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Besides the dream of publishing a book one day, I can’t think of any bigger dream of mine than Villeray Communications – ou si vous parlez français, Communications Villeray. The website is up already. Later this week, it will be available in both of Canada’s official languages. Nowadays, a website is about the same as having a storefront, and a sign saying “Open.” In our case, it might be true to say that a website means more than having a storefront because it’s proof that we can pull off one of our core services: making websites! Kudos to my business partner Matt Gardner for making it a beautiful one.
Villeray Communications had a gestation period of about five months. The name was first registered with the Québec government last November. But conceptually, the idea is much older than that. Matt’s had his own freelance business for several years now. And me, I’ve wanted to work independently for just as long. This is the first opportunity that came along that made sense.
Villeray Communications already has a handful of clients, and we’re lucky that they’re all highly creative and talented people in their own right. Over the next few months, more websites will be popping up under our name, I’m sure. Not to mention lots of other interesting projects, because we’re not just about websites! It’ll be worth while checking out the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account every now and then. (I won’t often be discussing business here.)
What appeals most to me about business is doing things in a way that seems right. Too often, both as an employee or as a customer, your hands are tied. You say to yourself, “There’s a better method for doing that,” or “I could provide better service than that,” but without a vehicle to achieve those higher standards, you’re left adrift and frustrated. Finally, for us, empowerment is at hand.
There are bound to be some hiccups along the way, but hopefully, with practice, perseverance, and patience, we’ll achieve results that will make us proud.
Thanks to Teena Apeles for giving me the idea behind this photo last year. My photography efforts are generally all idea, zero execution. But I enjoy messing around with it.
Watch the video Teena made using oodles of photos, from me and many many others.
I know that I get too carried away by a good debate sometimes, so instead of taking another swipe at RiP! A Remix Manifesto I’m going to indulge in a little copyright theft of my own and share Susan Sontag’s essay “Pay Attention to the World.” It’s an inspiring read about the moral imperative of narrative.
Many thanks to Ezra Winton at Art Threat for engaging in the debate. It was fun. Ezra is the founder and director of Cinema Politica, which has screened countless important movies, not only here in Montreal, but also in many other places in North America.
The Turcot Exchange is a maze of elevated highways in the west of Montreal which is badly in need of repair. The government of Québec has decided to demolish the whole thing and sort of begin again, creating a highway system in its place at ground level. This means many of the buildings in the area will soon be gone, and with them, a whole community. You can find countless examples of the conflict between big government and citizens in Montreal’s history; what is encouraging is that people rarely sit down and take it without a fight. Last week, quite by accident, I encountered a story in Le Journal de Montréal about the local response to the Turcot Exchange plan:
«Il y a des milliers de personnes qui passent au-dessus de nos têtes chaque jour. Mais en dessous de l’échangeur Turcot, il y a des humains, pas juste du béton !»
Pierre Fréchette ne mâche pas ses mots et défend avec fougue les intérêts des résidents de son arrondissement.
For a film I watched only reluctantly, and reviewed with even more reluctance (I’m honest here, despite my apparently gleeful attack on the film, I debated with myself for hours before writing anything, because I hate to be publicly negative about projects that others have clearly poured effort into) RiP! A Remix Manifesto has furnished me with some great conversation this week, both at the National Film Board of Canada (where I’ve been working) as well as online. Ezra Winton’s response at Art Threat is thorough-going and articulate and because I still hold to pretty much all my original arguments, I’d like to continue to debate with him in the next few days. Stay tuned.
(aka Vegetarian Chilli)
I posted the following recipe to T-Friendly Recipes. If you’re not yet a member of the hottest food social network, get on it!
In Montreal, we’re slowly moving out of the season of darkness, during which, comfort food is a survival must. Nevertheless, after the sun sets, you will often find a nippiness in the air, and a wholesome bowl of chilli gives you a warming glow that lasts for hours. Hooray! Back in my carnivorous days, I would make my chilli with ground beef. Now I’ve switched to veggie ground round, I find the taste preferable to that of its excrement-and-steroid laden forebear!
Let me plug here the merits of adding lotsa vegetables to your chilli. Not only is it healthier, you will also find it gives a fuller flavour. Spicy meat sauce + a few limp beans = sad. Lean, flavour-bursting veggie explosion = happy.
Red or white onion
Can of mixed beans (fava, kidney, etc)
Can diced tomatoes
And one real tomato!
Can tomato paste
Old El Paso Chilli Mix
Tablespoon of brown sugar
Dash of soy sauce
Veggie Ground Round
Before I begin, I’ll dispel the potential puzzlement at some of these ingredients. Why the heck have 1) fresh tomato 2) diced tomato 3) tomato paste? Well, let me tell you, chilli is the one food I have consistently eaten since I moved out of the home in 1994. I’ve experimented with everything. And my experiments have shown me that the three sources of tomato specified above will give you a chilli of the most perfectly exquisite texture. Not too soupy, not too gloopy = Just right!
Chop up your onion and sizzle it with some butter in a big pot on a medium heat for three minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Your onion should melt with tenderness. (Note: unless otherwise noted, you can generally assume that any of my recipes will begin with sizzling an onion and butter. Onion & butter are a sacred combo and the prerequisite to lasting happiness in life.)
Chop up everything else. Throw it in the pot. Throw the various tomato concoctions into the pot. But don’t add your beans or veggie ground round yet. These must be saved until last. But ensure you’ve added everything else!
Crack open a fine beer. Chilli eaten without beer has been proven to generate less lasting happiness than chilli consumed with beer. And please, no Molson, Budweiser, Coors, or Labatts. Why? Because those beers are extracted from the teats of lab rats living in a giant corporate factory. These rats have been cruelly genetically manipulated to produce tasteless and odourless body fluids. So by drinking the aforementioned “beer” brands, you’re not only propping up corporate hegemony, you’re also being cruel to animals.
Next! Well, if you’ve followed the instructions correctly, probably about 45 minutes of beer-drinking pleasure have elapsed by now. It’s time to add the veggie ground round and beans to your chilli. Simmer away on medium for another 15 minutes. Then eat!
Rip! A Remix Manifesto, directed by Brett Gaylor, is a co-production of the National Film Board of Canada and Eye Steel Films. It cost approximately $1 million to make, and over the past few months, has been garnering awards on the festival circuit. This week it opens in many theatres across Canada — but the NFB has made it available in full on their website, and in keeping with the ethos of the enterprise, it would be a lost opportunity to not post at least one small serving of the film here.
If this is the future of film, time-transport me back to the past. RiP! is to film what a scramble is to eggs: satisfying to some, but hardly a creative use of the raw materials. The issues had so much potential: the stranglehold by corporations over copywright law; the invasive spread of patent to include living organisms; and the perennial favourite, “what is art?”
The apparent protagonists of this film — remix musician Girl Talk, and Brett Gaylor himself — know in advance the answers to all the questions they raise. They are listless and strangely incurious people, not interested in the relationship between capitalism and innovation, or in modes of production, or in questions about art’s responsibility to represent, question, challenge, or subvert reality. About the most subversive artistic act evoked in this film is sticking cartoon features on evil George W. Bush’s face.
In the worldview of RiP! our planet is teeming with ideas and cultural artifacts like a giant museum, except this museum is, like, fun. All the world needs is to stop with the oppression, let everyone inside this museum of Cool, let people mess around with stuff, and new and even cooler things will emerge. At every opportunity, we are forcibly reminded of just how cool the protagonists in this struggle are, thanks to Gaylor’s incessant use of the word “cool” itself, or only slightly less ham-handedly through visual cues: Girl Talk posing with Paris Hilton; or how about Girl Talk and his girlfriend in bed, interspersed with images of a frumpy employee of the Register of Copywrights. Young, sexy, and dancing = Good; middle-aged, overweight, awkward, wearing a suit = Bad.
When he’s not using the imagery of body fascism to make his point, Gaylor simply bludgeons you with circular logic. “Girl Talk’s music is obviously creative,” he states matter-of-factly. It’s obviously creative because it draws on the “Remix Manifesto” — the origins of which Gaylor never truly explains.
Obvious? Obviously not obvious to the frumpy copyright expert, who diplomatically says, “You can’t argue your creativity when it’s based on other people’s stuff.”
Ah ha, but Gaylor has History to back him. Muddy Waters sang other people’s songs, as did the Rolling Stones — except those rascally Stones then turned around and sued The Verve for stealing the score for “Bittersweet Symphony.”
“Nothing is new under the sun” of course. Who can argue it? Artists borrow, reinvent, adapt — some even flagrantly steal. The central problem of RiP! is one of scale. Gaylor presents some of the greatest hits of corporate stupidity over the last decade — major corporations suing poor little families for downloading two dozen songs, as if this is a genuine battle of David and Goliath, and we all know how that one turned out. It would be reassuring, were it not for the fact that thus far, outside of a few lost music royalties, Goliath is actually enjoying a largely uncontested battlefield. We live in a corporate kleptocracy of ever-greater audacity — wherein a good portion of the loot is swindled right in front of our eyes — and there’s damn little the download generation has done about it.
I digress. It would be unfair to not point out that there are parts of RiP! that, at the very least, are informative. It’s interesting to discover the changes in copyright law, and to learn that the Unites States used to permit the wholescale reproduction of foreign authors’ works with no compensation, the profits of which sometimes went to supporting homegrown authors (the example cited is Charles Dickens sales enabling Mark Twain’s success).
Nevertheless, these nuggets are buried in a film that is a sloppy mess; its very structure proving that a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks method will rarely work.
I have often felt that film is a kindred spirit to the novel both in scope and ambition. Both succeed primarily by virtue of their powers of narrative persuasion. RiP! falls flat because, by any conventional measure of a narrative, it has no plot. Don’t look for conflict or struggle in the story of Girl Talk and Brett Gaylor. They start the film in love with themselves and each other; they finish the film the same way. No epiphanies, no engagement with their adversary, no struggle.
At one point, Gaylor gushes enthusiastically at the spectacle of a Girl Talk show, saying, “What these kids are doing on this dance floor are unravelling that control [of the past over the present]. The future and the past are duelling it out right here on the dancefloor. Whoever wins gets to decide if ideas will be determined by the public domain or private corporations.”
If you believe getting high at a rave is the required effort for Change, or that clicking a cursor to rip off some new Arcade Fire tune is an act of rebellion, then RiP! might well be inspiring.
What truly boggles the mind is that RiP! failed to even answer the following question: how does art continue to get made if nobody pays for it? Brett Gaylor solved this problem by finding a public agency prepared to pony up taxpayers’ money for his project. Sadly, this is not a solution that will work for everyone; nor is it a solution that Gaylor even acknowledges with any gratitude in his film.
Saint Léonard, in the east end of Montréal, used to be its own town, but is now an arrondissement of the city proper. It developed after World War II, and lots of Italians moved there from La Petite Italie or Villeray. You could buy a house there, which is not true of a lot of Montréal (apartments only!)
I was in Saint Léonard yesterday for an interview with the proprietors of La Maison du Parmesan, a cornerstone of the Italian community since 1976. Afterwards, I drove south, parked by rue Jean Talon, and wandered around snapping photos.
See more photos at my flickr page.
Thursday, I had the pleasure of eating at Le P’tit Faillon on rue Faillon, a mere 10 minutes walk from where I live in Villeray. Up until last December, this restaurant was known as Le Baron de Faillon; the new name is less imposing, but the food is still fit for a baron, make no mistake. I ordered le filet de bar (bass fillet) which was served on top of pasta and vegetables. Delicious. To eat well and allow for a glass of wine or two, allow for $30 per person. My friend Denis was just as impressed with his meal as I was with mine. He had medaillons de something; I forget what. Can you tell I’m not cut out to be a restaurant reviewer?
To get there, exit at Metro Jean Talon, head north up rue Berri until you reach rue Faillon. The restaurant is between Berri and St. Denis.
This is not a rhetorical question. The system is a bit of a quagmire that continues to confuse me. Back when I lived in Edmonton, all a regular tippler had to do was load up a car (or a friend’s car) head down to the bottle depot and give ‘em all the empties. Case closed.
Here it’s not so easy. The general idea is this. You head down to your local dépanneur — a.k.a convenience store — and you buy your caisse of Griffon or Boréale or Belle Guelle or maybe some fancy import. You pay about $7 for a caisse of six. Then you pay an extra $1.50 for a bottle deposit and taxes. Then you go home and drink your beer with your hearty meal of chili. Or you buy several cases and you have a party; and all your pals come around with cases of their own.
But then, weeks later, you notice that you have a small mountain of beer bottles in your kitchen; moreover, your cat views this mountain as her own personal Everest and dedicates herself to conquering it several times a day. In the process, she causes all sorts of mayhem until eventually you can’t take it anymore. You declare, “I’m returning these damn beer bottles if it kills me.” And you head down to the dépanneur where the majority of the bottles were purchased and you ask nicely, “Can I return these bottles to you?” And they say, “How many cases you got?” And you say, “Oh, 18 or so.” And they tell you to come back another day when the kid who takes care of those things will be around. So you come back another day, but the kid’s not there. So you give up and go to the small supermarket on St. Denis and Gounod. But there they start interrogating you about what kinds of beer bottles you’re attempting to return. Are they Molson? Are they brown bottles or green bottles?
“They’re mostly Boréale,” you announce.
And what if some of these cases do happen to be imports? What then? The cashier gestures to the beer fridge over yonder. Provided your empties correspond to the beers we sell over there, then we’ll take ‘em. So I need to bring in a clipboard and cross reference my imports with those in stock in this supermarket? Oh hang it all! I’ll just return my domestic beer and let the imports fester a little while longer in the kitchen.
Banchi needs the exercise.