Australian story teller Jon Bennett returns to the Montreal Fringe with his new one-man show Story Whore. Looking at the titles of Bennett’s previous Fringe shows (Pretending Things are a Cock and Fire in The Meth Lab) is a quick way to prepare yourself for what you can expect this time ‘round. Some of its silly, some of its serious, thankfully all of it’s entertaining.

Bennett’s past shows have included stories of his ultra-religious father and meth dealing brother. Now that he’s run out of interesting stories to share of other people, what’s a story teller to do? Inspired by a Montreal (or likely whatever city you catch the show in) airport security guard who questions whether he knows what love is, Bennett guides the audience on an epic journey through the soaring highs and dramatic lows of his romantic relationships.

A quick look at Bennett’s website demonstrates that story telling is perhaps his life’s greatest passion. I missed his past Fringe shows, but it’s clear Bennett has worked hard at crafting an anecdote just right. Whether it’s deciding which exact moment to use voice inflections, or incorporating real and re-imagined items from his life, it’s all part of a goal to gain your sympathy and trust.

As an audience member you know you’re being manipulated. While the real names of people in the stories have been obviously changed, you can’t help but wonder how one would feel knowing Bennett was traveling around the world sharing personal details of your relationship. Or how much of these stories are exaggerated, or even true.

But Bennett is such a good performer you never cling to those feelings for long. It’s much more fun to just go along for the ride. Because seriously, when else in your life will you see a man in his thirties run around in a dress while recounting a sad childhood memory?

Story Whore plays until June 21st at Café Campus.

We’re nearing beer o’clock. More specifically, we’re nearing the most highly-anticipated 60 hour stretch of conspicuous beer consumption of the year. It’s called the Mondial de la Bière.

Unlike your average worknight, where access to Porto Alegre or Farnham microbrews can be tricky to say the least, a quick métro ride will suffice to sample over 500 types of malted bev between June 11th and 15th.

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Photo: © Olivier Bourget for the Mondial de la bière

570 is a big flashy number, kids, but here’s what I’m most excited about.

Over half those beers are making their Mondial premiere. Given the fact that each brewer generally wants to showcase as much product as possible every year, this is a big deal.

What does this mean? 269 beers that you’ve likely never tried before.

Where to start? From Noir et Blanc’s Abyss’ale to DDC’s rhubarb & grapefruit stout to a new 8% sparkling cider from McKeown, the newbie carte is vast. Some on the list have already premiered around town, such as Brutopia’s Dreadnought or McAuslan’s Double IPA. But that should not stop you from tasting a drab or two and learning more about how they make their beers–if only to make more informed decisions in the future.

Eat while you drink

While you may think that the only food you’re interested in is barley or wheat, you must recall that beer tasting goes smoother (and longer) if puncutated with just the right amount (and type) of nourishment

For the first time, I’m very happy to see the Mondial assuming some serious gastronomical duties. Whereas previous iterations have featured a smattering of stands with small nibbles, this year features 15 full-out food kiosques and an entire slate of tutorials on cooking with beer.

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Photo: © Olivier Bourget for the Mondial de la bière

So to that end—and possibly because, well, beer drinkers are such sturdy types—you’ll find stalls with deer smoked-meat (on panini) seal’s loins and even wild boar hamburgers. If yours is a fragile stomach, don’t worry, there’s plenty of traditional stuff like pretzels, sausages and meatballs.

How bout them apples?

500 varieties of malted bev can be rather overwhelming. But gluten doesn’t rule the day here. At the Mondial, “bière” is a loose term, and you’ll also find over 50 different ciders, meads, and other fruit-based options.

So save up your loonies this weekend ($1 gets you a drink ticket; most drinks cost 2-4 tickets). Next weeken will be a hoppin’. (Sorry)

Keep an eye out for our recap of the Mondial’s gastronomical offerings, as well as a Top 10 new alcoholic “découvertes”, right here in Food & Drunk!

Info

The Mondial de la bière runs from June 11-14 (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and June 15 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) at the Palais des congrès.

Got suggestions of beers we should test? Tweet us at @forgetthebox and we’ll “do our best” to drink even more!

 

Cover photo by Martin Dougliamas via Flickr (cropped)

NymphomaniacMoviePosterWhen the title and subject matter of Lars von Trier’s latest film were announced, they surely piqued the interest of fans of the controversial director’s work. Known for putting female characters through brutal torment on screen as well as explicit sexual imagery (epitomized by the self-clitoridectomy in his last film Antichrist), it seemed that nymphomania would be a natural fit for him.

While those familiar elements are definitely at play in Nyphomaniac, released a few weeks ago in two parts, von Trier also interweaves a wild and poetic story rich in metaphoric associations and well-timed interjections. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars as Joe, the titular self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, who narrates her life story to an old, charming bachelor named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) who takes her in after finding her badly beaten in an alley.

She starts off in her formative years, detailing some of the experiences that lead down the path of deviant sexual behavior, including a competition with a friend on a train ride to see who could have more sexual partners. Joe wins the bag of chocolate sweets they were competing for by convincing a married man to accept sloppy train car head, giving you a sense of von Trier’s darkly comic sense of humor that balances the film’s more depressing scenes. She falls in love, she loses love and as her number of sexual partners exponentially increases, her life spins out of control to the point where she no longer derives pleasure, or any feeling at all, from the act by which she defines her identity.

Von Trier alleviates some of the story’s tension with a pseudo-documentary style of quick cuts of vintage-looking stock images and videos of subjects relating to the narrative. It also helps that Seligman has an encyclopedic knowledge of a wide array of topics, and his non-judgemental nature aids in drawing gorgeous allusions, like three different sexual partners completing a person on different levels, much the way three notes come together to form a chord. Sexual desire and the hunting of someone to fulfill it is also compared fly fishing and the Fibonacci sequence, which also plays a role in film’s devastating climactic scene.

It wouldn’t be a movie about nymphomania without some graphic sexual content. There are a few instances of very realistic looking oral sex and one scene that includes penetration that was performed by pornographic body doubles and digitally spliced into the scene in post-production. There is also a fair amount of full front nudity, both male and female, including a highly entertaining nearly two minute long montage of penises of all shapes, sizes and colors.

With a film chock full of sexual content, von Trier goes out of his way to illustrate that Joe’s desires are often being enacted because of a compulsion. In many of the film’s earlier scenes as a younger girl, Joe’s vapid and downright bored facial expression is akin to a person picking dirt out from under their fingernails while riding on the metro. Even later in her story when she is no longer able to reach orgasm and seeks out sadomasochistic solutions to her problem, she does so by abandoning her young child at home alone. Her overwhelming desire to satisfy her urges was worth more to her than anything else. She may have gotten an orgasm worth losing her family over, but she never forgives herself for it.

After trying to fight her nature, she comes to embraces it, loudly and proudly at a sex addict support group meeting. She profoundly tears each member of the group to shred for their triggers and lack of impulse control and chooses to declare herself a nymphomaniac rather than a sex addict. Whether or not Joe finds salvation and redemption at the film’s close may be up for dispute, but ultimately von Trier gives us a very excellent study of a salacious character at her most honest and vulnerable.

 

Last March, I heard the film Making A Name, a documentary on Montreal’s graffiti scene, was screening at the FIFA Festival and got tickets right away. I was lucky because it was the only screening of the movie and it sold out quickly.

Patrick O’Connor, the man behind this amazing project, started photographing the Montreal graffiti scene back in 1995. In 2004, he got his first video camera and started documenting Montreal’s graffiti sub-culture using the contacts he got as a writer back in the 90s. I recently got the chance to meet up with Patrick and talk about his past projects and his new film Freights, which premiers tomorrow at FIFA.

 Why did you decide to create Making A Name?

I was planning on making a global documentary originally. I traveled in Europe, visited 15 cities in 10 countries, and got a lot of footage. Then Pablo Aravena came out with the documentary Next: A Primer On Urban Painting in 2005, which is probably one of the first global documentaries. After reflection and discussion with David Boots, a very good friend, I decided to do the project on a smaller scale and focus on Montreal.

Making a Name

How long did it take to make the movie? What was the biggest challenge?

It took almost ten years to make Making A Name. The action shots of the movie were mostly filmed between 2004 and 2008; some interviews were done around 2007-2008, but most of them were done between 2008 and 2012. The biggest challenge was to feel stuck in between some writers fighting for different reasons; some people gave me a bit of a hard time but it all worked out. Most of the writers knew me already so they trusted me.

How did you react when FIFA decided to screen your movie?

I did screenings of rough cuts in smaller venues such as bars for a few years before that, which although also had amazing turnouts overflowed with people, with getting into FIFA I felt it validated me as a filmmaker for the first time.

What did you think of the night of the premiere? The Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts was sold out with a very vocal crowd. 

I was totally expecting the audience to be loud. A lot of the writers smuggled some booze in and were more vocal than others. The street artists got booed by some writers, as some are hardcore purists and don’t like their work. It was a fun time.

Will Making A Name be released in theatres? Has it been in other festivals?

Making A Name along with bonus material will most likely be released on Youtube and limited DVD copies as well eventually. It did screen in Toronto in a theatre and that went well. I did the movie more for the experience, to learn and now I know more about making documentaries.

How would you define the Montreal graffiti scene? What has changed over the years?

There is a lot less graffiti in the metro, there used to be tags on every step of the escalators back in the days. There are a lot of new writers in the streets, but the game itself is the same. A bunch of the older writers are still around, some who still do illegal work while others mainly legal. There was a lot more political graffiti here around the time I started documenting it in 1995.

Do you have a favorite writer?

Scan is my favorite for his overall style and the amount of work he has done since he started around ‘96 in NDG alleyways. He is very consistent in his quality of letters and styles whether it’s a tag, a throw up, or a mural.

ICH-APER-graffiti

What is next?

Freights, my new documentary on graffiti on freight trains in North America, mostly Canada, as it helped save time and money. I traveled across Canada from Victoria to Halifax to meet and interview writers. A lot of the B role (of passing trains) shots were shot in Saint-Henri, as it’s one of the busiest train lines in this city with names from a wide range of provinces and states. It is a look in a specific subculture of graffiti.

Freights will be premiering on Friday, March 21st at 9 p.m, and the second screening is on Sunday, March 23rd at 6:30 p.m. Get your ticket on FIFA’s website.

Drawing, as a fundamental medium in both the arts and sciences, is a rich topic for exploration. Very few of us have gone our entire adult lives without being asked to draw out our ideas, stick figures and all. A Priori, an exhibition held at the VAV Gallery, is showcasing the works of 12 artists that have investigated the important relationship between drawing and communicating knowledge. The aim of the exhibition is to showcase work created during the Concordia University course “Drawing and Knowledge” taught by professor Patrick Traer.

The exhibition will also provide the public with a chance to meditate on what drawing means to them. Tremé Manning-Cere, one of the participating artists in the exhibition, explained their goals: “We hope that after visiting the exhibition the viewer has gained new knowledge, either on a topic they were unfamiliar with, or on how drawing as a medium, can hugely vary and has the power to portray great information, ideas, narratives and histories.”

Each artist has chosen a particular subject to communicate through the medium, ranging from gun laws to anatomy.  “Much like the diverse experiences and ideas that each artist is trying to document and express, their representations are fluid and each uniquely individualistic”, added Tremé. The exhibition gives equal space to both traditional forms of drawing and broader conceptualizations, such as using makeup to create marks on a face.

The place of the artist themselves in drawing is questioned in some of the pieces that have used mechanized objects, such as a mousetrap, to create marks. One of these mark-making machines will be running during the exhibition, giving the viewer a chance to experience the performance of drawing and mark making.

What place does drawing have in today’s image-saturated world? Make your own interpretations by visiting the exhibition February 3 – February 14. A Vernissage will be held February 4 from 6- 9pm, as well as a Finissage on the 14th from 6- 9pm, each with a different set of artists present to talk about their works. For more information, visit their Facebook event page.

 

 

Dear Goofy,

I have this guy friend who I met a few years ago. We don’t hang out a lot, but go out together maybe once or twice a month. He’s been in a relationship with the same woman for about 10 years and as far as I can tell has never cheated on her. So basically, he’s a good guy.

BUT

Often when we’re hanging out he makes a lot of comments about how good I look, calls me his girl, compliments my lips, my butt…you get the point. He basically verbally hits on me A LOT. And the other weird part of this is, although I’ve known this guys for a few years, I’ve never met his girlfriend. That’s weird, right?

So last time we hung out we had a bit (ok a lot) too much to drink and we kissed. It didn’t go any further than that and we both agreed that he should go home right away. Since then I’ve been answering his texts less and, while we’ve run into each other at parties from time to time, we haven’t hung out alone at all.

Dear Sister,
You are a victim of a friendzone relationship gone wrong. His reaction was predictable. He visibly is attracted to you and about to go 50 shades of fucking C-R-A-Z-Y for you. There are two reasons a guy friend with a girlfriend wants to hang out twice a month with a fine lady like you: either he’s trying to do the mambo jambo with you or he likes to cultivate the possibility of doing the mambo jambo with you. Why do you think he never introduced you to his girlfriend ?  Every sane man knows that it’s never a good idea to introduce his girlfriend to a hot lady friend. Face it,  you’re the one that got away and should stay away or at least not hang out alone with him or drink alone with him or do any activity alone with him to avoid further relapse.

Hip Hop Karaoke giveawayLove Hip Hop Karaoke? Want to win some free stuff? Well you’ve come to the right place! ForgetTheBox has teamed up with the fine folks of HHK Montreal to give you the chance to win a swag pack that includes two tickets to the next HHK event, a large, black, men’s WESC hoodie and a sweet pair of yellow WESC earbuds. To enter, tell us your favorite moment in hip hop history in the comments of our Facebook post and ‘Like’ HHK Montreal’s Facebook page. Our favorite answer wins. For details about the event you can check out the HHK website or go to the event page. Good luck!

Downtown Sucre, Bolivia, was like a ghost town during the national census.

The door to my hostel was shut, the streets were empty like the opening scene of 28 Days Later and I had no clean water or food. I would go to a country with a forced curfew.

I happened to be stuck in the Bolivia’s constitutional capital, Sucre, during its first national census in 11 years. If caught outside I could have faced a 1500 Bolivianosfine ($214 CAN) or even jail time.

So obviously I went outside to check it out.

I was caught by this platoon of Bolivian police during the census curfew. Photo by Niall Flynn.

300 Bolivians were detained by police for violating the curfew and 1927 arrests were made against people who were riding in vehicles without a permit. Fortunately for me, I was simply told by the platoon of police to head back to my hostel.

On Wednesday night, the Bolivian government called the census a “success,” despite reports of a lack of ballots, conflicts over boundaries, the disorientation of the canvassers and the forced return of residents to their communities. Some people with holiday homes argued with the government of their inability to be in two residences at once. Most spectacularly, pollsters in the northern province of Beni were kidnapped over boundary disputes.

Nevertheless, the results of the estimated $50 million census will be extremely crucial to Bolivia’s political and economic future. It will help determine the population (estimated at 11 million), what languages are still spoken, living conditions, education, health status, income, and basic/unmet needs; all important statistics for designing public policies.

At the top of the list will be to pull Bolivia out of it’s infamous reputation as South America’s poorest country – something not dissimilar to other resource-rich countries that suffer from what is often dubbed as “the resource curse.”

Unlike in Canada or the United States, Bolivia has no effective postal system to distribute census forms. Instead, 35 000 policemen and 200 000 hired canvassers had to scale the country’s sky-scraping mountains, dense tropical forests and desert-like plains personally asking every one of the estimated 11 million citizens about their language, material possessions, level of education, household details etc. Even tourists and foreigners were asked one-by-one to fill out the questionnaire from their hostel or temporary residence without being asked to present their passports.

Left off the questionnaire was the option to define oneself as a “mestizo” or mixed race. Deciding on one could be particularly difficult for the estimated 40 ethnic groups listed on the census.

“This would be like dividing Bolivia,” said the country’s charismatic indigenous leader Evo Morales.

Evo Morales’ palace overlooks the massive metropolis that is La Paz.

Since coming into power in 2005, Morales has made sweeping changes to the political climate in Bolivia. A self-proclaimed socialist, the former union leader for a coca-growers union has advocated strongly for indigenous rights and political autonomy. He has re-initiated the teaching of indigenous languages in schools and attempted to limit the transition towards English.

When speaking with people around La Paz, the de-facto capital, I have been told that Bolivians are more confident in calling themselves indigenous now that one of their own is in power – especially among those of Aymara and Quechua decent who are Morales’ strongest supporters.

An indigenous woman sells traditional native clothing mostly to tourists outside the indigenous museum in Sucre.

Internationally, Morales is a leader considered to be part of a political leftwards shift in South America over the past decade – akin with the governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and Peru. He is also quite hostile towards the US “imperialists” and strongly opposed to their anti-narcotics policies.

However, I have also been told that Morales’ support has begun to shift since being re-elected decisively with 64% of the vote in 2009. His unsuccessful bid to cut government fuel subsidies caused protests and forced him to withdraw from the plan in 2010. Also, his eccentric personality and sometimes unfiltered public speaking has gotten the charismatic leader into hot water. At the 2010 World Summit on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Morales made a speech that implied that eating chicken causes men to go gay. And just this year, Morales asked American actor Sean Penn to be his international ambassador on the decriminalization of coca leaves. No lie.

Morales is up for re-election in 2014, but only if he calls a referendum according to the Leader of the Opposition party Juan del Granado – Article 168 stipulates that a leader may only rule for one successful term. However, Morales argues that his first term was incomplete and thus is entitled to one more term. Time will tell. Until then, there still is two years of Morales’ rule, which should be enough to draft new policies due to the results of the census.

“The Queen” is the answer to “who’s that on my $20 bill?” More people might feel the urge to ask the question now that the Queen’s portrait is no longer blending into the background. Yes, Queen of England is the first thing you notice when you hold the new bill in your hand, and I’m sure most Canadians know her, but I would imagine more foreigners and immigrants will start to ask why?

Alexander the Great was one of the first leaders who came to the conclusion that having the leader’s portrait on money will establish power and more importantly remind the people who’s in charge. Indeed a human figure is a very compelling image, and one would be hard pressed to forget a face instantly. Before portraits on money, symbols were used to show the hierarchy of power in a territory, but it wasn’t very effective. People need to associate a face with power and that is why Christianity is by far the most successful religion in the world. “Christ, son of God, our lord and saviour” is not just a name; he is a symbol as well as a human figure, and there lies the most important key to the religion’s attraction for the masses.

Back to the Queen and her portrait on our $20 bill, or as the English call it a “Score”. I am not a royalist mostly because I don’t see myself beneath anyone because of family blood or the amount of money they might have inherited. In short, apart from the minute chance of considering the poet laureate position if the day comes, I have no connection with the Queen; I just happen to see her portrait repeatedly in art and on my money.

I will come to the conspiracy theories a little later, but for now let’s just say that the Queen has been well represented in art from all around the world. In fact a gallery has been dedicated to portraits of Her Royal Highness inside her palace, and I want to mention a few that might tweak your interest.

The Queen was a perfect subject for Andy Warhol who endlessly searched for glitz and glamour. I mean if Andy was looking for celebrity, who could have competed with the ever rich and famous Elizabeth II? He sprinkled crushed glass onto her portraits so they would sparkle like diamonds, hence the name diamond-dusted Queens. Four of Warhol’s portraits were acquired by the Royal Collection to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Now to the heavyweight of the art world, Mr Lucian Freud who depicted her in one of the best portraits I’ve seen. Freud did not sugar coat his subject with fancy painting tricks, and in no way tried to enhance her features. In fact the Queen looks displeased and showing her age, which is to be expected as Freud was notorious for making his subjects sit for hours on end. There is nothing grand about the painting; even the size is very small. The critics and the press had a field day with Freud, and the torrents of verbiage that came out just goes to show how unashamedly stupid art critics can be.

Next is the six feet portrait done by the Canadian artist Phil Richards who has depicted the Queen with admiration one expect a schoolboy to have toward his favourite pinup actress posing in front of a Ferrari half naked. Her royal highness looks stately draped in saintly white, and confusingly very much in her prime. It has no links with the reality. It has been painted to be hung in the Royal Palace so people can ignore it as yet another tribute to money and power as they walk by.   

I want to get back to my not so crazy answer as to why the Queen’s portrait has become more prominent on our $20 bill. Let me adjust my aluminium hat, take a sip from my god awful bottle of intoxicant and here we go. The scientist have predicted if emissions go on as they are, we are facing a rise in temperature of about 5 degrees by 2100, and this means that Canada will become the next destination for climate change refugees. The good old United Kingdom is in a very real danger of sinking, and if I were the royal family I would want to find a more appropriate dwelling somewhere that would be better accommodating with pleasant weather, oh I don’t know like Canada. Why look! They already have our portraits on their money. Well, God save the Queen and future King!

We’ve all been there. Talking to someone of the opposite sex at a bar or a house party, feeling like we’re the lamest person at the event. Just trying to come up with something to say that will put us a notch or two above the others. There’s a moment when we realize we have to come up with something. Something that will impress and bedazzle. It’s not our proudest moment, but it’s the necessary moment where we step up and tell a lie.

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. It’s the cloying moment when we pretend we understand and agree with the opinion of our recent object of affection. And it can often be embarrassing. Personally, I’ve made some bold claims in this scenario. Some of which have worked out for me, and some haven’t. I’ve ended up reading the entire Harry Potter series and watching the entirety of Twin Peaks because girls have mentioned they were fans. Those are examples of things that have worked out for me in a broader sense, even if things didn’twork out with the ladies involved. But things don’t often turn out so lucky. There have been more than a few occasions that I’m not proud of. Here are some examples:

Astrology. I’ve never really given two lumps about the date on which I was born, and what effect Jupiter’s alignment had on it. Until a cute girl I worked with told me that her Gemini sign and my Pisces sign were compatible. Gemini are the twins, she said, and Pisces are two fish. So they jive together. That’s all I needed to hear. I spent the next two weeks reading up on moon phases and which planet was in which house, and there was probably something about Saturn’s rings or some other bullshit. The point is that pretty soon I was a regular Johannes Kepler, and throwing astrology references around in my conversations at work whenever she was around. “Laura’s being such a bitch today,” she would say. “Oh, well, you know how Sagittariuses are when Venus is in the 9th phase of adherence.” I think things were progressing rather well, actually, but then her boyfriend got released from prison, and I really had to dial it back.

Pretending to be an architect. This is a move ripped straight out of the George Costanza playbook, I know. But I did use it, and it did work. For a few minutes, at least. It was at an apartment party, and there was a condo building under construction across the street. I was talking to a lady, and she mentioned what an interesting design the building across the way had. Naturally, I said I had helped design it. I didn’t get greedy and claim to be the sole genius behind it, but played it like I was part of a team of geniuses. That made it more believable. She was just drunk enough, or just dumb enough (or a little of both) to believe me. Until a mutual friend interrupted and outed me as a non-architect. What a dick. I mean, I got like 90% in my high school drafting class, so I totally could’ve kept this one going for a while.

Pretending the Kids in the Hall aren’t funny. This one is really hard for me to admit, but I really did it one time. It wasn’t, like, an opening line or anything, but I’d gone on a couple dates with a girl, and at one point this happened to come up, and she was staunchly anti-Kids in the Hall. I don’t know exactly why I wanted to continue pursuing a relationship with this woman after a revelation like this, perhaps because she had a vagina and was not completely repelled by the idea of spending time with me. So I agreed with her. I felt dirty the whole time, but I sat there and complied with her assessment of them being hacks who were just pushing the boundaries of bad taste. Clearly this pairing didn’t last long. I think probably it went sour right around the first time I made a cancer joke.

Learning to play a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. I don’t consider myself a musician. I’m not in a band, and I don’t really play any instrument terribly well, but I can do a decent job on the guitar if I apply myself. And, when a pretty girl I knew mentioned that some Red Hot Chili Peppers song was her favourite song, what was I going to do, not learn how to play it? Well, yes, that would have been the proper thing, but I was young and in love. So I took it upon myself to learn, and, if I may say so, I did a pretty fair job of it, too. When it came time to display my newfound skill and impress this girl of my dreams, we were at a party and there happened to be an acoustic guitar sitting there, right in the open, just waiting to be used to ply a young woman’s heart and/or panties. Logic, however, took hold of me, and I passed on the opportunity. Because only real assholes pick up the guitar at a party. And only assholes of a truly magnificent calibre pick up a guitar at a party to play a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. And, finally:

Writing this article. How ‘bout it, ladies? I’m laying myself bare here. That’s got to be worth something. Message me!

Ethan Cox is the Quebec correspondent for Rabble.ca where this article originally appeared

Montreal has a new mayor tonight, after a squeaker of a vote by city council which saw Union Montreal’s jilted lover, and now ‘independent” councillor, Michael Applebaum edge Union candidate Richard Deschamps by a razor thin margin of 31-29, with three spoiled ballots.

Before you pop the champagne however, keep in mind that Applebaum could hardly be less independent of the Union Montreal morass which has dragged our city into the depths of corruption and scandal.

A city councillor since 1994, Applebaum has been borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce since the post was created in 2002, following Union’s election. A Tremblay loyalist of the first order, who stood at the former Mayor’s side as he announced his resignation, Applebaum has served as chairperson of the city’s all powerful Executive Committee, and right hand man to Tremblay, since April of 2011.

He now promises to clean up corruption and open up the secretive Executive Committee, despite having been an outspoken opponent of transparency on that committee until his recent conversion on the road to Damascus.

In fact, if he hadn’t been spurned by his old party, he would likely be taking his seat tonight as Mayor wearing the rainbow colours of Union Montreal. He first ran for the Union nomination to replace Tremblay, losing by a vote of 27-22 in favour of Deschamps, with eight votes going to former Plateau borough Mayor Helen Fotopulos.

Following that defeat, he resigned as Chair of the Executive Committee, before leaving Union this week to sit as an independent, along with nine of his colleagues, in a move which inexorably brings to mind images of rats and sinking ships.

Those resignations stripped Union of its majority on city council, and prompted a feverish week of promises and horse-trading, as both Applebaum and Deschamps promised to name opposition councillors to the Executive and lower a proposed tax hike from 3.3% to 2.2%, demands Projet and Vision had made as preconditions for their support.

Several reports emerged of both candidates promising support for pet projects of swing councillors as they feverishly worked their colleagues. Demonstrating the level of bitterness within Union in the wake of Applebaum’s move, one former colleague told the Montreal Gazette that Appleabaum was a “power-hungry demagogue” who had essentially bribed fellow councillors to secure his election. In the end, Applebaum came out ahead and will now serve out the remaining year of the term Tremblay was elected to in 2009.

If there were any out there hoping for Union to remain a political party and contest the elections next November, those hopes appear to have been dashed with some degree of finality. While Deschamps promised to “try” to work with Applebaum, and committed to serving out his term as city councillor, he was noncommittal about whether he would do so under the colours of Union, and indicated that he and his remaining colleagues would be meeting in the coming days to determine what to do with the party.

Whether it is mercifully put down, or dies a slow death of attrition as more and more councillors bolt in hopes of distancing themselves from this mess, it is clear that for Union Montreal, the end is nigh.

Meanwhile, much was made in the anglophone media of the fact that Applebaum is the first Anglophone Mayor this city has seen in a hundred years. A facetious twitter hashtag created by CJAD radio’s Dan Delmar, #AngloJewMayor, drew a great deal of attention on Thursday by poking fun at stereotypes.

Ultimately, however much Applebaum promises to reverse the course he helped to set over the past number of years, and pledges his independence and non-partisanship, little has really changed.

The absurdly secretive Executive Committee appears set to be dragged out of the shadows, and that’s a good thing, but it’s still the same gang running the city, even if they’ve reconfigured themselves into some new formations. Token representation on the Executive for Vision and Projet will help with transparency, but they will form a minority on that body, as they do in council.

Real change will come next November, when for the first time in over ten years our city will not be led by Union or Tremblay.

For my money, the race at that time will be between Liberal MP Denis Coderre and Richard Bergeron’s Projet Montreal, with Louise Harel’s Vision unlikely to have enough appeal in the Western half of the city to take the mayoralty. Vision will bleed to both Coderre and Bergeron, and are themselves tainted by scandal.

Although Coderre is still the MP for the Northern Montreal riding of Bourassa, and intends to remain in that position until at least February, he already has a campaign team assembled and is actively recruiting candidates and laying the groundwork for a run.

However my sources tell me that Coderre’s reputation for organizational strength may be overblown.

A source who was working with his team until recently expressed frustration at what they described as disorganization and the glacial pace of organization. According to the source, Coderre and Projet have gone head to head in an attempt to recruit at least one star candidate recently, with Projet winning out largely because the candidate wasn’t impressed with Coderre’s organization.

Which reveals the largest problem Coderre may have. While parties like Projet and Vision have strong ground organizations, built over years, Coderre obviously does not. Union has the best machine of any municipal party, and are a natural partner for Coderre, but they’re so toxic that not only would Coderre not consider running with them, he’ll have to be cautious about how many of their key organizers he takes on, lest he be perceived as the new iteration of Union.

Nevertheless, Coderre will likely have the support of the vaunted provincial Liberal machine, which saved former Premier Jean Charest from a catastrophic loss in September, and coupled with a weak federal Liberal machine and some of the remnants of Union he should be able to build a formidable campaign.

But he better get it into gear, because so far he’s being outmaneuvered by Projet, and that only figures to get worse now that Raymond Guardia has signed on to direct Projet’s campaign.

Guardia (who is, full disclosure, a good friend of mine) was the architect of the Orange Wave, and in fact of every electoral victory the NDP has ever won in Quebec, dating back to Phil Edmundston’s by-election victory in 1990. Cast aside by Mulcair’s NDP after the leadership race, during which he directed Brian Topp’s failed campaign, he was perhaps the top political free agent in the province, and it’s quite a coup for Projet to have secured his services.

Whatever happens, there is now more uncertainty about who will form the next municipal government than there has been in a decade, and that’s a good thing.

Follow @EthanCoxMTL on twitter for the latest on all things Quebec, and social movement related.

Images rabble.ca, Montreal Gazette

It is the making of a great tragic story. The son of a wealthy industrialist uses his privilege and his father’s vast amounts of capital to create an even larger corporate empire. He lives lavishly, jet setting around the world, and becomes a media mogul. Then in a twist of fate he is sent to jail. He then somehow emerges a victim of injustice. Television shows around the world air his grievances. The problem isn’t of his guilt although he might as well be guilty. The tragedy isn’t his circumstance. When millions of poor African Americans lay in prison in the U.S, tens of thousands of poor First Nations in Canada, a rich white male becomes the poster boy for a broken justice system.

Trained at the finest schools in Canada, never knowing hunger or insecurity, Black could do very little to jeopardize his future successes. His access to capital and his Upper Canada College, white male Tory pedigree gave him a fast track to the upper echelons of society. He never knew anything else, only entitlement and extravagance.

His politics followed his money and status. He would guide his media empire to support Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic as they ordered austerity on government services; sentencing millions to crushing poverty while increasing criminal sentences for poverty related offenses. He would even attack his own lower middle class workers, ripping away their relatively meager pension surpluses and putting them in his pocket.

In our Anglo-Atlantic context, he is a tragic figure. His success and power, unscathed and unchallenged by what little justice there is, represents the great inequality our society is built upon. He is not crippled by unpardoned criminal convictions like 3 million Canadians who, leaving jail poor, can also count on not getting a good job. The contrast between the poor millions of people; fathers, sons, daughters and mothers jailed for stealing to survive with their unheard stories of suffering, hardship, resistance and resilience, and Conrad Black parading on international news networks is sickening. Black represents everything wrong with society.

And it must be admired. It cannot be fathomed how someone who interacted so intimately with poverty could emerge so unchanged and so uncritical. It is mind boggling while he speaks about court injustice he can simply ignore inadequate social services and the cruelty of minimum sentences and diminished pardons. His exuberant resuscitation as a celluloid hero proves nothing of him as it does to our own decay.

Everyone has fears. It’s natural. Some people have more fears than others, but everyone’s got them. I know I do, I can admit that. Gone are the days when men had to maintain the illusion that they aren’t afraid of anything, when fearlessness was a requisite for manliness. In today’s semi-enlightened world, admitting you are afraid of something is one facet of the well-rounded person, and I daresay showing your sensitive and vulnerable side could even be attractive to potential partners. With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to discuss my biggest fears, which I assure you are all totally normal.

First off, I know it’s silly, but I’m terribly afraid of moths. It’s ridiculous, but I can’t help it. I’m unable to cope with a moth in the house, and can hardly even bring myself to get near enough to one to kill it. On one occasion I spent a wild-eyed 30 minutes dashing about my apartment, brandishing a golf club trying to kill one. I have forgone using the bathroom for hours to keep the door shut tight until a roommate could get home and kill them. I have considered just completely abandoning homes and belongings and starting a new life somewhere else because there was a really big moth in my living room. I know they’re harmless and there is nothing they can do to me, but they just freak me out. They’re like insect mice, with wings.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad. This is actually feels pretty good. Let’s do another one.

Sharks. Okay, this one’s not too difficult to figure out. Sharks are scary. Like, a big shark could eat you. That’s a pretty valid reason to be scared of something. But it’s not even that which makes me afraid of them. It’s that they’re big and they’re in the water. Something about that really bothers me. I think it’s that I’m at their mercy because I’m totally out of my element in the water. I guess I could modify this fear from sharks to just any big water dwelling creature. Whales, really big fish, giant squids, aqua-sasquatch. If I fell out of a boat and there was a huge humpback whale right there in the water with me, I would probably faint and void my bowels right then and there, which could give the whale pink eye, and that would just make it mad.

What else? Well, I’m afraid that people are constantly judging me, and I’m terrified of any sort of meaningful emotional intimacy. I’m afraid I’ll die alone. I guess probably one of my hugest fears would be a shark that wants to get to know me and form a lasting and substantial relationship with me. Though, at least I wouldn’t be alone when I died, because it would likely be the one killing me.

There are a few more. Like being run over really slowly by a steamroller, miniature cutlery, hospitals, finding out someone I care about is a Juggalo, déjà vu, urinating in a trough with other guys around, developing a sudden lactose intolerance, that something will eat me while I sleep, accidentally doing drugs, already furnished apartments, cauliflower, playing sports, sleeping in a bed that isn’t my own, answering the phone, large squirrels, women, a helicopter crashing on top of me, accidental plagiarism, that I’ll suddenly forget how to drive while I’m driving, that my cat will step on my keyboard and somehow send everyone I know my browser history, that I’ll come home one day and someone will be living in my apartment and all their stuff is there and they’ve been living there for the last five years, choosing from a menu, eating poisonous berries,
accidentally entering a marathon, and generally just leaving my apartment altogether.

Wow, this has been a cathartic process, being so open about all of my fears. I would urge that you all give it a try. Don’t be ashamed to be afraid of something. Own it. It can give you a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and power. Mind you, not enough power to actually go out and face your fears—that is something which should be avoided at all costs. There is a reason you fear these things: they will harm you. I feel like after addressing all of these fears I can go out and face the day with confidence and happiness! Which is kind of unfortunate, because I’m intensely afraid of allowing myself to be happy.

Last friday, Hello Darlin’ Productions presented the launch of The Custom Outfit’s first full length album at the Mainline Theatre on St. Laurent. The Mainline Theatre is a lovely black-box theater venue that lends itself well to intimate shows and events. The lobby is decorated with many a Fringe Festival poster.

I arrived early and had the opportunity to sit down with The Custom Outfit and chat with them before the show. The Custom Outfit is Russell Simco (Fiddle), Derek Harrison (Mandolin, Vox), Kevin Moquin (Guitar, Steel), Dave Dickson (Upright Bass), and Derek Williams (Vox, Guitar).

The name for the band comes from the tradition in Chicago of calling gangs Outfits and so, Derek W. explained, since the group has changed in membership in the vein of customizing sound, The Custom Outfit was thus dubbed. They cite amongst their influences rockabilly, hillbilly, bluegrass and the likes of Steve Earls, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, The Pogues and east coast sounding tunes. Watching them perform was a real treat and these guys pack a talented punch: Kevin Moquin delivers some sweet guitar skills evoking old time rock, Russell “Rusty”’s performance has a touch of jubilance befitting of the fiddle, Derek W.’s suspenders and “this is how it is” vocals deliver just the right amount of grit. Derek H’s tie and mandolin skills are quite colorful, whilst Dave’s black upright bass and smooth rhythms create an air of mystery.

During the show, they played most songs from their debut album “The Dark Side of Town”. Amongst them my favorites were “Goodbye to the Moonshine”, “Bad Chemicals”, and “Hookers and Thieves.” When asked if this album has a theme, Derek W. explained that it was “informed by drinking” and the track titles corroborate this. In terms of getting a good brew (for inspiration), The Custom Outfit name Honey Martins, Barfly and Grumpy’s as their go-to drinking holes. When it comes to rockin’, they name Quais des Brumes, Divan Orange, Grumpy’s and Casa Del Popolo amongst their favorite venues in Montreal.

But they’ve played beyond the Island having recently toured Europe for twenty one days, mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands. During this tour, they played shows at a couple of prisons – a venue one rarely thinks about in terms of touring stops. When asked what the experience was like, Russell wittingly answered: “It’s really a captive audience.” More seriously, Derek W. added that playing shows for prisoners is a strange experience and hard to know what to expect. Dave explained that there was a notable difference between the audiences at maximum security prisons and minimum security prisons: “The minimum security prisoners were acting like punks, they didn’t want to be there. The maximum security prison was just off the wall and every one of those guys thanked us and wished us good luck. That was a good feeling.” Most recently, The Custom Outfit played a show in New York, barely missing Hurricane Sandy, at Trash Bar in Brooklyn: “It was a complete hole, it was great,” said Dave.

Along with being very stylish, these guys were overall a wonderful treat for ears that had longed for some whiskey soaked rockabilly. However, the picture of this lovely evening would not be complete without mentioning the opening act: Sarah Jane Scouten and Her Brilliant String Band. The Custom Outift had personally asked Sarah Jane to open their show and it was a very wise decision indeed. Having just come back from a tour, Sarah Jane was all smiles and stories and her and Her Brilliant String Bad (Sarah Frank on fiddle and vox, Mathieu Lacombe on double bass, and Luke Fraser on mandolin) delivered some fun charming southern vibes. Amongst the most noteworthy were the tunes “Ballad of a Southern Midwife”, “Poverty Wind”, and “My Country”. Hearing these melodies live was a warm delight on a cold fall evening.

*Photos by Pascale Yensen

Obama won, hooray! Four more years of the same. No seriously. Nothing in American political structure changed this week. The Senate stayed with the Democrats; Republicans kept the House of Representatives and Obama stayed at the top of the food chain presiding over an unfriendly, uncooperative system thanks to the conservatives who have vowed to stop every single bill he puts forward.

So we are back to where we started four years ago, but not as hopeful and exhilarated because let’s face it, Obama didn’t do an extraordinary job as President. Soldiers are still dying overseas; the economy is predicted to fall into another recession; unemployment hasn’t bounced back; Guantanamo Bay is still operating; the Health System hasn’t been reformed and it is still run by the insurance companies; and al-Qaeda seems to be getting stronger even without bin Laden.

In short, all the promises of “hope” and “change” have now turned into “we can still turn it around together” with a hint of uncertainty. Nevertheless most Americans agreed that Obama is better than Mitt Romney and they are allowing him another four years in the office. One couldn’t help being reminded of all the excitement and euphoric celebrations that occurred this same time four years ago. Most countries breathed a sigh of relief at the re-election of President Obama, well apart from Israel and Pakistan.

The fact is that Obama has a quality to him that allows people to relax and not think about packing and moving to a bomb shelter like they felt with George Bush. Obama has managed to inspire many artists with his honest to goodness, intellectual talk, liberal views, and family man approach. Painters, photographers, illustrators and sculptors from all over the world have depicted him in a favorable light. He has an aura of sophistication that comes naturally to him and which makes him an ideal candidate for art.

Legendary artist and illustrator Shepard Fairey who started that whole Obey label scene, made Obama into art accessible to the masses. His “Hope Poster” could be seen everywhere four years ago, on T-shirts, hats, mugs, mouse pads, bags, and I even saw people getting it as a tattoo. The image became so iconic and popular that the Obama Campaign gave direct permission for distribution of it through various platforms. The mixed-media painting done later by Fairey was acquired in 2009 by Smithsonian Institution for its National Portrait Gallery.

The image was a genius take on the President and brought fame to Fairey who now sells pieces for thousands of dollars, and has gone on to sign contracts with fashion houses and superstores who are looking to cash in just by putting his name on their products. The “Hope Poster” however brought a bittersweet ending for the artist, as it turned out the image which was used had been taken by the freelance photographer Mannie Garcia and belonged to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press took Fairey to court for illegally using a copyrighted image and actually won this September. The court has found the artist guilty and has sentenced him to two years of probation and 300 hours of community service. The AP’s CEO and President Gary Pruitt commented: “After spending a great amount of time, energy and legal effort, all of us at the Associated Press are glad this matter is finally behind us. We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.”

Another artist who deserves a mention here is the British painter Lizzy Watson whose portrait of Obama manages to convey a truly contemporary feel to the art of portraiture. Lizzy Watson studied at the University of East Anglia and is one the college’s most versatile artists. Her Obama brings a contemplative expression to the features of the President, making him complicated and likable at the same time. Her method of drip painting manages to open up the image and make it more inviting to the viewer. It is a unique modern take on a traditional genre.

I couldn’t end this article without adding my own take on the great man, and as I work mainly with digital images, I have here presented a lighthearted work which I think paints the President as a cool character who can also indulge in some fun: “Obama Bill”.

Image courtesy of Marlo Turner Ritchie

Ethan Cox is the Quebec correspondent for Rabble.ca where this article originally appeared

He went out as he has always been. Cowardly, awash in self pity, and oblivious to all but that which affects him personally.

In a rare 7PM news conference (timed to miss the supper hour newscasts, naturally), Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay announced his resignation.

“I am committing my last act of love for Montreal. After twenty five years of service to this community I am leaving public life”.

In his parting words to the city, Tremblay denied any and all responsibility. He proclaimed his innocence and cast himself as a victim, saying that one day history would show him to have been a crusader against corruption.

“I have always promoted the values of honesty, integrity and trust”, he said. But he was let down by his subordinates. He said that he was never aware of anything more than rumours prior to 2009, and decided that he should run again, because he was the best person to clean up the mess.

He flatly and emphatically denied the accusation made by former party organizer Martin Dumont at the Charbonneau Commission that he was aware of double bookkeeping and irregularities in the funding of Union Montreal, his political party.

I could go on, but I imagine you get the idea. It was a weepy, self-pitying performance by a man clinging to a reputation which only he seems not to realize is beyond repair.

Where he had an opportunity to come clean, and shine a light on the mess he ruled over for eleven years, he chose instead to continue to insult our collective intelligence.

If the Mayor is to be believed, then the only logical conclusion is that he is a complete and utter ignoramus. How else could he have been so completely oblivious to what was happening right under his nose?

But I don’t believe he’s an ignoramus. I think he’s a crook, and he got caught. But rather than fess up, even as he resigns in disgrace, he would rather play on the sympathies of the twelve Montrealers who still believe a word he says.

Like an amethyst, Tremblay wants us to believe that while he might be ugly and dark looking on the outside, on the inside he is a beautiful gem. Pull the other one Gerald.

Still, we should be happy tonight. We got rid of one crook. That’s cause enough for celebration. Sadly, his resignation came after the November 3 deadline before which it would have triggered an early election under provincial law. So now we have to wait until next November’s election to throw his gang of corrupt Union Montreal sleazeballs out.

In the meantime, a member of his party will be selected to replace him, and we’ll have the same gang of crooks running the city for the next year.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this time next year, we must get rid of the old parties at City Hall. Both Union and Vision are up to their necks in this mess, and utterly incapable of cleaning it up.

In a scrum after Tremblay’s resignation, Richard Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montreal, said “Tremblay’s era is closed… we need to rebuild the city”.

I agree. And for my money Projet, who were endorsed by Justice John Gomery as the only uncorrupted choice in the 2009 election, are the best bet to make the wholesale changes which are required, rather than just slapping on a fresh coat of paint and carrying on with business as usual.

If we don’t make the drastic and systemic changes this crisis requires, then we must be ready to accept some of the blame for our sad state of affairs.