La Carre Rouge

It seems that I left Quebec just before things really got interesting. I felt that the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement would help spur on more action, but I had no idea that this was brewing in Quebec. Or perhaps I did. The Quebecois are a politically active people, they pay attention and they are not quiet or passive when they don’t feel heard. There is a passion there that is lacking in the rest of North America, which is why it should come as no surprise that Quebec has become ground zero for the continuation of what Occupy began last fall.

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The issue of student debt is emblematic of the larger systematic problems that exist in contemporary globalism. It shows a roadmap for where the world is headed if our course is not changed. What happens to youth today is an indication of what shape society will take in the future. Crushed by debt from the moment they leave home they will become a class of indentured servants to a small financial elite who hold the promisory notes that bought their education, their homes, their cars. People will live from the age of majority to death in perpetual debt and therefore not the true masters of their own lives. Meanwhile bankers, politicians and mafiosos will smoke cuban cigars and sit on golden toilets in their 55th floor corner offices. Enough.

Though Quebec students have been some of the first and most vocal, they are by no means alone. The same problems plague students across North America. Canadian tuition is on course to more than double in the next few years and US student debt has cleared $1-trillion. Defaults are increasing. Just like the housing market. Things are headed for a crash.

I encourage students and supporters around the world, not just in Quebec to take up the symbol of the student strike, the “Carre Rouge” or red square, referring to the debt being accrued by so many students before entering an increasingly bleak job market. The path has been laid out, there is room for many, many more to join the movement. Make your voice heard. Offer up your own ideas and solutions, just don’t sit by and do nothing.

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Pick up stuff, put down in new location

I think I have to move. I’ve been thinking about it pretty much ever since I moved into this apartment. Regularly I’ve tried to convince myself that I’d just start making more money and that would solve the problem. Bus alas that is a mirage. In order to make more money I’d need more time and energy, and I spend my time and energy paying for this. Or do I? Perhaps that’s a cop out, a shifty indulgence of my natural laziness and sloth.

In any case the fact remains that I seem never to have any more than I’ve got – which is typical, but let’s move a bit past that. I spend all of what I make, on food, on rent, on utilities. I feel no financial sense of progress, and while it may be argued that there really is no need for such a thing, I do find myself not doing things I would like to do simply thanks to the financial leash I have fashionned for myself. So moving is a thought.

This loft is not the loft which I had imagined. The geometry is all wrong. The advantages, 13ft ceilings, wide open spaces, are all a waste due to conflicting configuration. Why do I have tall ceilings in my kitchen? Not even the Sweedish Chef requires such soaring spaces to toss his ingredients. It simply isn’t right, never was right, and the cost, the cost…

I want a balcony, I want bright natural light for less than a figment of the day. But mostly I want to pay less, play more.

Moving is never a happy thought, being as it is nothing but a reaffirmation of deference to stuff. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. I think the collective stuff is the only thing that really stops me. So much of it. Goddam stuff.

It is time to start looking. I at least have the luxury of making a move at the time of my choosing, not being stuck with a legislated lease with terms and dates. Still, that also could be a weakness, no deadline, no pressure, no looming end. But, as the bank account slides, maybe, maybe I could think of better things to spend it on than four white walls and neighbours having noisy sex.

Get Some Green

So here we go. Read this article. Then come back.

Goodness all those words. I’m sorry, but it had to be done. Heathens.

This touches on something that I’ve thought about often and explains my love/hate ambivalence with the city. Okay actually I love cities, big cities with lots of people and things going on. I thirst for that stimulation, but yeah, it gets tiring. When I think of those peaceful moments on a mountain, or a country road, or down a storm drain (getting under the city is almost as good as getting out of it) I feel a strange sense of nostalgia and longing. Fresh air, birds and trees sure are nice. So are clouds. My god clouds. Awesome.

Its like of like comparing classical music to electronica. One of them makes you want to dance, the other one’s great for lying on the grass watching cumulous nimbus sail past.

Montreal is better than average on the park front. I really love the canal near my apartment, even if I don’t go there nearly enough. Mont Royal and Parc Lafontaine are marvels, but again I don’t get to them often enough.

One thought might be to change our current city model into something more akin to Europe with small clusters of towns with parks and countryside in between. Or maybe we can simply modify our existing metropolises. We could begin with getting rid of all those goddam billboards like Sao Paulo did recently and Quebec City is planning to do. That being done the next logical move to my mind would be to get 90% of cars and trucks off of the roads. Use the space freed up by those muliple lanes of traffic and parking lots to put in more public parks and squares. Noise pollution cut. Air pollution cut. The danger of psychotic motorists cut.

You may say that I’m a dreamer.

Okay it would require some immense changes, but what if everyone’s productivity went up even 1%? What if medical costs went down 1%? Domestic violence down 1%? Now what if those figures were actually 2% or 5%? What about all the other sectors of society that would benefit?

Might happen one day.

Maybe.

Crunch Crunch

Okay. I get it. I’ve got a little bit of an idea what those damn ice storms are all about now. It was snowing, now its raining, and yet the air temperature really can’t decide whether its above or below zero (freezing) so…

There is ice on everything. No, no… everything.

Never did I see this kind of thing in Calgary. The road looks normal, maybe a bit shiny but… WHOA! <THUMP!> No that’s ice dear. That curious sheen on the lamp post? Ice. The shine on that car? Ice. Very thin, very clear, very slick. Also makes that crunch crunch noise when you walk through the petrified slush piles, all bulbous like waves on a choppy, frozen sea.

Ice…

Maybe these are some of those hurts…

…that never heal. Possibilities that, at some level demand to be investigated, pondered, remembered, lost…

It was this video that brought it back;

http://www.chycho.com/?q=node/1803

I suck at embedding. Bleah. Anyways…

I couldn’t help myself. I thought of Triple-B, because one of the B’s stood for brain, and I loved hers. She would have eaten this like Muslix with fresh berries on top. Le sigh. I am a big ‘ol neuron that can connect with complicated molecules in any number of ways, each producing a different result. Some create art, contemplation, comfort, sexual arousal, she stimulated a part of my brain that very few people can. Receptors quivering and pulsing, impluses darting with thought and challenge. Blue smoke illuminated by laser light. What random beautiful patterns might emerge?

But anyways she also lied, and generally treated people around her like cheap chess pieces so fuck that. But it doesn’t mean I can’t long for that particular connection…

Its raining. Thunder rolls down from on top of the mountain… er… hill. My courtyard turns into a marsh after storms like this. I should get a gun and shoot waterfowl from my bedroom window.

The place is strewn with costumes and camping supplies. Burning Man. Sonofabitch. Nevada is a long ways from Montreal. And apparently its dusty as a million year old tomb. Its going to be an interesting year.

Montreal has finally turned to gold. A fantastic poutine sendoff, the warm embrace of spinning fire in the parc, the presence of someone who understands something that can’t really be said. Its a good time. I’m in the right place. One year and it seems just about right. Just a few more things to do…

So begins two and a half weeks of insanity and bliss, excitement and stress, travel and wonder. By any estimate I’m going to be making two or three hundred bowls of poutine at this year’s burn. Good god. What am I thinking?!

Happy, but always wanting more. I’m like that. Content, yet ambitious.

See you on the other side.

Art out there

There’s a ridiculous notion out there that art belongs in galleries, or if not in galleries than in corporate boardrooms or private residences. Really I think that’s elitist and selfish balderdash. I’ve always been of the opinion that art should be for the people, and most people never venture into those places. And so it is that street art is my darling of choice. It was maybe as much as eight years ago that I launched my Post-It Note Campaign for Unfettered Thought, wandering town with a stack of sticky yellow papers in one pocket and a red pen in another leaving any variety of notes, riddles, instructions or jokes for people to find, all while paying no dividends to 3M. But today I’m faced with a quandary.

Inspired by talk with a friend about street art I find myself thinking about what to do next, drawing inspiration from those who’ve come before me (here, here, here and yes here). I’ve lived in Montreal now long enough to have a reasonable lay of the land and some potential accomplices, but… There is a unique challenge in a city where language is like fire with the potential to inflame and burn or simply to peter out, unnoticed and unspoken. Words are much tougher to handle here.

For one thing I think any linguistic act in this province are particularly this city is by its very nature political, and while some art aims to be political, much of the art I like transcends that. So how to communicate without turning to words or language? To be truly universal and untinged with cultural baggage, or at least a bare minimum thereof?

For someone who isn’t particularly good at drawing, who’s always fought and learned and discovered through words its a worthy challenge. I’m pretty excited. In particular I’m intrigued by the possibilities of projected light. Something to play with once I return from that thing in the desert.

Why do they speak English on Star Trek?

Living in a city like Montreal that sits firmly on the fracture between two glacial language formations is without doubt an interesting experience. For those that have grown up here it may be hard at times to see the forest for the trees, but for a starry eyed prairie boy there are trees a plenty.

Language is a hot issue here, and why not? Language afterall may well be the root of consciousness, certainly the root of culture and society. How we communicate with each other is almost more important than what we actually say and here there are so many ways to say so many things.

Montreal isn’t strictly French, nor is it strictly English, nor do those two languages even begin to represent the city and all of its other languages. I know many people who are fluent in three or four languages. I know a few who really only know one. I have felt what its like to be kicked back to the minors in terms of the ability to communicate and understand – something that few of us experience if we don’t venture out of our native culture for an extended period and try to make a life for ourselves.

Montreal tries pretty hard to get bilingualism right though there are of course people on either side who just can’t bridge the divide and some that are vehemently opposed to even trying.

A report was recently leaked from a government taskforce in Quebec that seems to say that in order to make it in our increasingly integrated world Quebec needs to increase its tolerance and understanding of immigrants’ cultures and probably most nettling, learn more English. Of course the shouting started early and loud. And then I found a thread of comments trailing after a blog entry by people espousing the use of Esperanto as a universal language.

Of course I’ve heard of Esperanto, the attempt a century ago to create a truly universal language for politics, commerce and universal understanding. Needless to say it never really took off. I’ve only ever met one person who spoke Esperanto, a fellow from Brussels while playing pool in a dingy old pub in the Australian outback. So it was interesting to hear from the old language again more than five years later.

I watched a video on the language and read through those comments. Everyone claims that its ridiculously easy to learn and so, rather than making snap judgments based on little to no first hand experience I made a decision. I’m going to try and learn it.

Why not?