the Office québécois de la langue française are bullies. Don't believe me? Here's what the sycophant OQLF spokeperson, Gérald Paquette, said about predominantly English-speaking towns that refuse to cleanse the English from their street signs:
“There are only two or three of them (bilingual cities) who want to resist the phenomenon of having French predominate and Beaconsfield is one of them,” he said, noting that Cote St. Luc is another. “Knowing the past of Mr. Benedetti, it doesn’t surprise us.” (Emphasis mine)
So, government mandated censorship is a "phenomenon." Maybe the language police should request more tax money to study another phenomenon: all those odd Quebecers who think banning words is unjustified in a free and democratic society.

And what is it about "the past" of Mr. Benedetti that makes him resist the "phenomenon" of censorship? The sycophant spokesperson doesn't say. Could it be Benedetti's 20+ years as a news reporter? That might explain why he is opposed to censorship. But the sycophant is more likely referring to Benedetti's support of citizens who opposed the forced merger of their town to the City of Montreal and his later support of residents who voted in a referendum to demerge.

Language police are still sore about those (democratically-achieved) demergers.

It would have been so much easier to censor all the English street signs if towns like Cote St. Luc and Beaconsfield were part of a French-language-majority mega city.

Tans pis.

Good on Bob Benedetti for standing up for liberal-democracy.

Other reports: CBC

Escalator etiquette sign in DC

The Montreal transit authority refuses to add signs on its escalators requesting people stand on the right so that people on the left might pass. These kinds of signs are posted in London, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, New Jersey, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Zurich, and elsewhere and work quite well.

Not only does Washington, D.C., post Stand Right signs on its escalators, but it has also started an ad campaign in its metro cars to publicize the custom. (Hat tip: Ian)

Escalefter: person who stands on the left side of the escalator when he should be standing on the right

Here's what the DCist has to say about it:

Now we know what to scream at those people that refuse to stand to the right on Metro's escalators -- "Escalefter!" Yes, after much demand, Metro has coined a term to define those that engage in one of Metro's most hated activities. And not a minute too late -- tourist season is upon is, meaning one too many locals getting stuck behind blissfully unaware throngs of out-of-towners. If you're still a little rough on Metro's new words, we've got the skinny on them.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not going to see his face on the Concordia ads, I guess

It turns out the guy accused of plotting to bomb subway tunnels in New York is a Concordia University grad, which is about as surprising as learning that Michael Moore has a slow metabolism. You always suspect it and aren't particularly surprised when you read about it.

According to news reports, he attended Concordia from around 1995 to 2002. Which means that he was a student when the Concordia Student Union published this handbook.

The "Uprising" handbook included calls to burn the Canadian flag on July 1st ("Anti-Canada day"), instructions on how to defy police, and a rationale for stealing as a form of "empowerment."

Monday, July 10, 2006

More news coverage of the TMR street sign story

You'll recall that I broke this TMR-street-sign-self-censorship-story on July 1, 2006. Here are are stories from other news organizations.

CBC News

Quebec municipality paints over English on street signs
Last Updated: Friday, July 7, 2006 | 9:52 AM ET
CBC News

For the first time in 20 years, Montreal's Town of Mount Royal has French-only street signs after painting over the English words.

That move came after a bitter dispute with the province's Office de la langue française (OLF).

All of which has left the mayor of the nearby bilingual municipality of Côte Saint-Luc confused. He says he won't give in to pressure from the language police and can't figure out why Mount Royal backed down.

"It's absolutely baffling that they would remove the English language that is part of the history of Town of Mount Royal," said Mayor Anthony Housefather.

"I mean, I don't want to ascribe motives to a council, but it seems to me to be a very foolish thing to have done."

Housefather said bilingual municipalities have the right to put up bilingual signs, as long as the French portion is to the left or at the top of the sign.

He said Côte Saint-Luc received the same warning as Mount Royal did from the OLF in 2002.

But the city refused to change, and it hasn't heard back from the language watchdog.

The OLF is also puzzled about Mount Royal's decision to paint over the English words. It thinks the city overacted.

"They could have erected these signs in both French and in English as long as the French is predominating," said OLF spokesman Gerald Paquette.

He said the city just needed to make some slight changes to the signs.

Mount Royal mayor Vera Danyluk says the language police have been hounding her city because the signs didn't comply with the Charter of the French Language.

Danyluk said the city was tired of fighting with the OLF, so it hired municipal workers to paint over the English words.

"Well, [it's] not that we threw in the towel," she said. "We feel that there are so many important things we should be doing in our municipality to improve the quality of life for our citizens."

Danyluk said the fight over the bilingual signs is petty and narrow-minded, and a waste of money.

However, the Côte Saint-Luc mayor said covering up the English on street signs sends the wrong message to anglophone youth in the community.

Housefather said it's an issue that crosses municipal boundaries, and bilingual municipalities should stick together.

"Côte Saint-Luc will keep bilingual signs, and it's gonna be over my dead body that we ever take off the English from our signs while I'm mayor of Côte Saint Luc."

CTV News

TMR removes English from street signs
Bilingual street signs in TMR are now a thing of the past.
TMR has blacked out English words on its street signs.

The city had received a warning from the Office de la Langue Francaise, that words like "street" and "crescent" were illegal.

The city says that painting over the words was less expensive than replacing all the signs.

Q92 radio

TMR should leave English on signs: Housefather
2006-07-07 08:16:16

The Mayor of Cote-Saint-Luc says T.M.R. should never have blacked out English from its municipal signs.

The Town of Mount Royal bowed to pressure from the Office de la Langue Francaise, which sent a letter telling it that words such as "street" and "crescent" are illegal.

But Cote Saint Luc mayor Anthony Housefather says its the first time he's ever heard of a city with billingual status removing the Engish from its signs.

"That sign is perfectly legal under Section 24 of the French Language Charter (Bill 101), which says that billingual municipalities can erect signs in both languages," Housefather told The New 940 Montreal.

"The French being predominant in municipal signs is not the market predominance that [is required] in commercial signs where the French has to be bigger."

T.M.R. says it chose to paint over the signs instead of replacing them because its less expensive.

Pamplemoose blog

According to the CBC, the Town of Mount Royal, a very posh little enclave on the north side of the mountain in Montreal, has

caved in to the Office de la langue francaise and painted over the English on its bilingual street signs.

This goes farther than the OLF demand that French be predominant, and seems to be an act of pique on the part of the town council. Given the reaction of neighbouring Cote-Saint-Luc, which is retaining its bilingual signs given similar warnings,

this seems like an outburst of exasperation on the part of TMR authorities, who are tired of the language police measuring the size of the English on their signs. Personally, I think it's a bad decision - better to continue to work within the margins of the law, than completely abandon the right to use English in addition to French.

I'm still working through my thoughts from my stay in Ireland, where I participated in an international conference on language law and language rights. At that conference, I was exposed to a whole host of different national, regional and

international attempts to protect and promote minority languages, with widely varying degrees of success. To make matters more interesting, the Galway conference was itself a microcosm of language promotion, with simultaneous interpretation

provided in English, French and Irish, with many of the session chairs from NUI Galway - all of them fluent in English - speaking in Irish to a crowd lacking any Irish-speakers. The challenge of revitalizing the Irish language makes promotion of French in Canada seem easy, and I'll have more on that in a future post.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Green energy in Montreal

Gazoline/electric hybrid cars are getting all the headlines. But stories like the ones in the August 2006 Popular Science and the July 9 Gazette (see below) will have as big an impact in transforming the way we harness energy in the next few decades.

I figure I'm doing my part by driving a low-emission vehicle, riding a hydro-electrically-powered metro to work and switching all the lights in my apartment to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Benny Farm taps into green energy
Geothermal wells, solar panels heat homes at fraction of cost from power grid

The Gazette

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The game of Monopoly is the closest most of us will ever come to owning a utility company. But for some residents of the sprawling Benny Farm site in Notre Dame de Grace, the fantasy will soon become reality.

Come winter, several hundred occupants will be generating about half of their energy "off grid," thanks to a network of renewable energy sources and their own in-house utility, known as Green Energy Benny Farm.

The backbone of the utility's green energy infrastructure are 21 200-metre-deep geothermal wells drilled this spring.

Those springs will heat the water used in radiators and floor heating.

Combined with other systems including a four-storey-high solar panel, they are expected to help reduce water and energy consumption by 30 to 50 per cent.

"It's more than just a utility; it's a green energy promoter," said Alex Hill, whom the utility's 11-member board of residents and community members hired to manage the project.

The non-profit micro-utility will own and operate the renewable energy infrastructure for three housing projects on the east side of Cavendish Blvd. between Sherbrooke St. and Monkland Ave.

These are the Chez Soi seniors' residence, the Zone of Opportunity (or ZOO) family rental housing co-operative and the Habitations communautaires N.D.G., a 50-unit affordable home-ownership development the construction of which is to begin in the fall.

The three properties, which comprise 187 units and occupy about one-quarter of the 7.2-hectare Benny Farm site, are part of an award-winning affordable housing development designed by local architectural firm L'OEUF (L'Office de l'eclectisme urbain et fonctionnel) and engineers Martin Roy et Associes.

The project is a mix of new construction and refurbished, red-brick low-rise apartment blocks built in the 1940s to house war veterans.

It already contains many examples of "green" design - air-tight, energy-efficient structures; low-wattage lighting; radiant floor heating; ample natural ventilation; and recycled bricks, radiators, hardwood floors and other materials salvaged from demolished units.

But perhaps the most innovative and as yet untested aspect is the use of various energy sources linked by a common distribution network to balance different kinds of energy needs and capacites across the site.

"The idea is to tailor each source to the need according to what is most efficient and affordable," Hill said.

The sun, Hill explained, is a much more concentrated heat source than the ground, for example. Hence it is the project's solar collectors, not its geothermal wells, that will be used to heat domestic hot water, which must be brought to a much higher temperature than the water in radiator and floor heating.

Both will be put to the test for the first time this winter.

The wells are part of a geo-thermal system that extracts heat from the ground through a series of pipes and heat pumps using the same principles of heat exchange as a fridge.

They facilitate heat transfer between the earth, which because of its efficiency at storing energy remains around 8 Celsius at a certain depth regardless of the temperature above, and a cooler fluid circulating in the pipes.

The process is reversed in summer, when excess heat from indoors is pumped back into the ground.

A gas boiler supplements the geothermal supply at times of extreme cold.

Rooftop solar collectors, spanning 225 square metres, to be installed this summer, will heat incoming city water, while a black solar panel that rises four storeys on the side of Chez Soi preheats incoming air.

"On a sunny day when the temperature is minus 20, you're paying for no energy to preheat that fresh air beyond the fan that moves it through the building," said L'OEUF architect Daniel Pearl.

Similarly, a ventilator on the roof uses energy from the stale air flowing out to heat or cool fresh incoming air.

Simple energy recovery systems that get the most out of the energy consumed on site are key to the utility's green energy supply.

Forty per cent of the energy usually lost down the drain with hot water from showers and sinks is recovered to heat clean water.

Eventually, that grey water, as it's known, will also be filtered on site and reused in toilets.

Structural elements built into the two existing properties will allow for the grey water, geothermal and solar energy supplies of all three projects to be linked and shared in the future.

There are also plans to set up a French drain, which uses rocks to percolate rainwater back into the water table, diverting it from municipal sewers.

The three projects are expected to eliminate 313 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, conserve 6.7 million litres of potable water and divert 15.2 million litres of waste water per year.

The in-house utility estimates that by charging residents a rate for their green energy that is slightly higher than what it costs to provide - but still less than what they would be paying on the conventional grid - it will accumulate savings of $640,000 over 15 years.

That money will be used to maintain the system, add new green technology and promote green energy in the community.

Indeed, Green Energy Benny Farm also aims to replicate the micro-utility model elsewhere, possibly by incorporating other sites into its energy grid and/or administrative structure.

It has already begun exploring the possibility of linking up with the community health clinic to be built next to the ZOO co-op and diverting its excess heat to the co-op's geothermal wells.

"Once we get the provision of energy to these three projects under our belt, the mandate is to use the lessons learned to support other projects and to educate," said Bob Butler, head of Green Energy Benny Farm's board of directors.

Developers and residents agree that the greatest advantage of such a self-reliant utility system is protection against future hikes in energy prices - no small factor for seniors and others on a fixed-income.

Benny Farm's green infrastructure was funded mainly by a $3-million grant from the Federation of Municipalities.

Still about two years from completion, the project is already receiving accolades. It has been honoured by the Canadian Urban Institute and the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, among others.


Litter in Montreal

The City of Montreal has been promoting its new anti-litter initiative in recent weeks. Councillor Marcel Tremblay roped in some kids recently to wear orange vests and clean the city. Meanwhile, the city's (unionized) employees are making advances in their goal of not doing any work.

Here's a photo on Décarie Blvd. (facing south, at Queen Mary Rd.) on July 8 at 4:22pm. Note the city sweeper on the left. Notice the litter on the right.

Click the image for a larger version

Perhaps if the city asked its employees to do their job, it wouldn't need teenage summer workers in orange vests to pick up trash.

What's the root cause of the litter problem? I know some people carelessly throw their litter on the ground. Others accidentally drop stuff or watch helplessly as their stuff blows away.

But I suspect the major cause of litter on our streets are (1) tears in garbage bags that occur when trash collectors pick up residential trash and (2) wind blowing the contents of overflowing public trash bins.

The second problem suggests that most people genuinely want to do the right thing. They don't want to litter. But there just aren't enough garbage bins.

Overflowing garbage bin at the Place du Canada on July 1

Cause #2 could be resolved if the city asked its garbage collectors to empty every public trash bin on their route (instead of just the ones that are completely full). I've witnessed city trash collectors peek into half-filled garbage bins and move on without emptying them.

I wish the city good luck in its anti-litter initiative. I'll do my part. But unless the city gets better results from its paid employees, the problem isn't going to go away.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Snakes on a Plane movie trailer

In January, I mentioned the hype on the Internet about the upcoming movie Snakes on a Plane. The hype wasn't around the movie itself. (No one had yet seen it.) Rather, it was about the silly name and the fact that Samuel Jackson was in it. Like the All your base are belong to us or Mr. T Ate My Balls phenomena, Snakes on a Plane grew and grew.

Read this:
In recognition of the unprecedented Internet buzz for what had been a minor movie in their 2006 line-up, New Line Cinema ordered five days of additional shooting in early March 2006 (principal photography had wrapped in September 2005). While re-shoots normally imply problems with a film, the producers opted to add new scenes to the film to take the movie from PG-13 into R-rated territory and bring the movie in line with the growing fan expectation.

Among the reported additions is a line that originated as an Internet parody of Samuel L. Jackson's traditional movie persona: "Enough is enough! I've had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"

Snakes of a Plane opens on August 18, 2006. Here's the trailer. I'll be wearing my t-shirt.

Snakes of a Plane t-shirt
My t-shirt gives me street cred

TMR bows to OQLF pressure

We broke the story last week and today The Suburban weekly newspaper is covering the authorized vandalism of TMR street signs. Read the article here or see below.

TMR bows to OQLF pressure

By Diodora Bucur and Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban

The Town of Mount Royal has obeyed a demand by Quebec’s language police and has covered up the English on its bilingual street signs.

Recently, every street sign in T.M.R. had the English part painted black despite the town’s bilingual status.

Mayor Vera Danyluk says the signs were covered up in response to a warning two months ago from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), one in a series of threats over the last 17 years by the OQLF to take legal action if the English wasn’t removed.

“We received a court order saying that if we didn’t take them off we would have to go to court and pay a fine that would have been determined by the courts,” said Danyluk, who admitted the decision angered a number of T.M.R. residents. “People think we should fight it. I know it’s irritating, it’s disturbing to citizens... But the language debate is over. It was such a waste of time, energy and money — and our young people are all bilingual or trilingual.”

Danyluk said the council ruled out the possibility of changing the signs because that would have cost taxpayers about $50,000.

“We have bilingual status, but for outdoor signs we still have to be in conformity with the language laws, which means we could have only French or if we put English it has to be half the size of French,” she continued. “We figured it’s not worth it to start changing all the signs, so the only alternative was to paint out the English version and just leave the French version.”

However, Danyluk downplayed suggestions her council’s move sets a precedent. “They can’t use us as a precedent, they can only use the law as legal basis.”

Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, and former president of English-rights group Alliance Quebec, says his city received its last legal warning in 2002 but did not heed their demand.

“We never heard from them again.”

Housefather, a lawyer by profession, disagreed with the interpretation of the law that English on street signs must be smaller than French.

“The French being predominant is not ‘marked predominance’. In the case of commercial [signs], there’s a requirement for marked predominance, which means the French has to be bigger than the English, or the French has to be mentioned more often.

“In the case of municipalities or hospitals, there’s not that requirement. The only requirement is that the French be predominant, which could easily be interpreted as French being to the left, or above, the English. If that interpretation [T.M.R. is using] is true, then all of the signs we have in our hospitals — the Jewish General, Montreal Children’s, St. Mary’s — would also all be wrong, because that’s the way they do their signs and that’s the way Hampstead, Côte St. Luc and other cities do their signs.”

Former T.M.R. councillor Sidney Margles, now a Côte St. Luc resident, was surprised at the town’s action.

“It’s regrettable, because I always understood that the town was a bilingual community, and as such, was entitled to have bilingual signs as is the case in a number of other island suburbs,” he said.

Margles said that during his time on council, there were a couple of instances in which the OQLF demanded T.M.R. change its street signs.

“Those requests were rejected at the time, because we were considered a bilingual community. We did not receive any [further demands].”

2006-07-05 08:55:31

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Movies: The Village

I have avoided reviewing movies here because a good movie review is less about the movie and more about the issues related to the movie. Roger Ebert's reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times are wonderful examples of the genre.

And, as the title suggests, I am about to write about the M. Night Shyamalan film The Village (2004). I hadn't see the film until yesterday and had assumed it would suck. I remember the critics didn't much care for it -- at least compared to The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000).

The missus has vetoed the movie for the last year. But we have run out of movies to watch and it was either The Village, Karate Kid Part 2 or Die Hard (a movie I never tire of watching). She vetoed the others too, so I loaded the DVD and didn't expect very much.

As the credits rolled, I was surprised to learn that William Hurt was in it. And Sigourney Weaver. Adrien Brody is in it too? Holy cow. Well, if this is going to suck, at least there's going to be good acting.

As it started, I was intringued by the story. Folks living in a small Pennsylvania village circa 1890 living in fear of creatures in the forest at the edge of their village. We learn about "Those who we do not speak of" in bits and parts. Are they monsters? Animals? We are also teased by "the towns" that are on the other side of the forrest.

All the while, my brain was racing trying to figure out what was really going on and trying to anticipate the surprise ending that is in all Shyamalan's movies. About half-way through the movies, I decided that I was enjoying it, regardless of whether the mystery revealed at the end was any good.

And what an interesting ending it was. I won't spoil it for you. But I thought the ending was as good an Unbreakable and almost as good as The Sixth Sense. I'm not sure why critics hated this movie. I quite liked it.

So there. An interesting movie to watch with a good Shyamalan ending.

New Quebec rating: 3.5 / 5

Saturday, July 01, 2006

How language cops ruin everything

The Town of Mount Royal municipal government recently started disfiguring its street signs to comply with threats of ongoing fines from the Office québécois de la langue française, a tax-payer funded provincial agency.

A disfigured TMR street sign

That this happend is shocking and disheartening on a number of levels. TMR had transformed itself from an anglo-saxon heartland into a multi-ethnic, multi-religious town and a model of bilingualism working on a local level. Its residents are a mix of English-speakers and French speakers -- most being bilingual. TMR was part of the federal riding of Mount Royal, which the father of Canadian bilingualism, Pierre Trudeau, represented as an MP for more than 15 years. Its English-language elementary school, Dunrae Gardens, was one of the first schools in Quebec to introduce French-immersion. One of its French-language high schools is named after Pierre Laporte, the Quebec government minister murdered by Quebec-nationalist terrorists in 1970.

In short, TMR is a model town. Which is why the small-minded, language-supremacist Office québécois de la langue française threatened TMR with repeated fines.

On what basis can a Quebec government agency fine a municipality? Quebec law states that only cities and towns with a majority of (mother-tongue) English-speaking residents can offer bilingual services. These towns get a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card called bilingual status. With this status, towns like TMR can also offer services in English. Without the status, they cannot.

TMR lost its (mother-tongue) English-speaking majority about 10 years ago. But the Quebec government grandfathered bilingual status for towns that had it. So, towns like TMR kept their bilingual status and cannot lose it unless local council requests the government to remove it.

According to the Charter of the French Language, towns with bilingual status can post bilingual street signs provided the French is "predominant" (although not "markedly predominant" as it is for commercial signs). A senior Cote St Luc city official told me the street signs in TMR are perfectly legal and it is unlikely any court would uphold a interpretation of the law that suggests Chemin Atherton Road is not legal.

Three years ago Cote St. Luc received a threatening letter from the Office québécois de la langue française. But the city's elected officials told the Office they would never take down their bilingual street signs and threatened the Office to sue them. The Office hasn't bothered them since.

Amputation of the English lettering

Most of the disfigurement campaign is done. But the industrial park area to the west of Decarie Blvd. has not yet been covered up.

Avert your eyes from the hideous English lettering (on the right)

Soon TMR will not be able to welcome its 40 percent English-speaking residents in English

Finally, apart from the petty, vindictive and vicious bureaucrats at the Office québécois de la langue française, there exists another species of bureaucrat whose incompetence also ensures that Quebecers won't have to face hideous English words while driving.

The street called The Boulevard is one of those place names that cannot be made French, such as rue Crescent, rue University, rue McGill College, cote du Beaver Hall. And the language cops have left it alone. The street, which runs through Westmount and Montreal is called The Boulevard in both towns (see the first two illustrations below).

But the City of Montreal has recently replaced The Boulevard street-sign at the corner of Cote-des-Neiges. Some clueless city official probably proofed the artwork for a new street sign and decided to fix what he assumed was a typo. Or maybe he knew it wasn't a typo but changed it anyway. The result: The Boulevard is now Le Boulevard (see the third illustration below).


Oh ya. Happy Canada Day.
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