Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Olympics: Vancouver's Big Date

Vancouver is like the teenage girl on the evening of her dream date with the high school hunk. Unfortunately, the high school hunk is not the rest of the world, but the United States. Like most vapid teenage girls from the popular set, Vancouver doesn't even notice the panoply of interesting geeks, stoners, pseudo-intellectuals and artfags from the rest of the school. No she only has eyes for the cool jock with the fancy car and the right haircut. She does everything she can to fix herself up so she appears to be the kind of woman she thinks he wants, in the process making herself bland, generic and uninteresting. Her weird father with the worn corduroys and stupid opinions is a source of profound shame so she screams at him "If you dare say a word when he comes over, I'll kill you!" The irony is is that when the dude does come over and he meets the dad, it turns out he finds the dad kind of interesting and cool and the girl's attitude towards him childish and annoying.

This is the problem with many Canadians' insecure, sycophantic feelings towards the U.S. They want to be rich and have all the cool movie stars and nice toys that we see the Americans have on television and in the movies. And by extension, they think that the Americans will think we're cool if we demonstrate that we have those things. What they don't realize is that Americans respect individuals. They like cultures that stand out and do their own thing. They don't always understand them and sometimes they crush them with their military might, but usually the educated ones with enough money to travel are disappointed when they go to another country and find a watered-down simulacrum of their own world. This is especially true with Canada. They want to come here and find us being crazy Canadians, with our doors unlocked, our legal weed, our gay marriages. Nothing would make Vancouver more interesting to the american media than a well-organized protest rally. VANOC and the Vancouver and BC government are so sycophantic and weak-minded, that all they can think of, like the insecure teenage girl, is how they might be embarrassed. In doing so, they miss a giant opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we are a rich, complex democracy that respects political freedom of expression. So they clamp down, straightjacket all artistic performances and make a bunch of stupid behaviour rules (white knee socks, really?)

I won't even get into the utter financial fiasco this is turning into and the frightening draconian imposition of security that will probably remain in place after the games are over. It's this shame of who we are that I find the most depressing and distasteful about these games. This part resentful, part yearning unrequited love with the coolness that is succesful America. You see it at it's worst in the city of Vancouver (wanna be Los Angeles) and in Toronto (wanny be New York). A minority of Canadians of this mentality actually grab the brass ring and make it to their promised land. You could see most of them up on the stage lighting the olympic torch. But most of them stay in Canada and remain wistful and pathetic, dreaming of the treasures the south has to offer but lacking the fundamental spirit that got them those jewels. Those are the losers and fascists who are organizing the Olympic games in Vancouver. While I hope for the best for our athletes and for the lower mainland, I really hope the Olympics are a huge fail and that the organizers lose power so we can get rid of their kind of thinking.

Let's get back to being the cool, quirky, independent girl that the flashy jock secretly lusts after not the ditzy blonde that he knows he is going to score with but really doesn't give a shit about.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Montreal municipal elections costs

The excellent blog Spacing Montreal, reported on the costs of the last election here in Montreal. Check these numbers out:

Here are the total expenses of the three main Montreal parties:

* - Union Montréal: $1.5 million
* - Vision Montréal: $1.4 million
* - Projet Montréal: $245,000

When one compares with amount of money spent with the amount of votes received for each party’s mayoral candidate, here’s the dollar per vote breakdown:

* - Union Montréal: $9.35 per vote
* - Vision Montréal: $10 per vote
* - Projet Montréal: $2.30 per vote

And guess what? The city taxes pay half of that bill, so we are basically out $1.6 million dollars that could have been spent on so many other things. For me, these numbers simply reinforce what a joke Louise Harel's election campaign was. With her broom sweeping clean and all that. I know some people that worked on her campaign and they are good, lefty environmentalists but they are also proud Quebeckers and I think pretty strong separatists. I think their allegiance to Harel is a great example of how their nationalism blinds them to the greater flaws. Her party is basically a big-spending, advertisement-driven establishment party, no different than Tremblay's. Yet they somehow convince themselves that she is acceptable, even though her environmental platform sucked, her party is mired in old-school corruption and, as we see here, they spend to win.

I'm glad my vote only cost us $2.30. Let's hope this news gets spread far and wide and puts a bit of pressure on the other parties to cut down on their election spending. These numbers really add weight to Projet Montréal's success.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I need is a bookshelf sale!


The Grande Bibliothèque Nationale is having its first ever book sale. Most of the books will be in french, but there are going to be some english ones in there. This library collected a lot of older collections from other libraries around the city and they have a bunch of english novels from the period before the revolution, which includes all kinds of really good hard-to-find stuff (they have some obscure John Christophers, some beautiful old Michael Gilberts, for instance). I don't know how much of that has been sitting in their storage areas and if any of it will be on sale here, but I think I am going to have to go check it out. Even though my on-deck shelf is spilling off the edge and I have a stack of books that need a new shelf to go onto, I think I can not resist the siren call.

These big library book sales are quite the scene. They have one every year at a big stadium over in Rosemont and the line-up is massive. All the kinds of weirdos that the used book trade attracts plus various other book-loving members of society. I suspect this one, considering that it is the first at the new library, could be quite a scene.

It's this Friday from 10 am to 10 pm and then Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5. I may consider taking the morning off.

What I really should be doing is building some new shelves with those nice planks stored in my back stairwell.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Sno Wovel

Wow, check this awesome snow shovelling tool out:

I haven't used it yet, but boy does it theoretically make a ton of sense. It's basically the same principle as a wheelbarrow, balancing the weight across the wheels, allowing you to stand upright and letting the wheels do a lot of the lateral work (instead of you and your back). This thing seems like a godsend for weary winter shovellers. It's also a good excuse to cut back on fuel-consuming machines, although I don't know how effective that will be until fuel reaches it's proper price.

You can get it directly from their site.

Here is a sweet video of the beast in action:

I have to say, watching this stuff is almost like porn for me. I wish there was a whole website dedicated to snow shovelling videos.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More good municipal environmental news! Composting to come!

So the city announced yesterday that they are going to spend money on plants and a collection system for dealing with organic waste. This is great news. It took them long enough but at least they are doing something. This is a dirty city, and I mean that on the individual level. People in Montreal seem to think it's okay to litter, let your dog shit anywhere and not pick it up and leave your garbage unsecured on the street and hope for the city to come to get it. And the city has tolerated, even encouraged that kind of behaviour. It creates a culture of entitlement where if you dare ask a Montreal to be responsible for their garbage, many of them will get all outraged.

We really need a punitive system of fines to straighten the culture out (personally, I'd prefer a system of fines and beatings, but I'm a fascist and I'll compromise with the dominant political system for the time being). It would be relatively simple to implement a system where every household (and apartment block) gets a certain amount of garbage picked up for free, based on the size of a bin or a bag. If you go above that size, you have to purchase more bags for a fee, something not too cheap but still feasible, so it would hurt but households that just had to waste would still put their garbage out rather than storing it in their basement. There would be no limit on recycling or biodegradable waste. There would also be a hefty fine for putting the wrong garbage in the wrong bin or bag.

Then you hire a fleet of eager young people to go up and down the streets on garbage day and hand out tickets (and an education on why it is so important to properly sort one's garbage). It would be a huge revenue stream for the city and get people in line pretty quickly. Furthermore, it would indirectly put pressure on manufacturers, food producers and retailers to start to cut down the amount of packaging they use, as consumers would be more wary of how much garbage they are producing (a minor influence, I'll admit, but it's a start).

These same laws should be applied to businesses as well, though with greater quantities allowed depending on the industry. Currently, business in Montreal do not have to recycle (I mean, come on, how fucked up is that?).

I'm not someone who is generally in favour of greater bureaucracy or lots of tickets being handed out, but being responsible about one's own waste is something we all have control over to a much, much greater degree than is being exercised right now. Currently, I live in the hippest, toniest part of the city and it is a fucking disgrace, an embarrassment how dirty it is. There is literally garbage blowing up and down the street. East Oakland has less litter in the gutter than my street. Hastings and Main is cleaner. It's fucking astounding.

On the home front, our compost in the back is quite close to the top of the lid. About two weeks ago, we had a serious thaw where it hit up 9 degrees and I was hoping for some minor decomposition, but we didn't get much. Yesterday, I had the naive hope that perhaps the bottom was hollow (we scoop the finished compost out of the bottom) and tried to climb up on it and stamp it down. The thing is a solid block of ice. It was like trying to stamp down a cinder block. I felt foolish.

But oh when the spring thaw comes, that is going to decompose fast into some sweet compost!