Holy Phoque Indeed

(Props to Nathalie Petrowski's Cyberpresse column for the title.)

I don't usually find myself swept up in viral video fever, but this one is particularly Canadian and worthwhile.

While in Montreal this past weekend (more on that next episode), I was puttering around the hotel room with the Francophone breakfast show "Salut Bonjour" in the background, and noticed people talking about some film clip of a musician appearing before some sort of dismissive commission. Recognizing Stéphane Rousseau (from the film The Barbarian Invasions, but also a comedian and singer) as one of the inquisitors, I guessed it was a new feature film. Since my French sucks, that was as far as I could get.

Thanks to a link today on Twitter from Gilles Duceppe (or his people - he's leader of the Bloc Quebecois), I've found out the story, and it's pretty important for me to include here for a couple reasons.

First to go back for a second: last month, the Tory government decided to make a lot of cuts to some pretty helpful arts funding (Marc Weisblott did a fair job explaining some of this in the Scrolling Eye blog), which was preceded by a proposed bill which would effect funding for Canadian films with supposedly questionable morals (CBC has a good thumbnail here). Now we're in the middle of a federal election campaign (yes, us too), creative people who have to go through enough crap without all this are very concerned with what more could happen if the Tories win again. Many of them have organized into groups like the Department of Culture to educate and support each other and do some effective lobbying for once.

One group which is so far anonymous, but which seems to be without party affiliation and from Quebec, has made this three-minute film about the situation, "Culture en Péril (Culture in Danger)". The musician, Michel Rivard of a legendary band called Beau Dommage, appears before a government funding committee (including the fey fellow played by M. Rousseau) to propose a music festival to help promote Quebec music in France, and somehow hilarity ensues. No, it really does ensue, centred in part around the fact that the French word for "seal" (the swimming animal) is "phoque".

So here we have Quebeckers, who are way better at promoting their own stars and pop culture than in English Canada, bringing all their talents to bear to truly entertain and also illuminate some important issues - including issues important across the country regardless of language. And there are even English subtitles available (if you can't get them here, follow the YouTube link and follow the simple instructions to turn the captioning on).

I don't think it gets any more Canadian than this.


Description 58 - Queen Street West

It was the coolest place in (English) Canada, and then it wasn't. Three wise men walk me through it, with help from Bob Wiseman's music, some giant ants, some Trotskyites and a toaster oven.

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Associated links (deep breath...)
Last year's Jane's Walk episode
Queen Street West @Wikipedia
CondomShack (there'll be an episode about that someday)
Official description of this Jane's Walk
Duke's Cycle
Torontoist covers the Queen Street West Fire
Gary Duke's first visit of the fire site
The Big Bop
Bovine Sex Club and The Shanghai Cowgirl
Kickass Karaoke
Mercer Union (now on Bloor)
Art Metropole (now on King)
The Red Head Gallery (now on Richmond...sheesh...)
General Idea
Bob Wiseman: official, @MySpace and podsafe @publicbroadcasting.ca
Blue Rodeo
Parachute Club @The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia
CBC on the invention of Trivial Pursuit
Cameron House
Among its past denizens: Molly Johnson and Holly Cole
VideoCabaret's History of Small Villages
Horseshoe Tavern
Steve's Music Store
Mary Margaret O'Hara @Musician's Guide
Cowboy Junkies
Club Monaco
The Rivoli
A Tribute to Richard O'Brien
Original "I'm An Adult Now" video
Peter Pan Bistro
Silver Snail Comics
The CHUM-City Building @Wikipedia
Ontario College of Art and Design
NOW Magazine covers the Beverley Tavern closing
Video for Meryn Cadell's "The Sweater" (If you haven't heard this, please do that now. Definitely wear lip gloss.)
KITHfan.org (Kids In the Hall)
Queen Mother Cafe
The Nylons
The Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar

What? I'm supposed to write more after all that? Don't you have enough to go through with all those links? I'm tired...

Okay, one more little thing: a door down from CondomShack is Kops Kollectibles, where I would often visit my friend Chris Edwards, who eventually moved upstairs to what became Vintage Sounds, a bastion of vinyl (albums, 45's, whatever) bought and sold and ordered. Unfortunately but maybe not surprisingly, their online presence is woefully minimal, but Fodor's has said some nice things about them and has contact information. If you're a High Fidelity-level music geek and can't bear the strip mall, start there and you may not go anywhere else on the street.


P.S. Kensington Video

I featured Kensington Market in Description 24, but frankly I was a bit slack about describing it, and the place is always worth revisiting. These days, I'm usually there about once a week to do some grocery shopping, and lately I've found myself there on a Pedestrian Sunday (aka P.S. Kensington).

The idea of P.S. Kensington is to show how much more human a neighbourhood becomes when cars are taken out of the equation - on Sundays from May to October, the main streets of the area are closed to car traffic. To be honest, I've found this a little redundant, since Kensington is already dominated by pedestrians and bicycles regularly taking up the little one-way lanes, very few people with cars and no time choose the place to hurriedly drive through, and everyone pretty much understands that. Shutting it down, then, doesn't seem to be a tremendous effort (unlike the Blackout Anniversary celebration that turned Bloor and Spadina into a piazza). Still, P.S. Kensington means more fun things than usual are made to happen in the streets, and it's a great attention-getter to bring people who aren't usually there to wander and visit the many wonderful independent vendors of the Market.

So here's some video I shot at P.S. Kensington a couple weeks ago while I was on my way to the store, and hopefully you'll get a better idea of the vibe of the place than I gave you a couple years ago. If nothing else, hey - tuba solo!