Monday, 28 February 2011
Saturday after more than two years of a lock-out the office workers and journalists at Le Journal de Montréal voted 64 per cent to accept a compromise settlement. Not a very happy day in the history of journalism.
Photo: Rue Frontenac
Saturday, 26 February 2011
But life is full of ups and downs, and at the beginning skating often seems more down than up. I'm happy to report that after a little knee-shuffling, our future Gold Medalist got up and made it a good 3 meters without falling.
Here's a link to another skating story, from Sarah Gilbert's Milendings blog. Just goes to show you what you can do when you put your mind to it, even making a private rink in the miniscule backyards of central Montreal.
Friday, 25 February 2011
Written when the Nobel laureate was just starting his career, it tells the story of a young would-be writer working for a radio station in Lima, Peru. The narrator's job is to produce news broadcasts that are mostly cribbed from newspapers (some things don't change, do they?) while he tries to write deathless prose. The one real writer he knows is a strange little man who pounds out scripts for daily soap operas, and who becomes totally wrapped up in the imaginary world he creates. At the same time, the narrator finds himself (quite chastely) involved with the sister of his uncle's wife, a beautiful divorcee who is 32, or twice his age. The book is delightful, and the reflections on the need to tell and to listen to stories that it prompts in the reader are quite profound.
This is by far the best of Vargas Llosa's book, in my opinion. Definitley worth reading, although the movie made from it Tune in Tomorrow (starring a very young Keanu Reeves) may be only unintentionally funny.
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Where and When:
from 6:30 to 8:00 pm
at Multi-Caf, 3591 Appleton Street
across from Kent Park
near Côte-des-Neiges Avenue
(Bus 165/535 or 160/161)
Snacks, wine and good company
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Monday, 21 February 2011
As Paul Krugman writes today:
" On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
"Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.
"You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions."
Note to self: keep track of what is happening in Quebec where anti-strikebreaker laws are up for review.
Saturday, 19 February 2011
The conglomerization of publishing has meant the quest for block buster best-sellers to the deteriment of anything else, he argues. But digital publishing opens the door for new voices:
"The cost of entry for future publishers will be minimal, requiring only the upkeep of the editorial group and its immediate support services but without the expense of traditional distribution facilities and multilayered management. Small publishers already rely as needed upon such external services as business management, legal, accounting, design, copyediting, publicity...With the Espresso Book Machine, enterprising retail booksellers may become publishers themselves, like their eighteenth-century forebears. "
That's a very encouraging view, but there is a big proviso: how to pay the writers. Epstein writes: "Funding for authors’ advances may be provided by external investors hoping for a profit, as is done for films and plays...(Succesful) authors, with the help of agents and business managers, will become their own publishers, retaining all net proceeds from digital as well as traditional sales. "
The ability to make a living (however modest) is absolutely essential to have a thriving culture. Scott Turow, Phil Aiken and James Shapiro drove home that point in a very interesting reflection on the way that playwrights began to be paid in Elizabethan times. Writing in The New York Times, they recount how playgoers paid to enter theatres, and the proceeds were split among the playwrights and performers.
"Money changed everything. Almost overnight, a wave of brilliant dramatists emerged, including Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. These talents and many comparable and lesser lights had found the opportunity, the conditions and the money to pursue their craft.
"The stark findings of this experiment? As with much else, literary talent often remains undeveloped unless markets reward it."
Saturday Photo: Saturday Morning Walk on the Plateau, an Urban Neighborhood That Almost Was Destroyed
In the 1960s and early 1970s, city planners wanted to tear down--"urban renew"--the area. Some land was acquired and cleared. There is a little low rise social housing to the east and just up the street from this park is a building dating from 1970 which houses the Conservatoire de musique du Québec as well the Université du Québec á Montréal's public administration school.
Why more urban destruction did not occur is any interesting story, too long for a Saturday morning. Suffice to say that the Portuguese immigrants who settled around here in the same period and repaired the old housing with love and skill are partly responsible.
In time the message got across to planners that a tightly woven urban landscape has great benefits. Some of the cleared land was saved for open space. Today there are three little parks in this two block area which are used heavily by the day care centers and young families living in the neighborhood, even in winter.
Friday, 18 February 2011
One should read "free market" or "Chicago school" for "liberalization," it seems. The story says: "The military has used its leverage in times of crises to thwart free market reforms before, most notably during the 1977 bread riots set off after President Anwar el-Sadat cut subsidies for food prices to move toward a free market. The military agreed to quell the unrest only after extracting a promise from Mr. Sadat that he would reinstate the subsidies, said Michael Wahid Hanna, who studies Egypt’s military at the Century Foundation in Washington."
The story adds: " And the idea of liberalizing the economy was thrown into disrepute because of the corrupt way that the Mubarak government carried out privatization, bestowing fortunes on a small circle around the ruling party while leaving most Egyptians struggling against grinding poverty and rampant inflation." (My italics)
Whether real political reforms will come under the military rule remains to be seen: as noted earlier, the track record of military regimes isn't all that good, although there are notable exceptions like Portugal. But a planned economy is not a bad economy, ipso facto.
And, hey, has the track record been all that good for the "free market" lately? Aren't we all still suffering from that economic meltdown it engendered a couple of years ago?
Thursday, 17 February 2011
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
In English one word connates negation of an affirmative sentence--"not." So maybe Ms. Oda wasn't in the country when the document affirming a recommendation to give Kairos a $7 million grant tow years ago, she certainly approved the insertion of "not" in the report. That she said she didn't know who did the actual insertion may be true, but that does nothing to excuse what was done and her subsequent refusal to admit accountability.
As Hansard would have it: some honourable members: Shame, shame.
For more on the reasons for the torpedo-ing of this faith-based NGO, check out "Did KAIROS defunding come down to mining interests and one hand-written note?" published on October 27, 2010 by Embassy which bills itself as Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Storis about How Things Work, the Way Things Happened: Not the Best Year for Best Americn Short Stories
Monday, 14 February 2011
More on the New Genteel (Sort of) Poor: Noah Richler Figures He Did Better at Contracting than Writing
Of course, he has enough money to have a house to renovate, and there aren't many writers of his age who do, but the point is well made. Making a living in the new media world is damn hard.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
The picture was taken on a morning after a snow fall, and the reflection shows the snow piles on the street. Outside it was about -18 C (or 0 Fahrenheit) but inside it was spring already.
Friday, 11 February 2011
One example stands out: the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974 when dissidents in the military, led by a group of captains, faced down the civilian government and won. Three people were killed in one volley from the Guardia Civil, but the transfer of power was extremely peaceful. Establishment of full democracy was a difficult process that took several years, but Portugal has come out of the process as an example of what can be done. As Kenneth Maxwell wrote in his study of the revolution The Making of Portuguese Democracy:
"...the Portuguese were able to create a representative and pluralistic system of government, fully comparable to the Western European mainstream. In the context of the Portuguese revolution it was Kerensky who survived, not Lenin. It was the moderate socialist Mário Soares who eventually became president of the republic and the radical military populist (leader) ... who went first to jail and then into obscurity. In this, Portugal was the precocious forerunner of the largely peaceful transitions from authoritarianism to democracy of the late 1980s in Latin America and in Eastern Europe."
The military in this case of was commited to stepping down once political change was effected, and this made an enormous difference. Let us hope this happens in Egyps too
For a stirring look at that transfer of power and what can happen when the military are the side of progress and justice, se Maria de Meideros's marvelous film, The Captains of April
And then there are the tiles, the azulejos, which can be found many places. The one above is apparently a new one and the Portuguese community is trying to decide just where it should god. To vote, check out the Facebook page of Amigos do Bairro Português de Montreal.
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Time to go play outside.
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
But the face the protests present to the world--and to the decision makers in Washington and elsewhere--is very much affected by new ways of communicating. The Facebook page set up by young protesters is one example. So is the emotional appearance on Egyptian television of a Google exec--Google, mind you, whose motto is that old axiom lilted from the Hypocratic oath by way of Isaac Asimov, "do no evil"--who had been held by the government and now has become a poster boy for the protest.
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Pucapab, a Heart-Felt Plea to Get Rid of Stephen Harper and a Hint That a Coaliition Might be Possible?
Monday, 7 February 2011
He continues: "What we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.
James Howard Kunstler has been ranting about this for several years. His book The Long Emergency actually gives odds on what part of the US will survive a climatological disaster. It's been a while since I read it--and I thought he was both too Americano-centric and incendiary--but I don't believe he talked much about what would happen in the rest of the world. But maybe his warnings were not just words.
Saturday, 5 February 2011
It also is located so that the view of the mountain won't be obstructed by future construction. The lot next door is currently vacant but even a building the height of this one--three regular stories with a little pop-up mini-storey on top--will not block the window. The mezannine in the mini-storey even has a small interior window so that one can lie in bed propped up on pillows and see the cross on top.
Friday, 4 February 2011
Let us hope this plea by nearly 90 groups is heard in Ottawa. If the government falls in the next couple of weeks, it would die on the order paper. But without a doubt it would rise again after the election, perhaps in an even more damaging form, should the Conservatives get a majority.
In the meantime, I've taken to refusing 24 Hours, the free tabloid published by the dastardly media giant Quebecor which just outbid Métro for distribution rights in the Montreal subway system. "Quebecor jamais," I said yesterday morning and the guy handing it out, laughed. "Je comprends, I understand," he said. "Bonne journée, have a nice day."
Seems he got the message: let's hope others do too.
Thursday, 3 February 2011
This is not to say that I was pleased to receive an email from my internet provider that beginning in March I would be charged for how much use I made of the 'net. ( I use AEI which has the big advantage of being small enough to have real people answer your service requests, as well as being most affordable. )
The CRTC may be wrong on its decision on this issue, but it also is the agency that so far has safeguarded Canadian content on TV and radio and done much to make the Canadian broadcast landscape Canadian, not American. So beware, guys, don't cheer to loudly until you figure out the implications.
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
The occasion was a hearing on whether the province should change its anti-striker breaker legislation to conform to times when it is increasingly easy to contract out work. While the idea of changing Quebec's labour legislation casts a shadow that covers far more than the publishing world, it is particularly dark there. The extent of the Quebecor case came out when a former employee of an agency used by Le Journal de Montréal to provide copy for its pages filed a complaint for unlawful dismissal. Côté tonic, the company the worker ws fired from, once had five or six employees, but since 2009 it has bought work from about free lance 40 graphic artists and copy editors in order to produce its classified ads. In addition, another freelance agency is providing more than 30 per cent of news stories, supposedly only to replace contect from the Presse canadienne which previously provided about 15 per cent.
All this comes as the valiant Heather Robertson announced that her second class action against Canwest, Torstar and others for electronic use without compensation has been settled, and several million dollars will soon be distributed to freelancers.
That's good news, but no publication is buying new freelance work on the terms that previously existed. Between freelance contracts that give all rights to publications, and strong arm tactics by Quebecor and others media, it's becoming almost impossible to make a living as a writer.