Summer Update, 2019

Well, happy upcoming St. Jean Baptiste. Or is it summer solstice? According to some, if a music festival set for June 22 through 24 falls on those dates, it must be called the former, and not the latter. So they changed it. Seems like a minor thing but I suppose it would seem odd if a festival set around July 1st didn’t mention Canada Day. Or would anyone care? Such is language politics in this country. Less intense than in the past, but there is always a tempest in a teapot brewing somewhere.

Call the holiday what you like, but for us, next weekend, we’ll be bad Anglos by spending the holiday in deepest Ontario. And by deepest Ontario, I mean Ganonoque and Kingston for a tour around the Thousand Islands and a visit to the nephew’s house for a barbecue. The following weekend, my parents, sister, and brother in law are in town so we can see Through the Echoes at the Old Port.

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It’s a show organized by former Cirque du Soleil guy Guy Laliberté. I have no idea what it is but they promise a light show and, I dunno, a history of the universe. I keep thinking it’s going to be along the lines of one of those Pink Floyd laser light shows.

All this means we need to get our backyard patio finished before they get here. We have a postage stamp sized backyard that faces west with no shade, half of it set with concrete, the other half dirt. It was never a pleasant place to sit outside. I spent last weekend setting down paver slabs to create the thing and this week putting up a gazebo. This weekend, we’ll cover over all the mistakes I made with a carpet and potted plants.

Our intention with our little townhouse condo is to live there until retirement and then buy a small, two bedroom condo that is newly constructed, walking distance to the metro and requires absolutely no renovating whatsoever. When I think of our kitchen and the work and expense required, I cry a little bit.

Beyond that, things are as well as can be expected. I still enjoy the job and the freedom I have to work from home when required, or really, whenever it’s more convenient than taking the train downtown. It will be very convenient to work from home when my line shuts down for two years to build the new train. Alternate routes involve traveling halfway to down the line, getting bussed to a metro and hoofing it into the office, adding an hour each way. You can imagine why working from home is more optimal.


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Years and Years.

Russell T. Davies was good at writing believable human characters in fantastical situations when he was running Doctor Who.

Now he’s writing an HBO/BBC miniseries about a normal and very modern English family navigating the increasing brutal next ten years as a coarse, populist politician played by Emma Thompson rises to power in a post-Brexit, socially fragile U.K. It’s all very terrifying and very plausible as people simply become used to the changes as rights are stripped away and things like concentration camps are justified as simply a British invention from the Boer War.


Jade Bird

Fairly new artist on the scene. She has a nice, stripped down rock that I imagine will sound nice on terraces this summer.


CBC’s daily morning podcast that takes on a single news story for a detailed discussion has been a staple of my morning commute for months now.


I’d like to read more blogs, to be honest.

And how are you all?

St. Lawrence vs Bay of Fundy

We’re going to Saint John for the March break today. And every time we go back, we ask, “Why don’t we live here again?”

Looking back over my blog’s archive, this is a theme I return to all the time. At one point, it was very much going to happen as I was actively seeking employment with interviews and everything. Eventually, those plans were put on hold as we focused on building a life here by purchasing a home and deciding on a community to put down roots.

Now, I find myself asking if it could still happen. The reasons are simple: family. Neither of us has any family immediately nearby, other than my brother-in-law in the 450 and sister-in-law outside Ottawa. Living in Saint John would offer a pre-established social network. Our kid wouldn’t feel quite so alone as he would have cousins his age, grandparents, and aunts and (1) uncle all nearby.

My job makes working from home easy. So long as I have my laptop and iPhone and a WiFi connection, I can work anywhere. This week, I only went to the office twice. Of course, some of that has to do with my very unpredictable train line which is being dismantled in favour of the REM, leading to an eventual shutdown.

My office has talked about increasing telecommuting options which I would certainly benefit from. So why not work from another province?

But moving to New Brunswick, sadly, has many disadvantages:

  • Few high paying jobs. I’m making almost twice what my previous paid me. I doubt very much I would find a job that pays that much in Saint John.
  • Lack of available healthcare. For all our public healthcare system’s faults, the quality of healthcare in Montreal far surpasses Saint John.
  • Fewer choices in education
  • Fewer cultural choices. Saint John springs to life in summer but Montreal always has something happening.
  • Fewer career options for our son

But, on the other hand, Saint John has much cheaper real estate and, generally, friendly people and a little of that goes a long way.

It’s always like this. Montreal and its fast-paced lifestyle can be alienating. Friendly Saint John can feel like living in a fish bowl where everybody knows your business.

But I know we’ll stay in Montreal. Because every time I go to the old hometown for a visit, by the end of the week, I am very much ready to go back.

In my headphones this week

With their first album in 38 years, the Specials, or at least, a version of the Specials, are back with Encore, a blend of originals and covers that largely leaves their frenetic ska sound of the 80s behind.

It mostly works but I have a feeling I’ll be skipping some songs more than others. “We Sell Hope” is probably my favourite. Also the live tracks are pretty good.

On Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve recently started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and, in so many ways, it’s right up my alley: Well scripted, funny, amazing sets and costumes, and it’s set during a golden era for comedy nerds. Comics like Lenny Bruce (who appears on the show as a character), Redd Foxx, and Joan Rivers (who partially serves as the inspiration for the title character) were pushing boundaries exploring subjects and using language rarely heard on stage in those days. I’ve long been a fan of stand-up because I think it’s the scariest of the performing arts. It’s you and microphone and an audience that can turn if your set is just not good.

It’s interesting to watch the tension between those audience members who appreciate the newly frank material and those who are still shocked by it, This is illustrated neatly in the second season when Midge Maisel launches into an impromtu R-rated routine at her friend’s very traditional, very Catholic wedding. What flew at the Glaslight did not fly at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. The show is very good at showing a society on the verge of a cultural shift.

Comedy often forces the audience to either look at something in a new way, or serves as a release when someone addresses a topic that is taboo in polite society.

Today, there is very little that is forbidden to discuss on stage. The president of the United States has admitted to paying off mistresses with zero consequences so nobody is going stop you from saying anything. We are somewhat unshockable these days.

But society changes and those who challenged the norms of their time often feel threatened when they find they’re the old guard and the audience just isn’t into it. You find this attitude among comics who came up in the 80s and 90s when suddenly the material that gave them their living doesn’t land the way it used to. They’re confused and somewhat resentful, complaining of “political correctness” ruining comedy.

It’s not, of course, ruining comedy. It’s ruining their comedy because they have no back-up material. Last year at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival, Darren Knight, who has gotten a small following with his “Southern Momma” character, bombed during a gala, in which he insulted the comics and then insulted the audience, saying that comedy shouldn’t be about sexism or racism. Saturday Night Live’s Chris Redd confronted him, saying essentially that his performance was his own fault, not the audience’s.

And he was right. If the material doesn’t hit with the audience, that is not the fault of the audience. You need to find a way to make the material work so that the audience responds to it. You need to read the room. Are you performing at your friend’s Catholic wedding, a downtown comedy club, or Just for Laugh’s infamous Nasty Show?

Are comedians really afraid of being offensive these days? Is the Nasty Show still one of Just for Laugh’s most popular events? There’s your answer.


So I’m not a regular gamer but when we picked up the kid’s PS4 I threw in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The last video game I ever got into, outside of Angry Birds, was Civilization IV.

So now I’m equal parts obsessed and terrified this game is going to suck all my spare time because it may not have an end. Or I’m just a very slow player.

So here I am, 8 years late to the party. I think Spider-Man may be next.

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