With the fate of PBS, Sesame Street, and, indeed, Big Bird’s very life hanging in the balance, I’ve felt motivated to share with you just a little bit of what that program inspired in me as a child. I’m a lover of language, and, like many of you, some of my first schooling on it came from the likes of Big Bird and his associates. So, rather than fire off a charged political diatribe about the ridiculous notion of cutting funding for public television, I will instead profess my admiration and adoration for my favourite letter of the alphabet, my favourite sound in the English language, the K.

K is the most unappreciated letter in the English alphabet. Oh, sure, there are some other ones that get used even less, but none of them are subject to quite the same humiliating fate as the letter K. That hard K sound is a driving force of the language, not to mention one of the most entertaining aspects of it. Just say it. Right now. See how much fun it is. Here, read this aloud:

“Clank” “conk” “kook” “crook” “kink” “let’s drink cognac to our capacity” “climb aboard this crazy contraption, we’ll crank it completely to cruising speed and colour the countryside with our carousing.”

But wait! Many of those words I just had you say aloud (thanks for doing that, by the way. Wasn’t it fun?) were C words, not K words, weren’t they?! No. They weren’t. This is one of the tragedies that has befallen the stoic K. K is resigned to the role of playing second chair to C. We get to say the K sound a lot in common conversation but more often than not it’s a C that we’re actually saying. But wait again! C also gets that softer S sound (which it shares with the actual S, but I don’t think anyone can claim that either C or S is a very overlooked letter) as in “certain” “suspicious” or “cesspool”. And it gets even more widespread use with its partner H. As an added insult, we have many words like “kick” and “rock” that seem to suggest that K can’t do its job alone and needs the C there to help.

In short, the letter C is a hideously deformed narcissist with an identity crisis who remains popular and gets all the attention because she wears lots of makeup, dresses provocatively and goes to the clubs every weekend, and K is her much more beautiful sister who hides it away under drab sweaters and bookish glasses.

Not only is K a lot of fun to say, but it can also be a very commanding sound:

“Keep out,”

“Calm down,”

“Come over here, kid, and knock me a kiss.”

Ah, and that brings us to yet another blow that the world has dealt the letter K. The silent K. Not since G and H hooked up has there been a more thankless supporting role for a letter to play. I wonder, not if, but how much K regrets the day she met that scurrilous N. But K is too classy to break away now that she’s committed, and will go on playing the supportive part. We can all do our share though, if we choose to. Next time you say “know” or “knife” or “knead” throw in the K sound at the beginning. You may sound like a complete knucklehead, but K deserves the recognition.

Let’s not forget how much punch K adds to our most vile of insults, too. When you really want to show someone how much you dislike them, what do you call them? A douchebag? Maybe. but that doesn’t have quite the impact of something like “dick” or “cocksucker” or “cunt”. What do you think makes “fuck” such a visceral word? Now, I’m not promoting the use of curse words by any means, but if the situation warrants it, you can’t do any better than K for that extra bit of KAPOW.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that whatever the fate of that whimsical street down PBS way, keep its spirit alive. Always love language. Always be learning. Be informed about what you say and write. Learn the difference between your and you’re. Be proud of your vocabulary. Remember that some of your first and most lasting friends are K and Q and M and even that horrid little C. Know them well, because they’ll open doors for you and introduce you to new people.

And, K, if you’re listening, maybe I don’t say this enough, but I love you. I’m notin love with you, though. Sorry, I guess I probably led you on a bit with all this.

With the Comicon caravan passing through Montreal last weekend, I started thinking about the best comic book blogs around. If these are an introduction into the comic book world, then prepare to have your mind blown with high amounts of gamma radiation.

These blogs mostly engage readers with some form of fanatical nerdy views and criticism from your average collector. Even though many of years ago this may have seemed obnoxious, today this type of critique is becoming more and more popular for the average internet browser; there’ s a reason why the San Diego Comic-con is one of the most influential events for film, music and Hollywood, because comic culture is mainstream pop culture!

Here are a few blogs that really do an outstanding job of making comic book collecting understandable:

Comics in crisis
Is this the end of the age of comics? Comics in Crisis works well because of its bitterness towards modern day comics. This is where you’ll find adult thought on comic books, and some of it isn’t very pretty.

Is Superman’s death a reflection of Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement: “God is dead!”?This is where you’ll see this kind of pop culture meets scholastic research. Some of the material is grossly entertaining.
Is not just your ordinary blog about comic books. This blog is pure comic book deconstruction with comical integrity.

A Comicbook blog

I think what makes this site particularly great is the super hero battle royal. Who would win in hand to hand combat? The green lantern vs. Superman?

Dc Woman Kicking Ass

This site gives new meaning to the feminist effect on comics, more specifically D.C. Comics.

The great thing about heroines is they can kick ass while looking great. If you want to keep updated on what is transpiring in the DC world as it pertains to women, then this is the right place to look. This tumblr is pretty awesome. It even keeps you updated on novelizations, graphic novels and animation.

Woman with super powers fighting the evil in the world fulfill many fantasies of many men. And while I know that I will never be held in the arms of Supergirl as she rescues me from a burning Metropolis, this Tumbr is the next best thing.

Golden Age Comics

Do you like old-timey comic books from the golden age. Alas, t’was an age of comic book innocence and bliss, it was also short lived.

Do you want to see old comics? I mean really, really old comics?
I don’t think you understand I mean really old like 1800s early 20th century comic books. If you do, then look no further Golden Age Comics is the blog for you!

The Weekly Crisis

Ever fell the need to read something that totally rips comic books to shreds? Well, now you can with The Weekly Crisis.
Tearing apart the newest release of comics and in depth analysis of the latest comic book releases gives this site the cutting edge.

The first time I saw the pizza box, I was heading out of my apartment building in the morning, on my way to work. It was lying on the pavement next to the dumpster, open, baring its innermost contents to God and everyone. As I rushed past, I only had a moment to register what I saw, but that moment set into motion one of the most profound spiritual journeys of my young life.

I was a mess that day at work. Unable to concentrate on anything, my mind reeled with thoughts. Frantic thoughts. I could not stop thinking about the pizza box. “It’s just a piece of garbage lying in the alley,” I’d try to reason to myself. “No different than that smelly sofa down by the river, or that old tire in the living room.” But to no avail. I could not put the pizza box out of my mind.

I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why it fascinated me. What about it held so much intrigue? Everything and nothing. By lunchtime I was so consumed that I couldn’t eat, and the prospect of spending another four hours without being near the pizza box seemed impossibly daunting. I took the afternoon off. I told my boss that I had eaten some bad pizza. Its influence on my faculties was so overpowering that the only excuses I could think of revolved around pizza or boxes (My alternative excuse was that a large box had fallen on my grandmother).

I rushed home. The bus ride seemed to stretch for eons. When I finally arrived at my apartment block, I saw it. Exactly where it had been. Now that I was in its presence, I almost couldn’t bear to approach it. But approach it I did. My heartbeat thundering throughout me, I edged up to it. I don’t know how long I stood staring. Thirty seconds? Eternity? Forty-five minutes? My guess is somewhere in between those last two. All I know is that, when I eventually regained my wits, I understood with grim certainty why it had such a hold on me.

The pizza box was me.

I can’t convey exactly how I knew, but I knew. In some sick, cosmic way, this pizza box represented everything about my being. Flimsy. Greasy. Discarded. Empty inside, except for a few bits of cheese. It was at this moment, this profound, mystical, blazing crossroads, that my life as I knew it shuddered to a squealing halt, and I started on my path to true self-awareness.

I became obsessed with the pizza box. I quit my job at the furniture emporium. I ceased my courtship of the lass down the way. My plants wilted, my milk soured, my cat ate my fish, and my one really big fish ate my cat. I sat in the alley for hours at a time, my brain roiling with a million questions for the box. “What kind of pizza did you once contain?” “Pep and mush?” “Who delivered you here?” “Feta and olive?” “Why have you shown yourself to me?” “MEAT LOVER’S??” “BBQ CHICKEN SUPREME??” But the box proffered no answers. It simply left me to ponder, and work out they mystery for myself as it slowly deteriorated in the rain and the sun.

Then, one day, the pizza box was gone. The alley had been cleaned up, and there was no trace of the box. I was left a shell of a man. I had no job, my family had given up on me, my friends had abandoned me, I was evicted. I first cursed the box for doing this to me, as I wept in the burrow I’d fashioned for myself in a nearby hedge. But I soon realised that the box had done me an incredible service. It had jolted me out of the stale, perfunctory life I’d been leading. It forced me to re-evaluate everything, and to grasp life by the mangy, feral tail. I began putting my life back together, piece by piece, like so many toppings on a pizza. I made new friends, learned new life skills that made me a maverick to be reckoned with in the workforce. It all fell into place.

To this day, on the rare occasion that I order a pizza, I cannot bring myself to eat the last slice. It’s too painful. I can’t ever bear to gaze into that gaping hole of despair. No, I conquered my pizza box years ago, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I urge you, dear reader, to find your pizza box, whatever it may be, to peer into it, into yourself, and see if you can stand what you see. I can’t guarantee you’ll come out better for it, like I did, but I can offer some sage words of advice along your journey. Just come find me. I live under various bridges selling jewellery I’ve made from the teeth that have fallen out of my face.

For more of Johnny Scott’s adventures with life, follow @hottyjohnscotty.

*Photo courtesy of Johnny Scott himself.

*This transcript has been edited for length. 

Megan: Hello everyone, I am Megan Dougherty from Forgetthebox.net and today I have with me Sheena Swirlz, a lover of art, activism, and doing it yourself and much more. She runs a blog dedicated to rejecting capitalism, connecting communities and activism, radical events, and challenging preconceptions in Montreal. Sheena, thank you so much to taking the time to talk with us today.

Sheena: Yes, Hi! It’s great to be able to have an opportunity to share information about the blog and some of the organizations that I like to highlight as part of it.

Megan: Well, definitely. Do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and about Radical Montreal?

Sheena: Well sure, my name is, as you said it, Sheena. I’m from Niagara originally but I’ve been living in Montreal for a few years and I am an artist, I’m a nerd and farmer, activist and I really have a passion for networking information especially I crave information for events and organizations. As for the blog I do, Radical Montreal blog, it offers community events listing and I also spot organizations, annual events, local sustainable living, resources, and also DIY projects for the garden or bike craft decor and different things like that.

Megan: That’s absolutely fantastic. What kind of brought you into this world? Is this kind of the radical living stuff that you have always been interested in?

Sheena: Yes. I’ve been doing a lot of these things back in Niagara, where I’m from, but here in Montreal the community is so big and there are so many different events going on so I feel really impassioned to both research what’s going on and also share the events. I stated this blog two and a half years ago, shortly after I moved to Montreal and because I have a passion about this sort of thing, I wanted to make a list for myself of the things to do in the city and I though why not share this information for people because I didn’t find a source in one place where you could find all sorts of different events of different natures and I just thought, “oh! This is a great kind of opportunity to be able to offer that.” You know?

Megan: Definitely, I want to talk about the name of the blog a little bit, Radical Montreal. In your opinion, what makes something radical? Is it on a person by person basis or is it a mindset, places. Can you just maybe talk about the concept a little bit?

Radical MontrealSheena: Well, for me the word radical can encompass anything outside of the mainstream view so its cultural, alternative lifestyle, progressive events and I tend to more towards anti-oppression, sustainable places and activities which would be considered perhaps more radical than others. These events and opinions come from my perspective of what’s alternative so it’s very subjective. I like to think of these events as being things you don’t necessarily hear all the time because they have smaller marketing budget but they have incredible relevancy in the community.

Megan: Since you’ve come to Montreal, what are some of the things about the city that you found are a benefit or a challenge or are there any things that you noticed in that light?

Sheena: I moved to this city now as an Anglophone so I have always found that English, French divide, can be a little tricky before you can speak French. I have been taking a course here that the government offers and I find it a really fantastic resource to be in a class with other non-French speakers in kind of a full time situation and then once you get there you feel so empowered to do it. Not too many other people also know about that so I want them to know how it is to be and Anglophone in Montreal and all the challenges and solutions to be able to do better. But of course, there is so many options to be living cheaply but also having a rich life and that is what I find to be the greatest parts of living in a city because there’s so many collective organizations that you can connect to.

Megan: Definitely. Would you like to tell us about a couple of those organizations that you like and are connected with?

Sheena: My favorite bike shop is The Flat at McGill University. They have a really great series of workshops, just kind of like bare bone, they do like how to build a bike workshops. They have done winter biking, doing end of city touring and it is really fantastic. I find their events are really inviting which is really accessible. One of my favorite restaurants is the Green Panther which is a great vegan restaurant it is pretty affordable and it’s just delicious. It’s always a great opportunity to have vegan restaurant here in Montreal. It is really a pleasure after not having a vegetarian restaurant back in Niagara, where I’m from.

Megan: I can imagine, I actually ate at Green Panther last week. I loved it.

Sheena: Yes, It’s fantastic. There are just so many great restaurants here like Aux Vivres was another one. Completely vegan options and really healthy, Crudessence as well, completely raw. This city is really great for food eating out and also being able to buy great local food at the markets and eat seasonably more than in some other places where they don’t really have a vibrant community market.

Megan: Montreal is really a city that is focused a lot around food I’ve noticed. There are so many communities that develop around the food.

Sheena: Oh yes, It’s very true. There’s a lot of urban gardening projects that are happening which could provide different community gardens in different sectors and then there’s different organizations which offer additional gardens for that. In addition, nearly each university has a community garden. It’s just fantastic both to be growing food, finding it in the markets, eating it out or going to potlucks which exist from everything from chicken potlucks to raw food potlucks on a monthly basis

Radical montreal zineMegan: I was going to ask, what are some of the events that you have been to that you consider particularly excellent or particularly representative of the radical lifestyle in Montreal.

Sheena: Well, Expozine is really fantastic. There you can find over 200 independent writers and artists that are vending their independently published little books. So that’s a really fantastic event that happens at the end of November each year. I vend my art zines and other things I create at that event because it’s just really accessible to table there, and you are exposed to so many artists both that are from Montreal and also from other parts of Canada that are drawn to Montreal and come that event each year. Other than that I really love Tam Tams on Mont Royal. I find it a great place to go, and spend the day for free. Everybody is really friendly there. There’s a local market where only locals can sell their wares for free. They give local artists a real opportunity to have a great stay for there’s a lot of tourist to try and make some money. There is a lot of different cultures in Montreal  that happen there, you’ve got the LARPer’s doing their big battles, you’ve got the circus performance setup, acoustic drums and electronic stages setup, and people of all types sprawled there over the mountain for a temporary stress relief.

Megan: If people want more information about you or about radical events and organizations in Montreal, how can people get in touch with you and follow what you are up to?

Sheena: I offer two blogs weekly. One is an events listing on Monday and then the other one’s on Fridays which is a spotlight on eventual projects. You can follow the blog to see those. There is also a Facebook page where I will post not only blogs but also events that I come across that are happening throughout the week. So then there’s also the Radical Montreal Zine. I go to different zine expositions throughout the year and sell my independent wares, my zines and give people information about projects and activities that are coming. You can always visit me there.

Walking into Notre-Dame-de-Grâce’s Coop La Maison Verte on Monday evening, I enter a collective vitality. Children playing, parents sipping wine or coffee, friends, neighbours greeting each other.

We watch the 1983 documentary Style Wars on New York street culture and subway graffiti art; discuss ramifications of graffiti writing for our society; and view images of Montreal graffiti taken by Fiona Keats, the organiser of the evening which is part of the NDG Arts Week.

In chatting with some of the attendees, I am asked what brought me to the event: Do you live in NDG? Are you an artist? The answer is I am curious, and for someone to offer an evening about exploring graffiti, I would certainly not miss this.

Of the conferences and events I attended, Monday’s Exploring the Roots of Graffiti – Film Screening & Photography exhibition exceeds my expectations and leaves me in awe of this art.

In a city, you see graffiti. Do you wonder where it’s from? Do you see it? Do you read it? Do you understand it? Do you see who did it? Is it pleasing to your eye? Does it make you love the city more? Do you relate to the expression on the wall, on the bridge, on the train?

Graffiti ignites wars and turf disputes between the perceived and self-proclaimed owners of space and us. You want to draw on a wall, on the street, on a train, on an abandoned building, can you? Are you allowed? Who decides?

Commencing with Style Wars, the film presents young New York City men who are passionate, well-spoken, intelligent and determined. They bomb, mark, they tag, they throw-up, and they create pieces. Bombing is Graffiti writing. “In New York City, it’s a vocation passed from generation to generation,” tells the narrator.

Throughout the documentary, we see graffiti writer, Skeme, calmly explain to his disapproving mother:

“Don’t you doodle when you talk on the phone?”

“No, I don’t doodle. What does this have to do with what you do?”

They want to see their name. They want to make their mark. They want to belong.

New York City’s Mayor Ed Koch (1978-1989) says from the get-go that graffiti is not art, it is a crime. These are Graffiti vandals. The City’s stance was to fund and launch a public campaign including a television advertisement featuring two actors expressing how uncool it is to do graffiti; a poster saying “Learn from champs, don’t be a chump. Make your mark in the city, not on the city;” as well as to place fences topped with razor-sharp barbed wire and aggressive looking German shepherds around train yards where Graffiti writers produced their work. When people voiced concern on the dogs potentially biting people trespassing, Koch replies: “That’s the point, isn’t it?” Koch adds that wolves may be a better choice as “a study shows that wolves are sufficiently threatening and have not been reported to bite.”

As we share thoughts on Style Wars, I ask how graffiti writing can propel City officials to pay for fences with barbed wire, guard dogs, and silly public ads?

“Graffiti is a quality-of-life offense. It is destroying our lifestyle and defacing public and private walls,” said NYC mayor Koch.

If public space is public, who decides?

Paul Cargnello, lyricist and social activist, and part of the DJ duo at Monday’s evening, shares his perspective: “A company can pay to put its logo in a public space, but a Graffiti writer can’t write in a public space. Nobody asked me if I want to see a Jean Coutu sign. I’d rather see street art any day rather than a company logo.”

Fiona Keats organised Exploring the Roots of Graffiti inspired by the NDG Food Depot’s legal wall where local graffiti writers could create pieces without being arrested. “It’s a beautiful wall with vegetables growing in front of it.” Due to mounting pressure from neighbours thinking the youth traveling to draw on the wall were gangs, the wall is no longer. “Something deeper is happening,” prompts Keats. Bicycling every day in the Montreal summer, Keats captures 600 Instagram photos of what is being expressed. Nourished by reading doctoral theses on graffiti and speaking with Graffiti writers, Keats shares at Monday’s gathering that graffiti writing is about finding who you are, what it feels like to see your name, to be part of a crew, a tribe, about mentoring and collaborating, and about rites of passage, something lost in Western culture, Keats feels.

In the discussion at la Coop, Keats adds that forbidding Graffiti is about control and privatization of property. Fascinated by the human spirit and primordial needs, Keats says that Graffiti shows what we don’t want to look at. “Clean the trains! Clean the walls!” Graffiti serves to challenge cultural perceptions. “Graffiti disrupts the status quo to reach equilibrium.”

* Bottom three photos by Iana Kazakova

Happy Pride, everyone!

Seeing as how it’s New Queer’s Day (at least in Montreal), I think it’s only appropriate to take stock (an unexhaustive one, at that) of what happened in the world of LGBT Canadians this past year. (Yes, I’m compiling this because I’m too tired after a week of Pride festivities to write my own original article.)

So let’s backtrack first to last August when Canadians were collectively mourning the loss of LGBT hero and newly-minted Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton. Canada’s queer newspaper of record, Xtra! published an excellent summary of the role Layton played in Canada’s queer history.

In September of last year, the National Post landed itself in hot water when it ran a transphobic ad featuring a picture of a young girl with the text “Please don’t confuse me. I’m a girl. Don’t teach me to question if I’m a boy, transexual, transgendered, interesexed, or two spirited.” After an uproar from queer activists and organizations around the country, the National Post issued an apology and said they would donate all funds to an LGBT organization.

October saw the country again galvanized by another tragic event—the suicide of teenager Jamie Hubley. Hubley suicide was one of many by queer teenagers being highlighted in the media at the time. What made Hubley’s story all the more heartbreaking, though, was that he documented his depression online in the weeks leading up to his suicide.

November was a more positive month for LGBT people as the Université de Québec À Montréal created a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada research chair to study and fight homophobia. The chair’s role “will allow the sexology department to bring together experts on the subject of homophobia and develop tools to intervene and prevent the behaviour.”

In December, a federal government policy stating that trans people must undergo sex reassignment surgery to change the sex on their passport came to light and caused an uproar. The long-standing policy highlights the everyday legal struggles still faced by transgender Canadians. There is still no word as to whether this policy will change anytime soon.

The start of 2012 was marred by the realization that foreign same-sex couples who were married in Canada were not legally entitled to get divorced here. The Conservatives were accused of reopening the marriage debate, and general pandemonium swept the country. At the end of the day—after journalists bothered to check their facts—it turns out that the Conservatives were just enforcing actual laws on the books. But, instead of opening up the debate, the Cons swiftly vowed to bring the law up to date, thus affording everyone their god-given right to divorce.

A light month (from my memory), February saw the creation of Canada’s first gay fraternity at McGill University. Supposedly it’s not as porn-like as I’d originally wished it were.

A major campaign to combat homophobia in sports, You Can Play, was launched in March by general manager of the Toronto Maple Leaves Brian Burke and his son Patrick Burke. The campaign is in honour of another of Brian’s sons, Brendan, who died in a car accident in 2010 less than a year after coming out. The campaign has drawn both big names and little-known teams from the hockey world in the U.S and Canada and is growing in popularity.

In April, transgender beauty contestant Jenna Talackova was booted from the Miss Universe competition after it was discovered that she isn’t a “natural born” female (whatever that means). After much a fuss in the press with barbs being thrown by both infamous lawyer Gloria Allred and so-called real estate mogul Donald Trump, Talackova was allowed back into the competition. Though she didn’t end up winning the crown, she did win over the hearts and minds of Canadians.

In May, Rob Ford surprised many-a-queer in Toronto by reading a statement against homophobia—his first action in defence of Toronto’s queer community (to my knowledge). Here’s my entirely cynical take on the whole thing.

June was a fantastic month for queers, at least in Ontario, where both a transgender human rights bill and an anti-bullying bill were passed in the legislature after long battles. A transgender rights bill is also currently advancing in the House of Commons after receiving support from some Conservative parliamentarians after watering down the wording, much to the chagrin of activists who’ve been long-working on the bill.

Closing out the year of big news, in July a federal court ruled that Canada’s refugee workers should not “not rely on stereotypes to determine if a person is gay.” It’s been a tumultuous year for refugees in Canada as the Conservatives implement measures that immigration activists say are unfair and unnecessary.

So, as I said before, this list is not exhaustive. Don’t get angry with me for leaving something out or for outright forgetting. It’s been a long-ass week, guys, and my memory ain’t too hot right now. If you think I’ve left something off this list, leave a comment down below, and I’ll update the article if need be.

(Check out our photo gallery from pride here.)

* This is the  third part of a multi-part series on the changing shape of Montreal’s skyline. Here is the first article with a list of new construction in Montreal. This series originally appeared on taylornoakes.com*

Other new towers, such as the new Canadiens tower, or Roccabella or l’Avenue, will be in more direct ‘competition’ with each other and all seem to be unique enough from their neighbours to set them apart (they don’t seem to be entirely cookie cutter, overly corporate designs), but of course getting a good view will be increasingly difficult as time goes on. Within five years four massive new projects will have been built in a line along Rue de la Montagne, with the Bell Centre serving to act as a major pole for development.

The other major sectors for development will include the northern extension of the International Quarter and empty lots on side streets on either side of René-Lévesque West of Stanley. Given that it will be increasingly difficult to get a good view of any of the downtown landmarks, I wonder if we’re not overloading admittedly underused spaces on the urban fabric. And will these new buildings look distinct enough—impressive enough—to join the ranks of the current skyline? We currently have a bit of an architectural cornucopia. Will this be maintained? If the Roc Fleuri, Crystal de la Montagne or Lepine Towers are any indication, we can expect a lot of blah. The renderings give me hope, but the reality may not be as clear and crisp.


Among these projects, almost all are being constructed on parking lots or otherwise undeveloped properties. There will be at least one big demolition when the Hotel de la Montagne comes down (though I sincerely doubt they’ll use explosives – it comes to mind that it’s been a long time since we’ve destroyed a high rise in this city) to make way for the Ogilvy expansion, and one major re-development of an existing, albeit unused, office tower (this would be the new Tour de la Musée condo project, an element of the city’s Sherbrooke Street redevelopment scheme).

A few heritage sites are going to be implicated, including the aforementioned cathedral, the LaFontaine Mansion and Ogilvy’s, though all of these are to be integrated into new construction. At least they’re supposed to be. Despite all the new residential construction in various downtown locales that are arguably currently uninhabited, there is almost no development to support the influx of people. It should be noted that the apartments will be expensive and likely not terribly large – based on the number of units per building, I can imagine most if not all will only be able to comfortably accomodate at most three people, and even that might be a stretch.

Given a lot of the advance branding seems geared towards the apparently thousands of eager young property owners seeking refined urban living ‘experiences’ it perhaps should be surprising that the city wouldn’t be responding to private sector development plans with public services development. There aren’t any parks planned, nor city-sponsored beautification and branding schemes. No schools, no librairies, no daycares, no public art, no community or cultural centres planned as far as the city is concerned – this is all private interest development and geared towards what might be an unsustainable demographic.

If there’s any hope of establishing a uniquely Montréal community within, perhaps integrated in to, the Central Business District, we must demand that the city provide the necessary infrastructure to support some economic, social and cultural diversity, and this cannot be left in the hands of the private developers. A key example of this: the retail commercial space likely to occupy the bases of all these buildings. Will they provide for small, private entrepreneurial business opportunities or more of the same corporate chains. Will the city mandate such space be reserved for people who may in turn purchase condos in the buildings where they run their businesses?

I can imagine this may be of interest to the city because it could help anchor these developments into how we conceptualize the city, and how we understand the inter-relations of neighbourhoods. Still, it will take much more than independent cafés, bistros and dépanneurs. A school, a playground and the other requisite provisions for families should also be implemented by the city, again, to help make sure this is a success. Without citizen driven development in these respects, these new towers run the risk of failing with an adjustment in the housing market, an economic panic, or any number of other possible disrupting factors. In my opinion, the city has a big role to play here that goes well beyond simply having a consultation and rubber stamping a developer’s plan. But I digress.

*Part four in the series will be online soon.

*Photos from taylornoakes.com.

Titles titles titles… I like the title, “Blogs on Beards: Wave That Freak Flag On Your Face”? “Blogs For The Beard-Obsessed”? “Rock Out With Your… Beard Out”? “Ode To The Cheek-Chewbaccas”? “Blogs on Beards: Shavers Need Not Apply”? “You Know Who Didn’t Shave? Jesus.” So hard to decide.

I’ve got beard-envy. Not a fan of Freud, but I’d gladly take his facial hair. Do past lives exist? If so, I’d like to think I was a troubled 19th century Eastern European curmudgeon with a Briar pipe and a bushy ginger face-cape to combat the winters of my discontent.

It’s tragic that I have never been able to grow a successful beard. Ever. Certain genetic predispositions, like being a woman, have consistently prevented me from getting together with friends to attend a Halloween party dressed as a group of Russian composers (Please, fairy godmother, can’t I be Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for just one night?). I can’t wander around St-Henri without feeling a tinge of envy with every passing beardo on a bicycle. There’s just something about the way a beard complements a pensive gaze, or how you know exactly who a person is by well-maintained facial hair. Like Jesus, or Ghandi. Lincoln, or Castro.

I’m not a hairy woman, either, which dashes all my Bearded Lady circus fantasies. And having thoroughly re-assessed the cost/benefit ratio of sexy face-fro vs. decidedly unsexy face-rash, I think I’d rather own a beard than date one. I might eventually turn into an old whiskered lady, but for now I’m relegated to living vicariously through the facial foliage of those lucky to grow them, clicking and sighing every time I come across a really, really good beard appreciation blog.

knit beardHold the phone.

Beard appreciation blog?

What, did you think I was the only one who lusts after what she cannot have? Or that our current generation of cheek-Chewbaccas wouldn’t be inclined to Instagram their own progress? There’s a market for facial hair fanatics, and I’m not just talking about hanging out at antique stores and used bookshops (I mean, I just really like gramophones and cheap books). Hundreds of beard blogs out there, and all it takes is a Google. So, I implore you, allow me to be your beard navigator, through the dark and mysterious path of online mouth-muffs (ew). It just might get a little hairy. (Bah-dum-pshhh).

For the straight-up, no bullshit, don’t-waste-my-precious-gaze-on-text admirer. Fans send in every-day photos of themselves or people they know sporting scruff, and it gets posted on the site next to minimal captions. This blog has everything: chin close-ups, ginger whiskers and plaid shirts, beards in hats, beards holding babies, shirtless Captain Crunch in a shapka wielding a hatchet… Fuck yeah, beards.

Did you know that glittery pop-music performer Ke$ha has a tumblr devoted to beards? I don’t really “get” Ke$ha’s music (I’ve never, not once, woken up feeling like P. Diddy), but homegirl takes the time from what must be an exhausting life of next-level partying and releasing vaguely feminist rap-rock singles to stick dudes’ facial hair in her mouth and post beard-gnawing pics on her Tumblr. Respect.

I Made You A Beard
What do you get when you cross a beard-envyin’ chica with arts and crafts? Yarn beards aplenty! On Erin Dollar’s blog, you’ll find fun pics of her many-coloured fake facemops, illustrations of beards drawn by her and her friends, and links to other beard-centric web pages. Her posts are now fairly sporadic, as she has since expanded her creative outlet outside the realm of beards, but femmy Blackbeard fetishists can still order a custom-made beard of yarrrn! (You can have that line, it’s yours, don’t worry about it.)

the beardedTHE BEARDED
Sexy, well-dressed, long-whiskered men, gleaned from the far reaches of the Internet and compiled on The Bearded. It’s like The Sartorialist, but less bougie and more bad-ass. Ladies, time to go fantasy boyfriend-shopping – just don’t forget to moisturize after fake-making out with all the hairy eye-candy.

The BeardlyCaptions aren’t just for cat photos and shitty inspirational posters anymore. The Beardly describes itself as “observations about beards and the men who tend to them”, but what it really means is “slogans for the beard that needs constant validation for his manliness”. They might not have office jobs, but they know that “SOME MEN BUILD A LEGACY. REAL MEN GROW ONE.”

General interest Beard Blog. They have top 10 lists for Best Beards, videos of sexy cars and the beards who drive them, infographics about how facial hair is perceived in society, tips on grooming, profiles on men with ass-kicking chin-plumes, and way more. It’s a Beard Life.

What do a dancing techno robot, an abject mustache salesman and a kidnapped actress all have in common?

Well…not really that much. Except they are all part of the collective of strange personalities found at New Faces of Comedy set.

The Mainline Theatre hosted this show for Zoofest, and let me tell you, it was full of nonstop laughs! Many of comics acted like masters of character sketching…and if this is any indication about the new age of comedy, then the Mayans would have to agree – It’s going to be a very, very funny thirty thousand years!

Sponsored by the website collegehumor, the show is characterized as non-stop weird comedy adventure through the minds and personalities created by these new comics.


I sat there, part of the rows of chairs surrounding the stage, amazed at how fluid the show was and how easily the comics moved through different personality traits and ticks at the flip of a coin. And let me tell you, many of these personalities had some serious ticks!

The New Faces of Comedy Charcter show was kind of watching Saturday Night live – which was pretty cool. The audience was in on the fun with rapid non-stop assaults of laughter, during which I almost cracked a rib.

There was never a pause long enough to give the audience a little time to catch their breath. I was at times finding myself on the verge of tears. Even a few times, I was caught by my companions side glance, picking a tear drop off my cheek.

In between acts, the Comics, as some deranged or abject characters, appeared before our eyes.

There were a few performers that had pre-taped audible tracks that introduce tracks, but some, like the dejected mustache salesman (Tim Ballz), whose dyspeptic state slipped through his pitch from time to time, only relied on their monologues.

The show started with an awesome performance by Tim Ballz, whose characters had the crowd hurting with laughter. Especially his mustache salesman and the doctor telling the patient that he/she has tested positive for every disease known and unknown to man.

Tim ballz was definitely one of the highlights, but was followed by the incredible Rebecca Bloom, who played a traumatized kidnapped actress.

Her character tried to put on a performance to show off her talents to the audience, but really she only showed off her repressed trauma, provoking a hint of uncomfortable laughter.

Here’s a list of other comics I saw that night who put on outstanding performances:


Sam Richardson
Playing his uncle who likes to eat chips, taking a McDonald’s filet au fish and 2 liter bottle of cola out of large chip bag while giving life advice, Sam’s set was pretty funny experience. Let this be a lesson to you: be careful who you take advice from!  Also his impression of an African family man taking his children for night out at the movies was excellent.

Griffin Newman
Griffin Newman played the bar mitzvah boy. At first it was hard to digest, but as it went on it got heavy on the Jewish puns and pretty funny

Lauren Lampkus
Being the cute girl of the group, she was able to throw the audience off by how erratically comically spontaneous she was during her performance. She was the funniest stripper I have ever seen, giving one audience member a gyrating paroxysm of a lap dance he will never forget.

Natasha Rothwell
Her call in “knickers” sketch was just too much. At times I felt a little uncomfortable by the repetition of this word by a lady trying to sell “knickers” on television to fund-raise for the Republican Party.

Tony Cavalero
Tony played a versatile lot of weird characters. The techno-robot, being one of my favorites. however the gay Confederate general supporting his troops was comical beyond belief.

Greg Worswick
Views on dating were extreme, but as he demonstrated while gyrating, they might actually work.

This was one of  the best showcases I saw by far at Zoofest. It was fun to be there and the Mainline was an excellent setting for comedy. I like how most comics were thrown off guard by facing an audience on three sides which i quite enjoyed as it added intimacy to the whole production.


“Oooooh, yeah… ohhhhhh”

Is he almost finished?? I have to get up early tomorrow.

“Uh-huh, I’m almost there…”

If I’d have known it would take this long, I would have had a snack first. Maybe I should go to yoga before work? This certainly isn’t burning very many calories.

“C’mon baby, sooooo close, just a little more, ohhhh”

He’s still not done yet!? Alright, time to turn it up a notch. I’d like to catch The Daily Show before I pass out. Wow, I really need to paint my ceiling.   Or maybe just stick a poster up there.  

“Yes, yes, YESSSSS, oh God, oh God, ah, ahh,   ahhh, ahhhhhhhhh!!!”

Finally! Perhaps a mirror instead of a poster…

Regardless of whether we’ve put on a porn star worthy performance or just eked out an unwarranted “oh god,” most of us are guilty of faking an orgasm. Or, as one of my girlfriends recently put it, “playing along.”  And while sometimes it’s done with selfish intent and other times for the most selfless reasons, at the end of the day, faking it is still faking it, though it can lead to making it in the long run.

It’s damn near impossible to dig up any reliable statistics on faking orgasms. Some studies say about half of all women have faked it, while others put the number at about 70%. The numbers for men hover around 25%. Incidentally, the number of men who believe that a woman has faked an orgasm in the past with them is a mere 20%. So either we’ve got a lot of lusty ladies who lie or a slew of clueless men out there.

According to research conducted by Erin Cooper of Temple University, the most common conscious reason that a heterosexual woman fakes an orgasm is “altruistic deceit,” also known as not wanting to hurt their partner’s feelings.  This is a sentiment that anyone in any type of intimate relationship can understand.

However, what I find slightly more disconcerting is that many women fake it out of insecurity. They feel that something is wrong with them if they don’t climax, even though the vast majority of women find achieving orgasm solely through penile-vaginal stimulation quite difficult, if not impossible.   Personally, I’ve never been one to fake it because I don’t want the guy to think he’s doing something right when he isn’t.

There may be some light at the end of the tunnel though: turns out that faking an orgasm can lead to increased sexual satisfaction. Cooper found that these women that put it on for their own enjoyment reported heightened level of arousal, thereby increasing their ability to experience la petit mort.

Unsurprisingly, women are not the only ones who sometimes put on a show in the bedroom. Askmen.com even has an article entitled “How to Fake an Orgasm,” where sex education correspondent Sarah Stefanson instructs men not to over-do it and to trash the condom quickly afterwards.

Finally, sex isn’t all just about the orgasm either. It’s about the intimacy, the carnal sensations, the animal magnetism, and letting yourself be extremely vulnerable around someone else. The orgasm is really just the cherry and whipped cream on top.

Ever since the 1930s proto-nerds have been meeting in dusty old dingy churches to assemble and trade things; they were collectors – hoarders if you will. Those were the infant days of nerddom, when comic-book nerds and sci-fi geeks lived in the shadows of their parents basements, trading, cataloguing and collecting.

But now they can step into the artificial light of a convention center! As the annual Montreal Comiccon begins this weekend!

The Montreal Comiccon is coming to town in full gear as the alter-ego and science fiction fair hits Place Bonavanture on the 17h and 18th. And, holy Ford Galaxie, Batman!   The Batmobile will be there.

Besides comic book writers and illustrators, there will be stars of the big and small screen from science fiction, fantasy and horror genres including (among others)

The man that made Batman Dance: that’s right, Adam West will be there – pure West (please tap chest).

Also present will be Michael Dorn, known from his role as Tactical Officer Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Does he have a new book out called “I am not Worf”? We shall find out.

Also from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Marina Sirtis will be appearing. Yes, that sexy counselor from the Enterprise will be making a her presence felt.

The man who played the most evil villain in the galaxy, Darth Vader, Dave Prowse will be there.

For those of you who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, James Wesley Marsters, Mercedes McNab are coming.

From the horror genres category, Sid Haig, who played Captain Spaulding in House of a 1,000 corpses will be there to sign autographs and talk about his many roles during his long career in cinema.

And the guest of honor, Stan Lee, will be hosting an evening with cocktails. Amateur artists and fans alike are welcome to join him for a a drink and discuss the magic of Marvel comics.

There will also be an autograph session with Stan Lee: You can increase the value of your comic books as well as meet Stan ‘fuckin’ Lee!

ForgetTheBox ranter and raver Laurence Tenenbaum and music reviewer Jerry Gabriel will also be on the scene signing autographs and giving you an in-detail account of all the strange and wild anomalies at Place Bonaventure this weekend. Embedded in a horde of zombie comic  nerds, they might even find out the true meaning of Comiccon!


Photos courtesy of the Montreal Comiccon

I’m sorry, I don’t have a business post for you today.

I have to be honest, after Monday’s nail-bitingly tense election I’m lucky I’ve been able to function the past few days.

Nail-bitingly tense of course, for those who voted. What a showing for the NDP! What a blow to the Liberals! And the bloc! I didn’t expect to see that in my lifetime.

It was only nail-bitingly tense, of course, for those who voted. A lot of people didn’t, so despite the historic, meteoric rise of a party fighting for the values of you and I, we’re left with a majority government bent on turning us into an American vassal that was selected by 24% of the population. 40% of the country didn’t bother voting at all. That’s a lot of people. You probably know one. So I’d like you to find one of them and say:

Thank you! Thank you for helping us to live in a world where prisons and fighter jets are more important than healthcare and education.   Where our parents and grandparents can fear for their financial security. Where women won’t have equality or a forum to talk about it. Where people can keep hoping that those tax breaks for the super rich and giant corporations will really `trickle down` instead of seeing first hand that, given the slightest opportunity, small businesses will create 4x more jobs! Where we can continue to pay high rates of interest and have the worst internet service in the developed world! Where the rest of us can take our rightful second (or third, or fourth) place behind straight, white, Christian males. Thank you for making sure that when we travel to other countries we can be ashamed to claim Canadian citizenship. Where the last gasps of a dying industry are given more importance than the very planet we live on. Where we can keep looking forward to more of the same because the party in power certainly isn’t going to get behind election reform.

I could accept all of this if it was what the majority of us decided. But we didn’t. From an insidious combination of voter apathy and our archaic electoral process we are left again and more thoroughly with a government that does not represent us.

A lot of people worked tirelessly so that this wouldn’t happen, and their work wasn’t for nothing. Maybe it will take four years of the `Harper` government to make everyone else realize that what we really need is a government of Canada. That represents all of Canada.

These are some organizations working to make this happen:


Check them out, spread the word, and tell every person who didn’t vote just exactly what they agreed to. Silence is assent.

I’ve soaked up a lot of things since moving to Montreal in September. Primarily wine and caffeine, both readily available a short three minute trot from my abode, but I’ve also taken in and absorbed Montreal’s rich artistic culture and creative expression. In fact, my romanticized daydreams about moving to this artistic mecca were only a little of the mark.

In my vision I lounged around in a permanent wine haze wearing knitted berets and vintage scarves, painting abstractedly on canvas while spending my downtime in cozy cafes, crafting cards and reading Kerouac. In reality, my permanent wine haze was stifled by a (completely sobering) full time job, I prefer leopard print to bohemian garb, and the one painting I started back in September is still propped up against the wall, unfinished, not at all good, coated in a light sprinkling of dust.

However, I’m ready to uncork the Dep’s finest white and take the feather duster to my canvas. Maybe it’s spring’s impending arrival, but now more than ever I’ve got that flighty feeling in my soul that pulls at my heart strings and encourages irrational thinking. We live in a beautiful city, rich with culture and art, and I want to be part of the movement!

Maybe that’s why Concordia chooses this particular month to hold their annual Art Matters Festival—to satisfy those creatively driven students that have been repressed during the long winter months, who would surely otherwise take off to Trinidad to avoid midterms and regain artistic vision. Luckily, the Art Matters Festival is up and running until March 19  to avoid such tragedies.

Art Matters is a student-run festival showcasing an assortment of multi-disciplinary art by emerging artists from Concordia University. Over the next two weeks, students’ art—ranging from text to dance to multimedia to print—will be displayed and celebrated at local galleries and art-oriented spaces around the city.

Tonight’s kick-off party gets started at 9 pm at Espace Reunion (6600 Rue Hutchison near Beaubien), featuring a slew of bands and DJs (including Halifax band Cousins, from my own little harbour city!). After a decade of success the Art Matters Festival has tons to be celebrating, and this year the festival will share a retrospective publication of the past ten years.

Over the next two weeks I’ll be bopping around to different exhibits, seeking inspiration and soothing my soul, so stay tuned for a review of the ones I found most medicinal. Wrap yourself in bohemian garb (or leopard print, whatever!) and take advantage of this festival to check out a variety of emerging Montreal talent, absorb some artistic culture, and find a little creative inspiration!

Some exhibits that have caught my eye:

Enter The Foam @ Eastern Bloc

1. Defaced running until March 13 at VAV Gallery (1395 Rene-Levesque W).
Through photography and video, this exhibit focuses on body and identity and deals with issues of social media.

2. I Could Tell You About The River or We Could Just Get In It running until March 14 at Les Territoires (the Belgo Building at 372 St. Catherine, studio #527).
Through text-based art, this exhibit examines the intersection of written word and conceptual art, and investigates the role of text in art.

3. Enter The Foam and Achieve Second Sight running until March 19 at Eastern Bloc (7240 Clark).
This exhibits deals with the mind, abstraction and altered states of holographic being.

4.   We’ve Been Here Before March 5 at 7pm and 9pm, at Studio 303 (the Belgo Building at 372 St. Catherine, studio #303).
Through dance, video, installation, painting and drawing, this exhibit explores the collected processes of familiarization.

5. Beauty in Obsession running until March 19 at Galerie Rye (1331A St. Catherine E.). Vernissage is March 15 from 6-9pm.
This exhibit examines the ideals of beauty by exploring and repeating visual motifs in the artist’s practice and artwork.

Check out www.artmattersfestival.com for a list of all the exhibits!

Images by Art Matters Festival