Monthly Archives: July 2009

Go fuck yourself Eric Amber (UPDATED)

      The shows listed were in english and therefore so is the message.
      You obviously can't read in english because you are an
      uneducated bigot.

      estce que vous comprenez l'expression anglophone: Go Fuck Yourself?

On behalf of the local news industry, I’d like to offer my thanks to Eric Amber of Théâtre Ste. Catherine, which despite its name is an anglo venue.

You see, despite the people in space, the huge investment scandals and the giant rocks falling on people’s heads, it’s kind of a slow news period right now. Hockey is in the offseason, politicians are on vacation, and most of the people who would make serious news are instead outside enjoying the summer.

Perhaps subconsciously sensing this, Amber decided to do the following things to ensure coverage in the local media:

  • Be an asshole
  • Be an asshole on a language issue
  • Be an asshole on a language issue in writing
  • Be an asshole to someone who didn’t provoke him
  • Create a PR crisis for one of the city’s biggest festivals right in the middle of it
  • React childishly when called on about his behaviour
  • Refuse to apologize

For those who haven’t seen the news in La Presse, the Journal, Le Devoir, The Gazette and elsewhere, francophone group Les Sages Fous was receiving English-only messages on TSC’s mailing list about Zoofest shows related to the Just for Laughs festival. They sent a rather matter-of-fact email asking that they be removed from that list unless the messages are sent in French. A bit snarky, but not unreasonable. Amber responded by calling the guy an uneducated bigot and telling him to “go fuck yourself”.

Louis Préfontaine was the first to break the email on Wednesday, and it spread from there (including the requisite Facebook group). Préfontaine also has a follow-up and the raw text of the back-and-forth.

It’s happened to everyone. Maybe you’ve just been dumped, fired or made to wait on the phone with Bell to fix a billing issue. You’re frustrated and tired, and someone sends you an email that sounds snarky. It’s the last straw and you let them have it. Realizing your mistake, you later apologize.

Amber, unfortunately, didn’t do this. Instead, he told Le Devoir and the Journal about other emails he got from francophones which relentlessly attacked him. The emails weren’t from Les Sages Fous, but Amber made the mistake that far too many make in this unending language debate and painted everyone on the other solitude with the same brush, as if one is responsible for the actions of everyone who speaks the same language.

Which brings me to this: On behalf of the anglo community, go fuck yourself Eric Amber. You’re the last thing we need right now. Because those idiots who comment on Patrick Lagacé and Richard Martineau’s blogs will start painting all of us with the same brush, and that makes us responsible for your behaviour.

To bring this drama to an even higher level of absurd assholity, Amber has been sending the following message to those emailing him to condemn his comments or ask what the hell he was thinking:

Due to the overwhelming racism and bigotry in French society toward minorities and non-french cultures, Theatre Ste-Catherine will be closing in protest. Effective immediately TSC will no longer be accepting bookings and will closed permanently Dec. 21, 2009.

I’ll assume you mean francophone Quebec society and not the society of France (though you could make such an argument about racism in the motherland). But let me get this straight: you’re going to shut down the venue over this? Either TSC has been on the financial ropes for some time (which is certainly plausible) or you have the thinnest skin on the planet.

I don’t agree with some who say that TSC should be sending emails in French. I don’t see why, any more than I would see why The Gazette would advertise in French (except when it wants to, like it’s been doing the past few Sundays). But that’s irrelevant now, because you had to be an asshole.

No matter how long this goes, it’s going to end eventually by you eating a truck full of crow. Better start now before more has to be shovelled onto your plate.

Somewhat sincerely,


UPDATE: Just when you thought this ridiculousness couldn’t get any worse, it seems the Jeunes Patriotes and their ilk are doing their best to prove Amber right about bigotry in Quebec. Amber says he has been receiving death threats, and the JPQ are organizing had a protest at 4pm Sunday30 people showed up. Josée Legault also turns this into a language issue, painting all anglos with the Eric Amber brush.

And apparently someone has setup a Twitter account for the sole purpose of calling me an asswipe fascist.

Patrick Lagacé has a follow-up on his blog. Hour complains how this is unworthy of newspaper coverage … with an article in its newspaper.

UPDATE (July 22): Crow special, Table 1! Amber also speaks to The Gazette’s Pat Donnelly where he takes great pains to prove he’s not a bigot. He also does an interview with Radio-Canada where he says he never expected to start up such a shitstorm.

His apology (also on Donnelly’s blog), which you’ll note is in both languages:

To whom it concerns,

There has been much media activity in recent days that began with an email that I sent to the theatre’s mailing list. Les Sages Fous were upset after receiving an all-english message regarding Zoofest programming as part of the Just For Laughs festival.

I reacted inappropriately to their request to receive emails only in French and for this I would like to apologize. However, I would like to explain that I did so not simply due to this one response, but rather because I often receive a disproportionate amount of negative feedback whenever I promote English events that are hosted at Theatre Ste Catherine.

Although it is true that I lost my temper, it must be said that it was in no way an attack on Quebec or French-speaking Canadians as was implied by some of the media covering this story. As I myself am French Canadian and a francophone from La Beauce region of southern Quebec, to hate French culture would be to hate myself.

I truly regret offending any of my French brothers and sisters, however I do not believe this would have become an issue if certain media had not sought to create discontent. As such, this situation has been blown out of proportion to the point where it now stands. Unfortunately, not only has this resulted in negative publicity for both Theatre Ste-Catherine, Zoofest and the Just For Laughs Festival, but as my personal information has since been released, I have received hundreds of hate letters including several death threats.

Due to the actions of certain individuals who fanned the flames of hate within a community of extremists, a great hurt was inflicted upon me personally that I fear could threaten the harmony of Montreal. I am upset with the intolerance that I receive on a daily basis as displayed by the many hateful emails that have been written. I also believe that the French language and culture is alive and strong, and need not be afraid of others.

When I first opened the theatre five years ago, which I myself built in what was a very troubled neighbourhood, my intention was to create a venue for people of every culture to come together for the celebration of art and unity. It would be regretful to have to shut the doors to those who have come to make Theatre Ste-Catherine their home and meeting place.

Again, I would like to sincerely apologize to Les Sages Fous, The Just For Laughs Festival, Zoofest, all of Theatre Ste Catherine’s company members as well as anyone who has been affected by this situation.

I wish I had addressed this issue sooner because of the hurt it has caused.


Eric Amber

Theatre Ste. Catherine

À qui de droit,

Depuis quelques jours, bien des médias et sites Internet s’attardent sur un courriel envoyé récemment par moi-même à un inscrit de la liste d’envois électronique générale du Théâtre Ste Catherine. Je répondais alors à un message provenant de la troupe Les Sages Fous, qui protestait avoir reçu un courriel en anglais concernant la programmation anglophone du Zoofest dans le câdre du Festival Juste Pour Rire.

Ma réaction face à leur demande, de recevoir une version française de ce même courriel, fut inflammatoire et non justifiée et pour cela je voudrais sincèrement m’excuser. Ma réplique très agressive s’explique en partie par le fait que Le Théâtre Sainte Catherine est toujours ciblé par des messages francophones très négatifs et diffamatoires concernant nos évènements anglophones et ce, tout au long de l’année.

Malgré l’important manque de jugement dont j’ai fait preuve, il se doit aussi d’être clarifié qu’en aucune façon, mes remarques visaient le Québec ou la Francophonie, tel que certains médias l’ont laissés entendre cette semaine. Étant moi-même francophone ayant grandit et provenant de la région de La Beauce, dans le sud du Québec, d’émettre de pareilles insultes envers la Francophonie serait contradictoire et impensable.

Je regrette sincèrement avoir offensé mes propres frères et soeurs Francophones, mais suis tout à fait convaincu qu’une couverture médiatique alarmiste et sensationnaliste n’a fait qu’aggraver la situation. Cette réaction incroyable de la part des médias provoque non seulement une publicité extrêmement négative pour Le Théâtre Ste-Catherine, mais engendre également une campagne négative envers le Zoofest et le festival Juste Pour Rire. Il est aussi important de noter que je fais personnellement maintenant face à des menaces de mort et insultes personnelles très inquiétantes.

Il m’attriste donc de constater que suite aux actions marquées de quelques individus qui avaient pour but précis d’encourager la haine et l’extrémisme, l’harmonie culturelle de notre ville de Montréal est affectée. Je suis déçu par le niveau d’intolérance présent dans les centaines de courriels et de lettres que nous avons reçus cette semaine, surtout parce que je suis profondément convaincu que malgré ces incidents isolés, la culture Française est essentiellement forte et inclusive au Québec.

Lorsque le Théâtre Ste Catherine a ouvert ses portes, il y a cinq ans, un théâtre que j’ai moi-même fondé et bâti dans un quartier très désavoué de Montréal, mon rêve était de créer une scène, un endroit où tout le monde pourrait se réunir, quelle que soit leur culture, pour célébrer l’art et la communauté. Aujourd’hui, ce théâtre est bel et bien vibrant et il serait dommage de devoir fermer ses portes au public et aux artistes qui le fréquentent maintenant en si grand nombre.

Je souligne donc à nouveau mes excuses sincères envers Les Sages Fous, Le festival Juste Pour Rire, Zoofest ainsi qu’envers tous les membres de la communauté du Théâtre Ste Catherine et tous ceux et celles qui sont affectés par cette situation.

En regrettant de ne pas m’être prononcé plus tôt sur ces évènements importants,


Eric Amber

Théâtre Ste. Catherine

UPDATE (July 23): Amber just couldn’t keep his bloody mouth shut. He sends another email to Les Sages Fous taunting them.

UPDATE (Aug. 4): The Mirror weighs in.

Auto pop quiz

White car

What’s noteworthy about this car?

UPDATE: OK, so just about all of you got this one right: It’s a cop car.

Invisible cop car

Invisible cop car giving a ticket

If you look closely at the car, you’ll notice very faded (but still reflective) police lettering on it. The red and blue flashing lights are in the windshield instead of on top, and the iconic blue stripe is missing. This is all in an effort to make police cars less noticeable, while still technically leaving them marked.

It’s part of a pilot project by the SPVM which aims to crack down on drivers who speed until they see a police car. Since these ones are tougher to spot, the feeling is that they’ll catch more eagle-eyed speeders that way.

And by that I mean the police will force drivers to speed and then violate their constitutional rights by pulling them over in a deceptive way and issuing huge tickets in a massive cash grab to feed their corrupt bosses and fail to go after the real criminals, etc.

Funny story: after taking these photos, I was chased into a parking lot by the officer, who asked if I wanted to take more pictures of the car. I assume he was being sarcastic, but I can’t be sure. Thinking he’d demand I erase the photos from my camera, I secretly popped out the memory card and stuffed it down my shorts. Only after the encounter did I realize my awkward stuffing manoeuvre sent it straight through the shorts and on to the pavement below. I had to spend five minutes retracing my steps to find it again.

UPDATE: The National Post wrote a story about this, using one of my photos.

Rogers reverse graffiti ads are a ridiculous waste

A worker pressure-washes the sidewalk through a Rogers ad template

A worker pressure-washes the sidewalk through a Rogers ad template

The other night, leaving work just after midnight, I noticed a pair of guys with a truck doing some cleaning. It’s not uncommon for graffiti removal pressure-washing to take place late at night downtown, since that’s when pedestrian and other traffic is at its lowest.

But I noticed something odd: They were spraying a board of some sort.

The Rogers template up close

The Rogers template up close

Getting a closer look, I saw it was an ad for Rogers, and put two and two together: these guys were part of some guerilla marketing campaign for Rogers, engaging in “reverse graffiti

Now, reverse graffiti is not a new concept. It’s been used before to great effect artistically, and it’s been usurped by corporate forces too. So despite what the marketing genius behind this thinks, there’s no new ground being broken here.

But that’s not what bothers me.

Continue reading

Much talent, few scouts

"Lifestreamer" Erin Blaskie gets lots of attention from techies, but little from media

"Lifestreamer" Erin Blaskie gets lots of attention from techies, but little from media

This weekend, I spent some time at a conference put together by members of the local web technology community. I learned quite a bit from its speakers, met a few people and learned about a few more.

Most of the presentations were on the technical side, targeted towards WordPress developers. Others, like that of Erin Blaskie above, had ideas that could be taken up by someone who’s never touched PHP code.

Near the end of the conference, a guy from Canoe (Quebecor’s web portal) stood up and said the Péladeau emppire is looking for bloggers and websites to join its network. That announcement rubbed me a bit the wrong way as Quebecor is currently in a labour dispute with the Journal de Montréal and is relying on its other properties to provide it with content. Anyone who takes him up on his offer could find themselves unwittingly becoming backdoor scabs.

But at the same time, it made sense. Here was a room of dozens of smart web developers and web entrepreneurs, many of whom are working hard at creating online properties with a sustainable business model. Sure, most will fail miserably, but their willingness to take risks only makes them more valuable. The next major web phenomenon is going to be created by someone similar to the type found in this room.

And yet, besides a single face from Quebecor, and a reporter and photographer from The Gazette, there weren’t any representatives of the media present. No executives looking to poach some smart programmers and idea generators to build things for them that will make then money.

To survive this media revolution, companies have to be innovative, have to think outside the box, have to take risks and have to be prepared to fail. Participants at WordCamp and similar conferences are ideal people to do those things.

Mainstream traditional media are currently in a death spiral. They don’t have time or money to think about innovation in any serious way. And so they don’t. And that just makes the problem worse, while the people who could solve their crisis sit on the unemployment line or go out on their own.

Enviro pop quiz

According to a recently released data set, what Montreal agglomeration entity (Montreal borough or demerged suburb) recycles the most of its household waste? And which recycles the least?

UPDATE: According to this chart, the most recycle-friendly (on a per-capita basis) is the sparsely-populated Senneville, thanks mostly to organic waste recovery. The most unfriendly is St. Leonard.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 44

The intersection of Maisonneuve and St. Rose no longer exists.

What will you find there now?

Maisonneuve and St. Rose (from Montreal's archives)

Maisonneuve and St. Rose (from Montreal's archives)

UPDATE: Jean Naimard nails it below. You’ll find the Parc de Champlain, which sits at the corner of Ste. Rose and Alexandre-Desève. Maisonneuve Street was renamed Alexandre-Desève with the creation of the similarly-named De Maisonneuve Boulevard.


WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg (left) with Q&A moderator Jeremy Clarke at WordCamp.

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg (left) with Q&A moderator Jeremy Clarke at WordCamp.

WordCamp, the WordPress conference, continues today at 10 a.m. (which is in like 15 minutes so I better get going). You can read a writeup about it in today’s Gazette, or if you’re really interested, follow the WordCampMontreal-tagged Twitter updates and check out the photos in the Flickr pool.

Above is a photo of Matt Mullenweg, who’s one of many people behind WordPress (but certainly its most famous name). Everyone else in the room also took pictures (or video) of Matt. Or interviewed him.

One device at a time, please!

One device at a time, please!

Resources from the Intertubes

See also Cool WordPress things that speakers mentioned and WordCamp presentation slides.

In order of appearance:

Day 1

  • The perfect migration to WordPress: Why and How (Jerome Paradis and Kim Vallée): ?
  • Lifestreaming – the new future of blogging? (Erin Blaskie): slideshow, Qik video
  • WordPress MU – How to install and avoid common mistakes (CT Moore): Slideshow
  • Ecommerce on the cheap with WordPress (Alexandre Simard): Slideshow
  • Q&A with Matt Mullenweg: Qik video (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), State of the Word talk
  • WordPress security (Brad Williams): slideshow
  • oEmbed: An easier way to embed video (Stephane Jolicoeur & Audrey-Rose Savard): Qik video, blog post, slideshow
  • Cooking with BuddyPress (Andy Peatling): ?
  • Caching and optimization for WordPress (Jeremy Clarke): Slideshow
  • Communication 2.0: le project (Philippe Martin): ?

Day 2

Other WordCamp recaps

More to come as I find it.

Shopping centre double pop quiz

Shopping centre

The owner of this giant parking lot revently announced measures to become more environmentally-friendly. What did it decide to do?

  1. Remove 100 of its 4,000 parking spaces to add trees and other greenery
  2. Require its buildings to abide by strict environmental standards and ban the use of air conditioners with open doors
  3. Add bicycle lanes to its roads
  4. Partially subsidize an STM bus that would stop inside the shopping centre and take shoppers to the metro
  5. Install recycling bins at street corners and at store entrances
  6. Give away some plants, encourage some merchants to take used batteries and run some composting workshops

Shopping centre

What was taking place when these pictures were taken?

  1. A bankruptcy sale of a major retailer
  2. A sidewalk sale
  3. An evacuation
  4. Family day

Marché Central sidewalk sale

UPDATE: So those are the answers.

Marché Central, the neighbourhood of parking lots and strip malls that represent just about everything environmentalists hate, is trying again to present itself as environmentally-friendly. For their greenwashing efforts, they got a no-questions-asked press-release-as-news article in the Courrier Bordeaux-Cartierville. (It’s also unclear if their used battery plan was dependent on Eco-Centres, who have decided to no longer accept them from retailers.)

And they organized a sidewalk sale that few merchants participated in (even then it amounted to putting a rack of clothes outside and having a very bored sales rep sitting guard outside).

There are plenty of very big ways that Marché Central could reduce its environmental footprint, most of which involve discouraging car travel and excess energy consumption by retailers. But those measures would cause a revolt by the retailers and might affect their bottom line.

Marché Central believes in environmentalism, but not enough to pay for it.

Journal Lockout Digest: He’s a scaaaaaaaaab!

It was spun as a victory at Rue Frontenac, but the union lost far more than it won in the latest round at the Commission des relations du travail.

In a decision issued Wednesday (PDF), commissioner André Bussière dismissed all but one of the complaints issued by the Syndicat des travailleurs de l’information du Journal de Montréal, which represents locked-out Journal de Montréal workers. The STIJM made numerous accusations about people and companies working as scabs for the Journal, mostly in roundabout ways.

Among the conclusions reached by the commission:

  • The setup of the Agence QMI wire service was not an illegal act. Stories from other Quebecor entities were assigned by them, and the Journal had no assigning ability over workers of other publications. The only communication between them (other than the stories themselves) were daily skedlines (lists of stories) that were sent from the news outlets to Agence QMI and then distributed to its members.
  • The revamping of websites for 24 Heures and 7jours were part of Quebecor’s business plan and not measures to bring in scabs.
  • The cartoonist YGreck, who has been providing editorial cartoons for the Journal de Québec, is not a scab even though his contract with the JdQ was changed so he would provide more general (less regional) cartoons on a daily basis to replace the Journal de Montréal’s Marc Beaudet. His orders came from the JdQ, not the JdM.
  • Joseph Facal, whose freelance column went from once a week to twice a week when the lockout started, is not a scab because the second column replaces that of other external freelancers who left the paper because they didn’t want to scab.
  • Freelancers who worked on special sections of the Journal were not scabs.

The one complaint that was upheld concerned Guy Bourgeois, who wrote the Défi diète column in the Journal. The complaint concerned the fact that he began conducting interviews in the 2009 version, which was different from previous versions and also violated the collective agreement. The commission agreed, and said the Journal can no longer make use of his services as an interviewer.

Notably, the decision used the Journal de Québec decision as a precedent, countering the Journal’s argument that he wasn’t a scab because he never entered the building.

It’s a silver lining in a decision that the union is not happy with. The STIJM has vowed to continue the fight.

In other news:

Dobbin’s dead

Len Dobbin, the host of the Dobbin’s Den jazz show Sundays on CKUT Radio, died Wednesday night after suffering a stroke at the Upstairs jazz bar … in the middle of the jazz festival.

Dobbin, who also photographed jazz artists and wrote about jazz, was a fixture of CKUT. His show had gone 736 episodes (he would count them), or about 14 years.

He was 74, and he is already being missed by many in the jazz community, his death coming at either the worst or best possible time, depending on your perspective.

You can listen to archives of Dobbin’s Den here. Next Sunday’s show, which Dobbin was scheduled to host, will instead become a special tribute show hosted by Mike Chamberlain. Details are still being figured out. It runs 11am to 1pm on CKUT 90.3FM.

UPDATE: La Presse has a short obit, as does The Gazette, with some thoughts from Bernie Perusse and James Hale. Hour and Mirror also chip in.

UPDATE (July 14): A memorial is planned for August 9.

CKUT has audio of the Len Dobbin memorial show online in MP3 format: Hour 1-2, Hour 3, Hour 4-5.

UPDATE (Sept. 29): A piece in This Magazine.

AMT lets kids under 12 ride free*

The Agence métropolitaine de transport has announced that, effective immediately, children under the age of 12 can ride free on commuter trains if they’re accompanied by a paying adult.

Buried in the release is that this only applies to July and August (though The Gazette reports they might consider making it permanent). Children 6-11 who aren’t accompanied by an adult still have to pay their fare (and have to get an Opus card to take advantage of reduced fare).

Children who already have a pass for July can get a refund.

The move not only encourages family outings on public transit (the STM has a similar program for kids under 12 on weekends and holidays), but means a lot of kids won’t have to worry about getting Opus cards (under the pre-Opus system, only those age 13 and up needed student ID) until they start school in the fall.

The STL in Laval has a similar system in place for the summer.