Remarkably, This Isn’t a Painting

Montréal on June 29, 2010

Photo credit: Denis Sobolj to cbc.ca

The weather here in Montréal last Monday was at once a frightening and beautiful sight to behold. This image, submitted to cbc.ca by Denis Sobolj (click on the image to go to the story at CBC News), doesn’t look real in some ways, yet it is. The best comment someone left on the CBC site, although possibly animated by anti-French sentiment, went along the lines that this cloud was looking for Kansas, but since all the signs around here are in French, it got lost.

Several funnel clouds were spotted and at least two touched ground on the West Island as F0 tornadoes — the weakest kind. And Tornwordo, who lives east in HoMa, posted another remarkable photo he took Monday afternoon (though it looks like evening). But here in Snowdon (or Uptown, or Upper Westmount, or whatever you want to call it), it wasn’t quite as dramatic in the afternoon, although it certainly rained heavily at one point.

I was working and did have to turn the light on, but clearly it was nothing like what nearby places in the area witnessed. Shortly after suppertime, however, things did take a rather dramatic turn. I was even compelled to step outside to the front of my building for a better look, and the rapidly moving whispy clouds under the solid dark blue black cloud rendered everything as surreal as on the image above. When it started to rain, I thought it best to get the heck back inside …just in case.

The Montréal area is no stranger to such wild weather we normally associate to the American tornado alley, although thankfully not as destructive. Two years ago, there was this waterspout in the St. Lawrence River, adjacent to the east end. And I remember some pretty nasty storms with tornadoes passing through and touching down in the suburbs early last summer.

After an overall cool and wet month of June here, about which I’m not complaining because we desperately needed the moisture, we’re about to start a typical continental summer hot spell in the coming days. It makes me wonder if it’ll also bring high humidity and the risk of more violent storms.

But, the Stupidifier Can Offer Good Laughs

Someone on my Facebook friends’ list made a point of sending me this link privately, which I then promptly posted as my FB status and now here. It’s in French — the video quality of a version with English captions is too poor to post — but it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what’s being said. Trust me on that!

The thing you have to understand is that the show is broadcast live each weekday morning from Marché Jean-Talon here in Montréal, so this hit the airwaves as is.

Stupidifier

Big Ass TV!I used not to be much of a TV watcher. In fact, I went through the ’80s and half the ’90s without watching TV at all. But last Boxing Day, while La Chelita was visiting, I spent my Christmas gift from my mother to subsidize the purchase of a new TV. I went from a tiny TV with no cable, to a tiny TV with cable two years ago, to finally a big ass TV like this one.

Before heading to the store, we found online a 36-inch screen at the right price, but it couldn’t be had once we got to the store. But, for a mere $30 extra, I was able to buy a 42-inch screen. I couldn’t refuse: an extra 6 inches for only $30! And for the remaining week of her visit, I would occasionally declare loudly out of nowhere, “Chelita! There’s a big ass TV in my living room!!!”

Am I watching more TV as a result? Well, let’s just say I get sucked into the stupidest shows whenever I want to put the brain on tilt — like world’s fattest dad or mom, world’s tallest teenager, or buying a house in Montevideo. However, there are times when I come across stuff that, after watching it, I feel I’ve actually learned something.

For instance, one night on ARTV, there was this documentary about the history of movie censorship in Québec. The most important film distributor (and eventually producer) in Montréal from the 1930s to 1950s was a man by the name of Alexandre de Sève. Turns out he was a big-time enforcer of state censorship in the city’s cinemas, and by the early ’60s, with television taking a bite out of movie-going, he founded Télé Métropole, which is known today as the TVA network. But the reason why I felt I had a mildly edifying moment is that, in the heart of the Village, there’s a street named Rue Alexandre-de-Sève. And, indeed, on that street between De Maisonneuve and Ste-Catherine, is located the headquarters of TVA.

As it happens, the nerd in me loves finding out how city streets got their name. Sometimes, changing the name of a street can cause a lot of hoopla, like when the City of Montréal suggested changing Avenue du Parc to Avenue Robert Bourassa in honour of the late, multi-term Liberal premier of Québec in the ’70s and ’80s. The clamour against the proposed change was such that the city backed down. Yet, Dorchester, one of the main thoroughfares in downtown Montréal, was quite easily changed to Boulevard René Lévesque shortly after that premier’s death, …except for the portion in the tony (anglo) enclave of Westmount, which of course remains Dorchester since its residents and politicians would sooner die than rename a street after a sovereignist premier.

At any rate, it didn’t take me much poking around to find that the city of Montréal has a searchable online directory of street names. The estranged hubbie used to be driven crazy by how so many streets here are named after saints, but that’s just a reflection of how the Catholic church literally controlled Québec society up until La Révolution Tranquille of the 1960s. This irk he felt struck me as odd, coming from someone from the land of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, whom everybody knows must be respected and revered or else be accused of somehow holding deep contempt towards Mexicans. But that’s a whole different ball of wax worthy of an entirely separate post.

For now, I’m just enjoying me some big ass stupidifier that occasionally offers a few nuggets of interesting information, albeit trivial.

Celebration or Protest?

gaypride_flag1June marks the beginning of another season of Gay Pride celebrations in major Western cities. On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots in New York City occurred, marking the moment when gays and lesbians stood up against persecution, thus the usual choice of a date in late-June to commemorate the event. But over the years, as Pride events have become more mainstream and commercial and akin to a circuit party, the date choice can range from June to September in different cities, as in Sin City North, for instance, where it now happens in mid-August.

The fact we use the word “celebration” today is telling of the shift that has happened over the years with regard to this commemorative event. Thus, I’m glad that former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray reminds us that the event, not that long ago, used to be a protest. It’s hard to imagine that a mere 20 years ago, it was imperative for some to be secretive about their sexual orientation for fear of losing their job. Thus, some would avoid the event at all cost in order not to be associated with it in any way.

Indeed, much has changed for the better HERE since I was in my 20s, so the term “celebration” may not be totally out of order. What’s more, I now live in perhaps the most tolerant, if not downright accepting, city in North America with regard to being gay. As well, for my employer and my colleagues at work, my being gay is a non-issue. I never fear of losing my job or my apartment over it, just as I don’t for loving coffee too much or having blue eyes. But it never escapes me that our cities and my country are still oases. Too easily we forget there are places on this planet where being gay is an offense — sometimes criminal, and in extreme cases, sometimes punishable by death.

Even among ourselves, though, we don’t speak with a common voice, and thus don’t form a cohesive community. To be blunt, the only thing I have in common with the vast majority of the guys who hang out in the Village is that we prefer to kiss guys, and even there, there’s a wide array of preferences. (Some don’t like kissing!) So, when it comes to Pride, there are many who can’t stand seeing scantily clad people or adherents to whatever fetish parading down the street, as they not only can’t identify with them but also, in some cases, take offense. “That is not me,” they say, and they resent that others might think they’re anything like them. That’s because, in reality, they aren’t, and it’s way too facile for anyone to accuse them of self-hatred or inward homophobia. For the life of me, I can’t comprehend how a gay guy can be on the socially conservative side of the political spectrum and I would definitely say loud and clear that “he’s not me.” That doesn’t make me self-loathing. He might be, but even that is a cheap shot.

The reason I wish Pride today had more of a protest element is that we don’t have to stray too far from our oasis to find deep resentment and hatred for the gains that have been made in the last 20 years. I don’t know if and how that can be changed. In Canada, where the legal front has been reasonably taken care of, there’s one thing left to protest: ignorance. But elsewhere, there’s that and much, much more. Thus, isn’t it selfish of us to be resting on our laurels and setting aside the notion of protest?

The Amber Light

Amber LightIn the Sunday, May 30th edition of Le Journal de Montréal,*** an article by social psychologist Monique Soucy titled “Pré-épuisement professionnel: une lumière jaune” (“Professional Pre-Burnout: An Amber Light”) caught my attention in a big way.

I recently blogged about how I’m feeling about my day job these days, which ironically comes on the heels of a professional high point. Last year I did not set out on that huge project thinking I would be awared a cruise for my effort. Rather, I just did what I always do: I look at a situation and I find a way of solving the problem and being more efficient in the end. Those who know me know I can take a complex set of data and not only organize it well but also work like a bastard to create a way of keeping it well organized as easily as possible. If something must be built from scratch, then be it, but always look at what was learned in previous experiences in order to enshrine what worked but ditch what didn’t work.

To employ one of many tired corporate clichés, I was given license to colour outside the lines. And this allowed me to prove that just because things had been one way since the dawn of time doesn’t mean it should continue that way forever. It also allowed me to demonstrate that even in a huge bureaucracy where evolution can be as slow as pouring molasses outdoors in January, it can be possible to push a challenge upwards and not only make things happen faster but also prepare us to respond more quickly to the next challenge. In our case, the next challenge was an exponential increase of our workload with no expectation of adding more people to our team to complete all that work.

When I returned from the cruise, I came back with encouragements to propose ways of making more (unrelated) changes that would have had a positive impact on our clients’ experience. I love being in a position where I can do more than just whine about a bad situation, where I can actually put forward a concrete solution even if it’s outside my official job description. My motivation is not to tell other people how to do their job; it’s to share what I happen to know since, as far as I’m concerned, we’re all working on the same big team.

But, systematically, my new big ideas were poopooed and I was reassigned to daily duties I had clearly stated I had no interest in pursuing, ostensibly because I’m the only bilingual member of my team and I had done them well when I was doing them. My workload increased but my role was forced into a much tighter little hole that offers little variety and comes complete with verbal reprimands if I even dare to poke a little finger outside that hole.

The most appalling? I have been told in so many words recently that I had my chance to shine last year; now is the time to let others shine. As if that’s what motivates me to begin with! Talk about not knowing who I am and how I work!

Then comes Soucy’s article in Le Journal de Montréal, coincidentally when for the first time in four years I wake up mornings feeling tired despite working normal hours and getting more sleep each night than I used to at the height of my “big project,” and hating Mondays as I contemplate another week of being put in my place as one would a misbehaving child.

Overcoming big challenges one after another while simultaneously being imposed new ones and managing conflicts and sundry unexpected situations but continuing to perform well: this expectation [of workers] is more widespread than one might believe. … After a few months, these workers find themselves exhausted and demotivated and have trouble concentrating. Those are the first signs of a professional pre-burnout. It’s a yellow light. Should they ignore it, slow down the pace, stop or …accelerate? The consequences could be vastly different.

Summer is in full swing here and in seven or eight weeks, I’ll be going on two-week’s vacation. Plus, as I mentioned in my previous rant on this subject, I’ve been putting off way too many things in my personal life lately. So, as much as it kills me to put a lid on it and to accept that, in a bureaucracy, someone who has too many ideas is apt to be seen as a shit disturber, I’m having to tell myself that it’s time for me to hang low.

Because if I don’t, the light might go from amber to red.

***Addendum: I know there’s a whole bunch of reasons why I shouldn’t be reading this paper, chiefly the lockout of its newsroom staff that’s been going on for more than a year now. But it was the only thing to read while I was having brunch on my own.