Thursday, September 29, 2005
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
OK. Now that Rita has passed, I am going to stop watching CNN indefinitely. My wife points out that it is depressing to watch, which is true since I was watching it almost exclusively during the Katrina coverage.
I started following CNN online after Sept. 11th to be sure I knew about something as soon as it happens or to be one of the first to know. Since I was working downtown, I felt it may save my life to know of a dangerous situation if it were to happen. I will probably still follow the online version. I can read only the articles of interest and on TV you're stuck with what they show. I started watching CNN after we moved here because it was 24/7 about US news.
It is time for me to move on and start following the news here in Montreal. I have been getting news here via news radio, morning radio programs, and free handout printed journals. Occasionally, I would end up watching local TV news, but for the most part I would switch to CNN. When I would return to Chicago, everyone would always asks me what people think up here or what the news reports. The ironic thing is that I watched CNN in order to be on the same page as them. So far I have only been able to relay what I had heard from occasional conversations with acquaintences and comments on the radio. This is probably another small step in the transition from Chicago to here. At a later date, I will be able to relay what differences I see.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Here's something that surprised me. Apparently the sport of golf is more true to it's elitest beginnings here.
The other weekend I went to a family golf outing wearing a baseball cap, collared shirt, denim shorts, and gym shoes. I figured I was 'dressing up' by wearing the collared shirt. As I was paying for my round, the woman behind the counter told me that I could not wear jean shorts. It really surprised me since it was a public course and not a country club where I would understand they have a dress code. So I was forced to buy an ugly pair of shorts in the pro shop. Afterward, an elitest member of our group who golfs regularly told me that there are NO courses in Quebec that allow you to wear jean shorts. A collared shirt or 'Tiger Woods' long sleeve high collared shirt (a dickie?) is required. Plus all shirts must be tucked it. Can it really be true that all courses here require that or only the one that person frequents?
I enjoy playing golf when I have a chance two or three times a year. I'm decent at it and have played for over twenty years. Plus I used to play wearing a t-shirt, jean shorts, and sandals back in the states unless by chance was a 'nice' course. I'm not fond of the elitest beginnings and my dress code may have been a rebellion against it. Anyhow, it surprises me because I have been under the impression there is less of the elitest attitude here. If I'm wrong, please someone correct me.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Here's a photo from a couple years ago from our old apartment. The Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome which was the US pavilion at the Expo 67. I has since been converted to the Biosphere which is a museum dedicated to the ecology of the St Lawrence River ecosystem. In the background is the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
This post also has a bit to do with Hurricane Katrina. I don't know what has brought this on, but lately I have become concerned with poverty and social class. I came across an article in the Chicago Tribune which is quite powerful and should be an reminder for some and an eyeopener for others. It reminded me of how it seemed that being poor had much more of a presence during my childhood. We were not poor, but it seemed like I had more second hand experiences of being poor. We often did work with the Little Brothers of the Poor packing holiday boxes or delivering them.
How does this relate to my experiences here? I don't get the impression that the poor here are as poor as back in the states. Along with that, it does not seem like the rich are as rich. So there seems to be less disparity between the classes. Plus there seems to be less of the extremes and more of the middle class which some people argue is almost gone in the US. This lack of disparity also seems to reduce the animosity between the rich and the poor. It will always be there, but it seems to be to a less degree. I believe that the lower crime rate is also due to the fact that the poor are better off and less disenfranchised. The government takes care of them and doesn't leave people to the whim of capitalist society (did you hear that Walmart?). As mentioned in the previous post, I think poverty, crime, and the image of African Americans are intertwined all too closely.
Monday, September 19, 2005
In light of the recent events in New Orleans, a friend recently asked me to share my experiences of racism up here in Montreal.
To start, I am a bit surprised that in this day and age racism in the US still exists to the degree that it does. There has been a very gradual move toward equality, but it seems it should be faster. I don't think it is because elders are passing on their beliefs to the youth and I don't think it is people have direct negative experiences with people of color. I think it boils down to social class and the evening news. Unfortunately, blacks and Hispanics make up a higher percentage of the poor. The poor are more likely to commit crimes due to the hardship in their lives. So it always seems like a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics are shown on the evening news having committed murders or thefts. I wouldn't blame the evening news other than possibly exaggerating stories for better ratings. But seeing this on a regular basis has an effect on people's psyche. There is also a fear/anxiety/ paranoia trend in the US (that I will touch on next week) which feeds all of this. Whether the response to Katrina was racial driven is debatable. But the disturbing thing is the vast difference between how blacks and whites viewed the response.
So... Regarding life here in Montreal. There is not the same kind of racism because there are very few African Americans. It is interesting because there are people with black skin, but they are either from Africa or the Caribbean. They make up a much smaller percentage of the population and they are primarily concentrated in the metropolitan area. To tell you the truth, it has been an odd experience being among people primarily composed of Western European ethnicities. Being poor doesn't seem to discriminate, so the people committing crimes don't fall into easily defined categories.
That said, there are some tensions. I once took a cab to the airport where the driver ranted about how all the immigrants were taking the jobs. I guess he didn't consider me one. There is also the francophone/anglophone tensions. I have never noticed any first hand, but have occasionally heard about them through the news. Also a couple people I know have made comments suggesting the francophones don't like those who display their loyalty to Canada. But that has been the vast minority of my experiences so far. I will talk more about the separatist movement later. Please note that these are the views and observations of one person with only a couple years experience in this new environment. Also, my understanding of the language is evolving and I may have been blissfully unaware of some things said. I hope to cover the language topic soon.
Friday, September 16, 2005
So I watched Bush give his speech last night. I was thinking of skipping it, but felt it would be better to watch it first hand and get my own impression before reading or listening to other. An interesting side note. A couple of the Canadian networks carried the speech while others continued with their regular programming. I had not checked before whether they had carried them or not.
I was impressed. He seemed more genuine then I had seen him before and if he follows through on even only a part of some of the works projects he suggested, it would be step forward for him. My cynical/skeptical side still was wondering during the speech whether he really was genuine. His genuineness may have been because he didn't give his signature smirk after delivering serious lines. I always had the impression that he found what he was saying to be a joke. Like he was saying it but didn't mean it. Question is whether he learned not to give the smirk or he actually meant what he said. And I also wonder if he is going to somehow orchestrate these works projects so that big business will profit. There was already an article in the Chicago Tribune saying that Halliburton and other connected parties are already profitting from Katrina. I just hope what he said about racial equality and a strong financial city will become a reality.
The same goes for his mea culpa speech the other day. It did seem earnest. As earnest as Bush has been in the past. But my cynical/skeptical side is waiting for the other shoe to drop and for him to twist it so it is primarily the state, cities, or other bureaucracies fault.
Who knows? Maybe his photo op trips to the region actually had a real affect on the guy.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
One thing that seemed to jump out at me is the empowerment that women seem to have here. It seems (again from what I can tell) that women here have more moxey. First a little history. In the 70's there was a break in Quebec from a very church based government to a secular government. The church was very male centric (and still kinda is) keeping women at home raising children. The government became more secular and socialist (not communist) with women starting to gain equal ground with men. By no means are things on a equal basis here yet and the same change has occured in the US, but I have noticed the difference in how women act and how they are viewed. For one, a year off of paid maternity leave along with ridiculously low daycare (7$/day) empowers women to be working mothers. I have noticed on the roads that women seem to be the same if not more aggressive than men. It seems there are many more women riding motorcycles than I remember seeing back home. And just in talking to them, there is this sense of quiet confidence that caught my attention. There is a lack of macho, tough guy, and bravado in men which may allow for that. I'll touch on the male psyche in a future post. Back home, many times when there were women in power there was a feeling that their drive for power was due to being oppressed toa degree in the past. Like there was something or someone to prove wrong. Of course, there are men who are like that, but it seemed women were fighting more of an uphill battle.
I am in no way implying that the women I know from Chicago are not strong women. I look up to all the women in my family and my women friends. Heck, my mother rides a motorcycle and runs a few marathons a year, how much stronger can you get? As with all my post, I am talking about the people I meet and see on the street and this is just one man's observations. Personnally, I have always felt men and women should be on equal ground.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
A fairly tame subject.
There is a much higher percentage of dark haired people here. There's a smaller percentage of natural blondes (and a couple dozen redheads). The remainder are dyed. Purple, red, orange, blond, and streaks of these different colors are popular. Blue and green show up once in a while. Even middle-aged women dye there hair these different colors. Again it seems to be more of a European influence.
Also, women tend to have or wear their hair long and straight. The differences and style come from the way they tie it up. Men tend to be all over the map, but generally adults wear it short. There are alot more teenage boys that wear it long. Facial hair is not much different, though men of all ages wear beards. Instead of just older men, teenagers and young adults have them.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
I had not planned to post anything about Katrina, but after watching coverage (CNN) as much as I could over the past week, I feel the need to comment on it. Not that I’m saying anything new, or that anyone needs to hear what I have to say. I just feel the need to get my thoughts out there. Seems that’s one function of blogs.
Why has it taken so long for the real help to arrive in New Orleans? And I’m not buying Republican Trent Lott’s excuse that they had to cut through downed trees and waters were too high. It does not take that long to cut down trees. And large military helicopters should have been mobilized to be ready for immediate needs. We have known this large hurricane was headed toward the coast for over a week now. Starting to mobilize the National Guard on Tuesday and Wednesday, then saying it takes a while for them to actually get there is not acceptable. Even if this had not come close to New Orleans and it was not as strong as it turned out to be, aid should have been mobilized and ready to head in once it had passed. It seems there are really only two reasons for the lack of response. Either the president was waiting it out to see what happens, or we do not have the resourses because they are in Iraq.
The day after Katrina passed, everyone was relieved New Orleans did not take a direct hit because they were worried the city would be flooded. Then after the levees did break, many people acted as if it was unexpected and unforeseen. As if their lack of response was because no one thought the city could be flooded.
On whether everyone should have been evacuated from the get-go. That’s a tough question. That would have been a massive undertaking to evacuate those who could not due to their physical or economic abilities. Also, some people are stubborn enough not to leave. But there should have been a plan ready to get them out. Everyone seemed to know there was the possibility that the city would be under water. Also why didn’t the city or state have a plan in place after years of hurricane near misses.
Regarding the looting. These are impoverished people who are now in a more desperate state. I would not question their actions since I don’t know what it’s like to be in their situation. Again, a substantial law enforcement presence should have been there in place within a couple days, not to mention aid that would have put people more at ease. You probably would not loot if you had eaten in the last few days. To blame it on the looters I feel is misdirected. Shooting and lawlessness is another matter. Looting a grocery store for food is one thing, but shooting at evacuation helicopters is completely another.
I am very interested to see what happens to the city in the future. In my first graduate architectural design class, we rebuilt the cities along the Illinois River that were flooded in the summer of 1993. Our first task was to work for FEMA and do damage assessments. It basically consisted of entering homes and noting how high the waters had risen. The mold, mildew, and fungus that had taken hold in the interiors had rendered many homes uninhabitable. So it is hard for me to fathom that at least a quarter if not a half of the homes in a city of 500,000 to be condemned.
Also, the gas situation. Oil companies that are already making profits from the high prices are claiming that the supply is almost gone when only 8% of the oil refineries were taken out by Katrina.
Is the lack of response due to race? I would prefer to agree with the leader of the black caucus who said it is more economic status. Unfortunately, the vast majority of poor people in the south are black. And the poor did not have the means to escape. So now they are the ones that need to be rescued.
Lastly, I am disappointed as many other are at the response of the current administration to the catastrophe. I have not been a fan of either Bush. When I was in Europe during the first’s presidency, I did not get a favorable impression of him from the news I was getting. Along with the occupation of Iraq and the reelection of the current president it makes me embarrassed to be American. It is sad how quickly the reputation of the US has been trashed in the eyes of the rest of the world. And it was probably at it’s height after 9.11.2001. Come on, he’s making photo ops with two Republican governors and patting the FEMA guy on the back when aid still hadn’t arrived in New Orleans five days after the hurricane hit.