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.



I understand a lot of people don’t like to do New Year’s Resolutions. In many cases, they don’t see the point of attempting something that is doomed to fail before February.

I still like the idea of them. They’re a good chance for a reset. I always have the usual goals about eating better, exercising more but I’m in the gym 3 days a week. That’s not too bad. My main bad habit is still junk food of various types so that’s something that can be fixed, as difficult as I may find it.

But I do have one resolution that should be simple to accomplish:

Stop getting take-out coffee.

This has been an issue for me since I started working downtown almost two years ago. In my office building, I have to walk past several coffee chains before I get to elevators. Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Second Cup, McDonald’s, Faro. They’re all right there and I see people lining up every morning and I think, “Well if they want a coffee, I must want one too.” And I get one. Because I have the app. And I get points.

But I do this every day and I’ve calculated I’m spending close to $80 per month. Plus there is all the waste. What’s worse is my office has free coffee. There’s no reason to do this other than I like walking in with Starbucks in my hand.

This should be an easy habit to break. All I have to do is keep walking, right?