Classic Montréal installation art: 1985’s “Catching Up”

Is it me or does this guy look an awful lot like Jack Layton?

Alright, technical point – this statue/sculpture is actually in Westmount. But let’s face the hard facts, Westmount is kinda like Montréal’s Cayman Islands, and really wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the fact that Montréal’s wealth is ‘stored’ there.

I’ll tell you this much; since moving to Westmount I’ve unfortunately come across the stereotypal Westmount Rhodesian, completely self-absorbed, tactless, unaware that human life exists beyond the individual with as much worth as the perception of humanity inside the heavily-tanned, surgically enhanced corporeal being. And yes, there are plenty of locals who’d have a hard time with that last one. Money doesn’t buy brains.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really lovely here, but we need to be honest with ourselves; the people who established this place and I’m assuming most who live here do so because of their ill-will towards the established city which surrounds them. I am not part of this demographic – suburbs are kinda prejudiced when you get right down to why they were established in the first place. Anyways, we oughtta follow NYC and Toronto’s example and annex everything within the metropolitan region. If Rosedale, the Bridal Path and the Upper West Side can all happily exist as attached, non-gated luxury communities and pay taxes to help inner-city kids get a decent lunch while at school, then so can we. I hate to think how much wealth an individual doesn’t have to pay into the communal pot simply by living on the other side of Atwater.

And just to keep the record straight, I’m only here because of a too-sweet-to-pass-up summer sublease opportunity.


He's reading an article on Springsteen, FYI, 'le patron'...

Framed Grandeur

Sherbrooke Street, looking East - May 23rd 2011

Notice how the new Hilton is strategically situated and a bend in Sherbrooke Street thereby allowing it to serve as kind of terminal point, preventing the feeling of an endless trench, while giving the pedestrian a frame of reference. In essence, it removes the idea of endless mass and re-conceives the view as entering a box; slightly more comforting because its defined limit will give way to a new, further border. It’s motion through changing boundaries. The same ‘frame’ is achieved when looking down Hutchinson, though with an added benefit of buildings ‘rising’ from Victorian to Modernist to Post-Modernist in style. In addition, the Port Royal Apartments, the tall grey-white modernist building at left does the same thing if you happen to walking East on Sherbrooke around Atwater. Neat eh?

Pretty Fucking Lame – A new Old Port beach for 2012

Andy Riga at Metropolitan News put it succinctly, how lame is an Old Port beach where you can’t swim?, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve brought up the issue of the lack of public beaches on-island before, and the Old Port Corp’s recent proposal to construct a ‘no-swimming beach’ is a penultimate example of lack of ambition.

I think we’ve got a weird creativity problem coming from the semi-corporate, semi-public-interest corporations running our primo public space. They offer a bland foreign substitute when they ought to be pushing to fix significantly larger problems. Once again, a problem – lack of public beaches – which could necessitate a fantastic response – a metropolitan plan to clean our local waterways and rehabilitate the beaches which occur naturally on-island. And once again, a complete lack of vision.

Aerial perspective of new Old Port 'beach'

As you can see above, this new ‘urban beach’ is destined to be situated at the eastern tip of the Quai de l’Horloge. Currently, the area is pretty run down, not having been renovated since, by the looks of things, the early 1990s. Most of the beach would extend down the inner side of the Quai’s marina, offering a pleasant view of the Old Port and many ostentatious yachts. If they construct a new pavilion at the end of the Quai, with appropriate facilities, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t go there. It may quickly become a douche-bag/white-trash repository with juiced-up muscle-heads parading around ceaselessly with popped-collars and rococo-Catholic tattoos, but hey, just because that’s exactly what you’ll find at the;

1. Beach at Parc Jean-Drapeau
2. Oka Beach
3. Eastern look-out on the Mountain
4. La Ronde
5. The Orange Julip
6. For some reason the Oratory?

doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen in the Old Port too, right? That would be pretty fucking lame.

Maybe you run this risk in every place people congregate, but it seems as though a beach without the possibility for swimming is basically a place where you get drunk while sun-bathing. And if you can’t cool-off by taking a dip, then your just going to drink. I’m no teetotaler, but we should think this one through. Off the bat it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be family-friendly, and that’s where the money lies. But perhaps I’m taking liberties; there’s no reason to think that this new development would be treated any differently than the rest of the facilities, restaurants, pavilions etc throughout the rest of the harbour-front. In my opinion, they do generally good work – so here’s hoping it succeeds.

Ultimately, any new development in the Old Port is probably worth it, and this area could use a renovation, and this one is as good a plan as anywhere else. It has worked in Paris, though I feel the Parisian example is significantly better connected to the urban traffic dynamic. This beach is planned for the end of the Quai, in an area which is otherwise used for parking. That being said, it’s not isolated when you consider it in relation to the placement of other facilities along the linear park – in other words, it could be a ‘pole of attraction’ designed to stimulate increased traffic at that end of the Old Port, an area which is currently being redeveloped with high-density residential housing.

Quai de l'Horloge beach perspective drawing

The big problem with this kind of development is that it’s so simple, so unimaginative. Aside from the fact that it’s an imported idea, it doesn’t consider the bigger local issue, which is that we live on an island that once had numerous natural, largely public beaches and clean water to bathe in. Now we don’t.

We’ve shut ourselves out of an interesting industry – resort tourism – as a result. Consider how many other cities built along rivers have almost immediate access to large public beaches, boardwalks and resort, beach-side communities. New Yorkers have access to this, as do Cariocans; hell, even Londoners can escape to Brighton! But we’ve lost our beaches as a result of our previous industrial development. It also doesn’t help that Lac St-Louis is sort of a collecting pond for industrial waste and pollutants coming down from the Great Lakes, and so instead of planning and creating funds to clean our river and lakes, we announce cheap imitations with great fanfare.

As I said, pretty fucking lame.

What do you think we should do? Does this argument make sense? Hope this was clear – feedback & constructive criticism always appreciated.

Orange Crush

NDP Leader Jack Layton embracing his wife, MP Olivia Chow - not the work of the author, possibly the work of the Toronto Star

So we’ve all had a few weeks to digest the election results, and here’s the bottom line:

1. The percentage of Canuckistanis who got out to vote was still a dismal 61%, only 3 percentage points higher than the record low of 2008.

2. Jack Layton brought down two rival political alternatives to the Conservative Party of Canada; both the Liberals and the Bloc Québecois lost their leaders in the process, neither of whom were able to get elected in their own ostensibly safe ridings. In the process, the NDP created a viable national alternative to the CPC (consider that there are NDP ridings held in practically every major urban centre in Canada, with Montréal leading this Orange Crush.

3. The Tories have their much coveted majority, but it is a tenuous majority at best. Why? Simple – though there’s been much fear as to the prospect of a Tory majority, a quick look at the CPC’s power dynamics and structure reveals that the voter base is detached from the brains of the operation. In effect, the CPC is a party which is led by a Western Bloc (old Reform/Canadian Alliance territory out West) of social conservatives while the brains of the operation still lie somewhere between Bay Street and the 905 Area Code, ie – the ostensibly fiscal conservatives who were expertly terrified into voting Tory as a backlash against supposedly liberal NDP spending. In other words, Bob Rae. Should the Tories try to push forward the socially conservative agenda we all fear lies at the heart of their voter base, they may sufficiently alienate themselves from the more socially liberal Tories of Southern Ontario. And it is precisely these 905 voters who may just as easily vote Liberal the next time around. That being said, I doubt Harper will push through anything overly draconian on the Canadian public, lest they want a repeat of 1993 in five years time.

4. The NDP Caucus is one of the youngest and most diverse in Canadian history, and it’s about fucking time. I fully expect this Opposition to doggedly attack the CPC on every single piece of legislation put forward. Herein lies the strength of the NDP; I think the NDP will probably act far more in unison than the CPC, and that’s as a result of the leadership accepting diverse and differing opinions amongst the elected representatives. While the Tories attempt to stifle independent thought by tactlessly badgering the membership into towing the party line, the NDP does not. Which do you think will give way first? It’s difficult to become egomaniacal in an environment that thrives on difference of opinion and a pursuit of common ground. In other words, the NDP may be able to convince other parties to vote their way, and may be able to convince so-called ‘red tories’ on the other side of the aisle to pursue a more socially-responsible agenda. Again, this is an NDP strength; they are stronger for representing a broader potential electorate. We can’t get caught up in a fundamentally incorrect view that only the CPC will be pushing forward any new legislation; the NDP will do this as well.

5. The biggest issue is Québec, and Québec has spoken in a fashion as distinct as the culture represented therein – a massive push for a federalist, though intriguingly sovereignist (read – individual sovereignty), social democratic party. In other words, Harper’s attempt to unify two competing ‘thought-blocs’, the Western and Québecois, has failed miserably. This was key to Mulroney’s breakthrough in 1984 and has been part of Conservative thinking for some time, as both rural Québec and the rural West share similar socially Conservative views. Well, not any more, Québec has taken a major gamble, and it is unlikely Harper will do anything to provoke any sort of political reaction from a province and people now diametrically opposed to CPC ideology. Rather than make us weaker (by not having many Tory representatives), the CPC will likely have to pay special attention to the NDP as champion of the Québec vision for Canada.

In any event, just what I think moving forward, let me know what you think. As you can tell, I’m still pretty optimistic.