Since the beginning of our collective Covid-19 nightmare, so many industries have struggled to stay afloat, perhaps none more than live theatre. After all, a big part of what makes taking in a show so special is the communal aspect of the experience.
There’s something therapeutic about sitting down with a bunch of strangers, listening to an overture and instantly being transported. How transported can one possibly feel, though, when just being in a crowd is cause for alarm?
Pandemics and live events simply do not mix. Thankfully, we seem to be easing our way out of the worst of it (touch wood), and as restrictions lift, Montrealers are slowly start trying to resume normal activities.
Are we really ready, then, to return to theatres? To sit amongst one another for over two hours and forget our problems? And crucially, are there any theatrical characters even capable of both reassuring and dazzling us?
Apparently, Jellicles can and Jellicles do. That’s right kiddies: CATS, the fourth longest-running musical in Broadway history is on tour and in Montreal this week, heralding a return to our habit of regularly playing host to popular Broadway shows.
Remember when Come From Away stopped by in 2019? Or The Book or Mormon in 2017? Remember how nice it was when we could expect the latest hit show from the Great White Way to swing by for a visit? Well, like a friendly tabby rubbing its nose against your elbow, this classic is back to remind us everything will be alright, and frankly, it’s not a moment too soon.
On the one hand, CATS is musical theatre comfort food in more ways than one. The show has a playful and varied score by none other than Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, with arguably one of the best musical theatre ballads ever as its crown jewel. It is also, of course, bursting at the seams with inventive choreography.
For this tour, the work of the late, great Gillian Lynne has been reimagined by Andy Blankenbuehler, meaning those who have seen CATS before can look forward to some slightly different moves this time around. There’s just something innately fun about watching dancers transform into felines right before your eyes, using little more than unitards, legwarmers, makeup and artistic expression.
For many, CATS has been a gateway drug to the magic of theatre and power of dance, so those experiencing it for the first time are sure to come away inspired. The show has a free-flowing narrative structure, having been based on the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and as such demands little more from those in attendance than a willingness to surrender to its unique tone. Bottom line, audiences of all ages tend to get a kick out of this one.
On the other hand, though, there can be no denying that the public’s love for the material has been seriously tested by the lingering stench of the 2019 film adaptation. It’s difficult to think of a recent movie musical more universally loathed by the masses (sorry, Dear Evan Hansen).
Instead of taking its cues from the stylized costume designs that first took the world by storm in 1981, CATS the movie tried to go literal and use visual effects to transform the likes of Dame Judi Dench, James Corden, Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson into bizarre human/animal hybrid creatures. The end results were both laughable and disturbing.
The picture struggled to make its release date and then, after being rightly criticized for having shoddy CGI, sent out a modified cut with corrections days later. It was truly an unprecedented fiasco, and yet, it must still be said that director Tom Hooper was fighting a losing battle from the get-go.
CATS is one of those “out-there” concepts whose success depends entirely on the sensation of witnessing it live. People acting like cats up on a screen is not the same as people acting like cats around you in a theatre.
The suspension of disbelief is far greater when you know you’re being told a story in person and can feel the energy it creates. It also helps that at least in person, there can be no terrifying CGI blunders to take you out of the moment.
So all things considered, this tour is really serving two purposes. It will hopefully erase the flop film adaptation from our collective consciousness by reminding us what CATS is really all about, while also inviting us to return to our seats, so we can remember just how healing and joyful live theatre can be.
And it’s been a long time coming, considering this show was originally slated to entertain Montrealers in March 2020, only to be rescheduled for August 2020 and then delayed for an additional 18 months.
It’s a safe bet the energy from the audiences this week will rival that of the performers on stage, and why shouldn’t it? We’re overdue for some communal celebrating. Whatever new challenges may come in the weeks or months ahead, it’s definitely high time for the memory of brighter days to live again.
For the 550 some-odd people who made their way downtown to Hotel Bonaventure last Sunday, there was no place they would rather be. Montreal’s first Cat Expo in here, and with special guest television star Jackson “Cat Daddy” Galaxy in town, the excitement is palpable.
The Cat Expo is the first of its kind in Montreal. Sponsored by Mondou and presented by Humane Canada and the Montreal SPCA, the unique exhibition brings together local and international humanitarian organizations, artists and vendors. Guaranteeing an evening of educational and entertaining activities, freebies and talks, the Cat Expo has it all. From adorable, adoptable kitties to a DIY catnip station, the Cat Expo has all of our cat needs covered.
I wish I had a cat, I really do, but a university lifestyle and two hesitant roommates means I may have to wait awhile. But I’m excited nonetheless – I’ve grown up with cats my whole life and love to cuddle with my childhood BFFS (best feline friends) whenever I stop by mom’s house for dinner and laundry. The Cat Expo marks an important day for me, too – I may have to pull myself back from making an impulsive decision (i.e.; rehoming one of the kittens the SPCA is bringing for adopting), but, alas. The things we do for passion.
I make my way into the exposition hall just as the vendors are preparing for the influx of people. Big, silver balloons at the back of the hall spell out the words “MEOW” and “CAT EXPO”. A charicature artist – who draws humans with cat features – sets up her station near the stage, where the events special guest is to perform later on in the evening. After scouting the room, I sit down to speak with Daniel Filion, founder of Educhateur (or Cateducator in English).
From peeing outside the litter box to excess nightly meowing, Educhateur is a local company that provides solutions for problems in cat behaviour. With a team of over 15 people at its Montreal location, the organization provides interventions for all types of feline behavioural issues. They’ll come to your house, come to meet your furry baby, and work with you and your household to figure out how to adapt your behaviour and your conditions to meet the cat’s needs. Whatever the problem may be, Phillion’s got a solution – but you’ve got to be willing to compromise.
He’s got a charismatic energy, a natural entertainer who is eager to share with me his knowledge and passion. “We believe in a day where a vast majority of people will understand their cats and their needs to live in harmony with them,” he says.
Phillion works hand in hand with local veterinarians, explaining that many feline behavioural problems often have some undiagnosed medical issue. He started the company by himself in 2007, after finding that there was an extreme lack of specialists in the industry in Quebec.
The first thing he did was to go see Diane Frank, the head of Universite de Montreal’s veterinary department. “There’s no school, there’s nothing that exists. It’s a very new profession,” he explains. “I asked her, what can I do to help? Cause there were only two cat behaviourlists at that time.”
While animal behaviourists have been around for more than a few decades, Phillion addresses a important issue – we simply don’t know cats, or at least not as well as we should. “Even though [cats are] the most popular domestic animal in the world, people just don’t know what they need, don’t know how they are working. We need to inform people on this and we’re going to get better and better.”
Next I stop by the Paw Project, who have been advocating against declawing for close to 20 years. Members of the Paw Project have been fighting legislation from state to state in the United States, and members have even been the cause of Canadian legislation banning the practice here. I had the honour of meeting the organizations founder, Dr. Jennifer Conrad herself.
The declawing of a cat is more than just removal of the nails, it includes complete amputation of the last joint. Declawing may result in arthritis and other permanent disability and can thus become the cause of bad behaviour in cats. A declawed cat may refuse to use a litter box because of post-surgical pain, and with her primary defence taken away – her nails – she may even begin to bite, along with other aggressive behaviours. Declawing has already been banned in the UK and over twenty other countries in the world, but is still legal in many states and provinces in North America.
“[In] Nova Scotia and for Atlantic Canada, it’s illegal. A Paw Project director did that,” she tells me. “In BC and Alberta, the veterinarians have now voted to ban declawing, and that is because we have provided them with the information, and BCSPCA pushed because they’re like, look at all of this information.” Her efforts have even gone as far as VCA Canada, largest chain of veterinary hospitals in Canada. All 110 hospitals have stopped the practice of declawing.
She hands me a DVD from a stack – the 2013 film The Paw Project starring the Dr. Herself. This documentary follows Dr. Conrad in her campaign to ban declawing all around California and the rest of the United States.
“It started because I was repairing the claws on big cats,” she explains. “The policy has to change, or else you’re going to sit there and try to do individual after individual. And if the policy were changed, then you protect a whole population. That’s why it became a question of policy.”
I leave with a small pin that says “arretons le degriffage!” and dutifully attach it to my jacket. Feeling humbled by our conversation, I make my way back around to snap a few pics of the expo space.
In terms of vendors, there is everything from new cat technology (a cat-sized running wheel and a self-cleaning litter box are among some of my favorites) to local cat artists selling mugs with cute, cat-inspired designs. Mookie and Lulu Designs specializes in hand-made cat tipis, made “with love” and inspired by the founders own cats, who are named – surprise – Mookie and Lulu.
Inspired by her late cat, co-founder and creative Mya specializes in ‘cat tipis’, where a cat can spend her time grooming and chillaxing under the home-made canvas.
I asked her what inspired her most about her cats. “The love. Oh, the love,” she tells me, her eyes welling with tears. She is, admittedly, very happy to be here. “Oh my god, my life would be so empty [without them].”
Catorday is another favorite of the evening – designs include a cat in a Habs shirt skating down the rink, and the infamous We Can Do It poster, superimposed with the words “We Cat Do It”.
As seven o’clock rolls around, people begin taking their seats. The guest speaker is about to begin, and he is not to be missed. Flying in from Los Angeles for his very first time in Canada, Jackson Galaxy has been taming cats for over a decade.
His show My Cat From Hell, which just closed its 10th season, follows Galaxy as he tours around America to heal both cat and owner with his unmistakable empathy and talent. Loveable and quirky and definitely unique, Galaxy is the main reason many are here tonight.
Galaxy takes his audience on a ride, combining fact with humour and a lively and warm energy. It is not hard to understand how the man holds such power over cats.
His audience is entirely captivated, holding onto his every word. He delivers calmly, devotedly sharing advice on how to cat-proof your home, when to give treats and how to deal with even the unruliest of cats. I take notes to share with my friends.
The only room at the exhibition hall to feature actual, live cats is an adoption room set up by the SPCA. The room has been packed with people all night, but what else would you expect at a cat expo? While I wait my turn to get a glimpse at the sweet furry babies, I engage in a conversation with a member of the SPCA’ Trap-Neuter-Release-Maintain program.
To my own surprise, I learn that the Montreal SPCA offers a street cat sterilization clinic that is open all over the island. Aiming to keep the number of street cats down, the SPCA has inaugurated a system that involves trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating and deworming adult cats before either adopting them out to a new forever home, or releasing them back onto the streets if they are too aggressive or wild. Since its inauguration in 2010, the TNRM program has sterilized nearly 7000 street cats, contributing to lower levels of kitten homelessness.
The program works with the help of citizens like us, the representative tells me. A quick phone call to the programs’ lead department will provide you with more information on how to get started in your own community.
I stop by the adoptable kittens again, trying not to poke my fingers through their cages to stroke their soft, soft skin. Through a chorus of coos, caws and meows, I manage to snap a few pics of the little poofs and wish them luck in their search for a forever home, though I know I’d make a better cat mom than anyone there. Obviously.
As the night comes to a close, I do my rounds and thank all of the vendors. The Mondou booth hands me a free catnip plant, and I stuff a few packs of Temptations in my back pocket for my friends cats – I’ll be the fairy catmother this week, blessing friends with all the free treats and cat toys. I feel complete, equipped with a mind full of knowledge and an intense urge to fight for animal advocacy.
There’s nothing more I want to do now than snuggle in bed with a cat on my legs, forcing me to keep as still as humanly possible. Maybe I’ll visit my mom more often, or offer to catsit for my friend on her monthly trips to Toronto, or even consider fostering a cat with the SPCA.
I would call this edition of Montreal’s Cat Expo a success. A purr-fect balance of inspiration, passion and activism, the Cat Expo has so, so much to offer.
I would recommend this event to every and any cat lover and to anybody interested and invested in animal rights activism. This event has been so very long-awaited by so many people, and now that it’s’ here, I am paw-sitive it is only going to get better and better.
The only thing we can do is hope for a better future – for our cats and us, their human counterparts. Here’s to many more like one, and for a fur-midable first in-cat-ation.
In the last few months the animal rights debate in Quebec has been dominated by Montreal’s proposed pit-bull ban. One side argued that animals are not dangerous if they are raised right, while people in favor claimed it was necessary to protect humans from dangerous dogs. With all the discourse about whether we can protect humans from animals, it’s time to talk about the laws that protect animals from us.
On December 8, 2016 the Quebec Court came to a unique decision. Over the course of ten years, the SPCA had seized four dogs from the Alain Marchand, a man in Outaouais. The dogs had been neglected, abused and malnourished.
Marchand was charged under Quebec’s Animal Health Protection Act and the court undoubtedly realized he could not be trusted with a dog and fined him eighteen hundred dollars but also, for the first time in Quebec legal history, banned him from owning animals. Criminal charges of animal cruelty against Marchand are soon to follow.
Quebec Animal Health Protection Act
The Quebec Animal Health Protection Act has the goal of ensuring “an appropriate level of animal health protection is maintained.” The law establishes standards of hygiene, care, and disease control of livestock and domestic animals.
Specific rules for dogs and cats are established in the Regulation Respecting the Safety and Welfare of Cats and Dogs, which was enacted to work in conjunction with the Animal Health Protection Act. Its violation can result in the penalties set out in the Act, which range from two hundred and fifty dollars to two thousand four hundred and fifty dollars for a natural person (first offense) and six hundred and twenty-five dollars to six thousand seventy five dollars for a legal person such as a business.
The Regulation establishes the standard of care for cats, dogs, and their hybrids. The rules set out not only cover the owners of pet shops, breeding operations and obedience schools, but also set standards that must be obeyed by individual pet owners.
Dog and cat owners have to provide food and drinking water for their animals. The water has to be clean and free of contaminants like urine, feces and kitty litter. Snow and ice don’t count as sources of drinking water.
The animals have to get their biological needs met as per their species, size, growth stage, age, level of physical activity, state of health, whether they are gestating or lactating, and as per their ability to adapt to different levels of heat or cold.
Dogs and cats have to have access to a rest area at all times that is clean, dry, comfortable, and large enough for the animal to be able to lie on its side with its legs extended. This rest area has to provide shelter from the elements that could risk the animal’s health or cause it stress. Such elements include bad weather, sun, drafts, loud noises, and harmful gases.
If you have a dog you want to keep mostly outdoors, the regulation restricts what kinds of animals can be kept mostly outdoors and under what circumstances. Only animals whose specific structural features, age, health, coat and who have the ability to adapt to heat or cold in such a way as to be protected from weather conditions can be kept mostly outside.
If the owner or caretaker of the animal doesn’t know the adaptability level of the animal to be kept outdoors, they have to plan for a gradual acclimatization period. The animal has to have a sturdy shelter made of durable non-toxic materials of a decent size to allow it to keep warm and protect it from the weather.
The regulation also covers the rope or chain used to keep an animal tied up outside, as well as the collar an animal wears. The rope or chain cannot cause discomfort for the animal due to its weight. It cannot be liable to get stuck or shortened by wrapping itself around an object, and has to allow the animal to safely move around and reach its food and water. Collars are not allowed to hurt the animal or restrict its breathing.
Muzzled animals cannot be left unattended.
The Canadian Criminal Code covers the worst animal cruelty offenses, and unlike the Quebec law and regulation, the penalties are not just financial but can also include a prison sentence.
Criminal Animal Cruelty Offenses
There are three types of animal cruelty offenses in the Criminal Code.
The first is the act of Causing Unnecessary Suffering which includes willfully causing or permitting unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal, willfully giving an animal or bird poison or harmful drug or substance, and even getting money for promoting or arranging hunts where captive birds are liberated for the sole purpose of being shot. Penalties for this kind of offense can be up to five years in prison if you’re indicted or up to eighteen months in jail and/or a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars if you get a summary conviction.
The second type of animal cruelty offense is Causing Damage or Injury. This entails damaging animals while driving them through willful neglect, and willfully abandoning an animal or failing to provide food, water, shelter and care. This offense can result in up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of two thousand dollars and/or six months in jail.
For some kinds of these first two offenses there’s a legal presumption that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the person is presumed guilty, a reversal of the innocent-until-proven-guilty standard in criminal law.
The third type of offense is about cockpits and punishes the owner of a location used to hold cockfights. The penalty can be up to five years in prison or if a summary conviction, a ten thousand dollar fine and/or up to eighteen months in jail.
With all the talk about how humans need to be protected from animals, it’s time we look back at how to protect animals from humans. People can yell and write letters and picket, but dogs and cats can only scratch, bite, growl, bark or meow in order to be heard.
It’s time we remember that we can fight back better than they can and protect them for the vulnerable beings they are.
Remember January 1st 2000? Or December 21st 2012? Those were supposed to be the End Of Days, the Apocalypse. I am no Nostradamus but I have a prediction, a new arbitrary date for the end of the world. November 8, 2016. Civilization as we know it will crumble, only the rich and slithering will survive.
When Chris Wallace (from Fox News), the moderator of the United States Presidental debate last night, said “I am not a potted plant here!” it resonated with me. I feel that way too! I am screaming for it to stop and nobody listens.
Sometimes all of the propaganda really gets to be overwhelming, I feel like my voice is lost in the chaos. Sitting there in a window, someone forgot to water me, and I am not a cactus. I am a dried up succulent, an ancient aloe vera maybe, spiky and sincere.
My tendrils need attention, they are covered in dust. If nourished my insides can heal, my ideas can save the world, a natural combatant of inflammation, squeeze me out on to your wounds, I will kiss them and make it all better. Houseplants bring oxygen and warmth to a room. We need it as the earth is dying because of humanity’s overall greed and lack of conscience.
If politics doesn’t kill it I believe this world will end with Terminators Vs Zombies. It is a movie that hasn’t been made yet, but is totally plausible. The rise of machines is taking away jobs (more than immigrants as Donster has complained about).
People are also becoming zombies to technology. It is scary when I am sitting on my laptop in front of the desktop and texting on my cellphone at the same instant. Or a table full of children at the dinner table sit mouth open staring onto their glowing devices instead of having conversations with their family. It is all so in your face, fast and present. technology is bizarre and is turning people into literal zombies.
Now we also have the clowns to deal with. Clowns are taking over the US. Creepy clowns yielding weapons are trying to lure kids into the woods. GREAT!
There are so many things to be terrified of this Halloween season. I am terrified that people are supporting Donald Trump. Currently I am watching shit spew from his stupid, racist, misogynist mouth. It makes me sick when his supporters speak out. I go to the Halloween store and see their faces in mask form. Its absolutely bizarre.
Amy Schumer called Hilary Clinton “Hilldog” when she performed at her birthday dinner. I was a big Bernie Sanders supporter at the time, and not as Gloria Stienam would say “for the boys.” I actually thought he had a good heart, he cared about people and the environment, he was not evil. The current candidates are a “lesser of two evils” scenario.
Falling asleep at the wheel of life, swerving the car and trying to blast the music and open the window of cool air to the face. This government should crash and burn. I am afraid because these are the same idiots that elected George W Bush TWICE!
The people who run the government are the ones you don’t see. All of the candidates and winners are mere puppets. The strings are being pulled by an omniscient secret society, perhaps the Illiminati? But I don’t want to seem crazy. Billionares giving money to these politicians expect something in return, much like a guy buying me a drink and expecting more. I don’t accept drinks for that very reason.
In a world where some women are not even attractive enough to grope, let alone vote, Trump constantly belittles women, venomously wanting to take away our rights. I am disgusted when I see his supporters, there is a man in South Buffalo, my neighbor, that has his house painted with signs that say Trump Mafia and has a noose hanging on the front lawn. Strange fruit indeed. WTF?
Trying to deal with my own problems and I am bombarded with so much else. I can’t even clean my room, can’t pick up my phone because it’s all bill collectors. I think about all the loves I have lost or never got the chance to love, I contemplate loneliness and the survival of society. Then there are places where they push gays off buildings and kill women.
“If you don’t like what I did you should have changed the laws,” you should have stopped me from being an asshole Trump says, admitting to wrong doing and saying it was HER fault for not stopping him? WHAT?! Blame women. She is rehearsed and he is crude. I want a Native American President. Imagine going back to nature. If I can’t have that, I really want anarchy!
I work at a hostel and was watching the debate with people from around the world. I wanted to hear their perspectives at the idiocracy in front of us.
Sometimes you just need to come home to your house full of cats and beautiful creative roommates and smoke a bowl and drink a tall boy. Purry furry love nuggets – unconditionally waiting, ready to cuddle.
I have always done better with animals than people even. It goes animals, then kids, then old people, then adults, then my peers (I will never see myself as an adult).
My cats are my world. We watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch. A story of the triumph of love and search for self worth in an imperfect world. Punk rock opera perfection, escape from the vicious reality.
Like all humans I have hopes and dreams, I hope the world doesn’t really end on November 8th and I dream of a future filled with constant change.
I yearn to travel, I want to go to Poland and see the blue light up fairy bike path. I want to backpack through Germany. I want to paint in Paris. I want to smoke in Amsterdamn. I want to lounge in Jamaica. I want to paint with Elephants in Thailand. I want to kiss the Blarney Stone. First I need a passport.
If you want to be a painter, paint, if you want to be a musician, make music. If you want to be a politician, be an asshole, be a puppet, be a phoney.
I vote for the houseplants, for the trees and the animals. I vote for the children, for the future. I vote for the good clowns. Since the Apocolypse is Meow there is no time but the present.
A lot has happened over the past few days concerning Montreal’s controversial Pit Bull Ban (officially the Animal Control Bylaw). On Monday, when the whole thing was supposed to go into effect, a judge issued a two day suspension.
Then, on Wednesday, Justice Louis Gouin of the Quebec Superior Court agreed with the SPCA’s lawyers and granted an indefinite suspension on the parts of the law dealing with “Pit Bull-Type Dogs” until a proper hearing can be held. The sections that affect other breeds of dog as well as other animals such as cats are still in effect.
Now, today, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre dug in his heels and announced that the City of Montreal will be appealing the decision in a letter posted on his Facebook Page and the official city site. With no sign of Coderre backing down, and the courts waiting to rule, let’s take a look at just what this law entails:
It all starts here. I was a little six year old blonde girl, I had a dog and a dream. Then I saw Batman Returns and stuff changed.
Remember Michelle Pfeiffer as Cat Woman? Awee Yeaaaa, I know you do, that image is in everyone’s spank bank. That sleek, shiny vinyl/leather suit. Those razor sharp claws, snapping whip and acrobatic backflips. That perfectly mysterious mask. Those red lips, milky white skin, and that sultry voice really left an effect on me. You can say I had cat scratch fever.
I mean don’t get me wrong, Eartha Kitt was amazing and Halle Barry is hot, but nobody holds a candle to Michelle Pfeiffer in that role. She was, by far, the hottest woman I had ever seen. I wanted to be just like her. Even when she went nuts and got all evil, she made being a crazy cat lady look so damn sexy.
I only wanted one cat, as a sign of my independence and to prove to myself that I could take care of something other than myself. Ziggy Cropdust Sinclair-McCarthy, my Maine coon main man, aka Mr. Fluffy Pants, fell into my life and I loved him instantly and forever.
Fate then threw two little black kittens under my porch and into my heart. After helping nurse them back to health, Beau and Lola are now also my children. My mother lovingly refers to them all as her grandkittens. I’m happy she finally approves of my lifestyle choice.
Today I live in a six cat household (three are my roommates’ cats). It’s wonderful. The pitter patter of little paws doing laps around the house, then deviously knocking shit over when you are trying to sleep and wrestling like assholes.
The little sweet fur babies make my world feel better. They know when I’m sad and love me regardless of my flaws. They climb all over me and knead my fleshy dough.
They don’t ask for much, just some snuggles, food, toys, a clean place to poop , and the occasional belly rub. That’s really all I require in a relationship too, that’s why we get along so well.
I love the feeling of a bed full of purring felines. If you close your eyes you can imagine laying on a vibrating heart shaped bed in a tacky motel room. However it’s a little hard to bring someone home to that.
Well, for starters, if you want to sleep with me you absolutely cannot be allergic to cats. You also have to be an exhibitionist of sorts because chances are one or more of them will be watching us like a creep, lingering in the shadows.
If I do by chance wrangle them out they will be scratching to get in instantly making my heart melt, ruining any chances of continued intimacy. I usually don’t have any issues though.
Cats also inspire my art. One of my very first burlesque numbers was as cat woman to Janet Jackson’s Black Cat. My Kitty Porn series, collages of cat heads on porno bodies, has been a theme of my work for the last year.
There’s a reason why the ancient Egyptians worshipped them and they are the most Instagramed pet on the internet. Cats are just plain wonderful.
2015 has been off to quite a busy start, but before we get too involved, let’s take one final look back at 2014.
Every year we ask our contributors to vote on the favourite two posts they wrote and the two posts they liked most from all the other contributors on the site. Then, in a not-too-scientific manner, we turn that into this list.
In no particular order, these are the top posts of 2014 on FTB:
After the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri erupted. In Montreal, the Black Students’ Network of McGill organized a vigil. Cem Ertekin was there to report and record audio and Gerry Lauzon took pictures (read the post).
We only published one post about Jian Ghomeshi this year: Johnny Scott’s satirical response to the overbearing presence of Ghomeshi images in his Facebook feed. The story is important, but do we really need to keep looking at his face? (read the post)
Did you know that Igloofest started out as a joke? Well, it did, and now it’s anything but. Find out about the fest’s origins and its future in Bianca David’s interview with founder Nicolas Cournoyer. (read the post)
When municipal workers took up the fight against austerity, Jason C. McLean wondered if it was possible to show solidarity with those who didn’t reciprocate. Also, would that even be a good thing? (read the post)
This year, we covered Just for Laughs, OFF-JFL and Zoofest. One of the more, um, interesting performances we saw was by Brody Stevens (he had a cameo in The Hangover). Find out why it piqued our interest in this report by Jerry Gabriel. (read the post)
Lindsay Rockbrand just wanted to lay down for a few minutes on a park bench, but the SPVM wouldn’t let that happen. Even though it was before 11pm, they managed to give her a ticket for being in a park after hours (read the post and listen to the interview)
It’s not usual for a year-in-review piece to make it to the list of favourite posts, but Stephanie Laughlin’s look at the events of 2014 as a reason feminism is still needed bucks that trend. Find out why. (read the post)
Our April Fools posts usually catch a few people (usually those just waking up) off-guard, but in 2014 we really seemed to have hit a nerve. Maybe it’s because the scenario we jokingly proposed wasn’t all that inconceivable, given the climate. (read the post)
This year, McGill held a conference on oil and Canada’s energy future. It welcomed people with sustainable solutions to our dependence on fossil fuel and Ezra Levant. FTB’s Sarah Ring and Jay Manafest were in attendance. (read the post)
No, this isn’t just in here because it mentions Ygritte from Game of Thrones, but that helps. It’s actually a pretty cool interview by Pamela Filion with Leigh Janiak, Rose Leslie’s director in Honeymoon. (read the post)
This piece by Cem Ertekin is a prediction of what’s to come in the Quebec student movement (SPOILER ALERT: We’re in for another Maple Spring). It’s also a great primer for anyone wanting a rundown on just what austerity is and Quebec politics for the last few years. (read the post)
How did our modest city find itself in this particular stream of the continental cutting edge? I spoke to both feline-friendly sets of entrepreneurs to find out.
“Everyone loves cats,” says Nadine Spencer of Le Café des Chats, pausing a moment before correcting herself, “well most people love cats. And many people don’t have the time to take care of their own pets. Lots of people live in condos or have landlords that don’t allow pets.”
If this sounds like a scenario out of a harder-living metropolis, it’s because it is. Cat cafés began exploding in Tokyo over a decade ago thanks to the potent brew of a cat-crazy culture and cramped living quarters. The city now counts upwards of 40.
While their methods for funding and promotion have varied, it seems the genesis of both ventures is largely the same: to create a welcoming ground for humans and animals to interact and, ideally, help heal each other’s plight.
Plight, you say? Certainly.
From the cat’s perspective, the plight is one of abandonment and mistreatment. From the human’s, it’s actually not so different: a growing sense of urban isolation fuelled by the increasing number of condos and apartments that forbid pets.
It’s impossible, of course, to vilify landlords alone for this sorry situation.
Yet it’s certainly possible to shudder at Québec’s animal abandonment rates. Clément Marty of Café Chat L’Heureux describes it as “one of the worst places in North America for animal conditions.” Whereas France, he says, “has 70 million people and abandons 100 000 animals a year, there are 500 000 abandonments each year in Quebec for only eight million people.”
All told, it’s a staggering statistic—one that screams out for bold solutions. While the SPCA and other animal rescue organizations have long sounded the alarm, the teams behind these two new spaces are seeking new and creative method to ease the malaise.
Both cafés will offer coffee, tea, pastries and light snacks, including premade sandwiches. The presence of animals in a public eatery has led to regulatory obstacles, but both cafés, after more than a year of pouring over municipal and provincial laws and permits, say their food will never be prepared in the same space as the cats.
What’s more, at Le Café des Chats, drinks like “catpucinno” and “meowchiatos” will be out in full force, Spencer informs me.
“There will also be a room for them to sleep and do their own thing, if they don’t want to be sociable,” she says, reminding me that this is, after all, their permanent home.
But what if they just don’t want to interact? “We really did our best to pick cats that are sociable,” she laughs, “No cranky kitties here!”
With six more cats on the way, Marty sees Café Chat L’Heureux as something of a calling. “I discovered the concept of the cat café in South Korea,” he says. “I visited more than ten cat cafés there and in Japan.”
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that two cat cafés should sprout up in our fair city in the span of a year. The feline café movement is so amped up of late that Marty dubs 2014 “the year of the Occidental cat café.”
At Le Café des Chats, a visit is not just about a relaxing coffee and a cozy kitty nestled in your arm. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about abandonment and help out the remaining cats struggling on the streets. Their Carte Féline is a program offering to get cats at ease with larger groups including children’s groups, and fund the greater efforts of their space as well as awareness of the growing number of shelter cats seeking adoption.
Marty, too, aims to make a social difference. “We plan to organize activities for children, disabled people and the elderly, activities of zootherapy, and we plan to have regular conferences with veterinarians and cat behaviorists.”
Café Chat L’Heureux is set to open before the end of the summer at 172 Duluth Est, previously occupied by Tasca Bistro. Café des Chats, for their part, are targeting an early to mid-August launch at 3435 St-Denis, former home of Ethiopian resto Abiata.
Describing the dual opening as “totally ironic,” Spencer adds, “there’s certainly room for more than one. More cats get given a second chance.”
It’s better to give than to receive, they always say. I’m not sure who “they” are that always say this, I think they might be Santa Claus. Or maybe the court system. The courts make me do community service all the time. Whoever “they” are, I have to admit, I never really understood that saying until recently.
I mean, you’d rather get a cool gift from someone like a set of steak knives or a crossbow than spend your hard gotten cash on a gift for someone else, right? Giving sloppy, disinterested oral sex doesn’t compare to receiving sloppy, disinterested oral sex, yes? That’s the philosophy I lived my life by for many years and look where it got me. I’m a sad, unfulfilled man who doesn’t get invited to birthday parties and who even Mormons with brochures won’t talk to. Or at least I was, until I discovered the purest gift of all: Giving.
It turns out there really is something to be said about this whole generosity thing. Giving for the sake of giving, who’d have thought? I always thought all those filthy hippies were just about awful music. Awful music and crabs. But then one day that all changed, like a strawberry alarm clock going off in my head, I suddenly got all that brotherhood of man bullshit.
It all started when I found a really nice looking gold bracelet in the hallway of my building. Obviously I was going to pawn it, I needed oxygen money for my recreational oxygen machine. But it was late, so I decided to wait until the next day.
On my way out the next day I noticed a poster up by the door in the lobby about a lost bracelet and a reward. I figured a reward was just as good as pawning it, and I wouldn’t even have to go outside into the fresh air, away from my oxygen machine. So I returned it. And I got a ten dollar reward. Ten dollars. I probably would’ve gotten at least a hundred for it if I’d pawned it. I might as well have gotten nothing. And that’s when it hit me. Like a rush of pure oxygen to my brain. That I had done something good for someone, for nothing.
It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before, and I began to crave feeling it again. I started to do good deeds for people anywhere I could find them. I helped a little old lady cross the street, and even when she became hysterical because she thought I was assaulting and robbing her, I persisted. I even called an ambulance for her when we’d gotten to the other side of the street and she collapsed. And the money she desperately thrust into my hands in an attempt to get me to leave her alone I used to buy beer for some teenagers.
Speaking of beer, I embarked upon the noble pursuit of being a designated driver. A grandly selfless gesture, that one, saying to a group of people, “go ahead, get as drunk as you want, make merry and bad decisions, but be safe in the knowledge that I will get you home soundly.” And as long as I stayed within my limit of nine beers or seven cocktails, they did. Minus the occasional dent or scratch on their vehicle. But what’s that, really, when compared with peace of mind?
Then I really hit on something. Nothing brings greater joy to someone than the safe return of a beloved pet that they had feared dead or eaten or worn as fashion. So, I began reuniting people in the neighbourhood with their cats. It was pretty easy to start scooping up these cats as I encountered them walking down the street and hang on to them until the missing posters started going up. The difficult part was keeping track of which cats I’d returned and how recently. People start getting suspicious if you return their cat to them more than once within a week.
I got pretty good at it after a while. I started keeping a chart of cats from around the city with photos and addresses and schedules for bringing them back. It was beginning to be a lot of work. Plus it was starting to get expensive looking after and feeding all these cats in the interim. And I guess some of the cats weren’t fixed and they were having cat sex constantly, and now there are these kittens too. It’s like a full-time cat shelter over here, so I decided if I’m going to keep doing this I need to start charging people. And things have really taken off.
Hey, twenty to adopt a cat, that’s a good price. And I’m a reasonable man, so if you can prove it was your cat in the first place I’ll give you two dollars off. The kittens I’m selling for $15 each. These are high-end kittens. And I’ve got a special promotion going right now, for $50 you can take home a pregnant cat. That’s four to seven cats right there. That’s a really good deal, man.
I’m the main cat guy in town now. I don’t just move cats anymore, I produce cats. I’ve built what you might call a cat empire. These cats ain’t got shots or tattoos or nothing, these are real, yo. Pure. Straight from the pussy’s pussy. No messing around with licences or permits or any of that official shit. Just straight cat. No questions asked. You want some white cat? Black cat? Some of that sweet motherfuckin’ calico? You come to me. Don’t be messin’ with those South Side motherfuckers. Their shit ain’t even cat half the time. I heard they cut it with vole.
As a dog person, I wondered why I was face to face with a cat which, according to the ribbons pinned on its ten foot long, state-of-the-art, clear plastic living environment, was an “International Winner” and “Supreme Grand Alter”.
The prestige of its titles and glamour of its home came off as rather comical, since the award-winning competitor was attempting to escape right in front of me. It stared at me hopelessly, begging to be freed, while incessantly swiping and clawing at its plastic enclosure. I could feel its pain, and I wanted to help it in its conquest â€” but I couldn’t (due to the padlocks on the zipper).
Proud letters identified this breed as a Selkirk Rex (fun fact courtesy of The Ultimate Cat Book: “not taken seriously until 1950”), and below read what first appeared to be the title of a documentary concerning the dramatic tales of Mel Gibson’s career: “Dramatails Lethal Weapon”. It was, in fact, the unfortunate name of the little guy.
Thankfully, Dramatails Lethal Weapon had the wherewithal to fashion a sign below his name relieving the observer of any potentially awkward exchanges and confirming his Mel Gibson fan status: “â€¦but you can just call me â€˜Mel’!”
Dramatails â€” or Melâ€¦I guess â€” was one of close to a hundred cats on display at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds for the Commencement Cat Club’s 2011 cat show. This year’s theme: the Roaring Twenties, even if the only clear example of this was one cat wearing a red flapper dress, though the intent was questionable.
Even amidst all the razzle-dazzle, my interest waned, causing me to instead peruse the free book exchange which hosted an odd, yet fitting mixture of cat books and erotic fiction (e.g. How to Tame Your Pussy).
Admittedly, the constant competitions, occurring at a rate of dozens per hour, engaged me slightly more than the literature. I sat in a seven person crowd awaiting the judge’s decision on Best of Breed for the Maine Coon, or Coon Man to the purists (Fun Fact courtesy of The Ultimate Cat Book: “Winner of the Madison Square Garden Show of 1895”). Behind the judge, Coon Men were placed in cages to await their turn to be inspected.
The little creatures were a sad sight, trapped and unaware why they were imprisoned. All five “contestants” handled the unfamiliar cages much like shroomers would: either by frantically ripping at the bars or just chilling in the corner, staring into space with wide eyes.
One by one, the judge would remove them and examine them on the table. The cats could not have appeared more unwilling to participate, impatiently waiting for the rub down to end while half-heartedly attempting to launch themselves into salvation off the table’s edge.
This was all too much for me, because in the end, cats aren’t my scene â€” they just don’t give a fuck. I mean, I probably wouldn’t either if I was relegated to the rather demoralizing role of filling the void in a spinster’s heart by stepping in as a self-cleaning alternative to a husband.
I wanted to love it, but the clear frustration and lack of enthusiasm coming from the subjects made for an awkward show. As one of the few lonely souls not presenting a cat, I was seen as an outsider â€” a situation not helped by my poorly-timed outbursts of laughter, and being the only person in the 15-45 age group.
But my experience did end with a proper farewell. It was from a woman in a denim jacket featuring a spray-painted tag on the back immortalizing Xanade, the Black Persian in her arms. She stopped her brisk pace for one second to acknowledge me with eye contact (simultaneously with Xanade, naturally), high off a Best of Colour placing, and boasted, “That’s my chunky monkey, winning it all!”
And then off she went, becoming one with a sea of cat-ladies.