Saturday, October 18, 2008

montreal, part deux

Today's soundtrack:
Me, Myself and Us by Pascale Picard

After a rather lazy morning, I wandered up Rue Saint-Hubert to A La Tricoteuse Laine on Rue Rachel. I found some more sock wool for my ever-expanding list of Christmas gifts. The couple who works there, and I believe owns the store, were very nice but also very quiet. I think they could tell I couldn't speak French. They have every conceivable colour of Regia sock wool. Everything in the store has its place, which gives the impression that they don't have much stock. But they do. Its tucked into every possible nook and cranny under and above the shelves.

But afterwards, I still had a few hours to kill before the afternoon session, so I googled Starbucks and found that the nearest one was only a few blocks away on Rue Saint-Denis. Well, I thought, I guess it's time for some more sightseeing. Sans camera this time. So down Saint-Denis I wandered, passing a Spanish restaurant (closed and apparently oblivious to my desire for a good bowl of gazpacho), and lo and behold, I ran into a fellow Saskatooner (is that what we're called?). She was here for another conference. So we chatted and went our own ways, leaving me quite bemused about the fact that I ran into someone I knew in the middle of Montreal. Saint-Denis is the more vibrant area of Montreal and much more interesting than Vieux Montreal. Sure, the cobblestones have their charm, but I could plainly see that afternoons in July on Saint-Denis would be a riot.

Eventually, and with Starbucks in hand, I found my way to Rue Sainte-Catherine. Apparently, this is the trendy area. So I wandered past high-end stores and sex shops and inadvertently found myself on the edge of a protest against the Church of Scientology. I guess they've opened an office on Sainte-Catherine and these protesters, dressed in bandanas and V for Vendetta masks, were handing out pamphlets on the street corners. The cops were already talking to the ringleaders and things were starting to look a wee bit tense. As good a time as any, I thought, to head back to the conference.

Tomorrow it's back to Saskatoon and real life. Montreal has been interesting, especially since it's the most European-ish city in Canada. But honestly, I'll take Madrid any day of the week over Montreal. If I'm going to be in a European (or European-ish) city, I'd much rather be able to speak the language. Besides, the store clerks here aren't nearly surly enough to pass for European.

bienvenue á montreal

Today's soundtrack:
Let it Die by Feist

For the past few days I've been in Montreal at the CSECS (Canadian Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies) Conference. The sessions have kept me pretty busy and I've spent every spare minute getting my paper ready. But after presenting this morning, I figured I owed it to myself to skip out on the first afternoon session and do some serious sightseeing. So me, my handful of French phrases, and my camera headed downtown.

In order to get to Vieux Montreal, I had to take the Métro. Have I mentioned how enamored I am of subway systems? Maybe it's all the movies and tv shows set in New York, but I just love that process of traveling by subway. The Montreal métro is significantly smaller that the Madrid metro, so finding my way was pretty easy. Now getting through the ticket wicket, that's a different story. It helps if you can count in French. Neuf, by the way, is nine. That took longer to figure out than it should have.

So I made it to Vieux Montreal and set out with my best nonchalant touristy air. The first impressive building I came across was this:
Lovely, no? I had no idea what the building was. I knew that the Notre-Dame Cathedral was around here somewhere, but this couldn't be it. It's too small. So off I trekked over cobblestone roads and found myself, soon enough, in a garden, which is pretty much par for the course anytime I'm in Europe. I can't count how many gardens Janet and I ended up in when we were in Florence. And every time I'm in Madrid, I drag Miguel off to another botanical landscape. So, dear Lady J, these garden photos are for you:
The garden is behind this old (in the Canadian sense, not the European) hotel that once housed the Governor General of Canada and the U.S. Army (although not at the same time) and is modeled after the traditional gardens in New France.

Afterwards, I made my way back down Rue Notre-Dame, past this building:I have no idea what that building is, but it was large and impressive. I then popped into the Tourist Information office to ask directions to the Cathedral. "Ou-es la Notre-Dame catedral?" I asked in a painful half-French, half-Spanish mix. "Five minutes down the street to the left" she answered in English, somewhat exasperated. So off I trot, back down the street. And whaddya know? That first building I saw was the Cathedral after all! I tried to get in, but the church was closed for a private function.

I blame Trudeau. The younger one, with the hair.

After that, I tried in vain to find Ariadne Knits, but ended up lost. So instead, I made my way back to the conference to catch the session of the day. I noticed that a lot of architecture in Vieux Montreal - and I'm referring to the large buildings - hearken back to Greco-Roman influences rather than Gothic. I'm curious to see Ottawa in order to compare English architecture in Upper Canada. All in all, a lovely afternoon of sightseeing.

Friday, October 03, 2008

live blog - the leaders debate

Today's soundtrack:
Leaders Debate on CBC

7:00 - Oooh, spiffy music. Can I get that on iTunes?

On the economy:

7:03 - Stephane Dion is sounding pretty clear. Apparently, the man has a plan.

7:04 - Why isn't Harper looking at me? Maybe it's for the best. Excellent, rather than explaining his plan for helping the economy, he just went after Dion, who actually has a plan.

7:05 - I think Jack Layton just convinced me to buy a program that will teach me to use Microsoft Word...

7:06 - Duceppe compared Harper to Bush. That took all of 6 minutes, folks. Drink up.

Roundtable discussion:

7:07-7:10 - Harper's pretty cocky for a guy that's riding on the Liberal's fiscal platform. Had they not left the government books in such good shape, he wouldn't be able to claim anything tonight. Oh lookit Elizabeth May go! She's definitely holding her own here tonight, calling Harper on his hypocrisy and inability to discuss his party's (nonexistent) platform. Miguel says that Harper is winning. I disagree. I think the moderator is winning. When Dion gets flustered, his English slips a bit, but he's doing well so far tonight. He's getting his points across, but so is Harper. Harper is against raising taxes on corporations, but all the other parties are for it.

7:12 - May accused Harper of being too pro-Alberta. For those playing along, time for another drink.

7:14 - "Laissez-faire, I don't care approach". Nice one, Dion.

7:16 - Harper's being a bit patronizing to May. And Layton just referenced Bush and Howard. That's two drinks folks.

7:17 - Finally, women are mentioned by Layton, but only in passing. Hopefully this will come back later.

7:18 - Harper's EI plan will allow self-employed women to take maternity leave. Of course, once those kids are squeezed out there's a little problem of daycare...

7:19 - Layton called Dion on propping up Harper's government. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

7:21-7:25 - Dion brings in Sweden to support his Green Shift plan. And here comes the moderator: "Are those [manufacturing] jobs gone for good?". Harper wants "jobs of the future", which I assume will be when we start working for the talking apes and/or alien overlords. Duceppe didn't answer the moderator's question (never good to get on his bad side). Harper called Duceppe "Gilles". I wonder about that familiarity. Is it belittling? May wants to bring back all the jobs in pulp and paper. Layton wants to stop raw log exports. I clapped and may have scared Miguel. According to Layton, if "we invest and have a strategy", we'll be fine. Love to know what that strategy is. Dion has a plan. It's clear. And he managed to jab Flaherty at the same time. Nicely done.

7:27 - Harper: "We're not going into a recession. We're in a slow down." Oh you coy fox, we could play with semantics all night...

7:29 - During May's last comment, Harper started to look a little uncomfortable. He's got a bit of a smirk on his face, but he's definitely taking it from all sides right now. He is a good debater, though. It's difficult to remember points three candidates ago without notes.

7:31 - Layton to Harper: "Where's your platform? Under the sweater?" Snort.

On taxation and economy:

7:33 - The Liberal plan wants to decrease taxes on what creates wealth and shift it to pollution. Makes sense. Is Harper right, though? Is it really a tax hike in sheep's clothing?

7:36 - Why is it that I always end up wanting to vote for Duceppe? Oh, right: "For Quebec, [applying the Kyoto protocols] means a profit". Now I remember.

7:37 - May referenced Sweden in terms of the environment. Let's add Sweden references to the game, shall we? Take a drink.

Roundtable discussion:

7:38 - Dion did a good job of shutting down Harper's attack. It is a hard sell, though, to make the Green Shift not look like a tax hike. Dion: "Don't believe this man [Harper]". Well, there's no real danger of that. May referenced Sweden at the end again. Better go grab another beer. Get some popcorn at the same time.

7:42 - Everyone agrees that Harper has no climate change plan. Dion is winning this round.

7:43 - May called Harper on being obstructive during the Bali conference and compared him to Bush (drink up!). Don't worry, May, I already emailed Harper and told him he was morally reprehensible during Bali.

7:45 - Harper is listing his environmental work. May called him a fraud. She and Layton had a nice moment there as Layton said "and you learned how to say that in French last night!".

On healthcare and the doctor shortage:

7:47 - Layton wants doctors to stay ten years in family practice in their communities and he'll forgive their loans. Duceppe is right to say healthcare is a provincial concern, but like my sister pointed out, if the government doesn't give the provinces money for healthcare, there is no money for healthcare.

7:50 - I'm not hearing a lot of specifics from Harper. There are a lot of vague statements, but no specific plan.

7:51 - Layton referenced Tommy Douglas in defense of healthcare. Again. New ammendment to the drinking game. Tommy Douglas = finish your beer.

7:52 - Oh well this is just silly. Harper is taking a cheap shot at Layton for using a private clinic with his OHIP card, so technically it was still public healthcare. And Layton mentioned Tommy Douglas' daughter in defense. Take a shot of your beer. The moderator is right on top of things here and Harper lost face on that exchange.

7:57 - Harper's back trying to smack Layton around on the private clinic issue. He keeps referencing what he's done before, but there is very little here about his plan for healthcare in the future.

On the arts (from Saskatchewan! Yay! Represent!)

7:59 - Duceppe: "Culture, which is the soul of a nation". Exactly. Suck it, Harper.

8:00 - May: "A creative class". An interesting notion, but when the class war hits, my money is not on the artists. Bunch of hippies.

8:01 - Dion: "A country is stimulated by his or her artists". Giggle.

8:01 - We're hearing a fair bit about Harper's family, which I really don't care about. Clearly he's trying to eat up time so he doesn't have to face the onslaught that we all know is coming.

8:02 - Layton: "I'm not particularly talented". Teehee. Excellent point on the reality of starving artists. First $20000 tax free for artists copyright residuals. Makes sense.

Roundtable discussion:

8:03 - Moderator: "Do you think Conservatives are barbarians?" I could hear Harper objecting to the question, but Dion jumped right in. Oh, Bush reference. Drink up, my friends! Can you still see the tv?

8:06 - May: "No, I don't think they're barbarians... but these mean-spirited cuts will help you win votes".

8:06 - Layton is taking issue with censorship. He couldn't come up with a good example, but May jumped in with one of Avi Lewis. He owes her. The moderator seems quite concerned about the Biden-Palin debate. I wonder how that's going...

8:08 - Dion wants to double the budget for the Arts Council: "More movies, more novels." Sounds good to me.

8:10 - Layton believes that Harper would rather give money to the banks than to the arts. Harper thinks Layton's ridiculous and that he makes no sense.

On crime:

8:10 - May, quite rightly, points to increased media coverage for the appearance of more violent crime. Handgun ban and a better long-gun registry.

8:11 - Dion wants a two-pronged approach: to be tough on crime and the causes of crime. Rational, succinct, concise, and clear. Maybe he should come and teach my students tomorrow.

8:12 - Harper believes that violent crime is increasing. His answer is to go after young offenders. He wants to attack the gangs, but not a word about how to get to the root of the problem as to why kids join gangs.

8:13 - Layton wants a handgun ban and a solution to deal with young people. Much like Dion's and Duceppe's plan.

8:14 - Duceppe is clearly against Harper's stance against young offenders. Also, he's the first and only one to mention the victims.

Roundtable discussion:

8:15 - May: "Literacy is an essential element to keeping kids out of crime". That's an interesting point. May says Harper killed literacy programs, Harper said that they never taught anyone to read. Haven't had a drink for a while. Maybe that's for the best. When is May going to bring out her bong?

8:17 - Layton wants to help poor families in order to stem crime. Of course, that only works if you believe that rich and middle class kids aren't likely to commit crimes as well.

8:17 - Dion to Harper: "I trust judges and you don't.... You want the politicians to decide" on young offenders.

8:20 - May: "You need to treat young people differently. They don't get to vote yet" so why should they be criminally punished as adults? She's definitely doing well tonight.

8:21 - Layton brings up the horrific number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit in jail. Harper is dodging this question completely and is talking about victims instead.

8:22 - Dion has been pretty quiet during his section, but he's talking about the Kelowna Accord now. He needs to come out stronger on crime so that the Liberals don't look so weak compared to the rest. Layton got some good digs in there about propping up the government and Dion was looking pretty flustered by the end.

On Afghanistan:

8:24 - Harper gave the pat answer on why we're in Afghanistan. Next.

8:25 - Layton is giving his most passionate speech right now. I like the idea of going in as UN Peacekeepers after the withdrawl.

8:26 - Duceppe called Layton out on his complicity with the Conservative government in not voting with the BQ to end the mission sooner.

8:26 - May compared Bush and Harper again. Get your drink on! She claims the NATO mission isn't working and wants to go to the UN, and use the poppies for medicinal purposes for developing countries. Don't think I'd heard that idea before.

8:27 - Dion will stay until 2011 in coalition with NATO and is thinking ahead to Darfur. Oh. Well. Hmm. Now that's worth thinking about.

Roundtable discussion:

8:28 - Harper says this is a UN mission, but May disagrees. Honestly, I've never heard it described as a UN mission in the news. It's always the NATO mission.

8:29 - Layton called Harper out on following the Bush doctrine (which I know about, even if Sarah Palin doesn't - Can I be a vice-president too, Mr. McCain?) and that's why we ran into Afghanistan. Drink up.

8:30-8:33 - Duceppe is calling Harper out for supporting Bush's war in Iraq. Drink up. Hell, just get a few more beers out and ready. Bush again. Take another drink. And here comes Obama into the debate. Duceppe claims (correctly) that were Harper PM in 2003, we'd be in Iraq. May pointed out the difference between UN-sanctioned and UN mission. More and more impressed with her tonight. She's also calling him on ignoring other countries and regions in need, such as Darfur.

8:33 - I don't remember what Dion said, but I think I agreed.

8:34 - Latyon: "Peace dividend", which is logical. Peace does tend to be war-free.

8:35 - Dion compared Harper's foreign policy to that of Bush. Drink up.

On first big issue once in office:

8:36 - Layton wants to replace $50 million (billion?) tax cuts with reinvestment into a variety of social and environmental programs.

8:37 - Duceppe, you funny funny man.

8:37 - May wants to fix the electoral system and move towards a proportional system, to work on carbon pollution.

8:38 - Dion wants to focus on the economy right away, as it is the most pressing issue. Logical. Will prepare an economic and fiscal update. You know, he's really coming off as rather prime ministerial right now.

8:39 - Harper will continue with status quo, with the tiny credits he's promised for first time homeowners and raising the age exemption on tax forms. Blah.

Roundtable discussion

8:40 - Kitchen table! Been waiting for that all night. Drink up! Layton is alternating between Harper and Dion, which seems to imply that either could really end up as Prime Minister.

8:41 - I wonder how much tongue-biting the moderator has been doing tonight. Dion has a good defense. I'm really impressed with him.

8:43 - Alright, May huffing and puffing in the corner there is not appropriate. She's showing her frustration and she really can't. Cooler heads must prevail in this kind of debate.

8:44 - Harper "I will not raise taxes". Moderator: "Ever?". Harper: "I will not raise taxes." Sigh. Shades of Bush Sr.: "Read my lips, no new taxes". Shall we start the pool now as to when Harper will raise taxes?

On trust:

8:47 - Duceppe is going after Harper's broken promises. I think this'll be a familiar refrain here.

8:48 - "Politicians are just above the paparazzi in public esteem", according to May. That's true.

8:49 - Dion is trying hard to distinguish himself from Harper and to show the Liberals as a different sort of party. I like this line of Dion's, that he wants to "reconcile mankind and the planet"

8:50 - Harper is giving another pat, uninspired answer and directs her towards the platform. May asked "where is it?" in reference to the missing platform. Hell, we're near the end. Finish your beer.

8:51 - Layton: "The sweater is nice but they'd like to know what your plans are". Oh that's good. Eek! Kitchen table. Get another beer and start drinking.

Roundtable discussion:

8:52 - Dion is gearing up here now, going after Harper. Layton is going after Dion (good sign, as that means Dion's in contention here) and then goes after Harper. Layton mentioned the boardroom tables and how Harper has bowed down completely to oil companies. Drink some more!

8:53 - And Danny Williams rears his lovely Newfie head. Right now, I'd like to see the leaders get screeched in. It all comes back to trust and whether or not Harper rules unilaterally or with his government.

8:54 - The Atlantic Accord is getting more time here than Aboriginal issues. Women have come up twice, but only in passing. Harper looks annoyed by May. That gives me joy in my soul.

8:56 - Now they're just getting pissy. Time for their naps. I hope the moderator has milk and cookies under the table somewhere. Damn, Dion is really doing well!

8:57 - Miguel just pointed out that Harper is sweating. May just had to get the last word. That's somewhat grating. But yes, Harper's sweating. Let's hope for a repeat of that infamous Nixon-Kennedy debate outcome.

Layton and May gave each other a hug after the debate. Rightfully so. May helped out Layton more than she helped out Dion tonight.

I'd love to commentate on all this, but Miguel has made dinner as I've been blogging here. So I'll sign off for tonight.