Category Archives: Video

Gong Show {Part Deux}

The PQ has backed itself into a corner.

The more they turn up the heat on the charter issue, the less palatable it gets.

When they turn around and then start pushing the referendum issue, this doesn’t work either.

So then they come back with more on the charter, and have demonstrated themselves to be as autocratic and authoritarian as I can imagine the Union Nationale once was.

They’re bleeding supporters to QS. The PQ vote is going to become a rump of wayward ideologues so hell bent on realizing Quebec independence they’re willing to break with their base, turn their backs on their progressive roots and even accept the insane fabrications of a daffy former celebrity as gospel (rather than the sensible thing, which would have been to distance themselves from the the nearly nonagenarian Janette Bertrand).

In case you missed it, she spoke of how Muslim men (rich McGill students) had paid off her building’s owner to allow for segregated swimming times at Le Cartier’s pool.

It’s a great story about how Muslims are using their immense wealth and influence to gently erode the parity between men and women in quasi-secular Quebec.

I’m sure it spoke volumes to the hysterical soccer moms who listened in rapt attention to Ms. Bertrand’s every word at the so-called Secular Brunch.

Here’s the one tiny problem – it never happened.

The Parti Québécois have demonstrated themselves to be ignorant of the basic fact checking done by journalists (insert your own joke about the journalistic standards of the Quebecor/Sun Media chain) and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Le Cartier’s manager made it abundantly clear whatever yarn Ms. Bertrand was spinning certainly doesn’t have any basis in reality. He emphatically denied anyone has ever been paid off or that any religious group demanded their own day to swim in the pool.

You’d figure the PQ would be message-control savvy and not have let some old gasbag near the mic without a prepared script, but alas, as bullshit goes they gambled and thought it wouldn’t come back to bite them in the ass, unaware Le Cartier’s management may now be contemplating chucking Janette to the curb for the unwanted and unnecessary political involvement. I’m sure there’s got to be a clause in the condominium agreement owners can’t slander management with outrageous lies.

But this is consistent – the PQ’s base never questions the authority of their leaders. We need to face facts – Catholicism didn’t die in Quebec during the Quiet Revolution, all the mindless, uncritical devotion just switched orientation from one autocratic social machine to another.

When questioned about the Janette ring-leader’s ability to conjure up magical tales of religious minorities dismantling the very fabric of our culture, Pauline Marois, undeterred, simply said she stands by Janette Bertrand, who was ‘simply speaking from the heart.’

I.e. – yes, I know it was bullshit, but don’t tell me it never happened, somewhere, some time.

In the PQ playbook the end always justifies the means.

And this happening the day Radio-Canada announced that Marois hubby and multi-millionaire Claude Blanchet arranged a sneaky campaign financing scheme that skirted established financing rules by having two engineering firms convince their employees to take the form of a financial ‘straw-man’. Granted it wasn’t a significantly large sum of money, but enough to remind us that, for all the mud slung at Philippe Couillard, Pauline Marois and the PQ are just as sketchy financially speaking.

Sometimes I think all politicians in this country are completely incapable of playing by the rules, and those who succeed the most do so only because they manage not to get caught (or else have plenty of underlings to toss under the bus). As this campaign draws to a close my initial impression of Pauline Marois – that she’s a basically a slightly more charismatic, gaffe-prone and unapologetic version of Stephen Harper – hasn’t changed a bit.

And yet it’s all still so far away from a slam dunk. For all of the PQ’s foibles and poor politicking, they somehow maintain a sheen of respectability in Quebec that would never be tolerated anywhere else in Canada and doubtless only at Tea Party rallies down south.

The most absurd moment from last Thursday’s debate was when Legault, David and Marois accused Philippe Couillard of being insensitive to the ‘crucial issue of protecting our national identity’. Couillard had dared to mention he thought bilingualism was an asset.

Any normal person would agree with this fully. I can imagine many péquistes would agree – in person. But during campaign season it seems at least three parties are towing the PQ’s line when it comes to language – French is threatened by all other languages and is the only way of uniting all of Quebec, ergo, it must be championed to the point of discouraging bilingualism ‘except for those who need it most’.

In other words – it’s okay for the privileged elites of Montreal and Quebec City to be bilingual. It’s okay for the rich to be bilingual. It’s okay for the province’s businesspeople, entrepreneurs and all the movers and shakers in media to be bilingual.

Just not the common folk. If they learn English the whole culture of eight million people is at risk.

People who make these arguments elsewhere are derided for their profound ignorance on the issue. Here a politician risks political suicide by proposing knowledge of English might be advantageous on an individual level.

Bilingualism is an asset and it’s scientifically proven to enrich an individual’s ability to speak many languages. Bilingualism begets multi-lingualism, and all tongues are strengthened in the process.

The idea that learning English will kill Quebec culture is absurd.

That three ‘respectable’ political candidates would jump on Couillard’s back for suggesting Francophone Quebecois learn English, and then further insinuate that Couillard is oblivious to the imminent threats against Quebecois culture and identity is even more absurd.

There is no threat and Couillard acknowledges that and stands by it.

Continuing to do so in a calm and collected manner is only going to continue winning him points.

There has to be a breaking point in Quebec politics in which a significant chunk of the population asks themselves whether or not they can trust people who live in a fantasy land where learning English is somehow the final nail in the coffin of a cultural identity reflecting 8 million people.

Ms. David’s comments from debate night proved how little she actually knows about the language of business in Quebec.

She said the towers of downtown Montreal and the Outaouais (meaning Gatineau’s government office complexes) are filled with English speakers.

I suppose this is true to one extent – corporate Montreal and civil service Gatineau are two places where multi-lingualism is an asset. But to say English is taking over. Bullshit. Complete, total, utter bullshit.

I don’t think Ms. David has ever set foot in a Montreal office tower. She knows nothing of the corporate culture in this city.

The truth is that Montreal’s white collar workforce is multi-lingual, multi-cultural and intelligent enough to want to engage and exchange on the cultural and linguistic level with their co-workers, colleagues and friends. The primacy of the French language is unquestioned in the corporate environment, but English is used too. Using both doesn’t mean one is losing ground to the other – this isn’t a zero sum game. After all, English is the language of a considerable number of clients, customers and contractors throughout much of North America, and Quebec does business outside its borders.

Couillard understands that it is inevitable that English (and who knows, Mandarin, Spanish, German, Arabic etc.) will be spoken in our universities, hospitals and yes, our corporate office towers, and that this isn’t a threat to anyone’s cultural identity.

So as much as I don’t care for the PLQ, at the very least they’re not going to push Bill 14 or 60 and recognize legislation of this type to be as damaging as it really is.

It’s unfortunate but this campaign has demonstrated the near total intellectual poverty of our politics. Our choice is between a neurosurgeon with enough sense to know bilingualism is an asset and racism shouldn’t be institutionalized and three people who all fundamentally believe that independence will solve all our problems and the best way to fix the economy is to force doctors, nurses and teachers from their jobs and legislate No English policies in our CEGEPs and boardrooms.

What a choice: reality or fantasy.

***

Post-script: local human rights champion Julius Grey filed an injunction in Quebec superior court as representative of four McGill students denied the right to vote because they ‘lacked the clear intention to be domiciled in Quebec’.

Hearing to be held Wednesday or Thursday morning. Stay tuned.

Andrew Coyne – Our Broken Democracy

Worth the watch. Applies as much to the Fed as it does provincial politics.

Specific note: this speech is in English and mostly focuses on federal politics, which Mr. Coyne follows closely. That said, it applies 100% to Quebec politics.

It is foolish to think Quebec’s democracy is any more vibrant or effective than democracy in other Canadian provinces. Our politicians tell us constantly how fundamentally different we are, but when it comes to the shite that is modern politics in Canada, Quebec is no better than any other province.

Coyne points out the grim fact – our Prime Ministers have been full of shit, consistently, going back forty years (and yes, very much including Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the last good prime minister I can think of broadly speaking).

Quebec has it’s own political bullshit. If you watched Thursday’s ‘leaders’ debate you would have witnessed Pauline Marois, François Legault and Françoise David gang up on Philippe Couillard for expressing his thought that bilingualism is an asset to anyone living in Quebec.

He was almost accused of being a traitor to his race.

Anyways, I’ll talk about that a little more in a later post.

Listen to Coyne, he knows what he’s talking about. Fixing our democracy is going to take a national effort, and if it isn’t done soon there simply won’t be a Canada worth saving in the future.

Also – pay particular attention to his comments on the problems with our ‘first past the post’ system. Understanding why this system doesn’t work is key to understanding the major underlying deficiencies with our political system, because we have a democracy that propels massive disenfranchisement.

Montreal Cops, the Homeless Problem & Paradoxical Undressing

Today’s news is that the Montreal police (SPVM) will discipline an unnamed constable for threatening to lock a homeless man (seen on a remarkably frigid day last week in nothing but shorts and a t-shirt outside the Jean-Talon Métro station) to a pole unless he stopped being a nuisance. Apparently police were called because the man had been ‘acting aggressively’ inside and around the Métro station. The video of the altercation, and the constable’s poorly-considered comments, is posted above.

Many were quick to condemn the constable for his apparent lack of humanity, and indeed it’s pretty inhumane to lock an inappropriately-dressed homeless man with aggression issues (and possible mental problems) to a pole outside on a day when even the most acclimatized Montréalais would think better than to venture outside.

The question is, was the constable serious?

I should think not. I don’t honestly believe the constable had any actual intention of locking the poor man to a pole. I would like to say I can’t imagine Montreal police would ever do such a thing, but unfortunately the force has consistently demonstrated a bad habit of abusing the fundamental right of the citizenry to be free of unwarranted police aggression. The conduct of the SPVM at annual May Day demonstrations, during the Printemps Érable or its predilection to shoot first and ask questions later are all justification enough to be critical of the SPVM.

Though again, I don’t actually believe this particular constable actually intended to lock this man to a pole on a freezing cold winter day.

I don’t think any individual police officer in this city would actually think they could get away with such brutality, especially anywhere near a major Métro station. That the constable’s offending remarks were captured on video is proof enough – imagine the shit storm if the video had been of the police locking the man to a pole and then driving off?

That’s full-blown inquiry territory. It would imply the constable didn’t fear any negative repercussions from his superior officers and this in turn would suggest such appalling actions are ‘normal operating procedures’ for the SPVM. But such is not the case. The offending constable will be reprimanded, though not dismissed. My guess is he’ll be riding a desk for a little while.

Again, if he had in any way been serious I have a feeling the bull’s upper brass would very quickly have gotten rid of him, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

SPVM spokesman Commander Ian Lafrenière indicated disciplinary actions could range from a verbal warning to a suspension, but didn’t indicate what would happen. He did elaborate, however, that the constable did try to help the homeless man and that his comments were completely unacceptable.

The exchange highlights a crucial problem in Montreal and other major cities; police are more often than not the primary point-of-contact with our homeless population, not social workers or specialized therapists.

And as we all know, police aren’t social workers, nor are they psychologists or nurses. Yet we expect them to play these roles despite the fact that far too few have even had a cursory training in these domains. Is it any wonder they sometimes fail spectacularly? And do we really want the police to be responsible for our city’s homeless population in the first place?

Montreal’s Homeless Problem

The first question we need to ask ourselves is: how many people in this city of 1.65 million people are actually homeless?

Unfortunately, what statistical information we have is both limited and old – 15 years old to be precise.

The last major study of homelessness in Québec was conducted in 1998-1999 and revealed that there was somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people ‘who had used services intended for the homeless’ at one point during the year here in Montreal. Of those, more than 8,000 had no fixed address during the time of the study.

It’s hard to say whether these figures are still relevant, for example, we’ve had something of a major economic crisis these last few years, and I would imagine this may have put more people into precarious living situations.

But if we’re to assume that these numbers are in fact accurate, and that we have a somewhat stable homeless population of between 6,000 and 10,000 people, then I think we have a legitimate homeless problem and need to start coming up with some solutions.

And appealing for more donations to food banks and homeless shelters isn’t going to cut it. At a certain point we’re going to have to bite the bullet and acknowledge that the homeless problem is indeed everyone’s responsibility, and that both the city and province need to collaborate of finding a long-term shelter solution for people who otherwise run the risk of freezing to death on a city street.

I saw just that about a decade ago Рa homeless man who had died of severe hypothermia and exposure, lying half-naked on the sidewalk outside the McGill M̩tro entrance on President Kennedy and University. When I saw him the paramedics had just arrived and his clothes were strewn about, possibly as a consequence of paradoxical undressing.

Paradoxical Undressing

Watching this video reminded me of a of some aspects of hypothermia that may help put what we’re seeing into context.

In the case of the threatened homeless man, or of the dead man I saw lying on the sidewalk, both were inappropriately dressed given the extreme cold. In the case of the former, he’s seen wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts on what may have been the coldest day of the year thus far. With regards to the latter, he appeared to have taken his clothing off.

As it happens, people suffering from hypothermia are known to take their clothing off in what’s called ‘paradoxical undressing’. They also tend to be highly confused, agitated, confrontational, aggressive and, in the final stages of hypothermia, will attempt something called ‘terminal burrowing‘ wherein the victim seeks out small partially enclosed spaces in which to lay down.

Suffice it to say, I have my suspicions that may have lead to the man’s apparent aggression and lack of clothing. He likely spent the night out in the cold and had been desperately trying to get warm inside the Métro entrance to no avail. The Métro isn’t heated – warmth is generated primarily by concentrated, captured body heat that keeps most station platforms relatively warm throughout the year, but most of that warmth would have dissipated at the upper level of the vestibule.

In sum, this guy, regardless of his existing mental state, was likely being driven crazy by the cold, and I would expect a nurse, paramedic or even a social-worker with experience working with the homeless would know this instinctively. By contrast, I expect cops to know the highway driving code and Miranda rights instinctively.

Is homelessness a right?

A fundamental philosophical human-rights question is whether or not any individual citizen has the ‘right’ to be homeless.

I don’t think so, but I would counter that the state, as agent of the common interest, has a responsibility to provide food, clothing and shelter to everyone who can’t (for whatever reason) provide it for themselves.

I suppose the Ayn Rand types would argue that any legislation of the sort would do nothing but help lazy people be lazy, and that it would ultimately lead the whole of society to simply give up trying and live off government hand-outs.

Being a reasonable person, I think such thinking is ludicrous.

Regardless, it’s an interesting question because this is Canada and most of us believe that we have some kind of an inalienable right to live off the land much in the same fashion as our colonial-era ancestors. If it isn’t a right already, I would expect most Canadians would support any measure which stipulated we all have the right to pitch a tent on unclaimed land and camp for as long as our supplies last. And as long as we’re all responsible and clean up after ourselves, no harm, no foul. It’s part of the Canadian aesthetic – we love the outdoors and our culture has been shaped in no small part by the lifestyles and experiences of frontier living and seasonal nomadism.

But this can’t possibly apply to cities and their homeless populations, and we can’t cavalierly insinuate that homeless people are homeless because they choose to be, as if they were simply camping in our parks, alleyways and public spaces.

The primary reason why we can’t look at homelessness as a choice is the fact that most homeless people in Montreal, as elsewhere, suffer from mental illness, not to mention poor diet, poor general health, drug addictions etc. (and, taking it a step further, are suffering from all this at the same time). As such, it’s inconceivable that anyone would think the average homeless person is in any way capable of making a conscious, rational choice to be homeless.

Ergo, I think it ultimately comes back to the state, not only to provide for the homeless, but to make sincere and long-term efforts at rehabilitation.

However, in order to guarantee the success of such a program, people can’t be permitted to sleep on the streets.

This last point will doubtless irk many progressives who would nearly instinctively imagine the police rounding up all the homeless in the middle of the night and putting them in some kind of a prison. This isn’t what I’m proposing of course – I think we need a large centralized shelter that can accommodate many thousands of people at the same time (and for prolonged periods of time), in which a wide variety of services are made available to help get people off the streets and back into the realm of productive society.

But of course, it would likely require police to force obstinate homeless people into such a facility, even if there were specially-trained social-workers whose job it was to incentivize and convince the homeless to take up the offer. Fundamentally, the movements of the homeless can’t be limited (up to and including the right to wander the streets all day), so perhaps a specific law that could be enacted would simply say no one has the right to sleep overnight in a public place.

No easy answers here, just more ethical and moral questions the people of a modern city need to ask themselves.

Consider our Water System

Ralph Steiner – H2O (1929)

You won’t look at water the same way again (don’t watch if you need to pee); on that note, everyone’s favourite evil multi-national corporation, British Petroleum (BP) has been given the green-light to dump large quantities of mercury directly into Lake Michigan, about 20 times over federal limits for the Great Lakes.

Now here’s where things get interesting (to me at least).

The Great Lakes empty into the Atlantic Ocean principally via the Saint Lawrence River.

To say we get our drinking water from the Saint Lawrence is to say the very least; it further sustains the massive agricultural plain that Montreal happens to find itself in the middle of. In layman terms, it’s fucking important we don’t contaminate it anymore than it currently is.

I’d like to know the state of our water treatment plants. The recent city-wide boil water advisory lasted about a day and affected 1.3 of 1.8 million residents was caused by routine maintenance. Sediment was stirred up from the bottom of the Atwater Treatment Plant when water levels unexpectedly dropped by a considerable degree. It took officials a day to figure out what happened, though in the end it was realized that there was no danger of contamination.

That was a month ago – I still have too much bottled water.

Generally speaking we don’t have much in the way of water problems – occasional boil water advisories and seasonal watering bans happen and it’s impossible to completely get away from this. But we also know that most of our water and sewerage pipes are old, very old in fact, have been known to burst, rather dramatically, in wintertime. Not to mention the fact that we have to use large amounts of chlorine to treat our water, all the while dumping raw sewerage back into the river.

With all this mind, it seems that we have managed to figure out a solution to a problem we’re contributing to, but with an infrastructure that might not be handle any new problems.

Like contamination by mercury, or worse, heavy crude from Western Canada.

Mercury contamination led to birth defects amongst the James Bay Cree (not to mention the highest mercury rates amongst a First Nations community) as a consequence of the flooding of 11,000 square kilometers of the taiga.

And consider the kind of damage that could occur with a burst pipeline anywhere in the Greater Montreal region: it’s not just the contaminated soil, but the potential for contamination of our aquifer, and all the numerous waterways all around us – we’re on an island after all.

It’s a difficult situation; we would doubtless benefit from Western Canadian oil flowing to our city. It could result in the redevelopment of the East End refineries, not to mention likely result in improvements and the potential aggrandizement of our port facilities. And all of this means more jobs and money.

But private interests simply can’t be trusted to develop fail-safe pipelines, and all to often bend and break environmental rules to cut overhead costs.

And any new potential industrial development throughout the Great Lakes region bears with it the potential for new environmental dangers. Some of these problems are completely out of our control, such as the State of Indiana authorizing massive dumps of mercury into Lake Michigan.

But there are local measures that could be taken to dramatically improve the quality and durability of our water treatment and water distribution systems, not to mention the natural aquifer.

There’s an interesting intersection between natural water treatment and the maintenance and development of green spaces. Consider, as an example, Riparian buffers, which use ‘forested waterways’ to provide naturally treated water into agricultural lands (the presence of so much green also shades the water to reduce natural water evaporation. Natural beaches and swamps can further assist in natural water treatment.

Up until now I feel we’ve benefitted from these natural methods without doing much, if anything, to stimulate them. We’d be wise to consider the biological, as well as mechanical means to treat and distribute water systems throughout the metropolitan region. But despite the universal necessity of water, our North American ways have made it that few politicians could successfully campaign on a ‘clean water’ platform without being uselessly labelled a environmentalist fringe candidate. We think water pollution is something that either happens in a developing country, or else happened here many moons ago.

Besides, you can buy bottled water anywhere, right?

Montreal – Horizon 2000

Fascinating clip I found on the YouTubes called Montréal Horizon 2000. Its a promo piece for the 1967 City of Montreal Master Plan, otherwise branded as ‘Horizon 2000’. Put together by the city’s planning department, this film, and the plan from which it is derived, plots the development of the city from the Summer of Love to the dawn of a new century. At the height of Expomania, as one might imagine, the plan was bold and ahead of its time. That said, after watching this clip you’ll realize much of the plan would end up getting realized anyway, though perhaps to not as large of a scale and not always to our collective advantage (spoiler alert – they figured our highways would be over-saturated, quel surprise).

The plan clearly has one major goal in mind – population growth, with a targeted population of seven million souls by century’s end. Mayor Jean Drapeau and Chair of the Executive Committee Lucien Saulnier were elected into office in 1960 largely on a ‘one island, one city’ platform and during his time in office the communities of Saraguay, Rivières-des-Prairies, Saint-Michel and Pointe-aux-Trembles were voluntarily annexed into the city of Montréal. Horizon 2000 points to a future city that would occupy all of the island, inasmuch as the South Shore and Laval, with economic influence and a commuter zone stretching towards the borders. A city of seven million in thirty-three years, starting from almost three million in Greater Montreal at the time.

They estimated thirty some-odd years to more than double in size.

They were optimistic, but on the whole the vision and plan of the Drapeau administration (and it’s insufferably uninspired quasi-extension under Bourque) at the very least realized growth through annexation. Though we now know forcing annexation on independent communities through provincial government initiative is extremely unpopular, it shouldn’t prevent the city of Montreal from pursuing voluntary annexation now or in the future. The thinking goes that over time, the larger tax pool of a larger city (and the efficiencies that would come with service standardization and streamlining throughout the metropole) would permit the city to offer better bang for the collective buck. It seems clear to me Horizon 2000 looks forward to the annexation of bedroom communities and commuter suburbs to enrich the public purse, redistribute zoning for maximum economic impact and operational efficiency, and further still to ensure the city on the whole maintains a diverse and balanced local ecology. And their boldness vis-a-vis annexation might be explained by the view that the suburbs were mere extensions of the city made possible by the city’s investment in local transit and traffic infrastructure.

Suffice it to say, the city planners of Montreal in 1967 may not have anticipated much if any opposition to the growth of Montreal at the expense of the political sovereignty of the tiny farming villages that constituted the rural belt around the city. I assume they figured few in the year 2000 would be going around calling themselves a Lavalois or Pierrefondsienne.

The plan anticipates a wide variety of issues and considerations a much larger city would doubtless have to contend with. Congestion, environmental degradation, access to public education, health, social and civic services, representative democracy, sustainable economic growth and general viability were all primary concerns for the authors of Horizon 2000, who seem to anticipate a larger city-proper might actually have the financial means to properly address and triumph over these problems.

Despite the various socio-political factors which stalled our growth and development, the city grew in some of the ways anticipated by Horizon 2000 (meaning, to me at least, that it’s worth re-investigating this plan in particular should we ever got our act together to build a bigger and more significant city).

Unfortunately we’re starting to occupy as much space as was once deemed large enough to hold twice our number. Suburban sprawl is one problem, but a larger problem might be our inability to increase density in extant suburban areas. We occupy an inordinate amount of space.

While we’ve managed to develop an enviable public transit service, it’s far from the elegant and sophisticated ‘grand social equalizer’ envisioned for a more egalitarian future. While comprehensive, what we have isn’t nearly as large as the system that was conceptualized to move so many more people (and as you might suspect they expected much larger Métro and commuter-train systems as a matter of fact necessity), further expecting the highway system they were designing at that time to be as over-loaded as it is today.

In any case, take a gander, seems interesting enough.

It makes me wonder what kind of master plan we have today. The nearest example I can find is the Montreal 2025 plan (which for some -cough- inexplicable reason default opens to its English-language page), but this is nowhere near as bold or as driven as Horizon 2000.

Sure it’s aesthetically more appealing to most (especially when you compare 3D renderings to the grainy 60s modern film styles of the video above) but unlike Horizon 2000 (an actual plan which was pursued despite some major and unforeseen economic problems), Montreal 2025 is little more than a list of private residential and commercial projects and provincial or federal development initiatives. The city doesn’t have a reason or a goal, even such a simple goal of becoming a bigger city.

Food for thought – does this city have a project? If not, why not? And why don’t our apparent leaders share their visions with us?

In a video like the one above you see an example of a city that respects itself and takes itself seriously (this would have been expensive in the late 1960s, and keep in mind this is just a promo piece for the actual written plan). It confronts the big problems that can come about with big dreams in a straightforward manner, and further still it suggests confidence in our ability to overcome the difficulties of growth to produce an world city sans pareil. Montreal 2025 is hardly such a plan.

It occurs to me that too few of those who have thrown their name into the ring to run for mayor – as though it were nothing more than a popularity contest – have any idea what this city’s goals ought to be, and worse still would be loathe to spell anything out concretely for fear they can’t meet their commitments. None of the popstar candidates whose names have been batted about have a plan at hand.

It wasn’t too long ago this would have been considered the bare minimum. Perhaps our standards have fallen.

Ah, the good old days…

This is a keeper.

Back in the late 1980s there was a TV program called Caméra 88 (which aired on I’m not sure what – guess I’ll ask Fagstein) which was running a kind of early 48hrs type game, albeit with a more local focus and a shorter running time.

Anywhootenanny, apparently Montrealers were as bored with themselves back then as we are today, and Montreal’s basic offerings for entertainment and leisure may have felt a bit stale even to locals twenty-five years ago. City’s with major tourist draws always tend to make the locals a bit cranky, as though they themselves have not delighted in the city so many tourists go gaga for. I get that feeling time and again, like I’ve seen it all, but I’m a creature of habit who’s easily entertained.

Enter Caméra 88 which decides, all the way back then, that they need to ‘shed some light’ on Montreal’s otherside, it’s ‘underground’ as it were, as if to learn the locals a lesson – what do they really know about Montreal? It’s almost as if this episode was anticipating Kristian Gravenor’s Montreal: the Unknown City, a kind of Hipster bible popular amongst Ontario ex-pats who settled here to get a cheap and dirty education right up until the economy sank.

Well this mini-doc would certainly appeal to Hipsters. For one, the ‘tour guide’ Errol or Harold, seems to be the quintessential proto-Hipster, washed up on our shores from what was doubtless a less open minded community in the United States. He takest he camera crew to visit some of the various odds and ends that made late-1980s, early-1990s Montreal a lot of fun.

Second, there’s a fair bit of urban exploration going on, as our host somehow manages to finagle his way to the top of the Université de Montréal’s phallic tower and and later visits a squat. Back then the sensation that we had fallen behind was not only sinking in mentally but further, manifesting itself in a whole lotta urban decay, traces of which can still be seen strewn somewhat helter skelter along the downtown’s southern fringe.

Third, and here’s the icing on the cake, our intrepid host takes us what then passed for seedy entertainment (like going to a, gasp, heavy metal show at Foufounes), or getting your car washed at the erotic car wash.

Perhaps my older readers could fill me in – did we all get a little strange back then? I seem to recall a proliferation of strip clubs with video arcades on the ground floor, teen prostitution rings, Jo Jo Psychic Savard, street-side erotic photography studios, a lurching Serbian strongman who pulled buses with his beard and a whole lot of other stuff seemingly all coming to fore back then.

The episode also features a Hare Krishna dining experience, a dépanneur proprietress who served her clients in a Playboy Bunny outfit, a restaurant that provided psychic consultations between the third and fourth course, oddball vendors and ‘hands-off voyeurism experiences’ that pushed the limits of social acceptability a quarter century ago.

Suffice it to say, this mini-doc is kind of adorable. In retrospect I think we really are a far more conservative society than we like to admit if this is what passed for ‘scandalous’ twenty some-odd years ago. It’s comparatively quite tame.