June 23, 2005

Patrolling the mountain

What is the mountain ?

The mountain is also known as "Le parc du Mont-Royal". It is classified as a municipal park, but it is Montreal's largest parc, and though it is open to the public, it is somewhat of a natural sanctuary in my eyes, because much of the forest and of the fauna has been preserved.

At the same time, parts have been terraformed to welcome the public and encourage out-door activities such as hiking, biking, skying and skating.
The increased sollicitation of the park, however, is slowly impacting on the flora and fauna as some species are becoming rare and some groups (such as toads and frogs) have now completely disappeared.

What is patrolling ?

Because of the afore mentionned issues, 2 Organizations (The Centre de la Montagne and Les Amis de la Montagne) have decided to inform, educate and train the population on the behaviors that endanger the mountain. In reach this goal, they instituted a conservation patrol which involves a mix of enployees and volunteers.

It's great exercise, as I walked up-hill, down-hill and up-hill again for 5 hours, and it allows for a better understanding of the realities of the park.
Issues addressed are :

1. Feeding the animals : which impacts on the natural balance of the eco-system and creates overpopulations. Over the years, the squirrels have completely outnumbered the tamia and now monopolize the natural resources of the mountain. The bottom line is, THE GUMMY WORM BELONGS IN YOUR MOUTH, NOT IN HIS !

2. Moutain biking and walking out of set trails : these activities create ground compaction and eventually, render flora growth impossible. They also create a situation where tree roots are dug up, endangering the trees on the mountain. Because of the very extensive use of the park, the damage is more visible and tangible than in National Parks where biking is authorized.

3. Flower and plant picking, espescially that some people pick plants (considered to be medicinal) by the bag, without any consideration for the flora. Given that some plants and flowers on the mountain are turning rare, this is also an issue touching the preservation of biological diversity. So it's best to avoid picking plants, but otherwise, here are some nature friendly tips on plant picking :

  • Do not pick plants or plant parts if they belong to endangered or rare species.
  • Only uproot plants if you want to use their underground parts. And only if these plants are common, widespread and abundant.
  • When picking you should remember to leave enough foods - fruits, berries, nuts, flowers, etc. - for the wild animals, birds and bees.
  • Take only a few leaves from each plant according to its size. If you take all the leaves the plant will not survive.
  • Do not take all the flowers or seeds from annual plants. They are needed to produce a new generation. (from http://www.danish-schnapps-recipes.com/picking.html)

4. Dogs without a leash are not allowed anywhere in Montreal for obvious security reasons. We enforce this rule even more so in the park, because a wild happy dog can unwittingly disrupt the local inhabitants of the park, who are all small rodents and amphibians. As well, an infectious illness has been spreading from the racoons to the dogs and inversely, so we try to keep that in check.

All in all, the conservation patrol's mission is to promote responsible behaviour in the park. We also provide information and directions to anyone who needs it. And at the end of the day, we get the best reward of all, which is to see the sunset from the Belvedere on the summit of the mountain.

The Song Box

Yesterday night, I went to a cabaret, in a small cozy café-like pub called "La Butte St-Jacques" in Montreal's beautiful old quarter (textually translated, St-Jack's Hill). La Butte is possibly one of the last remaining "Boites a Chansons" (Song Box), along with "Les 2 pierrots".

"Boîtes à chansons. Name given to the intimate rooms which sprang up in the mid-1950s outside the normal entertainment circuits and in which most young Quebec chansonniers made their start. Usually seating 50 to 100 on uncomfortable chairs, these smoke-filled rooms were casually decorated, often with a fishing net. Coffee - and rarely liquor - was served on rickety tables which were bare or sometimes covered with checkered cloths. The audience generally was made up of students, and despite the surroundings great enthusiasm was generated.


In its original form the phenomenon gradually lost momentum and for all practical purposes petered out by 1967. Once they became stars, the chansonniers needed larger halls and more complex sound equipment. Yet it was towards the end of the boîtes à chansons era that Le Patriote began operating in Montreal's east end. Larger than most, it featured the big names of Quebec song, and several French artists, and welcomed newcomers.

Over the years the repertoire of the boîtes was broadened. Jazz ensembles, folk groups, singer-instrumentalists, and others, as well as the original singer-songwriters, were heard in them. (...) The Bistro d'autrefois, the Butte St-Jacques and La Licorne, all in Montreal, still have something in common with the boîtes of the 1960s, even though their clientele has changed. Most Cegeps and some universities have similar places. The coffeehouse in English Canada is to some extent the counterpart of the boîte à chansons." (Thank you, Canadian Encyclopedia)

The show I went to see, with my now artist mother and her friends, was called "Cabaret : Y parait que..." (Cabaret : I heard that...) and featured 5 ladies, impersonating very distinct characters :
  • Chi Chi : hot-blodded latina drama queen, single lady in desperate search for a love interest ;
  • Charlotte : the M/C and owner of the cabaret, who loses her self-confidence in the middle of the show ;
  • Madam Camé : Darker lady, wanted by the police (we're not sure why), slightly nutty and famous for trying to sing "over the rainbow" a maximum of times per show ;
  • Marie-Neige : means Mary-Snow. Slightly nutty and disconnected, a tender loopy dreamy girl.
  • The pianist : the Cow (wearing a cow costume...) witty and sometimes a little bit bossy.

Overall good entertainment, good singing and showcasing. As I was told later, it is a work in progress, but I do beleive it is to be pursued, and will eventually turn out to a complete new form of art, involving song, music, theater, humor, and exuding with the desire to take the audience elsewhere... A perfect example of what French-Canadian artists can come up with, in all its irreverence, charm, and nuttiness.

June 22, 2005

Why you end up staying in Montreal, when you really wanted to leave in the first place

Yesterday, I spent pretty much all day working at the Y, giving free legal advice to Y clients. It's always fascinating because I meet women who really went for the wrong men or who are in very dire straights financially. Of course, I also get ordinary people with legal problems, like the guy who bought, unbeknownst to him, a stolen car, and woke up one day to find his car seized by the police. Those days are good days forme, because I get to put in perspective my own situation. Also, I get to do what I do : law. I'm starting to realize that I really have a passion for legal consulting, and that the reason I don't feel alive so much is that I don't get to do it 40 hours a week.

The Y is located on one of the beautiful and effervescent streets of Montreal : Cresent street.

So on my dinner break, I'm having a sandwich on the terrasse and I notice a familiar face having a beer at the terrasse across the street. Turns out, this was one of my fellow students, and someone I hadn't seen in 9 months as he left for the Hague on an intership 3 months before I left for Dakar. Long talks and catch up ensued, with the promise of organizing an outing with other fellow students. I love bumping into people I know !

"Work" being finished, I pick up Honey and we make our way to the Old Port of Montreal. This area is always full of people in the summer, tourists and montrealers alike, because the historical buildings and pavements are so beautiful. It's really like another world apart from the rest of the city.

I consider myself blessed, because I worked and studied in this area for years. As an attorney, my profession requires me to go there regularly anyways, since the house of the bar association and the court house are in Old Montreal.

After along walk on the old stones of the historical quarter,

We settled to have dinner on Place Jacques-Cartier :
We have a wonderful, stimulating and stimulated conversation over, respectively, veal liver con porto and pasta carbonara. I did't regret being daring with the liver as it was excellent ! (Congratulations to the Merville's chef!) We have gone to this restaurant quite a few times, so we actually recognized our waitress, a charming lady from New-Brunswick with a delightful acadian accent. The weather has been beautifull all day, but by the end of the evening, a thunderstorm broke out, spashing everything and everyone, so we finished the evening in the classy dining room of the restaurant.

June 19, 2005

At last, a wild night in Montreal !

The LOFT :

"This bar used to be known as "La Nausée" (nausea) and boasted they had the worst bathrooms in Montreal. It now still keeps the venerable tradition of cheap alcool. "

This bar also was the stage of my early beginnings as an immature, illegal clubber. Located in the less glamorous (to say the least) part of downtown, this place is particularly special because of its two rooms (one plays rock and one plays top 40 stuff) and its amazing rooftop terrace in the summer.

Last night, after a very adult evening at the theater, I ended up with some friends in this temple of my teenage years. We sat on the terrace, had a few beers, chilled out. We were 3 girls and a guy, with a second guy about to join us when one of my friends bailed to go to bed and the other one begged me to take her home because she was feeling sick. So I did, and then went home to fit back out of my classic little black dress and in my comfy jeans, leather coat and biker boots to meet up with my male buds. The evening went along great, with lots of beer, dancing to some hard rock (which I had so dearly missed in DKR) and some private chatting. I went home late by MTL standards, as we actually stayed until the bar closed, at 3 AM.

Life in Montreal is getting better !

Gilgamesh or the quest for immortality

Last night, my mother shone her brightest light. When she was eighteen, she acted in France as Anne Langel, in the title-role of "Les Caprices de Marianne", by Marivaux. Since then, she never went back on stage. Until last night.

My mother was the Mother-Godess Ninsouna, mother of Gilgamesh, who is the charismatic and autocratic ruler of the city of Uruk. The play, Gilgamesh, has been written by a French-Canadian author and poet called Michel Garneau. It retells the antic tale of Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidou, and their painful, joyful, sorrowful, poetic quest for the meaning of life.

The directing was admirable, as the 40 people-cast gathered around on stage to act as characters, spectators, singers, and setting. The gipsy inspired costumes were colorful and fun, and everyone gave it their best. When you repeat with your troops 10 to 15 hours a week for 6 months, it pays off !

Here is the summary of this philosophical epic, as told on the ancient tablets of Babylon, and relayed by Richard Hooker :

For cartoon version of the epic : Click here

Tablet 1

This great hero who had all knowledge [nemequ ], Gilgamesh, built the great city of Uruk; the tablet invites us to look around and view the greatness of this city, its high walls, its masonwork, and here at the base of its gates, as the foundation of the city walls, a stone of lapis lazuli on which is carved Gilgamesh's account of his exploits, the story you are about to hear.

The account begins: Gilgamesh, two-thirds god and one-third human, is the greatest king on earth and the strongest super-human that ever existed; however, he is young and oppresses his people harshly.

The people call out to the sky-god Anu, the chief god of the city, to help them. In response, Anu creates a wild man, Enkidu, out in the harsh and wild forests surrounding Gilgamesh's lands. This brute, Enkidu, has the strength of dozens of wild animals; he is to serve as the subhuman rival to the superhuman Gilgamesh.

A trapper's son, while checking on traps in the forest, discovers Enkidu running naked with the wild animals; he rushes to his father with the news. The father advises him to go into the city and take one of the temple harlots, Shamhat, with him to the forest; when she sees Enkidu, she is to offer herself sexually to the wild man. If he submits to her, the trapper says, he will lose his strength and his wildness.

Shamhat meets Enkidu at the watering-hole where all the wild animals gather; she offers herself to him and he submits, instantly losing his strength and wildness, but he gains understanding and knowledge. He laments for his lost state, but the harlot offers to take him into the city where all the joys of civilization shine in their resplendence; she offers to show him Gilgamesh, the only man worthy of Enkidu's friendship.

Gilgamesh meanwhile has two dreams; in the first a meteorite falls to earth which is so great that Gilgamesh can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the meteorite, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife. In the second, Gilgamesh dreams that an axe appears at his door, so great that he can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the axe, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife. Gilgamesh asks his mother, the goddess Rimat-Ninsun, what these dreams might mean; she tells him a man of great force and strength will come into Uruk. Gilgamesh will embrace this man as he would a wife, and this man will help Gilgamesh perform great deeds.

Tablet 2

Enkidu then enters the city of Uruk during a great celebration. Gilgamesh, as the king, claims the right to have sexual intercourse first with every new bride on the day of her wedding; as Enkidu enters the city, Gilgamesh is about to claim that right. Infuriated at this abuse, Enkidu stands in front of the door of the marital chamber and blocks Gilgamesh's way. They fight furiously until Enkidu concedes Gilgamesh's superiority and the two embrace and become devoted friends.

Both Enkidu and Gilgamesh gradually weaken and grow lazy living in the city, so Gilgamesh proposes a great adventure: they are to journey to the great Cedar Forest in southern Iran and cut down all the cedar trees. To do this, they will need to kill the Guardian of the Cedar Forest, the great demon, Humbaba the Terrible. Enkidu knows about Humbaba from his days running wild in the forest; he tries in vain to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this folly.

Tablet 3

The elders of the city protest Gilgamesh's endeavor, but agree reluctantly. They place the life of the king in the hands of Enkidu, whom they insist shall take the forward position in the battle with Humbaba. Gilgamesh's mother laments her son's fate in a prayer to the sun-god, Shamash, asking that god why he put a restless heart in the breast of her son. Shamash promises her that he will watch out for Gilgamesh's life. Ramat-Ninsun, also commands Enkidu to guard the life of the king and to take the forward position in the battle with Humbaba. In panic, Enkidu again tries to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this journey, but Gilgamesh is confident of success.

Tablet 4

Tablet four tells the story of the journey to the cedar forest. On each day of the six day journey, Gilgamesh prays to Shamash; in response to these prayers, Shamash sends Gilgamesh oracular dreams during the night.

These dreams are all ominous: The first is not preserved.

In the second, Gilgamesh dreams that he wrestles a great bull that splits the ground with his breath. Enkidu interprets the dream for Gilgamesh; the dream means that Shamash, the bull, will protect Gilgamesh.

In the third, Gilgamesh dreams: The skies roared with thunder and the earth heaved,Then came darkness and a stillness like death. Lightening smashed the ground and fires blazed out;Death flooded from the skies. When the heat died and the fires went out, the plains had turned to ash. Enkidu's interpretation is missing here, but like the other dreams, it is assumed he puts a positive spin on the dream.

The fourth dream is missing, but Enkidu again tells Gilgamesh that the dream portends success in the upcoming battle.

The fifth dream is also missing.

At the entrance to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh begins to quake with fear; he prays to Shamash, reminding him that he had promised Ninsun that he would be safe. Shamash calls down from heaven, ordering him to enter the forest because Humbaba is not wearing all his armor. The demon Humbaba wears seven coats of armor, but now he is only wearing one so he is particularly vulnerable. Enkidu loses his courage and turns back; Gilgamesh falls on him and they have a great fight. Hearing the crash of their fighting, Humbaba comes stalking out of the Cedar Forest to challenge the intruders. Gilgamesh convinces Enkidu that they should stand together against the demon.

Tablet 5

Gilgamesh and Enkidu enter the gloriously beautiful Cedar Forest and begin to cut down the trees. Hearing the sound, Humbaba comes roaring up to them and warns them off. Enkidu shouts at Humbaba that the two of them are much stronger than the demon, but Humbaba, who knows Gilgamesh is a king, taunts the king for taking orders from a nobody like Enkidu. Turning his face into a hideous mask, Humbaba begins to threaten the pair, and Gilgamesh runs and hides. Enkidu shouts at Gilgamesh, inspiring him with courage, and Gilgamesh appears from hiding and the two begin their epic battle with Humbaba. Shamash intrudes on the battle, helping the pair, and Humbaba is defeated. On his knees, with Gilgamesh's sword at his throat, Humbaba begs for his life and offers Gilgamesh all the tress in the forest and his eternal servitude. While Gilgamesh is thinking this over, Enkidu intervenes, telling Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba before any of the gods arrive and stop him from doing so. Should he kill Humbaba, he will achieve widespread fame for all the times to come. Gilgamesh, with a great sweep of his sword, removes Humbaba's head. But before he dies, Humbaba screams out a curse on Enkidu: "Of you two, may Enkidu not live the longer, may Enkidu not find any peace in this world!"

Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down the cedar forest and in particular the tallest of the cedar trees to make a great cedar gate for the city of Uruk. They build a raft out of the cedar and float down the Euphrates river to their city.

Tablet 6

After these events, Gilgamesh, his fame widespread and his frame resplendent in his wealthy clothes, attracts the sexual attention of the goddess Ishtar, who comes to Gilgamesh and offers to become his lover. Gilgamesh refuses with insults, listing all the mortal lovers that Ishtar has had and recounting the dire fates they all met with at her hands. Deeply insulted, Ishtar returns to heaven and begs her father, the sky-god Anu, to let her have the Bull of Heaven to wreak vengeance on Gilgamesh and his city.

Anu reluctantly gives in, and the Bull of Heaven is sent down into Uruk. Each time the bull breathes, its breath is so powerful that enormous abysses are opened up in the earth and hundreds of people fall through to their deaths. Working together again, Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the mighty bull. Ishtar is enraged.

Tablet 7

Enkidu falls ill after having a set of ominous dreams; he finds out from the priests that he has been singled out for vengeance by the gods. The Chief Gods have met and have decided that someone should be punished for the killing of Humbaba and the killing of the Bull of Heaven, so of the two heroes, they decide Enkidu should pay the penalty.

Enraged at the injustice of the decision, Enkidu curses the great Cedar Gate built from the wood of the Cedar Forest, and he curses the temple harlot, Shamhat, and the trapper, for introducing him to civilization. Shamhat reminds him that, even though his life has been short, he has enjoyed the fruits of civilization and known great happiness. Enkidu then blesses the harlot and the trapper.

In a dream, a great demon comes to take Enkidu and drags him to Hell, a House of Dust where all the dead end up; as he is dying, he describes Hell. Enkidu commends himself to Gilgamesh, and after suffering terribly for twelve days, he finally dies.

Tablet 8

Gilgamesh is torn apart by the death of his friend, and utters a long lament, ordering all of creation to never fall silent in mourning his dead friend.

Tablet 9

Gilgamesh allows his life to fall apart; he does not bathe, does not shave, does not take care of himself, not so much out of grief for his friend, but because he now realizes that he too must die and the thought sends him into a panic. He decides that he can't live unless granted eternal life; he decides to undertake the most perilous journey of all: the journey to Utnapishtim and his wife, the only mortals on whom the gods had granted eternal life. Utnapishtim is the Far-Away, living at the mouth of all rivers, at the ends of the world. Utnapishtim was the great king of the world before the Flood and, with his wife, was the only mortal preserved by the gods during the Flood.

After an ominous dream, Gilgamesh sets out. He arrives at Mount Mashu, which guards the rising and the setting of the sun, and encounters two large scorpions who guard the way past Mount Mashu. They try to convince him that his journey is futile and fraught with danger, but still they allow him to pass. Past Mount Mashu is the land of Night, where no light ever appears. Gilgamesh journeys eleven leagues before the light begins to glimmer, after twelve leagues he has emerged into day. He enters into a brilliant garden of gems, where every tree bears precious stones.

Tablet 10

Gilgamesh comes to a tavern by the ocean shore; the tavern is kept by Siduri. Frightened by Gilgamesh's ragged appearance, Siduri locks the tavern door and refuses to let Gilgamesh in. Gilgamesh proves his identity and asks Siduri how to find Utnapishtim. Like the giant scorpions, she tells him that his journey is futile and fraught with dangers. However, she directs him to Urshanabi, the ferryman, who works for Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh approaches Urshanabi with great arrogance and violence and in the process destroys the "stone things" that are somehow critical for the journey to Utnapishtim. When Gilgamesh demands to be taken to Utnapishtim, the ferryman tells him that it is now impossible, since the "stone things" have been destroyed. Nevertheless, he advises Gilgamesh to cut several trees down to serve as punting poles; the waters they are to cross are the Waters of Death, should any mortal touch the waters, that man will instantly die. With the punting poles, Gilgamesh can push the boat and never touch the dangerous waters.

After a long and dangerous journey, Gilgamesh arrives at a shore and encounters another man. He tells this man that he is looking for Utnapishtim and the secret of eternal life; the old man advises Gilgamesh that death is a necessary fact because of the will of the gods; all human effort is only temporary, not permanent.

Tablet 11

At this point, Gilgamesh realizes that he is talking to Utnapishtim, the Far-Away; he hadn't expected an immortal human to be ordinary and aged. He asks Utnapishtim how he received immortality, and Utnapishtim tells him the great secret hidden from humans: In the time before the Flood, there was a city, Shuruppak, on the banks of the Euphrates. There, the counsel of the gods held a secret meeting; they all resolved to destroy the world in a great flood. All the gods were under oath not to reveal this secret to any living thing, but Ea (one of the gods that created humanity) came to Utnapishtim's house and told the secret to the walls of Utnapishtim's house, thus not technically violating his oath to the rest of the gods. He advised the walls of Utnapishtim's house to build a great boat, its length as great as its breadth, to cover the boat, and to bring all living things into the boat. Utnapishtim gets straight to work and finishes the great boat by the new year. Utnapishtim then loads the boat with gold, silver, and all the living things of the earth, and launches the boat. Ea orders him into the boat and commands him to close the door behind him. The black clouds arrive, with the thunder god Adad rumbling within them; the earth splits like an earthenware pot, and all the light turns to darkness. The Flood is so great that even the gods are frightened.

The Flood lasts for seven days and seven nights, and finally light returns to the earth. Utnapishtim opens a window and the entire earth has been turned into a flat ocean; all humans have been turned to stone. Utnapishtim then falls to his knees and weeps.
Utnapishtim's boat comes to rest on the top of Mount Nimush; the boat lodges firmly on the mountain peak just below the surface of the ocean and remains there for seven days. On the seventh day , Enlil, who had originally proposed to destroy all humans, then arrives, furious that one of the humans had survived, since they had agreed to wipe out all humans. He accuses Ea of treachery, but Ea convinces Enlil to be merciful.

Enlil then seizes Utnapishtim and his wife and blesses them: at one time Utnapishtim was mortal. At this time let him be a god and immortal; Let him live in the far away at the source of all the rivers.

At the end of his story, Utnapishtim offers Gilgamesh a chance at immortality. If Gilgamesh can stay awake for six days and seven nights, he, too, will become immortal. Gilgamesh accepts these conditions and sits down on the shore; the instant he sits down he falls asleep. Utnapishtim tells his wife that all men are liars, that Gilgamesh will deny having fallen asleep, so he asks his wife to bake a loaf of bread every day and lay the loaf at Gilgamesh's feet. Gilgamesh sleeps without ever waking up for six days and seven nights, at which point Utnapishtim wakes him up. Startled, Gilgamesh says, "I only just dozed off for half a second here." Utnapishtim points out the loaves of bread, showing their states of decay from the most recent, fresh bread, to the oldest, moldy, stale bread that had been laid at his feet on the very first day.

Gilgamesh is distraught but Utnapishtim's wife convinces the old man to have mercy on him; he offers Gilgamesh in place of immortality a secret plant that will make Gilgamesh young again. The plant is at the bottom of the ocean surrounding the Far-Away; Gilgamesh ties stones to his feet, sinks to the bottom, and plucks the magic plant.

Several leagues inland, Gilgamesh stops to eat and sleep; while they're sleeping, a snake slithers up and eats the magic plant (which is why snakes shed their skin) and crawls away. Gilgamesh awakens to find the plant gone; he falls to his knees and weeps:

For whom have I labored?
For whom have I journeyed?
For whom have I suffered?
I have gained absolutely nothing for myself,
I have only profited the snake, the ground lion!"

June 18, 2005

Beaver's guide to the Montreal nightlife

Le Sainte-Elizabeth
(I couldn't find a picture, so go check out their website...)

When you walk in, it looks like your average "Irish-style" pub, nice and dark, lots of wood, an island bar, and some cozy sofas. Uptairs you can find a nice long bar, with plenty of taps, more seating, and a section behind the bar where you can sit near plate-glass windows that give you a bird's eye view of the terrasse in the back.

The terrasse in itself deserves a 5 for atmosphere. In my humble opinion, it's the nicest one in Montreal. Feels homey and secluded, with trees, vines climbing up the brick walls, even propane heaters when it gets chilly.

I went there with Hubby and a couple of friends for a friday evening drink a few weeks ago. Definitely one of the best places to go in Montreal, if you want to have a nice chat with friends in a partying, relaxed environment.

Foufounes Électriques
The punk mecca (aka Fouf) has lost some of its popularity, mainly because.. of too much popularity. It's the kind of place where you'd have seen tourists sitting at one table and spiked hair suburban punk-wannabes at another. After it re-opened last year, it's back on the right track with many live shows. It's interesting from the outside as is from the inside. There's (or use to be) an Internet cafe on the ground floor. P.S. The name means electric buttocks.

I went there to have a drink with my honey a month or so ago and was disappointed in the lack of fauna present. It was still early though, so I'm willing to check it out again...

Ye Olde Orchard
"Ye Olde Orchard, a neighbourhood pub with the flavour of the old country. "

This one is a favorite of my Scout-Leader friend, who inevitably wants to go there where offered to go out for a beer. A very cool place with live music on weekend nights.
A strange mix of 40 year old's and 20something's enjoy the party at the Ye, creating a cool atmosphere to let go. Don't plan to stay after midnight though, the action ends a bit early.

Your typical Irish Pub, at the heart of Montreal ! The atmosphere is good, and a sense of friendly crowd that combined the people working downtown and university students. The McKibbin's is combined in three spots. Upstairs the Toucan Club(Ladies Night on Wed) and the Shebeen downstairs.Most of the nights there are some bands playing, but the selections of band was better in a recent past, with 139 South splitting to bits and replaced with less irish, more contemporary groups !

I revisited this old hangout spot of mine recently, after a particularly difficult consultation at the Y. I was alone, but not for long, as I actually stroke a conversation with a bunch of engineers of international backgrounds : Brazilian, Polish and Irish. It turned out to really be a nice evening ! Definitely a good place to have a beer on one's own...

June 17, 2005

The ugly duckling (rant rant rant)

One thing I had completely lost touch with and that I rediscover coming back to North-America also involves meeting again with reality shows. Shunned, yet a growing movement, reality shows are taking over tv everywhere, be it in France, Quebec, the States or the UK. Some are horrifying : remember "THE SWAN" ?

This horrifying series combines the physical makeover aspect of "Extreme Makeover", the lifestyle makeover concept of "Starting Over", and the "beauty pageant" aspect of ABC's embarrassing "Are You Hot"?

Here is the text designed to attract potential contestants :

"Do you have a dream that you haven't achieved because of how you look? Do you believe that if you got the looks you always wanted, you could then go on to achieve your deepest desires -- including winning a beauty pageant?

If so, producers of The Swan might be interested in hearing from you. In the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, an ugly duckling awakened one day to discover that she had been transformed into a beautiful swan. In the real world, life is a bit more complicated that that -- and that's where The Swan comes on.

The Swan goes beyond where other makeover shows end, offering women the opportunity to undergo complete life transformations, and then follows their journey afterwards as they accomplish their goals and bring their dreams to fruition. The Swan's team of Life Specialists – plastic surgeons, hair stylists, makeup artists, style consultants, speech therapists, and other life coaches – will work on each woman from the outside in so that she can accomplish what she always wanted to achieve but couldn't due to limitations, perceived or otherwise."
(Thanks, RealityTVWorld)

Ouach ! In reality, the contestants went through a painful 3 months that involved extensive plastic surgery, diet and training and "therapy sessions." They went through this whole make-over boot-camp process without ever being allowed to see themselves. When unveiled, little of their original physical identity remains, which, if you ask me, might send quite a few right back in therapy.

At the end of the process, they are evalutated and get to move on (or not) to the next level of the pageant. Criteria invoked ? INTERIOR BEAUTY ! Isn't that ludicrous ?

Some contestants even loose privacy and In december 2004, the SWAN winner, Delisa Stiles, got divorced from her husband throughout the process, the moment where she receives the divorce paper direct on camera. A nice bonus for Fox.

I always looked at reality shows thinking that if one is eager for fame to the point of shedding all pudor, then they someone deserve a bit of pain, ridicule or humiliation. What the SWAN contestants are exposed to, however, is far more disturbing.

June 16, 2005

Beaver, movie critic at your service !

One of my big time hobbies has always been going to the movies. As a good Trekkie and Marvel/DC Comics fan, some summer flicks just can't be missed... so here are my comments on my recent venues (no spoilers, I promise...)

Star wars 3 : Revenge of the Sith
Defenitely the best movie of the prequel trilogy ! Hayden as Anakin Skywalker is intense, tragic, human. Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan) is now grown-up but still kixass ! Beautiful visuals, amazing fights, beautiful soundtrack ! Lucas completely redefines the concept of tragedy and provides die-hard fans like me with all the answers. A must-see...

Kingdom of Heaven
I went in to see this one with barely any expectations. Turns out, it was actually very acceptable. Orlando Bloom (Balian d'Ibelin) is actually for once credible and not completely innocent looking. Historically, the level of artistic licence that Ridley Scott allows himself is very acceptable. Contrary to my fears, Saladin, played by Ghassan Massoud, is portrayed as a chevaleresque, honorable warrior. This turned out pretty good, if you accept that the characters will be a bit unidimensionnal. Good entertainment, anyways...

A funny little animation movie about a bunch of not-so-wild animals who somehow (you have to see the movie to find out) end up in THE WILD (on the beautiful island of Madagascar). Voices are done by an all-star cast with Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Ben Stiller. A very good rental, lots of good laughs.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Yet another divorce/murderous couple movie. Pitt and Jolie are of course delicious to watch (come on, they are beautifull people). But the movie is a bit slow to take off, the humor quite doesn't hit the spot, there is no intensity, despite the fact that the cast works very hard at making a bland story acceptable. A good rental, no more, no less.

Batman Begins
Definitely the best Batman movie ever made so far (and God knows there were a lot made). They got it right this time : the atmosphere is dark and somber as it should be, Batman is no angel, the villains are more nuts and less comedy-ish. At last, a director that understands Batman ! A must-see, for all real Comic Fans ! (Not recommended for kids, though).


Last night, I couldn't sleep, and kept on thinking about my present inability to blog as regularly as I did back in Dakar...

Obviously, I feel like I have less to say than before, but somehow, it's not true. Only this time, my journey needs to be inwards, not outwards. When you live abroad, you are so busy trying to understand your surroundings that you get out of yourself all the time. Being back home, and confronted to the "boringness" of local life, you have to ask yourself : is it really boring, or is it me ? Is it my own depression, my own lonelyness and apathy ? 2 months later, the answer is yes... no matter where you are, it's ow you look at your own life that makes the difference.

So I'm taking out my camera and going pic hunting again... There has to be something worth shooting.... worth talking about....

June 08, 2005

My days.....

Since I've been back home, it's been more and more difficult for me to blog, mostly because I often feel like there is not much to say.

Looking for a job in Montreal at this time of year is close to impossible, so I actually gave up on the concept, to the exception of the Armed Forces, with whom I expect to have a meeting shortly...

So what do I do with my days... For one, I train, at least twice a week, in order to pass the army fitness test...

Second, I volunteer in various places. Last week, I participated in organizing and personnaly animated an alumni reunion for CECI. So that was cool, as I actually was active in a community oriented organization for a whole week.

Regularly, though, I give free consultations at the YWCA Montreal. It's kinda scary actually, because I spend 30 minutes with a client who usually has very little restraint. So it's sortof halfway between counselling and legal advice, with the occassionnal nut head who won't leave the office... Case examples : abused women, divorce cases, people who want to contest/enforce a will, and the occasionnal streetsmart client who just wants to lookout after himself.

All in all, it's very rewarding, and puts everything in perspective. Most of these people don't need legal advice. They just need someone to listen... that would be me...