Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blue Sunshine @ Blue Sunshine

So I finally got myself to Blue Sunshine last night. It's a pretty cool concept that I've been kicking myself for not checking out earlier, basically a mini-movie theatre/cinema hang-out scene. It resides on the top floor of one of the commercial/residential buildings on the lower Main in a pretty sweet apartment that has been converted into a screening room with the kitchen at back as a little bar/refreshment stand. They play a wide range of movies, going about as obscure as any movie house I've ever known. They also hold classes, workshops and lecture/slideshows. It acts as the classroom for the Miskatonic Institute, a film school that deals with horror filming techniques and history, which I think may even be properly accredited. They also have a lot of links with Fantasia. All in all, a super cool thing and I'm psyched that they have managed to hang on for year.

Last night was the 1-year anniversary and they screened Blue Sunshine, the cult film (can't say classic, though it probably is, just because so few people even among cult movie fans have heard of it, though that is changing obviously) that they got their name from. I was a bit hesitant to go, but Ariel, a young but already high-level movie geek and moviemaker to be, whose excellent and active tumblr blog I follow, encouraged me. He does a good job selling, an excellent trait for the movie business!

The scene is super mellow. There are something like 30 chairs in a large front room. They've got a built in booth with a 16mm projector, DVD, betacam (borrowed, I think, for the occassion). Around the back is the kitchen, where you can get a beer or soda and some snacks (with some various cool movie books and mags for sale). There were free cupcakes last night as well, but that may have been for the anniversary. They were quite good! All in all, it's a very mellow almost family-like feel. I could see how this could become a regular hang-out for movie geeks. My dance card is full these days, but were I in an earlier phase of my life, I would probably have been a regular here. There is the undercurrent of that nerdy intensity, though, that these days makes me feel tired (I overheard several "here's this cool movie thing!" "oh yeah, and here's this one!" type of conversations, I even almost got caught up in one myself!) But really, that goes with the territory. If you are a movie geek, you need to get your ass to Blue Sunshine basically.

The movie itself is a small-budget thriller from the mid-70s about a group of people who had all taken a specific strain of LSD 10 years earlier that had changed their DNA and was causing them all to turn into hairless homicidal maniacs. Jeff Lieberman, the director, was present. He is an amiable, engaging New Yorker who told a hilarious story about the ramifications of the one time he took acid as a very young man. After years of anti-LSD fear propaganda, he was convinced that he may have damaged himself in some serious way. When his first child was crowning, he having no experience of childbirth (and having skipped the Lemas classes his wife wanted him to take), saw the folded head of his child and thought that his wife was birthing a mutant sparrow-child because of the acid he took! Quite a funny story. At the beginning of it, he asked who had taken acid in the audience. Nobody in the first two rows raised their hands! What the hell, didn't you people go to middle school?! Man, what is this world coming to?

Jeff Lieberman, director of Blue Sunshine (the movie) at the Q & A

Blue Sunshine the movie was actually quite entertaining and well done. It was surprisingly not that weird and culty. At times, I felt like I was watching a particularly energetic and edgy movie of the week from the 70s. The main actor, Zalman King, had a pretty good Sean Penn thing going on. I guess he later went on to become a fairly successful producer of big budget soft-core movies. I also noticed Brion James (of Blade Runner fame) playing a weirdo at a party who starts flapping his arms around the living room. The Q & A at the end was quite interesting as well. The finale plays out in a disco, but at the time, disco hadn't made it to the west coast. Lieberman basically recreated the scene that he knew from New York in a honky-tonk club (I wonder if it was the same one where Road House was filmed). Was he responsible for bringing disco to the west coast?

After the movie and Q & A were over, the place basically turned into a house party. I had a nice conversation with Ariel and his friend, saw a couple of local film luminaries (Rick Trembles, sans dark glasses) and checked out a small bookshelf with some sweet old paperbacks including what looks like a series of British youth novels (starting with Skinhead) that were quite intriguing. Because I'm an old man and am watching the neighbour's dog, I snuck out early, but I suspect the party went on. All in all a good time and I will be making it back there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Memories of winter

Is it too early for these still? Always amazes me how different our perception of the world is in different seasons and how we totally forget what it felt like to be in that other season.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wherein the naive optimism of the young citizen is rudely crushed by a painful revelation

So the results are in. Imagine my joy when I heard the streetsweeper coming up the street this morning and looked out the window to see this to my left:

and this to my right:

Not a car in sight and finally, after all these years, a properly swept street! Is that not a beautiful sight? I went to work with a real skip in my step.

So I come home for lunch and there is Orlando, my next door neighbour and retired Portuguese handyman repairing one of the stairs on the front of his house. Full of bravado, I point out the new sign and how I was responsible for it. He then says to me, in his quiet way "the people who work for the city are stupid. They are the stupidest people in the world." I was expecting some baseless cynical bitter old-man argument from him. Instead, he pointed to the sign and to the tree that is right across the sidewalk from it, explaining that the distance between them was now too narrow for the sidewalk plow and that it would now damage the young tree. I stood there dumbfounded. Not only that, but he was there when the guy was installing the new sign and told him not to do it. The guy said he had to because that is what his boss told him to do. I mean talk about retarded. There are so many other places where the sign could have been put and they chose one exactly opposite a young, but flourishing tree that is now at risk of being damaged. I noticed that there is a cylinder of metal in the ground where an old sign was right next to the new one. I wonder if that explains both the location and speed with which the work was done: they used to have a sign there that deteriorated (which Orlando confirmed was the case) and so could easily replace it. Now maybe they are going to take it out December 1st, when the street sweeping ends and in that case, all is fine. But if not, I am going to have to start my campaign all over again. Astounding.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Results! The city comes through!

So those of you who have been following this blog know that I have been bitching and complaining about the lack of street cleaning on my side of the block because of people who don't move their cars during the 9-10 am street cleaning time on Tuesdays. I've gone back and forth with the parking department and the borough, complaining every week. Some weeks they come by and give tickets, other weeks they don't showing up right after the cleaner has already passed by and just driving up the street. I guess because it is now after 10, they can't give tickets. I called furious after that one and the lady told me they were débordé (overflowing with work) which seems weird to me, since it is a revenue-generating activity.

I've put signs on the cars and almost dumped the garbage from the street on them. But my more mature side prevailed and I realized that the fault might be that many people who don't live in the neighbourhood don't even realize that you aren't supposed to park there during that hour. The two signs that state this are far away at each end of the street and there are a myriad of confusing parking signs in between.

So I started to take that tack with the people at 311 that the problem was a lack of proper signage. After the second try at this, directly with somebody from the Borough of the Plateau Mont-Royal, I was given a dossier number (11-119537) and told that they would open an investigation, sending some planners to do an investigation into the block. I basically assumed that I was going to have to keep on following up with this, with further calls, perhaps a physical visit to the office (which is on my way to work). This call was on May 31st.

Well blow me down, when I walked out of my apartment last Friday I stumbled upon this:

They must have installed it while I was at work and I didn't even notice until the next day. That is some pretty fast work! Under two weeks. Tomorrow is the day when the street sweeper comes, so we will see if the people notice the sign. I'll certainly be on the case of the parking bureau as well. But I have to say that I am quite satisfied and impressed with this level of service from the municipality. So to whomever oversaw dossier #11-119537, made sure it got to the right people, to whomever came and did a survey of my block and to whomever actually loaded up the sign, brought it here, dug a hole and put it up, I send you a great big Briques du Neige THANK YOU!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My experience with the new street fair closing time

So I was out on both Thursday and Friday nights of the Frénésie de la Main until the new closing time. On Thursday, I was at Laika with a couple of old high school friends. On Friday, I was at Frappé with a larger and constantly evolving groups. In both cases, the group I was with and everyone around us was sitting around, drinking beer, people watching and socializing. In both cases, the cops coming seemed utterly abrupt and unnecessary. It just made no sense. Everybody complied and the merchants were well on board, getting us prepared mentally for the early closing ahead of time.

I didn't hear anything about Saturday night, but based on the other two, I bet the cops were quite happy with the way it worked. I'm glad for them as individuals with jobs that their jobs were easier and that they didn't have to put up with too much trouble (though I don't know what happened farther down the Main). What was quite amazing was that as we were walking up the street to home, it started to drizzle. When we finally did get in the house, at around 1:30, the heavens opened up and it rained about as hard as I've seen it rain here. It's almost like God is also in agreement with this new council decision! I'm sure the cops were particularly happy about that. Too bad they didn't have a similar downpour in Vancouver.

The sense that I get is that a majority of responsible Montrealers is paying for the bad behaviour for a few, which is often one of the symptoms of overzealous authoritarianism. The group I was with on Friday was made up of many people who grew up in Montreal and are now in their 30s and 40s, responsible, employed citizens. Many of them were not aware of the new law and they were quite shocked and upset. I directed them to Alex Norris' facebook page.

My personal theory about this new law is that the counsellors did it to make a deal with the police. Either the police just have a great deal of sway with the borough council or they offered something the council wanted. My (completely unsubstantiated theory) is that the police new the new road closures were going to demand some serious police oversight and involvement and they told the counsellors that if they wanted to get solid help with that (which they have gotten), they wanted support on the early closure. Total conjecture, but it does paint Projet Montreal in a more positive light.

Because the negative light is that they are promoting a yuppie agenda, one that encourages increased property values and a culturally safe lifestyle for upper middle class property owners. One of the bartenders at Laika told me that they also made all the terrasses take away the ashtrays and that now smoking will no longer be allowed on the terrasses, because of the mess they made. I find this worrying. The Plateau is attractive because of its diversity and rich cultural life. Noise and mess and late nights come with that. If you move here and start complaining about the noise, you are an asshole. You want your cake and eat it too. Go get your quiet out in the suburbs, please. Message to Projet Montreal, yes I want a clean Plateau, but not at the expense of the social culture that makes this place what it is.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Squirrels and skunks and raccoons oh my!

So it's been an animal-tastic week here at Briques du Neige.

Sadly, the first encounter was the dog I walked finally actually caught a squirrel. She chases them all the time and the few times she has actually outpaced them, she doesn't do anything. This time, I think the squirrel was either really old, sick or already injured, because he was super slow. Charlie got at him before I could get to them and a little fight went on, where she kept biting the squirrel and the squirrel was going after her throat, but clearly couldn't get through her thick mane of hair. I finally got over to the dog. It took two pretty solid kicks to her ribs to get her to let go and then I dragged her away. Looking back, I saw the squirrel leaning against the tree it was trying to get up looking not good at all. There were no holes or anything, but at the very least it looked stunned. I hope that Charlie was only lightly biting at it (dogs can do that), but she may well have broken bones, which probably spells death for the poor little guy. Had we been in the forest and it was obvious the squirrel was badly injured, I probably would have found some way to put it out of its misery. But we were right by the children's swings (whenever Charlie does something bad, it's always in front of the worst possible witnesses: she loves to take a big dump in front of a blanket full of picnicking McGill girls for instance). I'm so soft when it comes to animals and seeing its look of fear and survival left an impression on my mind that did not feel good. I hope it survived to live on for a while.

This is a funny one. After years of walking Mont-Royal and the alleys of Mile End, I have still yet to ever see a raccoon or a skunk. I hear that there are plenty here, but I guess my timing is off. It's nothing like Vancouver where walking home from a bar, you have to actively avoid the bold beasts (both raccoons and skunks) and Cali where I used to have to beat them out of our kitchen with a broom when they came through the cat door (not skunks, fortunately). So one evening last week, coming back down the trails on the mountain above the Grandeur Nature battlefield, I saw an adolescent raccoon up in a tree. He was eyeing us warily, looked to be in good health. I was quite excited and went and told all my neighbours.

Later that week, I ran into one of my neighbours who was going for a walk himself and he told me that in the evening, up at the belvedere (I guess that is french for the look-out, which is a great vocab word to know and have), the raccoons come out and get fed by the tourists and eat from the garbage. So this week I went up there myself and holy crap its a raccoon party. They are everywhere, following screaming children, standing up on their hind legs and begging, pulling the lids off the garbage cans. It's kind of disgusting, though they are pretty cute. I had a hell of a time holding Charlie on the leash as she was slavering at the bit to get at those little raccoons. Kind of makes my one sighting down below in the forest a little less special!

I read that there are quite a few skunks in Montreal and that they can also be seen in the Mile End alleys. I've certainly smelled them from time to time (though given the quality of weed these days and the clouds of smoke billowing off the tam-tam on Sundays, sometimes it's hard to be sure). Supposedly, they eat a certain grub and when it rains a lot, there are many more of those grubs. So last night when I was coming home from watching the game (NBA Finals, thank you, game 5 great victory by Dallas over the evil Heats), I saw a couple ogling something in front of my apartment. It was a nice-looking skunk, sort of noodling around directly underneath the curvy stairs that lead up to my front door. He (or she, I didn't check) really did not seem bothered at all by my presence. I prudently took the stairs on the far side. My cat really wanted to go out front when I got back, but that certainly wasn't going to happen.

So yeah, not anything really exotic, but exciting for me, nonetheless. Go Canucks!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Go dig for wells in Westmount!

A very clever protest sign seen at the manif against the big oil companies last summer downtown.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Rapture on the wall

This graffiti mural is so awesome. There is so much cool shit going on here. On the left hand side, it's a multitude of apocalyptica: nuclear explosions, erupting volcanoes, war (see the tiny bombers over the future-city), asteroids, UFOs and the very prescient flooding. Then on the right, the Hands of Wisdom part the curtains of reality to reveal a refuge of untouched nature (at the foot of the Rockies, perhaps?). Is this simply a hippy interpretation of The Rapture? A call for ecology? A cry for help from a transplanted west coaster?

(click for the larger picture)

Dead Soldier