This summer was supposed to be the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival’s 30th anniversary edition. Now, due to COVID-19, the celebration and theatrical performances by hundreds of groups and performers originally scheduled to run June 1-21 will have to wait until next summer.
“I sincerely feel that as leaders in the Montreal cultural landscape, it is our responsibility to temporarily close our spaces and to postpone the Fringe Festival in order to protect the health and of our artists and patrons,” the festival’s Executive and Artistic Director Amy Blackmore said in a press release. “The conditions for in-person art-making and consumption amid this crisis are significantly challenging since many are unable to rehearse, have been laid off from work and are trying to manage shifting priorities.”
MainLine Theatre, which produces the festival, will also keep its performance and rehearsal space on St-Laurent Boulevard closed until May 31st as per public health directives. The festival will offer alternate online programming this June in place of the public theatre shows.
The Fringe is generally the event that kicks off Montreal’s jam-packed festival season. This year it is the first major summer arts festival to postpone or cancel due to COVID-19.
We will update you if any other arts events follow suit.
For eight seasons on the shameless sketch comedy series MadTV, comedian Bobby Lee cracked audiences up with his impersonations of celebs like Connie Chung and Kim Jong-il…but just as often by simply running around naked, even to the point where one sketch featured an Intervention-style sit-down with his concerned co-stars. It was a career-launching experience for the California native, who makes his Montreal debut this week as the host of Just For LaughsThe Nasty Show. With his successful podcast introducing him to new fans, the 47-year old is happy to reflect on the good ol’ Mad days and share just how nasty he plans to get.
James Gartler: How did your popular TigerBelly podcast get started back in 2015?
Bobby Lee: My girlfriend asked “how come you don’t have a podcast?”And I said, “No one will listen if I have one.” So, she went to the store and bought all the equipment and told me “Well fine, I’m going to do it on my own then,” and for a couple of weeks she did. One day I just walked by the room and she was sitting by herself looking so sad, so I said “Fuck it, okay, I’ll do one with you”.
It turned out really well and we started accumulating a couple of episodes and building some good traction and eventually I was able to get really good guests, like Jordan Peele, Eric Stonestreet, Craig Ferguson and others. It kind of reinvented me in a sense. People wanted to see me again. So it’s been great.
JG: Do you feel podcasts are great medium for comedians? It seems like an open-mic night that can go on for as long as you want it to and no one can censor you really…
BL: Also you find your real audience that way, I’ve done a lot of different things – a couple of lines here and there in movies, TV shows and whatnot – but podcasts were the way to reach the people that share my real sensibilities and people that enjoy what I have to say. It’s reinvented my shit, man, and I’m pretty happy.
JG: Have you never performed in Montreal before?
BL: I’ve never performed in Montreal before. I’ve done Vancouver a bunch of times, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, all those rooms, but Montreal is the one festival I’ve never done, which is weird because I’ve been in the game for so long.
JG: You’re hosting JFL’s The Nasty Show, which is a popular ticket. How do you decide what material works best for that kind of evening?
BL: Well, not every joke I’m going to tell is going to be a dirty one. I feel like I’ll do an act that I would do in L.A. and that’ll suffice. People say that I’m really dirty – I don’t see that. I could have done The Ethnic Show a couple of years ago, but I decided that maybe the dirty one was more up my alley.
People think that when I perform that a lot of Korean people come out. I have no Asians come out. My audience is a mix of everyone. Obviously, I have Asian people that like me, but I wouldn’t say that’s my audience. If you see someone like Jo Koy, he has a huge Asian audience. I don’t think Asians like me that much.
JG: Why’s that?
BL: I won’t tell you who it was but many years ago there was a Korean actor at The Comedy Store who saw me perform and he came up to me and said: “you’re a disgrace to your people”. So that’s when I knew, “ohhhh, I don’t really connect with them really” (Laughs). Like, if you look at my audience, the people have tattoos on their eyeballs, or they have some weird thing they’re doing with their hair, they look a little dirtier, much like me. I’m just a dirty ethnic guy.
JG: On MadTV you showed a real propensity for running around naked. Did they request it or did it evolve over time?
BL: I just had this thing growing up where I just kinda liked being naked. It’s a control thing, to be honest with you. The other reason why I do it is because I never thought that I was that sexy, but once I started getting naked and being more comfortable with my body is when I feel like women started going “Oh – he thinks it’s good. Maybe it is good?”
It was a way to build my self-esteem, really to be honest with you. And also, getting naked on MadTV was nothing – I used to do some crazy shit. I used to poo in people’s dressing rooms. I pooed in the executive producer’s office once. So being naked is not the worst thing I did.
JG: So by comparison they overlooked it…
BL: Oh yeah. But MadTV taught me so many things about life. It really influenced me because it was so difficult being on that show, especially in the late 90s/early 2000s.
I was a little Korean guy on an American sketch show and that rarely happens.
For me to be able to get that show and learn how to act and memorize lines and perform on TV was so valuable. And also it taught me that “oh shit – maybe you can make it”. Getting there was so important to me on so many different levels.
JG: And a lot of the cast has moved on to great things. Alex Borstein, of course, has her great voiceover career and Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are doing well for themselves. Who are most jealous of, from your costars, if anyone?
BL: Honestly, I’m not jealous of any of those guys because those guys are all family. I’m more jealous of people who are more my type. When people my type do better than me, then I get a little crazy.
JG: What’s your type?
BL: I think my fear is that when other when other Asians make it people think that I’m that person. Like when Ken (Jeong) got Hangover and it became a big hit, I would walk down the street and people would roll down the window and yell “Hangover!” so people thought I was Ken for years. That’s what I dread the most – when other Asians make it and people think that I’m them.
JG: Was there a backlash for MadTV alums after you left the show? The material didn’t pull any punches. You made fun of everything and everyone and it was hilarious. Was it hard to go into an audition and say “hello and yes – I’m the guy from MadTV”?
BL: At the time when we were doing it, it felt like… We had no control over what the show was.
When Keegan and Jordan and Ike (Barinholtz) were there, I knew, even though we weren’t really a hit, we were under the radar, but I still knew that the level of talent on MadTV that could rival SNL. I’m not saying we were better, but I was able to see so many good guys.
When I joined the show, Alex was still there, Will Sasso, Michael McDonald…all those guys are my friends and it was just a great introduction to comedy. Keegan and Jordan and Alex and all these people being successful only helps my cause. I feel like Key & Peele reinvented the way the industry views MadTV. I know that Key & Peele was their own thing, but they are MadTV people and they met on MadTV. The kind of talent I was exposed to completely and utterly blew me away.
And also, I got sober on that show. I
discovered recovery on that show. I relapsed, I got sober and that’s how I was
able to do movies after that. So even though there was some darkness, I have
fond memories when it comes to Mad.
Ronny Chieng is one of the few comics to bring an Asian perspective to the Just for Laughs stage. He is playing the Just for Laughs festival as part of his Tone IssuesTour but you can also see him on The Daily Show and in Crazy Rich Asians, his first role in a major motion picture.
I had the chance to speak to Chieng over the phone. Being half-Asian myself, I know about the expectations Asian parents often have for their children so I asked if his family had different hopes for him career-wise. Chieng appreciated the question because one of his very first jokes at Just for Laughs addressed that.
He spoke of being sent to Australia to study law but he was a poor student. He became a comedian because he couldn’t get a job in law, and comedy ended up paying better. He even said that he didn’t tell his parents about his new career directly – they found out about it when he appeared in the local press in their home country, but they’re okay with his career choice now.
Since Chieng now works in America and a lot of his comedy is political, I asked him if he thinks Trump is good for comedy. He feels it’s fair to say that Trump is good for comedy.
“He’s bad for life, bad for the planet, and bad for the country, and bad for mental health everywhere. At The Daily Show we talk about him every day, so I’d be hard-pressed to say he’s not good for comedy. Would I want that? No, I would rather have someone else – he has more cons than pros for the comedy world.”
Though Chieng doesn’t like the Trump Administration, he doesn’t feel that comedians working in America should feel obligated to criticize it in their comedy.
Great stand-up, in his eyes, comes from really authentic points of view and pandering to trendy topics if you’re not personally passionate about them is not going to make for good comedy.
While comedians shouldn’t feel obligated to talk about it, he feels that everyone – comedian or not – has an obligation to say something if they feel that something isn’t right.
Chieng’s comedy centers a lot on being Asian in predominantly white countries so I asked if his work was more about dispelling stereotypes or just about laughter. At first he joked that it was about making money, but then said that he is about fighting stereotypes or at least give them a little more nuance.
“If there’s a stereotype, I would like to explain why that’s a stereotype and maybe take the stereotype to another level – explain the full story behind the stereotype or break the stereotype altogether if I feel a stereotype is unfair. I try to address it because I feel like no one is talking about it in society. I wanted someone to talk about it when I was growing up so that’s the kind of comedy I do. I hope I do the kind of comedy I wanted to see.”
While a lot of Chieng’s comedy is about lived experience, he does research on occasion to make sure he knows what he’s talking about. When it comes to his favourite topics in comedy, he said it’s mostly things that make him angry, saying he has an hour of such examples in his Just for Laughs show.
Crazy Rich Asians was Ronny Chieng’s first film role, so I couldn’t help asking him about it. Chieng loved doing the film because it was shot in Malaysia and Singapore, where he’s from, which allowed him to see family and friends during filming.
The film was considered ground-breaking because it supposedly opened the door for more Asian characters in film when Hollywood still didn’t think it was possible. While Chieng doesn’t consider the film to be the be-all and end-all of films featuring Asian characters, he thinks the fact it was so well-received is amazing.
“What the movie was really good at was not over-explaining Asian things and showing Asian characters as complete three-dimensional characters with complicated needs and wants. Some of them are good guys and some of them are bad guys, some of them are in between, they fall in love, they fall out of love, they have complicated lives. I thought that was very useful. I think it also established a baseline for Asian storytelling moving forward. I think there’s no context for Asian stories usually in the West, so a lot of movies can’t be made because there’s no baseline understanding so I feel like Crazy Rich Asians is a very good baseline story for Asian people in the West.”
There have been criticisms of Crazy Rich Asians as only showcasing paler-skinned Asians. For example, Filipinos like myself tend to be darker. Chieng sees the problem in the fact that in North America, Asian is considered a single voting block despite the diversity in Asian nationalities and cultures among the Asian diaspora.
“You got Koreans, you got Japanese, you got Burmese, you got Thai, you have Filipinos, you have Malaysians, you have Chinese people, not to mention Chinese Indonesians, Chinese Malaysians, Chinese people who live in Japan, Chinese people from different parts of China with all the different dialect groups. Then you have the same number of people Americanized… and each of those groups are very distinct cultures. To expect one movie to cover the entire diaspora of Asia is an unfair burden placed upon it by Western views of what Asia is,”
In terms of criticisms that the film only showcased wealthier Asians, Chieng considers the movie satirical and that it showcases the extreme wealth that’s in Asia right now because that’s how the West experiences Asia in 2019.
Ronny Chieng is playing Just for Laughs from July 23 to 25. Check him out.
If Ned Starks’ death before the end of season one of Game of Thrones didn’t do it, the Red Wedding in season 3 cemented the fact that no character was safe on this show and anything could happen. The way the hit HBO show messes with the audience and defies expectations is why it’s the best show on TV right now and quite possibly one of the best of all time.
Now that The Long Night (the title of season eight, episode three) is over and the dust, or rather the shards, of former White Walkers has settled, it’s clear, at least to me, that The Battle of Winterfell delivered exactly what Game of Thrones promises. It’s just not in the way fans may have become accustomed to.
The Screen is Dark and Full of…I Don’t Know
Watching the episode live, our group wondered if there was something wrong with the streaming service we were watching it on as it was difficult to see a lot of what was happening at the beginning. Turns our Crave (I’m Canadian) wasn’t overloaded, parts of it were dark, in the literal sense, for everyone.
It’s war. At night. In Winter. You’re not entirely sure what The Army of the Dead is throwing at our heroes. Well, neither are they.
When the flaming Dothraki swords go out, you don’t see what is happening to them, but you know it’s bad. You’re getting the same view of the battle that Jon (sorry, not going to call him Aegon until he asks another character to do so), Dany, Sansa and the Unsullied are. When the dragons crash into each other because of poor visibility, you don’t know right away that it’s just Jon and Danerys, and neither do they.
And I’d like to add that it looked beautiful. Everything doesn’t need to be brightly lit for it to be a cinematic treat.
Just as he did in The Battle of the Bastards, director Miguel Sapochnik made the audience feel as though they were in the midst of things for real. Low visibility and confusion for the audience is the new “I can’t believe you killed” x character.
All My Faves Didn’t Die
Speaking of character deaths, there were some major ones in this episode: Jorah, Theon, Melisandre, Lyanna Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Edd and, oh yeah, The Night King and the entire Army of the Dead (plus we don’t know about Rahaegal the dragon and Ghost). Most of the fan focus, though, has been on those who did not meet their end.
With this discussion terms like “plot armor” pop up in order to infer that GOT has lost its edge and joined the ranks of ordinary storytelling. It’s actually the opposite.
Brienne of Tarth got knighted last episode, something she has always wanted. Grey Worm and Missandei made plans to travel when all of this was over, the Westeros equivalent of three days away from retirement from the police force and I bought a boat.
These characters didn’t enter the battle with plot armor, they did so with giant narrative bulls-eyes painted on their backs. Their survival here is as much an unexpected event as Ned’s death was way back when.
Of Course it Was Arya
So Arya Stark killed the Night King and with one stab ended the Army of the Dead. An unexpected twist ending. Well, not killing the Night King to win, that was the main part of the plan laid out in the last episode: use Bran to lure him to the Godswood and then somehow take him out.
No, the surprise is that it was Arya who assassinated him. Yes, the only trained assassin in Winterfell at the time carrying out the assassination was the big surprise.
Even if you ignore those who called Arya a Mary Sue (it’s easy to, they ignored the season and a half we saw her training to do just what she did in The Long Night), there are still plenty of people who were surprised by (and also elated at) the choice.
Sure, this is something the show has been setting up since season three. Sure, the guy who knows everything gave her the weapon she ended up using last season. Sure, she snuck up on Jon in the same location two episodes prior.
It’s just that Arya had her own storylines. The Night King was part of Jon’s storyline and later Dany’s. He wasn’t even on Arya’s list. Arya killing the Night King is about as unexpected as Jon killing Cersi.
With this move, GOT defied expectations by having the most logical thing happen. Now no plotline is safe from being intersected by another.
Cersi as the Final Boss
So wait, the Night King and the Army of the Dead are no more? The finale is Jon, Dany and company versus Cersi for the throne? That can’t be right.
Or so I thought for a bit after the episode ended. Pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this, considering how they have been building the supernatural zombie aspect of the show since the very first episode and the Night King specifically since Hardhome.
But they’ve also been building up the intrigue, the scheming and Cersi Lannister from the very first episode. And with good reason: her double-cross which seemed selfish and ignorant of the big picture turned out to be really good strategy.
The Army of the Dead are all truly dead and Dany’s forces are seriously diminished. And even if someone (hi Arya) assassinates Cersi, the Lannister forces and the Golden Company won’t instantly shatter like glass.
Making the battle for all life in the world the second to last act is a truly unique choice. The kind of expectations-defying choice that Game of Thrones has made throughout its run and continues to do in its final season.
When people fantasize about winning the lottery, they talk about things like world travel, lavish homes, fast, shiny cars. If / when I win it big, I will be filthy with subscription boxes. Enough to keep a courier in business just bringing mystery prezzies to my door, preferably daily, if I plan correctly. In fact, I will probably need a dedicated Subscription Box Manager to deal with things like timing, finding new, fab boxes, and figuring out how much it will cost to get them to Canada (if they’ll ship here at all).
Until then, allow me to be your subscription box advisor. Let me just wipe away this silver scratchy stuff…
Please note, that the boxes in this series have been sent to me for free and for the express purpose of review.
Per their website, Kawaii Box (part of Japanese-owned Kawaii Group) wants to spread kawaii culture around the world, and help you “kawaii-fy” your life, with the belief that “even a tiny dose of cuteness can provide a boost of positivity to our life.” That’s an ethos I can get on board with.
I received the winter / Christmas box, which is an extra perfect time to get fun surprises, and this one was a candy store for my eyeballs!
Oki, what all do we have here?
For starters, I received a pair of smiling pink decorative baubles balls. They’re absolutely tree decorations, but considering the look of them, these mamma jammas will be hanging around my house all year long making me happy.
There was a pack of Christmas stickers (that made their way into someone else’s stocking, where they were properly appreciated), and also Christmassy was the pink and white candy cane pen. Theme be damned, I’m picky discerning about pens, and this one writes really smoothly, and it’s soft to the touch, so I intend to use this one long after the thaw.
There was also a mermaid change purse shaped like a shell, and I was glad that it wasn’t a unicorn.
Can you have a kawaii box without Sanrio? Probably, but I didn’t have to find out, because I got a Cinnamoroll eyeglass / all-these-touch-screens cloth, which naturally doubled as a blanket for the ridiculously cute Amuse Alpacasso pastel rainbow alpaca. Holy smokes, this little dude made my day.
It’s impossible to say exactly why, as with any kawaii (or any style group, really), it’s all in how it hits, and this one got me in the feels. It made its way into my bag for a road trip to the East Coast, where it made me smile each time I came across it.
When I saw the ring pack, I was ready to wear flowers on my fingers all through the snowy season, but unfortunately, they were the tiny plastic ones made for kiddie party bags. In hindsight, it makes sense, but they really woulda looked so cute on me all at once (they fit my alpaca though).
Munchies on the other hand, fit everyone. There was a duo of cookies, quite like tea biscuits with chocolate, and while they probably would’ve made another adorable stocking stuffer, I ate them instead, and they were ok.
The scene stealer was a bag of tasty, crunchy goodies. While they were akin to oversized cereal bits, they were more than that. The texture was more complex than just cereal, somehow a little velvety before the crunch, and they were perfectly sweet without being too much.
My boyfriend and I ate the bag in no time, and we both agreed that it was probably a good thing that we couldn’t run to the dep for more, or we def would have. Often.
And I think that’s what this box is best for: those treats that you’re unlikely to encounter elsewhere. For instance, Kit-Kat is one of the partner brands, and Kit-Kat Japan has so many intriguing flavors and limited editions going on that you’ll never stumble upon here.
For me, the box was something of a sugar rush, brightly coloured and short-lived. I think it would be best suited for a kawaii minded adult with a li’l one on hand so the smaller trinkets get properly appreciated, while the grown-up eats the good candy, because c’mon, don’t waste good candy on kids.
Some of the other partner brands include Disney Tsum Tsum, Pocky, Pokémon, and Pusheen, so open the box while the kids sleep, and keep the best bits for yourself.
Shipping is free worldwide (yay!), and the subscription price is def worth the amount of fun:
$25.09/month with a 6 month subscription
$23.76/month with a 12 month subscription
The fab folks over at Kawaii Box are giving one of our adorable readers a free box to spread the smiles!
The prospect of Major League Baseball returning to Montreal has gone from one out and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth to runners on first and second, but a rookie coming up to bat. If I bungled that baseball metaphor, it’s because I haven’t really watched that much baseball since the Montreal Expos left town in 2004.
Now, though, the prospect of them returning seems to have shifted into the realm of possibility, though it remains a longshot. Here’s where we are:
Toronto Blue Jays pre-season games played in our Olympic Stadium continue to draw a crowd.
Stephen Bronfman met with Quebec Premier François Legault to pitch the idea. Legault tweeted about the meeting and also told Bronfman that provincial investment in a new ballpark was possible if accompanied by private money.
While clearly not as gung-ho as her predecessor, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has said she is enthusiastic about the idea and was happy about the results of the report, but she also reiterated her campaign promise that she would put any investment of municipal funds in a new stadium up to a referendum.
The Tampa Bay Rays are running into a bit of trouble and may leave a spot open in the American League East.
The last point may be the most significant. Montreal would need to be in the same division as the New York Yankees, Boston and Toronto to make it work.
Bronfman and company are pushing the idea that a local audience could support a team if they didn’t have to travel to the East End to catch games. That’s only half true, we would need the baseball tourists, too.
I can easily see Yankee, Red Sox and even Blue Jays fans regularly making the trek to Montreal to catch their team play ours, especially when the tickets are cheaper and easier to get. People from Atlanta, not so much.
Come to think of it, if the problem with the Expos the first time was really that we were in the National League and not the commute, why not use the Big O for a new team? Are you telling me that a Yankee fan who regularly travels to the Bronx to catch games would come to Montreal but balk at a trip on the Green Line?
OK, I know that’s not going to happen, MLB would never buy that argument. Just thought I would throw it out there. Moving on…
If We Build It, Will They Come?
Last time Montreal built a stadium, it was for the Olympics. We already had a pro baseball team at the time, and moving them into the new digs just made sense.
This time, we don’t have a team and have no other reason to build a new stadium but to host one. If we do decide to build, I seriously hope, at the very least, that it is with a team confirmed.
We don’t want a repeat of Quebec City building a new arena for the Nordiques and then not getting a team. If we do get a team and the new stadium isn’t ready, they can play in the Big O until it is.
So, let’s say that there is a team on its way and we are building a stadium in the Peel Basin, just across the canal from Griffintown, which seems to be the site of choice. The area isn’t residential, so we’re not looking at mass expropriations, which is good.
It is closer to downtown than the Olympic Stadium, but while the Big O is connected to Pie IX Metro, this is roughly a 20 minute walk from Bonaventure. There’s supposed to be an REM stop there, though, plus buses, you can bike to it, probably decent for driving, and if Plante gets the Pink Line off the ground, maybe a closer metro stop.
But what about when there’s no baseball game? Well, the Alouettes could use it in place of Percival Molson Stadium for regular season games, though they kinda have a good thing going there. The Impact could use it instead of Saputo Stadium, though that’s unlikely given how much money went into making them a permanent, soccer-specific home.
That leaves concerts and other non-regular events that require a large venue. Assuming we’re not going to try for another retractable roof, it would be either closed, in which case these events could happen year-round, or open-air, meaning they would be seasonal.
So, basically, the new baseball team would have to pack the place or at least come close for most of their season for a new stadium downtown to be feasible. They can’t rely on other organizations and events to make the enterprise worthwhile.
While Bronfman may have done a survey and produced a report, he obviously was hoping for certain results, and he got them. I’m sure his process was accurate, but why not get a second opinion from different people with (presumably) different questions and no desired result on our part.
With that in mind, here are seven quick questions and a spot to add your comments. You can also add your comments in the comments below.
We will publish the results when we have enough responses to get an accurate picture. It takes less than a minute, less than a Buzzfeed quiz. Have your say on everything but the team name, because we all know it should/will be the Montreal Expos:
Featured image by Eric Molina via WikiMedia Commons
In light of the recent #MeToo Movement, several radio stations removed the duet Baby It’s Cold Outside, a holiday classic, from rotation. Some, like the CBC, later added it back.
Critics consider it inappropriate and suggestive of date rape because of a line the woman has: “Say, what’s in this drink?” If you are familiar with the early 1940s, when the song was written, you will realize that was said as part of harmless banter.
Things were simpler, people were nicer, and conservative morals reinforcing the stereotype of the good (chaste) girl were ever-present. Most people who were courting did not end their nights in bed together unless they were married, to do otherwise broke a social taboo.
So, it is really sad that the song is being perceived in any way but innocent and sweet banter between two lovers. Banning it is ludicrous, especially considering what other songs we have playing on the radio today.
If this song is banned, then half of the playlist should be banned too. Eminem’s Guilty Conscience, Robbin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, Eminem and Rihanna’s Love The Way You Lie, Jay Z’s 99 Problems and many other songs that convey mistreatment of women in one way or another still play with no protest to ban them.
It’s truly sad that a beautiful song that was written in the 40s as romantic flirtatious banter can be put through such scrutiny and judged by today’s standards while songs written a few years ago aren’t.
It is true that violence against women is an issue that needs to be exposed and spoken about on a more regular basis, but removing a holiday classic from radio play is not the way to go about it. Especially since there are far worse songs out there than Baby its Cold Outside.
After being infamously evicted from his St. Laurent Boulevard location by his landlord last October, Terry Westcott has re-opened his jewel of a bookstore, the Librairie T. Westcott.
The revived store is in the St. Hubert Plaza, a bustling shopping area that promises to provide a new community of devotees for the beloved old landmark. The address is 6792 St. Hubert, and its accessible location – halfway between the Jean-Talon and the Beaubien metro stations – makes it an easy destination for bibliophiles. (ED’s Note: Yes, we know the area is currently under construction, but even in Montreal, that won’t last forever)
“It’s a good location, it’s a nice long store,” Terry says, “and I have the same number of bookcases I had before.” The space is indeed long and narrow – actually quite a bit longer than the previous store – and perfect for housing Mr. Westcott’s extensive collection.
Not so long ago, on a bleak and rainy day, I’d been a grim witness to the effects of rising rents, as a chunk of the 20 000-volume Westcott collection was carted away by a 1-800-GOT-JUNK dump truck for recycling. I asked Terry how much of his collection he’d been able to save.
“There are certain sections I’ve had to rebuild – my Latin American history section, my Jewish History section, my travel books, my Chinese History, my Russian History.” But, after 25 years, he’s not starting over from scratch.
Most of his treasured collection survived the purge. Concerned about his wide-ranging science fiction section, I was relieved to discover it was intact, although still packed up.
Did he have any misgivings about opening an English bookstore in a largely francophone part of town?
“Oh, I looked around,” he explains. “The problem with NDG, for example on Monkland, or in Verdun – they’re busy on the weekends but they’re slow during the week because those are mostly residential areas. People are at work. Children are at school. So on weekdays it’s very quiet. But St Hubert Plaza is quite crowded, seven days a week. That’s what a bookshop needs to survive. And of course it’s much busier on the weekends.”
Terry adds: “There are a lot of people moving over to the Petit-Patrie from the Plateau. Everything’s so expensive over there and so things are shifting over here.”
I wonder how it seems to be working out so far, considering the preponderance of English in the store. Terry is upbeat.
“A lot of French people are glad to have an English bookshop [in the area],” he says. “There are two French book stores down the street – a Renaud-Bray and Librairie Raffin– and there’s also a second-hand bookshop, Parenthèse. Most people in the Montreal area that read are fluently bilingual. So they’re happy to get an English bookshop. This is their chance to get a lot of English books, and also publications like Indiana University Press or South Georgia University Press that are never going to be translated into French.”
As before, Terry will no doubt make use of every square foot in the store, where the books were organized by subject and piled almost to the ceiling. Finding what you wanted was sometimes a challenge, as well as a balancing act, but Terry seemed to always know what he had, or at least, where it was likely to be found if he had it.
I express my relief that he didn’t have to retire and spend his days watching golf on TV, something he’d contemplated during the demise of the old shop. Instead, he’s now looking forward to having his bookshop become a new community hub again, like it was in the old location on St. Laurent.
Then I notice a photo of an impressive feline on the wall. Terry denies that it’s there as a reminder of his previous cat companions Emma (as in Jane Austen) and Eliot (as in T.S.) who had the run of the place.
“It’s a Florida panther,” he explains, “and they’re endangered. So I leave it up there so people can see…. He’s got a very intelligent look on his face. No deception: ‘I am what I am.’”
Whether deliberate or not, there couldn’t be a more apt metaphor for Terry Westcott and his resilient bookstore. While some see bookstores as endangered, Terry is steadfast in his chosen occupation.
He is what he is – and so as long as there are people with a passion for books, Terry Westcott and his Librairie will serve a vibrant new community of readers.
If you have a regular spot along Ste-Catherine where your friends know they can meet you during the annual Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade, you won’t be going there this year. Well, I suppose you can, but you’ll just be standing on a street corner, quite possibly day drinking in public alone, for a few hours.
For the first time in over half a century, the parade will be a block up, running along de Maisonneuve from City Councillors to MacKay, where it will head south to René-Lévesque and finish. That’s right, it will also be running east to west for the first time in my lifetime at least.
This is due to major renovations on Ste-Catherine, currently underway around Bleury and making their way to Atwater over the next four years. While Mayor Valérie Plante may be changing some of the specifics of the plan, it was former Mayor Denis Coderre who set the timeframe, so you can blame him (or Montreal’s outdated sewage system) for the change.
This Will Be…Different
So what will a St. Patty’s Parade on de Maisonneuve look and feel like? Possibly a little more cramped and awkward than usual.
While de Maisonneuve may offer a slightly wider street than Ste-Catherine at parts, sidewalk space is, for the most part, considerably smaller (hence the cramped). That is unless you close the bike path and use it as spectator space, which I’m guessing they will do (hence the awkward).
The floats and marching bands will have enough space to make their way down the route. If you want to watch them go by, though, picking a good spot could be crucial to your enjoyment.
Most businesses in the area benefit from the parade. During the parade itself, that’s mainly depanneurs, coffee shops and restaurants. The categories won’t change this year, but those specific businesses used to dealing with a sustained rush (and in some cased inflating prices) will be relegated to a larger than normal clientele thinking ahead and vice versa.
For many, myself included, parade day is also about the mid-afternoon after-party. That’s what it’s all about for area bars who have one of their biggest days of the year on a Sunday afternoon.
While there are some major bars along the parade route located between de Maisonneuve and Ste-Catherine, most that cater to the St-Patty’s crowd can be found heading south towards René-Lévesque or along Ste-Catherine itself. This is especially true in the Guy-Concordia area.
All bars in the area will, of course, be packed to one degree or another this year, but I wonder if altered proximity to where everyone is coming from will make a difference in just how packed certain places will get. This is one time of year when passing by one place first instead of another just down the street can make a difference.
But Not That Different
While a key part of the ritual that is the Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade will be different this year, there are at least three key things moving up a street can’t change:
The Show: It’s the same parade, pretty much. The Irish dancers will still be there, so will the Shriners, the high school marching bands, the university floats, the corporate product placement, the fire department from some random town in Ontario and, of course, local media. Well, not all local media, FTB still doesn’t have a float. Sure, we never asked for one, but still… Different street, same parade.
Unexpected Meetings: My favourite part of parade day are all the chance encounters with people I haven’t seen, except for online, since the previous year, or sometimes for a lot longer. You never know just who you’re going to run into and randomly hang out with for a few minutes or a few hours and that won’t change with a different route.
Montreal Spring: No matter how cold it may be outside on the day, or the fact that it was significantly warmer the previous weekend, this is really the first sign that spring has come to Montreal. We’re all outside for a decent period of time together and we’re enjoying it.
And we can do that on de Maisonneuve just as well as we can on Ste-Catherine.
* The 195th Annual Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon on Sunday, March 18th
The rocks are being turned over and the scum doesn’t know where to scatter. Its beautiful to see these predators exposed. The problem is that there are so many. It feels like a constant struggle to unearth them all.
Yesterday I was scanning the book of face and came across a post from my beautiful bestie that put a dude on blast for blatantly saying that women DESERVE to be disrespected! What the actual fuck?
She did a screenshot of his comments on a post saying that a woman needs to be loved and respected and then shared them with her friends and tagged the guy. There are over 300 comments and counting.
We went at him in real time for almost an hour, his feeble attempts to justify his actions were shut down with wisdom and swift justice. So many men were calling him an asshole and women tore him a new one.
He said that it was a joke but then continued on trolling all women and talking down to us. He dug his grave by enacting a fury of feminist rage. Good luck with that hell mouth buckoo! One of my woke male friends said that he is scared to talk to most women because he knows that men suck and its hard to prove you aren’t like them.
This scumfuck said that a “real” lady likes being disrespected from time to time, my bestie responded simply with “EW!” and he escalated it quickly.
Scumfuck: “I mean shit, now a days you show a woman some gentlemanlike class and respect they think you want their pussy. Only way to assure them that you don’t is to show a little disrespect. Like listen bitch, not every dude wants your stank ass pussy. Lol. Sometimes disrespect is needed to put bitches in their place. And thats not me being any kinda way other than real.”
Bestie: “And what place exactly of you think bitches need to be put in? Please tell me oh wise man.”
Scumfuck:“When y’all act up because you don’t get your way, you need to be talked to in a certain way that makes you lose that dumb attitude. Like the one you have now”
Bestie:“OHHHHH! right cause its 2017 and women are supposed to be subservient and inferior to men. Me and my dumb little lady brain are so forgetful sometimes.” *twists hair around middle finger*
Scumfuck:“You don’t think that sometimes there are shitty women? Women try to belittle and control men with psychology and this whole post is the perfect example. So its okay for women to treat men like shit and talk shit but when a guy does it, its wrong. Double standards are great and all but grow up. I’d also like to add, ladies, the women who go on power trips and think they’re better than men because they think men are stupid and only think with their cocks, are the women I despise and have strong a dislike for. And sadly this seem to be a large portion of women. Not all men think with their cocks and alot of us have have hearts that are reserved only for the right people.You girls obviously didn’t have a good father figure in your life and feel the need to take your anger out on men you don’t know. Im sorry you went through whatever you went through, but take a chill pill. Not every guy is bad. And my opinions of putting people in place with words when they step put of line is more than okay in america.”
Bestie:“Bigots are the ones who need to be put in their place. Maybe seeing what everyone else thinks of your sexist rhetoric would help you rethink how much of a garbage human you are? And haaaaaaaaa bring my dad into this. He’s a mother fucking hero. I don’t hate men. I just want to see them do better. And you could do MUCH better.”
(Ed’s Note: While we strive for correct grammar on this site, we have decided not to copy-edit Scumfuck’s comments in order to preserve authenticity)
Daddy issues? Really bro? He just freaked out when called out. He has a girlfriend. I wish I could send her this convo, I’m sure he untagged himself to hide. He also said that we both probably steal and also place false accusations on men.
And why we so upset? WE ARE ALL UPSET WITH YOU and that smug little attitude, and yeah she is right to put your ass on blast!
We live in a world where we have to look out for each other because so much bullshit – like the comments you made- is out there. So many men think its ok to just “DISRESPECT” women by raping, murdering, mutilating, and ya know just normal stuff like that.
Try living life in fear. Try being a woman. You don’t have what it takes dude. He also said “Womens rights? Why is that even a thing? You have the same rights as a man in america. Lol.”
Mistreatment of women (or any human) and sexual assault is nothing to laugh at. This is not a joke! See how well its going for Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and all the others. Real funny.
Guys like this are the festering puss in the pimple that is the Donald Trump era, and ladies/ woke gentleman/ humans we need to POP THIS BITCH! Let the white nasty goo ooze out so we can put some antibiotic ointment on it and start the healing process. Toxic masculinity is a rampant disease
Gender is just a social construct, sex is a sliding spectrum, and forget about all of the archaic archetypal attitudes that have been destroying people since people existed. Asshole is not a gender identity.
Not every person who identifies as a man is an asshole, just the evil ones. I never ever claimed to “HATE ALL MEN” this is not the S.C.U.M. Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men by Valerie Solanas). Believe me, I love all humans, I am pansexual and yes, I love men.
My dad is a prime example of how a man should be. He treats my mother with love and respect and takes care of his family. I do NOT have “daddy issues”. My only issue is that I have not met any men who are as awesome as my dad.
It’s like saying every asshole dude who thinks with his cock has mommy issues. His mom probably dislikes him as much as we do. Perhaps she has no idea and her pedestal really is encouraging him, but he made his choices.
I am definitely not saying that all “women”or female identifying humans are perfect either. My friend who is a stripper said that the people who often disrespect her the most are women. They think that they can get away with doing things that men are not allowed to do.
Sex workers get all of my respect. As women we need to be supporting each other and lifting each other up, not tearing down our sisters and degrading them in order to impress the guys or fulfill your own twisted ego.
I have several people in my life who have survived abuse and now want to call out their abusers. I want to create a dating profile that is completely honest. It will not be slander because the jerk will know it’s all true. It will be anonymous, the EX or person who was abused by them can submit the photos and answer all of the questions truthfully. We can call it OkStupid.
Hobbies: Punching women and destroying their self esteem and sense of worth, video games, , and watching anal gang bang porn.
What do you do on a Fri night?: Emotional abuse and torture with a side of forced sex on the rocks. Netflix and chilling with sexist comedians and my dog Bruiser, drinking brews.
Ideal date?: 100% American woman, big tits, big ass, no brains, no voice, subservient, great at blow jobs, no self worth, great cook, into being a side piece, jail bait preferred.
Career: Well since I got fired from 711 for doing whip its and expelled from community college I guess it’s sleeping in my mom’s basement and eating meatloaf while jerking my lil ween off obsessively until it blisters.
What do you do when knowing that someone raped your friend but she doesn’t want to come forward, she is too scared, blames herself, it’s her fault that she was drunk… well she didn’t take her own pants off and stick his cock inside her unwilling vagina. She didn’t put those bruises all over her body. She didn’t say YES! But she wanted it? She was too drunk/drugged to function and she WANTED IT?
The most important thing is to report rape right away, get the rape kit before you take a shower, physical evidence is important. Plan B can be administered as well as emotional support from a professional counselor. I would be scared too, embarrassed that I was the girl who was drugged and gang raped behind a dumpster.
Rapists hurt more than just the physical body. Survivors are violated, that scene in a movie where a woman is rocking back and forth in the shower is not shocking. Rape culture is normalized. Abusers are heroes and presidents!
Glorifying abuse on women, trans, and non-bianry humans is a terrifying truth. It is out in the open. Women get stoned to death for being promiscuous and men can just do what they please.
Attackers get violent when confronted with what they have done. Pity nobody has their backs, not even other men. Survivors are gaining power and rising up.
The #MeToo campaign is an incredible shift of power. Use your voice! Rose McGowan and Ellen Page are two of my role models for tearing up the patriarchy they have survived in for so long. They used their fame and following to rip the head off the beast.
Hollywood needed to be exposed and torn to shreds, young actresses (and actors) have always been victimized. Give some head to get ahead, right?
I want to set fire to all the rape vans and free all the people from the cages of oppression that bind them. All us stinky pussy hoes have a problem with you existing in your current state, fragile man children. There is nothing sexy about disrespect. Mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, lovers, and friends all need to be aware if someone in their life is an abuser.
Together we are the voice for the voiceless. The silenced millions who thought they were in it alone need to know that there is a network of strength behind them, a net of loving arms. Others will have your back. We are a tight knit web of female rage. War paint on. This will not be pretty…
St. Laurent Boulevard is set to lose a jewel of a bookshop as rising rents force a beloved bookseller into early retirement after 25 years.
On October 26th workers from 1-800-GOT-JUNK carried armfuls of books to the back of a dump truck. Inside Librairie T. Westcott, hidden behind stacks teetering on the verge of collapse, Terry Westcott sat behind the cash and sold books like it was a regular day.
The customers seemed more or less unaware that the bookstore he had run for so many years was being taken apart piece by piece behind him. For his part, Terry seemed to be playing along with the facade.
“Do you have a copy of Old Man and the Sea?” a woman asked. Terry smiled and pointed to a shelf a short distance away. “If we have any Hemingway it’s in the Literature section. But I don’t think we do at this time.”
“Oh well, I had to ask,” replied the woman and headed for the Literature shelf, dodging a worker clearing out books as she passed.
Outside, it started raining. The worker dutifully dumped his armload onto the growing pile of soggy books. “Don’t worry, it’s going in the recycling, not the dump,” the worker offered, as if trying to downplay some sense of personal culpability.
During a pause in the dramatic scene that was unfolding, I got a chance to ask Terry about his bookstore, why it was closing and his fondest memories of the place. Soft-spoken to the point of a whisper, he graciously obliged.
“My lease ended September of last year in 2016. Then in June the landlord came and told me that he had advertised the store for rent online and he’d received an offer of $4500 a month. There’s no way I can maintain a used bookshop at $4500 a month.”
Terry told me he would stay open as long as possible, until he was locked out. Some books would be donated, some would be sold, but most were headed for the dump truck.
“Yeah, it’s all going into the recycling. Around 20 000 books, altogether. It’s ridiculous.”
The inability to meet exorbitant rental fees is a familiar story along St. Laurent Boulevard. Every block of The Main contains at least one or two shuttered businesses. While Quebec has excellent rent control legislation in residential zones, small businesses like Terry Westcott’s survive at the whim of landlords, who can increase their rents to whatever price they can get from new tenants.
The loss of Librairie T. Westcott is a blow. A small store, Terry made use of every square foot. Organized by subject, piles of books reached close to the ceiling in places and navigating the aisles was sometimes a challenge. Whether Terry planned it this way or not, it had the effect of making each ‘find’ more gratifying, especially if you did it without causing a bookvalanche.
This is not to say things were disorganized. Once I laid down a number of heavy books I’d wanted to buy and when I came back for them five minutes later discovered that Terry had silently placed them all back in the their respective sections.
“A bookstore is a community, not just a business.” Terry said. Apart from hundreds of customers drawn in off the street, dozens of dedicated regulars came through his shop each month. “I read a sociological study that if a bookstore’s in the area, the crime rate drops by 30%. Somebody told me that Paris protects their bookshops [from rent increases]. I don’t know if it’s true or not.”
When asked about his fondest memories, he tells me it’s the community that he helped foster that he’ll miss the most: “People that are still book buyers and have a passion for books.”
He’ll also miss his two devoted regulars: “I had two little cats in the store and they’re a very fond memory. One died at 19, the other at 18.”
Their names? Emma (after Jane Austen) and Eliot (after T.S.). “The veterinarians could never get his name right, spelling it ‘Elliott’ like Pierre Elliott Trudeau.”
I ask him what he’ll do after he retires.
“Well, I’m 74 but I don’t want to retire. I’m still healthy and mentally active, I was hoping to continue. So I have no plans in particular. Maybe I’ll watch golf on television, read the newspaper. Maybe I’ll take in another cat, an older one. They have their lives to live too.”
At the time of writing, hundreds of books have been trucked away. The entire back wall is now bare in preparation for renovations by the new tenant.
But one thing is certain— as long as he can manage to keep his doors open, Terry and Librairie T. Westcott will continue to enrich the community he helped foster for the last quarter century.
* While it’s still open, T. Westcott Books is located at 4065 boul. St-Laurent
Dyngus day is a Polish holiday that celebrates the day after Easter. Women tap the boys they like with pussy willows and men dump buckets of water on the girls they like.
Buffalo NY is the biggest Dyngus Day party in the world. It has turned into an awful display of humanity, but I never realized it. It is like I finally woke up. Grown men stumbling around wearing I LOVE PUSSY shirts and pissing on everything they could find. Open container and indecent exposure isn’t a thing I guess.
For one day a year, the streets of Buffalo’s Eastside are filled with a sea of red and white. Thousands packed the streets for the 11th annual parade celebrating Buffalo polish pride and the end of Lent. Floats throw kielbasa, butter lambs, rye bread, and even cartons of MILK – vegan nightmare!
It’s like Mardi Gras, but instead celebrates the end of lent, the end of giving things up. You have to work for this, it’s a reward.
People who are here may have had family that once lived on the Eastside, but let’s face it, the neighborhood has gone through a demographic shift! It has been swept into poverty.
I am from the neighborhood, too, but it doesn’t make it right to hulk smash through the current residents of the poorest neighborhood and piss all over it. Polish people moved to the suburbs and didn’t want the old Polonia neighborhood or Dyngus Day to die, but it can’t continue like this. Perhaps renovating the Central Terminal will be a real positive for the neighborhood rather than a Polish invasion.
I know that am part of the problem. I keep coming to this realization and until I stand up and fucking change it I AM THE PROBLEM.
I stood there with my friend, wearing flowers. We had biked down to the East Side. We were standing in front of a building where two men of color diligently worked putting up tiles on the front of it. There was a younger child on the second floor peering out the window. Men kept filing in and pissing on the side of the building, the kid was yelling “STOP PISSING ON MY HOUSE I CAN SEE YOU!” I should have backed the kid up. Even the men remodeling didn’t stop them, what power did they have in a sea of bros? White men have been pissing on them their whole lives, now it is just literal. Next year I want to fill up a super soaker with PISS and squirt all the assholes who just think they can piss all over the east side.
Yes it is a depressed neighborhood, there are a lot of abandoned houses, but I know damn well that people are trying, people are LIVING THERE and we run through their backyards like fools. Dyngus Day guests need to have respect for others and should be ashamed of themselves.
To some people it is innocent fun, but these same people need to open up their eyes. Just because you aren’t doing something on purpose doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
It felt like we were at a Donald Trump rally. There was a sea of red and white, motorcycles, all white people, the occasional MAKE AMERICA POLISH AGAIN sign, and the most blatant shirt with Trump’s face that said GRAB HER BY THE PUSSY WILLOW! Pussy willows, squirt guns, red and white, falcons, butter lambs, kielbasa, traditional dancers, goofy t-shirts, racist rhetoric, oh yea and a league of Trump supporters.
Their sense of entitlement astounds me. The disillusionment is mind blowing. Trump has an audience with these fools- misogynist, racist, anxious, angry, and teetering middle class comfort. Disenfranchised white people are dangerous! Scary and powerful, balding, scared of change and won’t ever admit fault.
At the heart it is a quirky holiday, and I should feel safe to celebrate my heritage. We just need to stop being assholes about it.
The custom of pouring water is an ancient spring rite of cleansing, a sign of fertility and purity. Pussy willows are the first bud of spring. They are indicative of new growth. 50 shades of red and white, whipping and splashing. Lots of dirty shirts talking about wet pussies have emerged from these traditions. Polka bands with names like Hokus Polkas and Those Idiots are my favorites.
This holiday NOT observed in Poland. Smingus Dyngus means “wet Monday” in Polish. Buffalo likes to make everything into a drinking holiday – 2 for $5 shots of Krupnik (Polish honey liquor). As I was waiting in line for the porta potty, a girl shared some krupnik out of a honey bear bottle. I tried to buy it from a liquor store on the west side and he had no idea what I was talking about.
Sure, I’ve been the butt of pollack jokes. The radio station 97 rock hosted a day of pollack jokes on Monday. People are embarrassed of their heritage because of the stigma of being a dumb pollack. Try being a dumb pollack and a dumb blonde at the same time.
Why is it ok to make fun of Polish people so openly? The official Dyngus Day Facebook page called out 97 Rock for making fun of Polish people. These same folks can’t seem to find a problem in supporting a BIGOT misogynist president, though.
I am proud of my culture, but I am not proud of my race as a whole historically. Victim narrative of angry white men is too common a story. People who feel like their government has left them behind.
In Buffalo, the day Trump was elected their was a huge fire at the former shell of Bethlalem Steel. A symbol of strength and American economy, a symbol of the failure of these white men. The industry failed, Buffalo lost a lot of jobs. Now it burns as Trump rises like a fucking phoenix from hellfire.
Wake up! THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND WHITENESS – the American Dream was only designed for white men, they have been babied and feel “lied to” and now they are pissed that the Easter Bunny isn’t real, they chased the white rabbit into a hole of racism and anger. Oh no, your butter lamb melted!
White privilege is the ability to piss all over someone else’s pride and dignity without seeing the consequences. There were so many drunk bros and retired men reeking havoc with their blurred sense of reality. The girls were no better. We all had on pretty flowers and held water guns and took selfies on the same streets that kids were murdered with real guns.
The Eastside of Buffalo is a war zone, between gang violence and police straight up murdering people I would be afraid to leave my house too. Now we add a sea of entitled suburbanite asshats to the mix?
We need to be giving back to this community, loving and nurturing the people who are there, not just colonizing for one day and leaving. We need to ask them where we are needed and not trample on their dignity in the name of tradition.
My friend was busking on a street corner and got bashed in the face with his own clarinet by a drunk bro. Great job Buffalo, probably the same internet sensation who was fucking his girlfriend and doing lines of coke in the lot outside of the Bills game.
The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.
These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).
Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.
This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.
At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).
Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.
By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.
Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.
Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.
The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.
Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.
Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”
Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.
This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.
All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.
The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.
Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:
“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”
Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.
Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening. The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”
According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.
As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.
El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.
The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.
The federal government decided to get involved in the campaign to return the remains of two members of the Beothuck Nation, currently exposed in an Edinburgh Museum, to their native Newfoundland.
Chief Mi’sel Joe, of the Conne River Mi’kmaq band, and the Newfoundland and Labrador government have been trying for years to repatriate the skulls and burial goods of two members of the extinct indigenous nation of Beothucks. The vestiges were taken from a grave site in Newfoundland in 1828.
The National Museum of Scotland had responded that it would only consider a claim made by the federal government in association with a Canadian National Museum. So Ottawa quietly joined the fight.
On Wednesday, CBC News got hold of a letter written by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to the director of National Museums Scotland (the parent association of the National Museum of Scotland, which is in Edinburgh).
“As the Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with its Indigenous peoples, I am writing to inform you that it is now involved in this matter,” said the letter. “The Government of Canada considers this matter to be of considerable importance.”
The message was sent on May 29, as a notification to the NMS that Canada intended to put in an official request to claim the Beothuck remnants. CBC just got access to it through the Access to Information Act.
Chief Mi’sel Joe, the most prominent figure of the campaign, was happy and surprised to learn that Ottawa had taken this unusual initiative, reported CBC.
The Fascinating History of Beothucks
The Beothucks were the original inhabitants of Newfoundland. They cohabited with the Mi’kmaqs, and for a while, with European settlers before being declared extinct in 1829. There is no doubt that the arrival of the Europeans played a great role in their extinction, which certain historians call a genocide.
The remains currently in Edinburgh are those of Nonosabasut and his wife Demasduit, believed to be the aunt and uncle of the last known Beothuck, a woman named Shanawdithit. Their story is quite fascinating.
In 1818, conflicts between settlers and Beothucks were frequent in Newfoundland. One night, in retaliation for the theft of their fishing equipment, the local colony sent nine armed men to storm a Beothuck camp near Exploits River. Demasduit, wife of the leader Nonosabasut, was captured. Her husband was killed while trying to protect her and her infant son died a few days after.
Demasduit was taken into the colony and lived with a priest who gave her the white name of Mary March. Some unsuccessful attempts have been made to return her to her tribe in the summer of 1819. She died of tuberculosis one year later. Her body was retrieved by her tribe and placed in a burial hut, beside her husband and child.
According to Wikipedia, there was only 31 Beothucks remaining at that time. A Scottish explorer found the bones and other vestiges about nine year later.
Why so Quiet?
A briefing note addressed to Joly (presumably also accessed through the Access to Information Act) said that getting involved in the repatriation of the remains in Scotland “would be consistent with the government’s commitment toward reconciliation with Canada’s Aboriginal people… Return of these remains, or a concerted effort to have them returned, would be a high profile demonstration of that commitment.”
This begs the question of why this high profile demonstration has been exceptionally discreet so far. It’s possible that they wanted to avoid the diplomatic complications of a highly publicized feud between Scottish Museums and the Canadian government.
“The department is still assembling all of the elements required by the trustees of the museum in Edinburgh, in order to ensure the case is complete and as strong as possible,” said Pierre-Olivier Herbert, spokesperson for the department of Heritage.
Other Remains in Canada
It’s also possible that they didn’t want to wake the sleeping matter of the remains of 22 Beothucks in possession of various Canadian museums. In 2012, Mi’sel Joe had declared to the CBC that returning those remains to Newfoundland is “the respectful and right thing to do, for anyone.” At the time, Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of History, where the remains of ten individuals lie, had named lack of resources as the reason for their failure to be proactive in the matter.
According to more recent statements of spokeswoman Éliane Laberge, they have received no formal request from Indigenous groups.
* Featured Image: A portrait of Demasduit, one of the last Beothucks of Newfoundland
Yesterday I was walking down Assiniboine Avenue here in Winnipeg, past the Legislative grounds, where often many Pokemon Go players gather. Indeed on a couple occasions, I, as a casual player, have hung out here as well.
This time I was just passing through on my way home from the grocery store. In the short time it took me to walk through, I heard several other people who were passing by make loud derisive comments to or about the people playing. Comments about how stupid it is, how stupid the people playing it are, how it’s sad that they have nothing better to do with their time.
As I walked further I got kind of angry. What right do these people have to judge? This is something that makes people happy, gets people out to have fun, brings people together. Why the hate? It’s a hobby.
Just because it’s not your thing, why do you have to try to spoil it for those who enjoy it? Then I got thinking about it a little more, and realized that this isn’t any different than people shitting on any other hobby, it’s just new, so people are more vocal about it at this moment. And I realized the sad fact that literally EVERYBODY does it. This is just what people do.
I guarantee every person complaining about how much they’re being judged for playing Pokemon is guilty of judging other people for doing things that they like doing.
In recent years I’ve noticed an especially vitriolic movement among people who don’t like sports to wear their ignorance of sports as a proud badge, to ironically talk about “sportsball”, and assume that all people who like watching sports are ignorant uneducated brutes, and brand them as such.
It’s the same thing I’ve seen with people who are militantly smug about how they don’t watch TV, because according to them TV is an evil, brain-killing thing that has no redeeming qualities, and anyone who is stupid enough to fall under its spell deserves to have their mind rotted out because they’re intellectually weak.
I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard people straight up hate on for no reason other than they personally aren’t interested in it; reading books, being a foodie, playing board games, and dozens of other things that people just do because they enjoy them.
We’ve all done it. I’m certainly not innocent of doing it. But I’m trying to be better. Everybody has things they like doing, so let’s just fucking let people do them without all the criticism.
Go catch Pokemon. Go play fantasy football. Go knit. Go watch superhero movies. Go birdwatching. Go collect records or porcelain dolls or insects or stamps. Go play basketball. Go play Magic. Your hobby isn’t any better or more valid than anyone else’s. And if you think it is, you’re an asshole.
Y’know what makes you just as much of an asshole, though? Criticizing other people’s interests just because people have been criticizing yours.
* Featured Image: Pokemon GO players in Cabot Square, Montreal by Elizabeth Ann Keenan
“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”
Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.
Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.
“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.
The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”
When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.
Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”
In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”
Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”
I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”
Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.
The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:
“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”
The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”
Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”
Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:
“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”