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2005 10 29
On the current state of civility, locality and possession

Two weeks ago we rented a car to take a long trip. When we finally got home, we realized that we did not have our cell phone with us.

Our first thought was to call our own phone. No luck. Our second thought was to call the car rental place to see if we had left the phone in the car. No luck.

So we thought, maybe if we wait, it will turn up. And it did, but not in a manner we expected.

Last Sunday our home phone rang.

"Hi. You don't know me, but, do you know anyone who has lost a phone recently?"
"Yes! Me!"

And so it went. The person on the phone was Vladimir. He had ended up with the same car-for a weekend jaunt out of town- that we had had the week prior. He found our phone while rummaging around in the glove box.
He called the last number to show up on its 'missed calls' list. Got us, then proceed to drive the phone directly to us. We met him steps from our place, he handed the phone to us, shrugged the whole thing off, smiled and drove away.

[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/29
2005 10 28
Listening to Vancouver

We attended the opening of Sensations Urbaines/Sense of the City at the CCA this week. The main premise of the exhibition, as you might imagine from its title, is that cities are made up of myriad experiences that exist far beyond the realm of the merely visual. The urban environment enters our consciousness through our other four senses too. The best sensation for me was standing in a room equipped with numerous headphones, all of which were playing archival recordings made over the course of twenty years in the cityscape of Vancouver.

It was an odd sensation to be in a packed exhibition jammed with chatting, schmoozing people, only to enter a separate room full of others who were listening to the daily cacophony of the city, while the room itself was dead silent.
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/28
2005 10 24
Fountains of Fall
Unlike municipal swimming pools, which open long after the commence of flip-flop season and close before your stamina wilts at the floor-to-ceiling displays of rotating fans and a sweaty wad of cash is handed over, fountains are the perfect seasonal gauge.

An expression of both our reluctance to let go of summer and the refusal of the weather to comply with its seasonal titles, the tiered fruit bowls, Lake of Geneva jets, and rocky brooks continue to bubble, spurt, and flow with regulated enthusiasm.

Two in particular, Lafontaine Park and Carré Saint-Louis, have become my trusted measuring sticks. A quick glance on the cycle to work and I can take pride in my selection of the lighter jacket, the cotton scarf.

But there it is… a silent Saint-Louis, a dry patch in Lafontaine basin, and my denial of summer’s end starts to sink like water through leaf-clogged drains.
[email this story] Posted by Alexandra McIntosh on 10/24
2005 10 23
Mass Silencing at Parc Louis-Cyr

Parc Louis-Cyr is located in central Saint Henri, just south of the railway tracks behind the former Maison Egg Roll. Forgotten and largely unused, it is still on city’s maintenance schedule and city workers are perhaps some of the parks more frequent visitors. The most notable thing about this park is not the blistered asphalt and overgrown croquet pitch, but rather the ring of mature Eastern Cottonwood trees that surround its perimeter.

The bastard-child of street trees, the Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is mostly recognizable for the drifts of cottony seeds covering the streets of Montreal each May. It is also recognizable by its sound. Thousands of small leaves, mounted on stiff petioles are shaken against one another as the wind passes through. In the autumn winds a soft rustle can escalate into a full roar, forming a significant part of the St Henri and Montréal soundscape.

Likely determined to be a “safety risk” after many had blown down in the September windstorms; early last week, all 65 trees surrounding Parc Louis-Cyr were felled. Only the weak-wooded cottonwoods were removed, with maples left untouched and standing uneasily alone in the empty park.

To stand in the centre of this park, surrounded ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by Doug Moffat on 10/23
No Garbage Cans For Miles
This is one of my favourite pieces of graffiti. It is painted on one of two (of course) garbage cans near our house. The first time I saw one of these receptacles I had no idea what it was. They could be anything: a bbq, a table, a piece of equipment for housing electrical utilities. I had the same experience in Calgary the first time I visited that fair city. The garbage cans there are deer/moose/elk/bear proof and thus are askew, with heavy lids.

I have a feeling that no such consideration went into the development of the Montréal waste cans.
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/23
2005 10 20
Smart Money
The University of McGill recently announced that Canadian architecture patron extraordinaire Gerald Sheff has donated 1 million dollars to its School of Architecture. The funds will be used to set up an endowed chair that will underwrite the costs of having "world renowned architectural leaders" teach at the school. When asked why he did not supply funds that would allow for the construction of a new building or physical improvements to the School, Mr. Sheff responded:

"When I was an undergrad [at McGill's School of Architecture] I had a teacher named Gordon Weber. A fascinating man, very provocative. He challenged us and made everyone see the world in a new light. My hope is that this endowment will give other students that same experience".

Bravo, Mr. Sheff, for supporting big ideas; it takes a strong ego and a visionary mind not to want a building put up in your name.

Reading back over the press releases for the announcement I had to admit that when I read "world renowned architectural leaders" my first (unfortunate) assumptions were that these brilliant architects would not be Canadian.

During my time as an architecture student at the University of Toronto, I too had the opportunity ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/20
2005 10 18
Airport Driver’s License

Apparently in Montreal, when you need to acquire a driver's license you have to go to the airport.

OK, not exactly the airport, but very close to it. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) has an office located at 2350 Boulevard Hymus. And Boulevard Hymus is in Dorval. And the airport is in Dorval.

Lacking a car the day I was scheduled for my appointment at the SAAQ, I was forced to take public transportation. My total door-to-door travel time was 2 hours and 14 minutes. I shared the ride (most of the time was spent on a bus) with 30 youngish Montrealers. Most, I guessed, were heading to jobs at the airport. Almost all of them were men. None of them looked happy. I would have to include myself in that list too, because the bus ride to the SAAQ office, in addition to being very long, was very very boring. We travelled through endless rows of single-story warehouses, most of them only differentiated by uninspired signs attached to small wooden uprights. The names of the businesses were mongrel combinations of hightech industry vagueness and geographic specificity. They all seemed futuristically latin in nature: NorAmTech. CanIim. Espiret. Transcom. ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/18
2005 10 14
Two Windows on a Rainy Night
In a building that should be overlooking a Venetian canal, a couple dances to unheard sounds. Or perhaps there is no sound at all save for that of a heeled shoe drawing a purposeful arc across the floor. Tango Libre is a dance studio and cultural space on Marianne.

Blinking like a Christmas tree on a barren corner of Papineau, Elvis mets ses culottes! An altogether different form of pelvic motion, Ameublement Elvis caters to those in search of used appliance Graceland.
[email this story] Posted by Alexandra McIntosh on 10/14
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