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Challenge in 2010: Project 52

Today, I visited Liz Hover's blog and saw that she had found another amazing online challenge. As you may remember, Liz was my blog buddy when I took ProBlogger's 31-Days-to-a-Better-Blog course, and she gave me some much appreciated input. The challenge involves making the commitment to post new content every week for the next 52. The initiative is aptly called Project 52. It starts tomorrow, January 1, 2010, and ends January 1, 2011.

I was the 469th person to sign up and become a member of the Project-52 Google group, where forums will be held. Project organizers will be using RSS feeds to see who is towing the line and posting new weekly content.

In recent months, I have given up some responsibilities at work because I wanted to spend more time at home. Well, now I'll be home, but I may not be that available. My husband did give me the old eye-roll when I mentioned the new undertaking, but 1 post a week is not excessive. After all, I already told the blogosphere on my anniversary that I would be posting twice a week.... So what's the problem then? Well, I have also committed to doing a book review a month next year. I may need a helping hand or a guest blogger from time to time. Anyone interested?

Secretly, I'm anxious and excited about getting started. I hope that Project 52 will be as beneficial as Problogger's course. BTW, it's free, so if you're interested click on the above link and sign up. If you're lacking just some motivation, then imagine how motivated you'll feel with over 500 bloggers giving you encouragement and visiting your blog.

I hope that I will be able to honour this resolution in 2010.
Happy New Year!

Related post:
The Blog Makeover: Some Helpful Tips from the Pros
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A Special Anniversary

I can hardly believe that a year has already gone by since I wrote my first post. And what an enjoyable experience this first year has been.

My blog has been instrumental in getting me involved in my surroundings, meeting new people, and raising new questions that would have been unimaginable just 18 months ago. I've investigated pasta packaging, guerrilla gardening, the role of Twitter in the uprisings in Iran, composting and a still unresolved Mile End cat caper. But one of the greatest gifts my blog has given me is a growing interest in photography. In fact, now I take pictures first and think of the blog post second, and I got one cool camera for Christmas (Lumix, 12.1 megapixel) so that I can further explore this interest.

My blog was also featured in the Syracuse Post-Standard and in Linda Lowen's Women's Issues blog.

In addition to this being a stimulating year, it has also been a difficult one. As many of you know, I lost my mother unexpectedly, and I have spent the last five months dealing with my grief, that strange brew of sorrow, anger and nostalgia. Although I haven't left the area, my journey has been full of unexpected twists and turns and has required that I fully acknowledge a troubling fact--I'm a mortal with limited time and a family. It is for this reason that I will only be posting twice a week in the coming year. But I promise to make those posts as riveting as a blog post can be.

Just in case you missed one. Here are my 10 most popular posts in the last year.

1. Persiankiwi's Twitter
2. Persiankiwi disappears...
3. Persiankiwi et al.
4. What if Bill Gates had been born a poor black girl?
5. Ranting Twitter Style Not Your Parents' Rant
6. Environmental Working Group Updates Its Dirty Dozen
7. Iranian Bloggers: The World's Only Eyes and Ears
8. Momactivism: A Reply from O'Sole Mio
9. Photovoice: Girl Behind the Camera
10. Trespassers in St Henri Win City Gardening Award

Now tell me reader...Which was your favourite post?
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Twitter Pre"X"mas Rants

The holiday season is a time to get together with loved ones, exchange gifts, show our good will and partake in a cup, or two, of good cheer. We put our best foot forward and try to avoid unresolved issues with those loved ones who almost immediately get up our noses. We anticipate some of the statements that we will have to deflect, ie, "I see we've put on a few pounds" when the "we" obviously refers to you, or the in-law who thinks that climate change is a "load of crap" and shows you his new Hummer. The mere thought of getting together makes some of us anxious, and our emotions build. What better way to blow off some pre-holiday steam than with a 140-character rant on Twitter.

The following are a few of my favourite pre"X"mas rants:

BTW, why is Xmas the abbreviation for Christmas?

The tension is building:

Blasted snow:

In his Tumblr post, pieman decides it's too dangerous to drive to the pub and takes the bus. Rats, he forgets his bus pass, pays $4 dollars to get two blocks, only to have the driver pull over and say "End of the line. Everyone off." So much for Monday night's pint!

Here's Rob trying to get a flight from San Francisco to somewhere in the Midwest:

Children's sizing, and children and Christmas decorations:

Anything you don't want pointed out invariably arises when you can't be excused from the table, usually some time between grace and "Please pass the stuffing." Plus the mere thought of spending a lot of "quality time" with the family may make some of us...well thirsty.

And finally the do-gooder things that we are supposed to cherish but instead have the absolute opposite effect.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone.

Related post:
Ranting Twitter Style Not Your Parents' Rant
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The Uncomfortably Strange

When I was 21 and on my first trip to Europe, I stayed at an expensive hotel in Paris close to the Arc du Triomphe. I stayed up late listening to the sounds of the city anxiously awaiting the next morning to go out and do some sight-seeing. I had set an ambitious agenda that required getting up very early.

The next morning, instead of taking the prehistoric elevator down four floors, I opted for the staircase with what looked like a ceiling to floor window with opaque glass. As I ran down the stairs, I noticed that the landing was dark; the window ostensibly did not go all the way to the ground floor. Nevertheless, I continued down the stairs, just a little more slowly. A scenario flashed through my mind: "21-year-old with questionable French found unconscious in eerie stairwell in expensive Paris hotel." However, my ambitious sight-seeing agenda quickly got the upper hand. I stepped up my pace down the long circular staircase, but there seemed to be an interminable number of stairs, which made me feel as though I was dancing and not really getting anywhere....I eventually soft-shoed my way to the first floor and noticed that the window did in fact stop there, but cast enough light for me to see the wall at the foot of the stairs, but little else. As I arrived at the landing with my hand on the newel of the staircase, I turned in the general direction of what I assumed was an exit, although there was no illuminated sign (Doesn't this country have a building code!?). Then I saw something from the corner of my eye. I turned and looked up to see a very tall woman with her hand raised as though she were about to hit me. I brought up my arm to shield my face from the blow and screamed. I heard several people laugh in the next room. I maintained my pose for a few seconds and then reached up and felt the evil lady's hand. It was hard and didn't move. My would-be attacker was a statue. Too embarrassed to walk into the lobby, I lingered in the semi-darkness and had a good look at how the first floor window cast just enough light onto the statue to trick my eye into believing that this woman was real.

Although red in the face when I entered the lobby, the hotel concierge assured me that I was one of many people who screamed at the sight of the statue. The hotel owner had stowed the (evil) lady under the staircase until he figured out a better place for her.

Besides this memory, I have had similar though not quite as vocal reactions to retail mannequins. For some reason, a double-take has always been necessary. What is this inherent eeriness of human replicas that Alfred Hitchcock used to such terrifying effect?

At the 3December Autodesk presentation, I learned that in 3D animation circles this effect is known as the "uncanny valley." In 1970, Japanese roboticist Masahori Mori hypothesized that as a robot becomes more human like in appearance, our reaction towards the robot is increasingly positive and empathetic. That is... up to a certain point. Then our reaction quickly turns to repulsion. In other words, this is when we get that creepy feeling. Mannequins, bad plastic surgery, and ah...statues fall into the uncanny valley category (See the graphic courtesy of Wikipedia for other examples.).

Ryan Lesser and Josh Randall of Harmonix, the developer of the video game the Beatles: the Rock Band, spoke at the Autodesk conference on the importance of recreating the Fab Four to make them seem real but avoiding any uncanny valley pitfalls. Lesser and Randall's show-and-tell session demonstrated how important it was to capture the essence of the Beatles by studying their every movement and even their interaction in their onstage performances. I was stunned by how much of Harmonix's facsimile of the Beatles actually coincided with my memories of their individual characteristics without creeping me out. And yes, John, Paul, George and Ringo appeared to be just as lovable as they did in real life....I guess.

The picture of this woman in the upper right-hand corner is CGI Flash Creepy Girl (Just click on the link and watch Creepy's eyes follow your cursor.) She's a pretty believable computer-generated image except for something in the eye movement, the redness of her eyes and the fact that her hair on her shoulders doesn't move. Try for yourself and let me know if you have noticed anything else that seems unhuman like.

In addition, if you're interested, on this same site you can send a picture of yourself, and they can make a creepy computer-generated image of you too.

If you like what you're reading please subscribe by the RSS feed at the top of the screen or by e-mail subscription in the box on the sidebar. Thanks Heather
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Bixi: High On Lifer

As some of you may recall, I parked my noisy, rusty, ugly bike and subscribed to Bixi two months ago. As you can see from my statistics below, I have made the most of the $78 annual subscription, and in just two months, it has cost me less than a dollar a trip. I also found it extremely motivating to see my personal stats. I liked knowing how many kilometres I'd traveled, and I must admit that trying to get to my destination within the first free 30 minutes added a little more fun to the experience. But the best part was not having to find a place to lock up my bike, and it was the perfect way to run multiple errands on the Plateau, where there was no shortage of stations.

In these two months, I also had the chance to try the 7-speed Bixi on two occasions. They were faster and more fun. I also had the chance to use the nearly completed bike path on University between Milton and De Maisonneuve. It was certainly welcome and made my daily trek downtown all the more safe.

Although there were a few drawbacks, such as arriving at a station with no free docks, the company was relatively quick in finding solutions (In this case, you just reinsert your credit card and you get an additional 15 minutes, enough time to get to the next station without incurring any additional charges.). Towards the end of the season when portions of stations were dismantled for winter, bikes were hard to come by, and checking online beforehand for bike availability was a good way to prevent disappointment. But the best solution is to access the Bixi station map web page with your cell phone, which leads to my next point. You will enjoy Bixi much more if you have a cell phone. In the event you do have a problem, it makes calling customer service much easier. I dealt with customer service on several occasions, and the service was excellent.

If the organization had one thing to work on, it would be a better basket. Not only was it less than ideal if you had a cloth bag, but it also required Herculean strength to stretch the bungee cord around the basket to keep your bag in place....The organization has been great with coming up with solutions so far.

I didn't realize how much I enjoyed my morning ride until I took the metro on December 1, the day after the Bixi season officially ended. It was hot and crowded with horrific lighting, and people looked sick, tired and generally grumpy all around. I wanted off.

A few years ago, I actually enjoyed taking the metro. It sure beat driving. But now I miss my morning endorphin rush, the fresh air and the view of the mountain (especially in the fall). I wish that Bixi would start a winter pilot project on the main cycling paths.

A friend told me a few months ago that her quality of life went down in the winter because she couldn't ride her bike. I couldn't agree more. I guess I've become older, wiser and a high-on-lifer.

Related Posts:
A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike
3 Compelling Reasons for a Bike-Share Program in Your City
Fun Way to Track Bike Use and Carbon Footprint
City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning
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The Joy of Crafts

Last week, Betty Bose, a Twitter star who uses recycled materials in kids crafts, posted a wonderful Christmas wreath made with puzzle pieces. It simply involved finding an old puzzle missing a few pieces, painting them green, gluing them to the rim of a paper plate and adding a red bow. It was something I could even imagine getting my two-year-old involved in. But oh drats, I didn't save the link. On Betty's site, this grandmother to nine had posted a Christmas tree made from puzzle pieces. I pitched the idea to my seven-year-old, but "no," she was decided. It had to be the wreath.

I discovered this morning that we didn't have any puzzles with missing pieces, so I decided to go to the Chaînon, a charity store whose proceeds finance a series of women's shelters. It's a great place to get cheap, preloved materials for crafts, but as I discovered today, it's no longer a well-kept secret. In fact, the three of us had to line up at the door this morning with the most seasoned of thrift shoppers--seniors. On our list: a few Christmas ornaments, a puzzle or two, and something red to make a bow.

Much to my chagrin, the puzzles were upstairs and took a while to find. I sensed my two-year-old might experience overload, as the second floor is also where all the toys are. I would have kept him secured in the stroller, but there was no elevator, so we had to take the stairs. I realized that I might have my hands full. My son is a runner and dodger, and for him, trying to get away from me is part of the fun. I kindly asked my daughter to watch her brother and keep him within eye shot. I estimated that the puzzle segment of our trip would only take a few minutes.

There were many puzzles, but most of them had between 500 and 2,000 pieces, which meant that the pieces were too small. In the meantime, my daughter had reported back. My son was being uncooperative, and when she finally caught him, he threw himself on the floor and refused to move. I told her that I would only be another second and to bring him back to me. Then, I found the perfect sized puzzle of an angry pink dog smoking a cigar and talking on the phone. And not a second too soon. My son suddenly voiced his reluctance to obey his sister in the form of a piercing screech, a highly effective attention-seeking ploy. Everyone turned and looked in his general direction. I saw an old man adjust his hearing-aid, as I rushed by. My daughter was dragging my son across the floor much to the visible disapproval of several elderly shoppers. I quickly took my giggling, sweaty children downstairs.

Has your child ever thrown a fit in a busy store? Please tell me about it.

We had the puzzle and a few Christmas decorations for my daughter's school tree. We just needed something red to make a bow. With my children more or less in tow, I checked ladies' scarves and men's ties, but found nothing red. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that my son had reassumed his position on the floor with his arms crossed over his chest. I knew that I had about 60 seconds before he would start screaming. As my daughter tugged at him to stand up, I grabbed a red fleece shirt and got in line at the cash. As I was paying, my son screeched. The two elderly ladies behind me put their hands over their ears, while a third woman grimaced and muttered something. I got my son in his stroller, and we left as quickly as possible.

Although embarrassing, our trip was well worth it. Both my kids helped me paint and glue the puzzle pieces. The fleece was the perfect material for making a bow because it didn't fray, and we had enough puzzle pieces to make two wreaths and a Christmas tree.

Final verdict: this was a great craft. Both my children were able to take part, and they were very pleased with the results. The next time, however, I'll visit the Chaînon sans enfants.

Related post:
Some Not So "Crafty" Undertakings
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National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

I couldn't rightfully call myself a feminist if I didn't devote a post to the 20th anniversary of the Montreal massacre. As you may recall 25-year-old Marc Lépine walked into the École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, and shot 28 women, killing 14 for the simple reason that they were women. I can recall this incident very clearly. I was living in a Canadian university residence in Paris with many students from Montreal. Word traveled quickly through the lounges, kitchens and lobby, but it took a few days to get all the details. I will never forget the horror of learning that Lépine had gone into a classroom and actually asked the male portion of the class to leave. In his suicide note, he blamed feminists for his failures in life.

As a result of this tragic event, the federal government made December 6 the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It also implemented a gun registry, which according to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has reduced spousal homicide by 50%. As you may also be aware, our Conservative government is currently trying to abolish the gun registry in the form of Bill C-391.

The CLC has spearheaded a campaign entitled 20 Days and 20 Ways to End Violence Against Women. It is asking people to send the Prime Minister a postcard a day for 20 days asking him to keep the gun registry. The CLC has created a user-friendly electronic postcard that you can send directly to the PM (Click here your for postcard.). Now unfortunately, I am behind in my postcards, so I will be sending 10 today and 10 tomorrow, and I invite you to do the same.

The Canadian Labour Congress believes that ending violence against women cannot be done through a law and order agenda and instead advocates comprehensive social and economic policies, which include:
  • maintaining the long gun registry
  • access to affordable, safe housing
  • a living minimum wage
  • effective pay equity laws
  • a national publicly-funded child care program
  • equal access to Employment Insurance
  • access to justice, including the resources to challenge discriminatory government action and legal aid
  • increased governmental support for women’s centres, rape crisis centres and women’s shelters
  • legal protection and support for women who report sexual assault
The Canadian Labour Congress accuses the current government of "severely limiting women’s capacity to organize, advocate and lobby," and is calling for "the government to drop its law and order agenda and instead, develop an effective women’s equality agenda."

Tomorrow, candlelight vigils will be held across Canada to remember these 14 women and all of the other women who have been the victims of violence. If you can't attend a vigil, then just fire off a postcard or two and help stop Bill C-391. I'm already on postcard number 5.

Canadian Labour Congress
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Doc Review: Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh

A few weeks ago, I received info from the NFB on Finding Dawn. Métis Director Christine Welsh endeavours to put a human face on Dawn, a native woman who lived in Vancouver's downtown eastside. Sadly, Dawn was murdered, as were many other women, by the notorious serial murderer, Robert Picton. Upon hearing this name, many of you will want to look away; however, Welsh successfully manages to shift the focus from the sordid details to the more human face of the victims, giving the viewer an idea about what it might be like to walk in another woman's shoes. In this documentary, Welsh gives us valuable insight into the daily realities of many native women in Western Canada, from Vancouver to the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia (BC) to Saskatchewan and then back to Vancouver Island.

Through Dawn's brother, a BC Aboriginal rights activist, we learn of Dawn's early years. An otherwise happy family is torn apart by the untimely death of the father. As the mother is unable to provide for the entire family, Dawn and her older sister are taken away and put in a foster home, an event which marks them both for life.

Welsh also takes us to northern B.C. to the Highway of Tears, a road between Prince George and Prince Rupert, where nine native women have disappeared. This ominous highway winds its way through the mountains, and for many, it is the only means to get to the outside world. We also visit Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where another native woman has gone missing. It is here that the filmmaker introduces us to an Aboriginal rights activist who has overcome tremendous adversity to become a teacher. The activist gives us a peek into what is like to be a woman growing up native and explains the profound significance of the word "squaw."

Welsh has created a film that is surprisingly easy to watch, given the subject matter. There is a lot to be learned from our most vulnerable.

I must add that I'm well acquainted with the beauty of British Columbia, but I was taken aback by the stunning countryside of Saskatchewan.

The documentary is only 73 minutes long. I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to leave a comment...

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Upcycling: Big Cig Icon Turns Over New Leaf

Nearly a decade ago, publisher Louis Rastelli was looking for a new way to distribute his zines to readers. This happened right around the time that the Canadian government banned cigarette vending machines in bars and restaurants. Given this surplus of machines, Rastelli expanded on an idea he had seen in Winston-Salem. In 1997, a US company called Artomat began retrofitting vintage cigarette machines to dispense art. As Canadian cigarette packages are nearly twice the size of their US partner in smoke, Rastelli reasoned that they could be used to dispense both art and literature, and the Distroboto was born, expanding our minds through arts and culture rather than killing us slowly with tar and nicotine.

In the back of the Expozine program, I saw an advertisement for the Distroboto and learned a few details about the products dispensed. The machines deliver miniature books, comics, mini CDs and DVDs, arts and crafts, photos and other handmade surprises. As you can see from my photo above, the cost is only 2 bucks, $1.75 of which actually goes to the artist! Pretty good percentage I'd say, and an excellent promotional tool. In addition, it's open to anyone. In other words, there's no council deciding what is artworthy.

I tried the Distroboto a few years ago. Intrigued by the novelty, I made two purchases and got a mini CD, which was forgettable, and a really cute hand-drawn comic. Now this is a bit of crap shoot, and of course, you will come across some things that don't suit your cultural tastes, but guaranteed fun will be had just the same.

I have recently heard from Louis Rastelli, and in a subsequent post, I will write about a few of the 700 emerging artists who have used the Distroboto on their butt-less path to success.

Click here to see some of the funky vintage Artomat vending machines, which today dispense les chefs d'oeuvres of 400 contributing artist from 10 different countries. Pssst, double click on the individual machines to get a better look. My favourite is from the Motor City.

New York Times Magazine
Louis Rastelli
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Review: Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan

At the recent Expozine, I found myself at the table of graphic novel publisher Drawn & Quarterly. It was not the best use of my children's limited attention span, as I could easily visit the D&Q store on Bernard Street. However, I was able to speak to the publisher's sales rep who pointed me in the direction of a graphic novel that I might like--a definite advantage. Asked about my graphic novel preferences, I replied Persepolis, the Paul series and Aya de Yopougon. The rep then showed me Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan.

I was immediately intrigued by the setting, Tel Aviv, and by the fact that the protagonist, Numi, was a very tall, plain Israeli woman. For some reason, I find stories about plain looking characters more believable; I guess I've been exposed to Hollywood's beauty standards for too long. At any rate, I was pleased to see the very average Numi enlist the help of an equally average looking cabdriver, Koby Franco, in solving a mystery of an unidentified body after a bus station bombing in Hadera. Numi believes that the unidentified victim may be Koby's father.

Koby has been estranged from his father for several years and requires some convincing before he agrees to give a blood sample for DNA testing. However, there are some unforeseen complications that take Koby and Numi to the site of the bus station bombing. One of his father's personal belongings is found at the station, but how it actually got there provides for another interesting twist. Although a relationship between Numi and Koby's father becomes apparent, a romance slowly begins between Numi and the younger Franco until a misplaced comment extinguishes the flame...but is it forever?

The reader only catches a small glimpse of Koby's father in an old photograph of him standing behind a large flower arrangement. The mysterious widower, Franco Senior, was said to enjoy his privacy, and it is through Koby and Numi's sleuthing that Koby discovers what his father was trying to hide.

In Exit Wounds, Tel Aviv is presented as a city where bombings and death are commonplace, so commonplace in fact, that every time the bus station attack is mentioned, it is often confused with another bombing that took place around the same time. Similarly, in a scene at the morgue, a young man identifies his father by viewing a videotape of the dead man's ear. He explains to the clerk that they had the same ears and then asks if he could get a copy of the video for his mother. This leads to the very unsettling question: just what kind of condition was the body in?

Did I think that Exit Wounds deserved Entertainment Weekly's "Best Comic of the Year" review? Well, I did enjoy it, and there were some great unexpected twists, and there was very little about the book that was formulaic, but it could have been much better. So my answer is no.

I was disappointed when Numi expressed her dismay to Koby about not being physically attractive. Until that point Numi, our gutsy, fearless protagonist, was always skilfully moving towards what she was looking for. Then we see that her lack of physical beauty actually causes her pain. This sudden focus on outward appearance killed the momentum of the story for me and reduced our erstwhile unique character, fending for herself in a tough and dangerous Tel Aviv, to run of the mill. What's worse, I had the impression that Koby was drawn to her out of pity.

I guess I would have preferred to see more action before the couple actually got together, action that would have given further evidence of Numi's more positive qualities, such as her fearlessness and resolve. Then maybe unearthing her insecurity about her looks would have been unnecessary.

Please reader, don't get me wrong. This book was good, but it could have been fabulous.

Other Reviews:
Paul Goes Fishing by Michel Rabagliati
Aya de Yopougon by Abouet & Oubrerie
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Montreal's 8th Annual Small Press Expozine

Yesterday, I took my kids to Montreal's Expozine at the Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church on St. Laurent Boulevard. I'd gone several years ago and was intrigued by all the handmade zines and unconventional narrative styles. This year, the church basement was heaving with creative, quirky and nerdy types of all ages and enthusiasm levels, which ranged from the depressed and withdrawn to the downright exuberant.

Expozine is a small press, comic and zine fair, which this year, brought together some 300 exhibitors, making it one of the largest in North America. In addition to attracting artists from Canada, the US and Europe, Expozine gives out awards for best zine, book and comic. The beauty of these awards is that high-tech is not de rigueur. One of the winner's in the zine category this year, Delf Berg for Fanzine #3, Toxico, did his work entirely by hand. A judge's comment on his work, "Very simple and low tech, the work of an obvious talent with an original voice."

I was surprised to see that the quality of the zines, comics, books and characters in all their manifestations (buttons, T-shirts, fridge magnets, stuffed animals and cushions. Yes, cushions!) had improved tremendously. I saw every type of character from sexist to feminist, cute to horrifying. My kids loved the buttons and fridge magnets and adored a certain Hasemeister bunny (see picture above). I wish they had been as enthusiastic about my comic and zine browsing. Nevertheless, I still managed to spend $45.00 before the heat of the church basement forced our sweaty bodies out into the street. We narrowly escaped some crankiness, but had the added bonus of listening to a country & western accordionist on the church steps, which gave our short trek a David Lynch kind of feel.

If I'd been on my own, I would have most certainly taken off my coat (a free hand oblige) and spent a lot more money. The young woman who'd made scary character cushions would have been my first stop. I would have also had the time to speak to some of the exhibitors who were obviously thrilled to be showing their labours of love.

Don't miss it next year!
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Review: Graphic Novel AYA by Abouet & Oubrerie

This past August, in dire need of some pure escapism, I came across the four-part AYA de Yopougon graphic novel series at the Park Avenue Renaud-Bray. I thumbed through the first volume of the brightly coloured panels of the life of Aya, a young woman living in the Ivory Coast in the late 1970s. What initially piqued my interest was finding a series taken from the point of view of a young African woman — indeed a rare occurrence. Although I had the initial impression that the story by Marguerite Abouet revolved around the bright and studious Aya, it in fact revolved around three families living in a suburb of Abidjan, which the characters refer to as Yop City. Aya is the eldest daughter of one of the families, while her two best friends, Bintou and Adjoua, are members of the other two.

Aya is different from her friends. She is serious and plans to become a doctor, while her friends prefer the nightlife of the maquis, a type of outdoor restaurant and dance bar. Aya is a friend to many in her community. She empowers the powerless, but also puts her friends in their place when they need it. Aya is not perfect, and her family has its share of problems. We discover that Aya's father has a mistress. She stirs the pot in volume 3 when she arrives unannounced on his doorstep with two little additional surprises. Not to be outdone, the skinny Koffi, Bintou's father, announces that he is going to take a second wife, the village beauty, who is the same age as his daughter. His news creates an uproariously funny fallout in the community.

One of the reasons that I enjoyed this series so much was that it looks at the daily lives of people in the Ivory Coast, rather than the problems in Africa. We see an Africa replete with intrigue and beauty (the work of Clément Oubrerie, the illustrator, is fabulous). The series tackles a wide variety of issues, such as class difference, women's rights, infidelity, homosexuality, shot-gun marriages and polygamy. Most of these issues are not necessarily what we would associate with Africa in the late 1970s, as we were dealing with them ourselves here in North America. And we mustn't forget that we are not above polygamy here in Canada or the US.

I originally read the series in French. But because the fifth installment has not yet come out, I decided to buy my favourite volume, number 3, in English and read it again. The Mile End's graphic novel publisher Drawn and Quarterly located on Bernard Street is responsible for the English version of this series. The original text is written in French as it's spoken in the Ivory Coast and comes with a glossary at the back as part of the bonus features. Part of my reason for buying the English was to see how the translator was going to address certain African terms.

The publisher chose to keep the glossary and use enough Ivoirianisms and French words to remind the reader that French is the official language of the Ivory Coast and that the setting is indeed Africa. For instance, the publisher decided to keep such terms as, maman = mom; yako = I'm sorry; palu = paludisme, the French word for malaria, but which can also mean minor infections, fever or fatigue; and côcôta = noogie, to name just a few.

While I enjoyed the series immensely in French, I did spend a lot of time flipping back to the glossary. It was only after reading volume 3 again in English with much less flipping that I discovered just how funny this series was. I shed many tears of laughter, and what makes the English version even more attractive: it's about $8 cheaper.

In short, I highly recommend this series in both French and English. See the book trailer in French here for a taste of the Ivoirian accent and music.
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Army Fatigues... on the Plateau!

On this beautiful November day, I took my kids for a long walk through the Plateau. Everyday, I bike past a mural at the corner of Villeneuve and De Bullion but only realized last week that it extended right around the corner. This was my chance to finally go and take some pictures. (You can view the pictures of that mural below on my photostream.)That was our destination point this morning. As usual, we discovered something new that my children found exciting. Of all things, we came across an armed forces paramedics simulation.

Across from the building that once housed the CLSC St. Louis du Parc on St. Joseph sits a building called the 51st Field Ambulance. This is apparently where local troops of the Canadian Armed Forces get their field paramedics training. We witnessed a group of young women and men in their military fatigues open the back of a military truck and pull out a young woman on a stretcher. One of the people carrying the stretcher quickly asked if there were any spinal injuries and a few other questions and then they hauled the stretcher with the injured party into the building. I asked them if this was training for Afghanistan. I was told that it was training for there or anywhere in the world.

I was surprised to see the army's presence in our neighbourhood. Our exposure to the Canadian Armed Forces is limited to reports on the news of deaths in Afghanistan. There was a number of things that surprised me about these eight or so people. First of all, at least half of them were women. Secondly, they were extremely efficient, and finally, they were friendly and didn't mind us asking questions or taking pictures.

As we walked away, I realized that our troops in Afghanistan rarely had a human face until one of them died. In addition, these youthful, enthusiastic people whom I'd just spoken to might very well be shipped out for a tour of duty. I had an unsettling feeling for a few minutes when I realized that these same people might never return. What a colossal waste of youth, talent and life that would be.
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Being a Woman: A Pre-existing Condition

How would you feel if you discovered that your health insurance did not cover maternity or reproductive care? How would you feel if you were denied health coverage for the sole reason that you had had a c-section. How would you feel if you paid higher insurance premiums than your husband or brother?

Sounds to me like women are facing sex-based discrimination south of the border. Although we have universal health care in Canada, there are many things not covered. For instance, in Ontario, universal health care does not cover prescription drugs. All across Canada, we, too, have grown accustomed to being told that our insurance company doesn't cover some essential item. For instance, I recently learned that my insurance company covered only the first $250 of my prescription glasses. They cost $750 dollars. It's time for all of us to get out our magnifying glass and read the 4pt font at the bottom of our insurance policies, particularly upon renewal.

The following is an emailed comment from a dear friend, which I thought was very a propos:

...I'm not surprised that being female is once again being viewed as some kind of liability, if the last few thousand years of discrimination have been any indication...

To find out more what women throughout the US are doing to protest the pre-existing condition go to The Undomestic Goddess.

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Halloween in the Mile End

On Saturday night at about 6:00 pm, I took out a lamb and ninja warrior for some trick-or-treating in our hood. It was a cold dark moonlit October 31st with a wind strong enough to whistle and stir the leaves. Some of our festive neighbours on Drolet Street had created a haunted walk for passing ghouls with a spooky soundtrack in the background. The lamb clung to my thigh, as did my otherwise brave ninja, but the lady with the cape and Freddy Kruger mask was more than my lamb could bear. We had to back out into the street at the last minute--to hell with the candies, she was scary. My ninja was also frightened, but she was still reeling from the embarrassment of coming face to face with her first crush from daycare. Just minutes earlier, we had run into the rocker with his mother. Now aged 10 and 7, our kids stood beside us looking sideways so that their eyes wouldn't meet.

It couldn't have been a better night for Halloween, and I couldn't help myself from adding a little more scare in the air, asking my little companions if they'd just heard that scary noise or turning around quickly to see who was behind us. My tactics were effective, but I started to annoy my ninja. Little did I know that she would soon have the last laugh.

The lamb called it quits early, and the ninja and I carried on to St. Dominique. There were still lots of treats and plenty of monsters to come. I was looking forward to my last trip up the stairs to a triplex when I heard a little witch say to a ghost that the snake gave her the heebie jeebies. The ninja arrived first at the top of the stairs and I heard her say, "Oh, can I pet him?" I was looking at our next triplex on the street, as I took my place beside her at the door. I looked down to see what I expected to be a cat, but instead saw a five-foot long boa constrictor hanging from a man's arm. I let out a scream, which scared the snake, causing it to coil around its handler. I managed to take a picture, albeit a shaky one, and was immensely relieved to get away from there, much to my ninja's amusement.

As I climbed the stairs of the last triplex, I was still feeling shaky from my fright. I told the ape and witch who answered the door about my experience and showed my picture. I couldn't help but notice the witch's facial expression turn from surprise to dread. I would feel the same way if the boa were my neighbour.

It made me think of a funny anecdote told recently by Alice Cooper on the French-language variety show Tout le Monde En Parle. The rocker was famous not only for his smudged mascara, but also for bringing his pet boa on stage. However, one evening his pet got away in a Las Vegas hotel. Alice Cooper alleges that the boa somehow got into the hotel's plumbing system and resurfaced in country and western singer Charlie Pride's suite via the toilet, apparently while it was...ahmm, in use. Now imagine how terrifying that experience was. It also makes me feel slightly uneasy to consider how we may all be interconnected through plumbing and sewage systems....
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Teaching An Old Brain New Tricks

As my readers may have noticed, I only posted three times in October. I was busy taking two online fiction writing courses with Jordan Rosenfeld, and while I enjoyed them, they consumed all my energy. To date, my previous writing has been dependent on research and facts, whereas fiction writing draws heavily on your own personal experiences and interpretation of events. In essence, these experiences help you to determine how your characters might feel and react in a given situation. This new way of thinking required a lot of energy and a person to bounce my ideas off of (Thanks husband!).

The central event of my writing this month involved a very clear childhood memory of a neighborhood teenager who had been the victim of an attempted rape. It happened right around the time we were watching the first man on the moon (July 20, 1969).

From a street away, I heard a teenager repeatedly scream "rape" and ran over to see what was going on. I saw a young girl running down the street in her underwear with her arms in the air in obvious distress. What shocked me the most was the fact that everyone, children and adults alike, stood on the side of the street watching her, but no one reached out to help her. Obviously, the slack-jawed adults were all stunned, but the young girl's distress marked me for life.

I went home immediately to tell my mother. I asked her what rape was, and I watched her eyes widen and then she quickly turned around and went back to washing the dishes. She eventually told me that rape was when "someone was forced to do something that they didn't want to." The subject was then dropped. Although the neighborhood children continued to use the word rape, which eventually morphed into "rake" (as in, she was raked, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how you rake someone), no one in the neighborhood ever mentioned the event or girl again. I always wondered what happened to her and if she got the counseling she needed.

I tied this theme in with my first experience with feminism: my mother going back to school in the late sixties to become a nurse. I often remember her and her friends sitting around our kitchen table discussing the very short "or goddamned" uniform they had to wear, even in the winter, and the unwanted attention it garnered, which came from everyone, including authority figures. (Click here for a picture of a vintage nurse's uniform pattern. For the record, I remember the uniforms being much shorter.)

The following is the third draft of a scene I wrote for one of my classes with Jordan. I discovered that fiction writing starts as a skeleton (and sounds a little like a court report), and then details, or layers, are added with each subsequent draft. As you will see, this scene is still stiff and if I were to revise it again I would add more details to give it more of a sixties feel.

Scene 10

(Main protagonist has arrived at a child psychiatrist's office at the hospital where she is a nurse. She wants to speak to a psychiatrist about a delicate issue involving her daughter.)

A few minutes later, the doctor came out of his office wearing a white lab coat. Tall, gaunt and balding, the psychiatrist ushered Ann into his office.

As she entered the room, Ann was immediately struck by the smell of stale coffee and cigar smoke. The venetian blinds were coated with dust, and the windows were smeared and cloudy. When she looked at the psychiatrist, he was swiveling in his chair, leering at her legs. He motioned for her to sit down in the chair across from him. As she took a seat, she glanced at several diplomas displayed on the wall. Seeing that his focus of attention had not shifted, Ann pulled her uniform dress down as far as she could over her knees.

“I see you work at the hospital,” said the doctor.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“You’re husband doesn’t mind you working?”
“Sir, I’m here to discuss my daughter.”
The psychiatrist interrupted Ann, “What’s your name?”
“Ann Meadows. My six-year-old daughter,” she started, “ recently witnessed a crime.”
“What type of crime?” asked the psychiatrist.
“A teenage girl was attacked in front of our apartment a few nights ago. My daughter was out of bed, and she saw some of it from our kitchen window.”
“And where were you?”
“I was doing laundry across the hall.”
“You mean you left your six-year-old daughter unattended? A mother shouldn’t be out gallivanting.”

Ann paused for a moment to compose herself. She could feel a mixture of guilt and anger well up inside of her chest, but she pressed on.

“Doctor, I don’t want to waste your time. We aren’t sure what my daughter saw exactly, but the police want to talk to her, and we want to ensure that this will not make it worse for her. Is there anything we can do to limit any further trauma?”

“This ‘we’ you’re talking about is your husband I gather.”
“Good. I’m glad this girl has a caring father. Now, tell me. Has your daughter exhibited any regressive behavior since the incident?”
“Well, she has become clingy and wants to sleep with the lights on.”
“Then she is going to need a lot of reassurance from both you and your husband. Let her follow you around, and let her sleep with a light on in her room. You could even let her sleep in the same room with you for a little while. I know that this might be inconvenient… but if she has the necessary assurance then these behaviors should cease.”

Ann fidgeted and shifted her legs completely to the right.

“I also wanted to know if we should let the police talk to her?”
“I’m not sure. That would be up to you. Do you know exactly what she saw?” asked the psychiatrist with his gaze squarely focused on Ann’s legs, which she shifted to the left.
“Very little. We live in the basement, so she could only see their feet and legs, and hear some…noises.”
There was a long pause. Ann pursed her lips and deeply inhaled and exhaled.
“Did your daughter know the teenager who was attacked?”
“Yes, she recognized her from her shoes.”
“Did she recognize the attacker?”
“We don’t know. We never thought to ask.”
“Well, if you decide to let the police question her, ask to be present and reassure her throughout the interview. If she doesn’t answer the question then put it into a child’s terms. For instance, she may have thought they were just fighting, like what she would see in a schoolyard. She doesn’t have to know what type of assault was really going on…Ask her simple questions about what she saw. For instance, what colour were the man’s shoes or if she has ever seen shoes like those before?”
“Okay. That’s helpful.”
“Is the girl who was attacked all right?”
“Yes, a little shaken, but she’s fine now.”
“It’s not safe for women to go out alone at night. Anyway, make sure your daughter knows that she’s all right now. That’s important.”
“Thank you,” said Ann. As she stood up, she saw the doctor looking again unabashedly at her legs.
“And Mrs. uh…”
“Mrs. Meadows,” said Ann baring her teeth.
“Yes, you were wrong to leave your daughter alone.”
“Doctor, I came here for advice on my daughter not to be morali…”
Ann was interrupted, “I’m a professional, and if I wanted to I could report you to Child Services. If you were doing what you were supposed to, you….”

Ann didn’t let him finish his sentence. Choking back tears of rage, she walked out the door without saying good-bye. She followed the worn carpet marks through the office without looking up. She needed some fresh air to get rid of that foul cigar odor that seemed to linger on her uniform. She would also make sure to scrub her hands a little longer before she started work. She had paid more than enough for this information, but at least now she and Ward had what they needed to make an informed decision.

If you're interested in taking these online fiction courses with Jordan Rosenfeld click here. I highly recommend her Method Writing class.
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A Few of My Favourite Things

As the hours of sunlight have dwindled, so has my energy. However, I have been taking a lot of pictures. The following slideshow is a few of my favourite things in and around Montreal. You will already have seen a few of these things posted, but most should be new. Sorry gals at work. You'll have to view these at home (Our employer has filtered out the fun stuff--Dratts!).
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A True Cottage Caper

(The following is a true story, but also an assignment in an online intense, intensive course called Method Writing given by Jordan Rosenfeld. The object of this assignment was to make the reader feel uneasy. Please let me know if I succeeded.)

After my mother's funeral last summer, we headed back to our rented cottage several miles outside the tiny Quebec municipality of Mandeville in the Lanaudiere Region. We were relieved to get off the highway and travel through the rolling hills on the shores of the Maskinonge River. We were in dire need of some rest and relaxation, and our kids needed to be outside instead of cooped up in hotel rooms and waiting in hospitals.

As we turned down the last stretch of dirt road leading to our cottage, we saw a large group of young men between the ages of 16 and 19 coming down a trail and onto the shoulder of the road. As we passed, I saw my husband glance into the rearview mirror for a better look.

"That does not look good," he said.
"Why not?" I asked. "It just looks like a group of kids on holiday."
"They look a bit old for summer camp," my husband replied.

We continued a little bit further until we arrived at our cottage.It felt wonderful to be at our destination and relax. The purple phlox had bloomed while we were away, and the calmness of the pond made everything seem peaceful. As our children ran around outside, happy to finally stretch their legs, we unpacked the car. Half-watching the kids, I saw my husband try to unlock the door, but mysteriously, it was unlocked. I then saw him bend over and pick up a bread knife between the doors. He walked into the cottage and emerged a few minutes later.

"Someone's been in there," he said when he came out.
I could feel dread in the pit of my stomach."I really don't need this," I said.
"I know," he said."My feelings exactly."

We got the kids, and we went into the house to check if anything was missing. As I walked into the house, I had the eerie feeling that strangers had indeed been there. I remembered my father's girlfriend, Shelley, telling me what it felt like after their house had been broken into, cringing at the thought that someone had gone through her personal belongings. I also remembered her saying that it had taken months before they realized all the things that had been stolen.

"If anything is missing, our homeowner's insurance will cover it, but we'll have to file a police report," I said.

I sat with my kids in the living room, while my husband called the police. It was very unsettling to think that someone had broken into the cottage. It made me feel anxious and unable to sit still. But how could someone break in with a bread knife, particularly one that came from inside the cottage. It didn't make sense. Even stranger, the lock had not been broken and showed no signs of tampering.

My husband came back. He'd spoken with the police who instructed him to contact the owner. He called the owner and learned that neither she, nor anyone else she knew, would have gone into the cottage while it was rented. My husband also asked if there was anything of any value in the cottage that could have been stolen. Apparently, the only thing of any value was the TV and satellite system, both of which were still there. By this time, I'd checked all our valuables, and we had taken them all with us.

As the day wore on, we tried to remember if we had taken the bread knife out of the kitchen for any reason on the day we left. If I'd needed to cut something, I would have used scissors, not a knife, let alone a bread knife. Anyway, I would have put the knife back and not left it between the two doors. But what about the unlocked door? Were we in such a hurry to get to the hospital that we forgot to lock it?

By nightfall, we started to assume that we'd forgotten to lock the door. We couldn't explain the bread knife, but we decided to forget about the whole thing and get on with our holiday. Sleep, however, was not to be had that night. Our neighbours, as we discovered, were the group of 16 to 19 year olds we'd seen on the road the day before, and they kept us up most of the night.

We left early the next morning for the beach. My children were dying for a swim in Lac Maskinonge. After some beach fun, we headed back to the cottage. When we walked through the door, I again had the distinct feeling that someone had been there, but I said nothing. We were just settling in to watch a movie when we heard someone calling from outside the cottage. The accent sounded like someone from Montreal, but there was a hint of something else. My husband and daughter went out to see who it was. A few minutes later, my daughter came running back into the house.

"Who was it, honey?" I asked.
"A really big man, and he had your computers," she said.

My husband walked through the door a few minutes later with our computers.
"Well, it looks like the party animals are also a bunch of juvenile delinquents. We're going to have to check our things to see if they stole anything else."
"What kind of delinquents are we talking here? Violent offenders who are too young to prosecute or neighbourhood vandals?"
"I'm not sure. The co-ordinator just said that they were 'at risk' youth."

After looking through our stuff, we discovered that our DVD player was missing. Our anger was building. How were we supposed to be on holiday with a bunch of "at risk" youth next door who'd already broken in at least once, but probably twice?

In the meantime, my husband had called the owner who was going to report the neighbouring cottage owner to the municipality. In order to house at risk youth or delinquents, cottage owners had to obtain a special permit, something she was sure the owner didn't have.

We were in a very uncomfortable situation. We'd spent a lot of money to rent this cottage, but for reasons beyond our control, we hadn't been able to use it. When we finally could spend some time there, we were getting broken into whenever we left. If we were heartless, we could just call the police. But we wondered if pressing charges would teach these boys a lesson or just turn them into criminals. Even though they returned some of the things they stole, they hadn't returned it all. Someone who was truly repentant, we reasoned, would return everything. Clearly, they had learned nothing from this and would probably be back.

What would you have done reader? Would you have called the police?

With a full head of steam, my husband marched over to retrieve our DVD player. A few moments later, I could hear his loud, but controlled voice. After 10 minutes, he emerged from the woods with our DVD player and some DVDs that we hadn't even noticed were missing. When he came in, I asked him what he said.

He told the co-ordinator that we wanted all our stuff back and that he wanted to speak directly to the pair who'd broken in. When he had both of them in front of him, he told them that it was too bad that two people had to ruin everyone's holidays, theirs and ours. He added that we were still debating whether to call the police and press charges. Clearly, by not returning all our things, they were not sorry for what they did. Afraid for his job, the co-ordinator then jumped in and announced that the entire group was leaving the next morning.

My husband was still sweating and angry when he retold the story, but I could see that he was as relieved as I was that they
were leaving.
"I guess my mother was looking out for us," I said.
"Someone was. It's rare that you ever get stolen items back, and it's even rarer to have the chance to tell the thieves what you think of them to their face."
"I wonder if you're T-shirt drove the message home to those two?"
My husband looked down at his shirt, and we both laughed.
On his blue T-shirt, NEVER WRONG was written in large navy letters.
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Fun Way to Track Bike Use and Carbon Footprint

Montreal's bike-taxi or Bixi was definitely this summer's shining star, and Bixi fever is spreading fast. Both London and Boston have signed agreements to use the Bixi in their future city bike-share programs. Effective, September 28, 2009, there were 10,297 regular users and 103,209 occasional users in Montreal after just four months in operation. A resounding success!

Faced with a mysterious flat tire in September and my son changing daycares, I decided to put my regular bike into retirement and subscribe to Montreal's Bixi. Four days after signing on, I received my key in the mail. Not only does the Bixi web site keep track of my stats, such as the distance I travel and how many litres of gas I save, but it also allows me to keep track of activity at my favourite docking stations. Yes, we are still talking about bikes.

As you may already know, Bixi is not a bike rental program. In other words, you never have to return the bike to its starting point. Instead you drop your Bixi off at the closest station to your destination. However, if the docking station is full, you have to find another one. Sounds simple enough...right? At a cost of $78 a year, you get a Bixi membership and the first half-hour of cycling is free. Therefore, if your trip takes 29 minutes and the docking station at your destination is full, then you will probably have to pay $1.50 for the next hour.

Knowing the location and the status of the Bixi docking station closest to your destination is therefore key to saving on any additional charges. I learned the hard way this week when I ventured into unfamiliar terrain, the Centre-Sud neighbourhood of Montreal. (Photo on left: funky Centre-Sud organic fairtrade café that I happened upon while searching for a docking station.)

Because I live on the Plateau, I assumed that Bixi stations were as ubiquitous as they are in my hood. Wrong. As I was driving around the Centre-Sud trying to find an obscure side street by the name of Provencale, I noticed very few stations.

I eventually asked someone who gave me directions to one nearby. Unfortunately, when I arrived, the station was full. I had to pedal a fair distance and incur the additional charge before finding an available dock. As you can see in the capture below, I have started keeping track of dock availability close to home.

Other than this problemcita, I have been very pleased with my first week of bixiing to work. I no longer have the hassle of removing my seat or child carrier and lugging them around downtown with me. I also don't have to find a safe place to lock my bike up, as there is a huge Bixi docking station close to work. But the best part is, if it rains, I can take the metro home and don't have to worry about having my bike stolen overnight.

BTW, you may remember from my post in August that bixi users had travelled enough kilometres to go around the world 57 times. This dizzying globetrotting has now surpassed 87 times.

Related Posts:
3 Compelling Reason For A Bike-Share Program in Your City
City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning
A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike

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Harvest at the De Facto Delinelle Community Park and Garden

Last week, I received an invite from Torsten Hermann to attend the harvest shindig put on by him and his gang of guerrilla gardeners in St. Henri. I looked forward to seeing if he and his crew had gone ahead with their plans to put in a patio and move their compost pit so that more neighbours could enjoy the greenery. I wasn't sure that our intrepid green warriors would go to this extra trouble after the lot owners had suddenly appeared one day last summer threatening to put up a fence and build on the site. Their pave-paradise-and-put-up-a-parking-lot rant really put a damper on the troops, who nevertheless soldiered on until harvest.

True to his word, Torsten had gone ahead with plans to move the compost. When I arrived at the gathering, I immediately noticed a poster of a young Brad Pitt in the new compost area. When I asked Torsten about it, he laughed and told me that the fans of Brad Pitt said that he was the garden's protector, while the detractors referred to Pitt as the garden's scarecrow. Those who were indifferent simply called this area the Brad "Compost" Pitt.

I arrived at the start of the party, and there were already about 20 people, complete with music, barbecues, and from what I could see, plenty of food. I was introduced to a few of the gardeners and met up with Carlos Robinson-Alvarez again. His wife Miriam had joined Torsten's gardening group this year. Robinson-Alvarez told me that he had moved to this neighbourhood 15 years ago from a very clean suburb. He said that the first thing that he and his wife saw was a women throwing her garbage out of her third-floor window onto the street on a non-garbage day. He said that his wife cried for a week afterwards. The couple, who lives very close to the lot, also had a lot of problems in the past with seasonal allergies. It was only once Torsten and Fraser cleared the lot that their allergies magically disappeared.

The gathering on this sunless afternoon was surprisingly intergenerational and multilingual. There were neighbours in their sixties and some very young children from the hood. Torsten explained to me that just this week he had been approached by a few 7- and 8-year-olds who wanted to plant something. Torsten seems to have become the go-to man for gardening guidance. I reminded Torsten that when I had dropped by for the first time more than a year ago, this had been one of their initial goals--to get neighbourhood children involved in gardening and to start a daycare. It looks like they are close to reaching that goal.

The boys' guerrilla gardening project has been a resounding success in terms of bringing people together, creating a sense of community and beautifying a neighbourhood that was indeed in need of some TLC. Torsten told me that when he moved into this neighbourhood 15 years ago, there was a strong police presence.

"Things are better now," he said, "There has been some gentrification, but in general, people want to enjoy the neighbourhood and make the most of what they have."

When I asked him what his plans were for next year, he said that they still planned to expand the existing garden if other gardeners wanted to join their group. Judging by the number of people joining the party on that cloud-covered fall day, I expect there will be a few more.

Previous posts on the Delinelle Community Park and Garden:
Delinelle Park and Garden: Adjectival Transgression
The Fate of the Delinelle Community Garden and Park
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest

Related posts:
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the Novice

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