March 31, 2009

Chicken or Egg

Which came first? Was the product named Poulet Soleil (literally Chicken Sun) because of its color, or was yellow food dye used liberally to suit the preexisting name?

March 30, 2009

I'll Take You in Any Form

(The Atwater Market in Montreal)

Love meat.

March 29, 2009

Take Back the City

The current main exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal is "Actions: What You Can Do with the City". Showcasing projects from all over the world, the exhibit is made up of 99 examples of human actions that show how seemingly rigid urban environments can be subverted.

"Actions" highlights how humans don't have to be a slave to their environment; even the most unforgiving urban space can be injected with nature and humanity. For example, the above photo is a project initiated in Los Angeles detailing the type and location of fruit trees planted alongside roads. Since the trees are deemed public property under the law, the maps allow foragers to freely find and pick the fruit.

Another interesting action was about Cambridge students who scaled pillars and climbed fences of the ancient colleges at night, either out of mischief or necessity (i.e., being locked out of the university at night). Chronicled in the 1937 book, Night Climbers of Cambridge, the students were parkours decades before the word entered the lexicon.

Of particular interest were the ecologically-minded projects. They may not necessarily have been 100% practical, but the playful, artistic elements apparent in them reminded me that innovation isn't nearly as inspiring without those two qualities. This is particularly true when placed within the context of Japan, where innovation goes hand in hand with efficiency and sleekness but rarely truly engages the imagination. In that sense, it was not surprising that only one or two of the projects were from Japan.

Some more examples can be seen on the museum's website:

March 28, 2009

Technology Condoning Your Transgressions

The Madvac, a human-operated giant Hoover that sucks up Montreal's litter so you don't have to. Isn't prevention supposed to be the best cure?

Literally foisting our dirty laundry onto machines--no wonder the movies tell us we're long overdue for a robot revolt.

March 27, 2009

Sending Love to a Video Store

Atomic Cafe, the adorably kitsch cafe adjacent to Le septième, most likely one of the best video rental stores in Montreal. I wish the words "video rental" meant more these days--had I discovered this place even five years ago, I would have visited religiously.

Still, I enjoyed walking around the store, looking at their collection of DVDs. You have to admire a store that has carefully culled all the worthy not-necessarily-Hollywood films and lined them up in alphabetical order. (It all starts more or less with Almodovar.)

It's not just the DVD-window shopping; Atomic Cafe itself is an eyeful as well.

Amongst the magazines available to read: two old scrapbooks, circa 1953. One is dedicated almost entirely to clippings of women in their brassieres from magazine ads and fashion spreads; the owner was the 1950s version of a pervert. This one is a feature on women's hairstyles, likened to fowlery.

Pay a visit, you'll find yourself obsessing over every small detail in both Atomic Cafe and Le septième, from the Gumby knick-kancks over the counter, to the copy of My Summer of Love on the shelf. (Which reminds me, I have to watch it again.)

March 26, 2009

Makeshift Irishness

The Montreal St. Patrick's Day parade, where Irishness seems to be measured by how many items of green clothing you're wearing, and how publicly drunk you are.

A green-painted Zamboni becomes a float.

Winston Chuchill's Britishness is ignored because of its stronger association as the name of a pub.

The lovely ladies of the Red Hat Society of Quebec, who insist on wearing red hats and purple clothing. They added green to their repertoire for the day.

Big man, big band.

Makeshift Irishness, Part 2

A company that specializes in building bathrooms.
The unspoken credo for company floats: if you can put a shamrock on it, it's Irish.

Africans join in with their can drum float.

Divers! Hope the water was warmer than the outside temperature.

The CTV network float, the most professionally decorated-looking float to acheive the hand-decorated effect.

Mutsumi Takahashi, a Montreal newscaster born in Japan.

The James O'Brown band did not stick to James Brown songs.

Kids blowing their goddamn horns all the time.

March 24, 2009

You Can Be Irish Too

The St. Patrick's Day parade in Montreal, where members of a marching band wear Gimli beards...

an African priest gets into the spirit to sell his wares...

...and the Ukrainians get their own float.

March 20, 2009

Midnight Madness

Le Bilboquet's tire d'érable ice cream: maple with maple taffy; the taffy so rich and thick, the label instructs you to use scissors to cut them off. Which is just as well. This ice cream is so addictive, if you don't practice that form of self-discipline, you may never be able to stop eating. (And consequently, wonder why it's two in the morning and you're still ready to pogo off the walls.)

By the way, did you know that Collins has created the official online Scrabble checker? Perhaps the most diplomatic way to ascertain whether the word "qat" exists or not.

March 18, 2009

Butterflies Go Free?

(Golden helicon.)

Photos from the "Butterflies Go Free" exhibition, continued.

(Blue morpho.)

There were numerous signs warning us to not touch the butterflies, but with so many visitors in the greenhouse, it felt like we were intruding the butterflies' space. I worried that I would unintentionally step on a butterfly, or similarly crush it. Thankfully that didn't happen, but a lot of the butterflies looked clearly worse for wear.

(Thoas swallowtail.)

Butterflies Go Free

(Great mormon.)

The "Butterflies Go Free" exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Dozens of butterflies are released in the main greenhouse, flitting from tree to tree and lazily weaving in between visitors' legs.

The Blue morpho, a personal favorite.

The tiny round things are eggs.

March 14, 2009

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project, a Toronto-based group that plays music based on human voices. Leader Charles Spearin recorded his neighbors talking about what happiness means to them, and his band of nearly 10 musicians plays over those voices. The instruments and the tempo of the compositions vary according to the speaker's timber of voice, statements, and their disposition. Not all of it worked, but it was interesting to find out just how musical the human voice is--in some cases, they are directly on pitch and can be played like notes on a piano.

A video on their website gives you a good idea.

March 12, 2009

Ice Bath

The bathtub filled with snow--to heat for baths or the equivalent of placing a bucket under a leaky roof? If it's the latter, then I think a bathtub on top of the garage would be heavier than fallen snow piling up.

March 11, 2009

Boy Meets Girl

Chicago boy, meet Stela.

The World in Pieces

Montreal is a fascinating place to be, but it would be so much more beautiful if the littering were toned down a bit. Just because the snow covers it all up, it doesn't mean it goes away.

March 10, 2009

Maamm Bolduc

Maamm Bolduc, a modest little diner in Montreal. The place is well-known for its poutine (finishing the large order was no easy feat), but what I fell in love with were the menus. A mix of hand-drawing and collage, each page was lovingly crafted. It's a shame I was able to take only one picture before I ordered and the menu was taken away.

March 9, 2009

Where Brine Meets Snow

Of all the things I've found lying around in the snow (mittens, paper cups, one-half of a pair of new shoes in front of a building with the other half mysteriously appearing on the other side), this one more or less takes the cake. Pray tell, what sort of situation would lead to someone dropping an opened jar of pickles in front of someone's house?

March 8, 2009

Playing Catch-up

I thought I had my North American junk food down, but ketchup--a flavor?

March 7, 2009

The Radiohead Scheme

Buying a pizza from this place is on my to-do list. Will I have to haggle over the price of a slice? Will the person at the cashier be too lazy to bother counting my money? Meanwhile, their website,, promises three pizzas for the price of one. This is one unmotivated place.

March 6, 2009


Galoshes, to wear over leather shoes in the snow. I spend most of my time on the metro looking at people's feet, marvelling at how practical and well-insulated they all are. And then there are the girls on their way to hit the clubs, with bare legs and spike heels in -15°C weather...

March 5, 2009

The Pitter-patter of Snow Boots

While it's not snowing much anymore in Montreal, there are huge banks of snow and patches of ice that have been around for months and have yet to melt. Not helping the process is the below-zero temperatures, with no chance of getting warmer anytime soon. Little kids are bundled up so firmly, they don't resemble humans beings so much as clothes hangers. Their mobility is restricted so much by the combined stiffness of their ski jackets and snow boots and mittens and tuques, it's all they can do to stumble about with their arms outstretched. They are, of course, cute.

March 4, 2009

An Eggplant Lives Up to its Name

White eggplant.

Yellow zucchini.

Magenta-green string beans.

Orange cherry tomatoes.