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Open Letter to Biz Stone, Twitter Co-Founder and Creative Director

Dear Biz Stone:

I've been following the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag on Twitter for over two weeks, and I've noted some disturbances on certain evenings, such as my hashtag search unexpectedly changing to another topic altogether. This happened repeatedly, and I found it somewhat frustrating and odd...Yes, odd. Would Twitter be doing this intentionally to thwart protest efforts on Wall Street? I also found it strange that #OccupyWallStreet was not appearing in the trending topics....

My suspicions were substantiated this morning in a report by Danny Schechter on Al Jazeera:

On at least two occasions, Saturday September 17 and again on Thursday night, Twitter blocked #OccupyWallStreet from being featured as a top trending topic on their homepage. On both occasions, #OccupyWallStreet tweets were coming in more frequently than other top trending topics that they were featuring on their homepage.

If Schechter's source is right, then this would be a highly hypocritical move, as on June 15, 2009, at 7:00 pm EST, you posted a letter on the Twitter blog in which you "postponed" a critical network upgrade because of Twitter's role in Iran's Green Revolution.

In coordination with Twitter, our network host had planned this upgrade for tonight. However, our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.
In other words, supporting protests in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Spain and Britain are fine, but when it comes to the U.S., you adopt a Not In My BackYard (NIMBY) approach. Or was it because you did not want to offend your benefactors--JP Morgan Chase, who reportedly gave your company a $400-million investment.

I agree with Mr. Schechter's source: this is blatant political censorship. It's time to put your money where your mouth is. Let Occupy Wall Street evolve into the movement it was meant to be, just as you gave free rein to all the other resistance movements around the world.

Yours sincerely,

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Churros: the Uruguayan

Two Churros Filled with Caramel
Need some comfort food? Have I found the place! Churros Montreal is a lunch counter that serves specialties from Uruguay, the small country sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina. Similar to Argentine cuisine, the Uruguayan specialty is beef, which is the mainstay of many of the eatery's dishes

The lunch counter serves empanadas, sandwiches, milanesas and churros, its namesake. I've eaten churros in Spain in my thin days. The long sugar-coated fried bread was served with a warm mug of thick chocolate for dipping. The Uruguayan churro is similar in size, shape and sugar-coating, but  is instead filled with either caramel or chocolate. Yes, our equivalent would be a donut, probably with just as many calories. I've wanted to blog about churros before, but each time I bought them, they were gone before I had a chance to take a picture. Yes, churros are good ole comfort food, and my husband, who is annoyingly thin, loves them. Our favourite type is caramel.

Empanadas and Yerba Maté at Churros Montreal
Churros Montreal is a popular spot run by the Laner family. At any given time, you'll see the father cooking behind a standard kitchen stove, the mother and aunt preparing the food and the daughter or cousin serving at the counter. When I was in yesterday, they invited me back for an yerba maté between 5:00 and 6:00, when friends usually drop in for a chat.

Like Ange and Ricky's, Churros Montreal has a warm family feeling to it with some beautiful posters of the Uruguayan plain to give you a feeling of dépaysement.

Churros Montreal
7497 St-Hubert
Montreal, QC
H2R 2N5

Other Villeray-related posts
Who's a Cyclopathe
Neon Icon: Miss Villeray
New Digs and Swedish Thrillers
The Haitian Barber
Good Morning Villeray
Creole Cuisine 


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Who's a Cyclopathe?

Vintage CCM Ladies' 3-Speed
Montreal is so cycling-mad that you can find a bike shop on every major street. I've been looking for a new bike for a few months now, but I haven't been able to find exactly what I want, in my price range. Although I've read a lot about how to safeguard your bike against theft, such as removing, or painting over, any brand name tags, paying more than $50 for a lock or just bringing it in at night, I'm still anxious about paying a lot of money for a ride only to have it stolen.

On Friday, I stopped in at Cyclopathe, a tiny shop on Villeray that stores, rents, repairs and recycles bikes. The team will custom build a bike for you at a relatively low price. Another interesting point: they don't charge PST or GST because their sales fall short of the taxable threshold. In other words, these guys do it for the love of rebuilding. In addition, the shop is having an end of season sale, which means that you could save up to 40% on what you would pay at a second-hand bike shop.

A vintage CCM ladies 3-speed bike  immediately caught my eye. It even had an Eiffel Tower on it because it was the deluxe "Paris" model. I thought that vintage was less likely to be stolen, but according to Cyclopathe salesman Khalil, I couldn't be more wrong. Vintage bikes are not only "in," but "they are also apparently coveted by thieves because their parts are so hard to come by."

For weeks I have been looking at a Dahon in the window. These are lightweight folding bikes with 16" wheels that are ideal for people living in small apartments without storage. I've been looking for a Dahon on ebay, but they cost about $600 new. I've read up on them, and that's definitely the price for a high-quality lightweight folding bike. The one at Cyclopathe was 30-years old, and it was relatively heavy.

I was told to come by often because the team receives new inventory weekly. Khalid showed me a decent frame and told me that he could customize it for me. Still unsure. If you're looking for a vintage bike or just a well-built second-hand bike, Cyclopathe might be the place for you. They also take trade-ins.

30-Year-Old Vintage Dahon $379
318 Villeray
Montreal, QC


No blog or Facebook page because inventory changes too fast, and these guys just want to work on bikes.

Other Villeray-related posts
Neon Icon: Miss Villeray
New Digs and Swedish Thrillers
The Haitian Barber
Good Morning Villeray
Creole Cuisine


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Creole Cuisine

Sticky Rice, Goat Tassot, Fried Plantain, Hot Cabbage and Salad
I was walking on Jarry with a friend visiting from Toronto when a little restaurant caught my eye. Ange and Ricky's had large red and fuschia cloth flowers and a few clients eating with great enthusiasm.I had heard about this wonderful little restaurant that served Creole cuisine from a friend living in the neighbourhood. Although I'd never tried Creole before and was slightly apprehensive, I was drawn to the simple decor and friendly atmosphere.

My family and I made a short trip to Ange and Ricky's the following week. Ange, herself, came out to greet us. She asked us if we had ever been to her restaurant and then brought us out a sampler of what she was serving that Saturday. The meat was rich and savoury with a hint of spice, and the sticky rice with mushrooms or beans was heavenly. But for me, the pièce de résistance was the lemonade made from lemons, raspberry and Haitian vanilla, which gives the drink a slight ginger taste.

We've been back three times since, as the lemonade and food is a big hit with my kids. In fact, once we went back just to get a pitcher of lemonade for some dinner guests.

Ange said, "All the kids in the neighbourhood come in to buy a glass of lemonade. I sell 1,000 a month."

I can certainly see why.

Ange and Ricky's is a wonderful place to go for food made with love.I recommend the goat tassot (chèvre tassot) and the sticky rice with mushrooms. Anyway, you'll be able to decide for yourself because Ange and Ricky give all newcomers a taste before you order. In addition, Ange speaks English, Spanish and French.

Ange and Ricky
195 Jarry East
Montreal, QC

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Montreal: Marciano's Priceless Art Collection Seized

Robert Indiana's LOVE in front of LHotel

I received a call late Thursday night from my friend Lucie.
"You'll never guess what happened?" she said. She and two friends had gone for drinks at LHotel to hopefully catch a glimpse of Georges Marciano's priceless post-war American pop art collection displayed throughout his hotel in Old Montreal.

Last summer, Lucie and I had gone to see the collection. We were told that people having drinks in the bar could only view the work in the lobby, which included a portrait of Marciano, himself, painted by none other than Andy Warhol.When the hotel employee saw and heard our enthusiasm, he invited us to take a tour of the hotel, which was obviously reserved for guests. The only condition was that we had to be very quiet. . . No small feat considering the fact that we saw work by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Jim Dine, Ed Ruscha, Christo, Claes Oldenburg, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell. Needless to say, the hotel employee was tipped handsomely.

In our tour of the art in the halls of the hotel, I noticed that there were some suites named after  particular artists, and I was curious about the art behind the hotel room doors. I had read that Georges Marciano, founder of the Guess? Jeans empire, had experienced some legal problems in the US and still owed some $250 million to his creditors. In other words, the collection might not be in Montreal forever. With this in mind, I booked a room for our 10th anniversary, and my husband and I stayed in the Miro suite, which contained three of the artist's works.

I'm certainly glad that I acted fast.

When Lucie and her two friends walked into LHotel lobby on Thursday night, men were walking out with priceless art simply in their frames and putting them into the back of a white art storage truck parked in the street. Leaning next to the bar, Lucie and her friends joined in the conversation with hotel guests, as they watched the art being taken away. A regular guest at the LHotel said that some men had come the day before to take Marciano's collection of Ferraris and high-end cars that were stored in the underground parking lot.There was also some talk about the $18.1 million diamond that Marciano owned and which he had named after his daughter Chloe, but it was unclear whether it had been taken away or not.

Marciano-Owned Sculpture by Botero
In spite of the fact that some of Marciano's former employees had sued him after he had accused them of stealing, Lucie learned on that cold fall evening that his employees at LHotel thought very highly of their boss. The bartender, once an employee at Home Depot with no hotel experience, was personally hired by Marciano. At his hotel orientation meeting, the bartender met other people just like him. The man standing next to him was a former construction worker. When Marciano greeted his new staff, he told them that he had asked them all to work at his hotel simply because he liked them the first time they met.

A lot of unfavorable things have been written about the man who made jeans into high fashion items. Marciano had an eventful life in his precipitous climb to the heights of the extremely rich. But equally spectacular was his downfall, in which addiction apparently played no small role. His story has been sensationally scrutinized in the US media, in its golden era of schadenfreude. But, personally, I find it difficult to reconcile the crazed, delusional image of Marciano, as he has been portrayed in the US media, with the well-liked hotel owner and the person who so willingly shares his private art collection with people who simply love art.

In this morning's La Presse, there is a video of Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE sculpture being removed from the front of the hotel. There were also reports that in addition to the large seizure of Marciano's sizable real estate holdings in Old Montreal, his orchard near Granby had also been put under lock and key.

Keep your eyes peeled for further developments.

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9/11: A Decade Later

It's so strange to write about 9/11. I feel like it's when the Western world lost its mind. 9/11 became a watershed moment, paving the way for the invasion of Iraq and exacerbating the already complex war in Afghanistan. As I see it, 9/11 gave Western governments license to do whatever they wanted in the name justice and retribution, namely violate human rights and implement measures such as torture, imprisonment without charge and racial profiling, to name just a few.

But this demonstration of might did little to prevent further terrorist attacks, rather it triggered four more: Madrid, London, Bali and Moscow. After all, violence begets violence, and this past decade has been the bloodiest I have witnessed in my lifetime.

Instead of remembering just those who died on 9/11, we should also be thinking of all the innocent people killed in Madrid, London, Bali and Moscow, and the civilians who have died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should also remember the young women and men who have been sent by our governments to fight battles on their behalf and who have not returned or have returned physically and/or psychologically disabled.

If we are all inextricably linked by the world's events, maybe  more of our tax dollars should have been put into researching the cycle of violence rather than into military spending. But then military spending has made many people rich. Just ask Dick Cheney.

On Facebook today, I noticed that few people wrote about 9/11. It's just too big an event to put into words. But I did reflect on how shaken I felt on that day and what transpired in the world in the weeks subsequent to the attacks. I remember all the fingers pointing at so-called "liberals" because they were slow in reacting. They were the "unpatriotic" ones because they did not give in to their knee-jerk reactions. In hindsight, I think that they were on the right track.

How many people have died or been injured in the last decade as a result of 9/11? What was the cost of retribution?


The above mural, entitled "the Sixth Sphere of Culture," covers 1,500 square feet and was created under the artist direction of illustrator, painter, comic artist and author Dominique Desbiens. The central figure is none other than mother nature, and the four corner figures represent the four continents: Africa, Asia, America and Europe. The mural took 18 weeks to complete and is located at 7255 La Jeunesse in Villeray.

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