Bars, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Fundraising, Media, Montreal, Music, Nostalgia

Surviving In A COVID Red Zone: Montreal’s Wheel Club

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my fondness for bars. During this time of COVID-19 bars in Montreal are closed. Not open with limited seating and social-distancing. But closed completely. In a business that can be brutally competitive at the best of times, this forced loss of revenue will have dire consequences on the entire industry. It is feared many bar owners will not make it and will have to close permanently.

In a business that can be brutally competitive at the best of times, this forced loss of revenue will have dire consequences on the entire industry

With little room for creativity, some bars are doing their best to trudge through the pandemic and, hopefully, still be around when things show some sign of returning to normal. One such establishment is The Wheel Club in Montreal.

The Wheel Club (in French Club La Roue) is a not-for-profit live music venue featuring excellent performances in a vintage room that will take you back to its unpretentious origins as a veterans social club.

Craig Morrison – Rock ‘n’ Roll Dance Party

I have often pointed out that writing a blog does not make one a journalist. I am not a journalist. However, in true journalistic transparency I must admit that, although I have been aware of The Wheel Club for decades, I have never set foot in the establishment. It is located west of me and I tend to head east – or downtown – when seeking a beer or two.

What, then, is a music venue to do when it has to toe the line and shut its doors? The wise folks at The Wheel Club have turned to the Internet

What, then, is a music venue to do when it has to toe the line and shut its doors? The wise folks at The Wheel Club have turned to the Internet. In an effort to pay the bills, a hefty schedule of events is available online, with the opportunity to donate via PayPal. No audience, only the minimal number of technical experts, and the performers.

This coming Wednesday, December 16, 2020 the band is Craig Morrison – Rock ‘n’ Roll Dance Party. I have seen this group before, an off-shoot of Morrison’s Vintage Wine, and can’t recommend them highly enough. If you like a bit of vintage Rock & Roll, R&B, Blues and even swing, then you’ll love this. In addition you can help keep things afloat financially.

Here’s the link. Wednesday, December 16 at 7:30 p.m.! Drop by!

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Hijacking Google Mini

A couple of years ago my nephew gave us a Google Nest Mini. It’s one of those electronic assistants that can do a whole bunch of things when programmed to do so, or asked. Yes indeed this little muggins can be told to do pre-programmed things when asked. It’s a small enough device that, as my Venezuelan wife points out, resembles one of that country’s favourite comfort foods, an arepa.

Arepa

Our arepa turns on lights when asked, sets timers, and gives me a morning rundown of what is on my Google calendar, among other chores. To communicate with the arepa you must begin by saying ‘Okay Google’. That’s the key, merely saying Google won’t get her (the voice we have chosen is that of a woman) attention.

This brings me to what must be a highly rated contender for the ‘Stupid Advertising Gimmick Hall of Fame’

This brings me to what must be a highly rated contender for the ‘Stupid Advertising Gimmick Hall of Fame’. Knowing that these devices are often placed within arepa-shot of a television, some advertisers talk directly to your device. The first time I experienced this was during a World Series game that evidently had Google as a sponsor. The announcer would periodically promote the arepa, then demonstrate how easy it was to use by saying something along the lines of ‘Okay Google, how many World Series homeruns did Bobby Bonds hit?’. This would get the Mini going and it would provide the answer.

More recently I actually found myself feeling sorry for our arepa. The iRobot people have a product called Roomba. It’s a vacuum cleaner that operates independently, whether the owner is home or not. It can be programmed to interact with both Alexa and Google devices. During a television ad for Roomba the voiceover clearly states ‘Okay Google, tell Roomba to …’. This caused our arepa to frantically seek our Roomba – to her chagrin, we don’t have one. The multi-colored lights on the Mini flashed like a Christmas tree on amphetamines. After curiously watching the poor beast for several minutes, I finally said ‘Okay Google, end’ and the panic was over.

I realize that I may sound like an overly-protective father of a teenaged daughter, but if you want to address my arepa, please ask me first

I realize that I may sound like an overly-protective father of a teenaged daughter, but if you want to address my arepa, please ask me first. What if this fell into the wrong hands? What if while I was in the kitchen getting a glass of milk – ok beer – an ad came on for foreign investment and told my arepa to call a number in Switzerland? Or if the environmentalists use it to get my arepa to turn off all electronics just before kick-off. To hell with COVID-19, the real threat to our future is having some malefactor hijack our arepas when we’re not looking!

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1-800-RAT-OUTS

The current COVID-19 Code Red situation in Montreal has caused an interesting conundrum, one that has received many hours of radio talk and newspaper ink. The number of people allowed to convene in one’s house is limited. The government radio advertisement states that ‘Indoor gatherings of family and friends are prohibited’. Not ‘not suggested’, not ‘not recommended’, prohibited.

Are we, due to justifiable COVID-19 fears, becoming a society of rats?

Fair enough. But how do we control this? Obviously a very large number of people in a house will be evident from noise and cars parked in the area. But what about a group of six people? Prohibited, but easy to hide. This is where neighbours enter the fray. Are people expected to call 911 to bring to the attention of the police a party of six neighbours? Are we, due to justifiable COVID-19 fears, becoming a society of rats? What will this do to community relations in the future?

Anyone who has ever watched the A&E series The First 48 will be familiar with the phrase ‘snitches get stitches and end up in ditches’. Not that I’m suggesting vengeance be wrought upon anyone who does call the police, but there was a time when snitching was looked down on. Not just among hard-core criminals, but in general.

I hope that if while protecting the caller’s privacy, some thought is given to the potential damage of mistakes or hoax calls. They have a local number, but I’d suggest 1-800-RAT-OUTS.

In Montreal, and I imagine other cities, there is an entity called Info-Crime. They are not the police, but they work in conjunction with law enforcement. Their ads claim that they are anonymous and confidential. I hope that if while protecting the caller’s privacy, some thought is given to the potential damage of mistakes or hoax calls. They have a local number, but I’d suggest 1-800-RAT-OUTS.

Are we to extrapolate from this that grey Hondas are the cars of choice for drug dealers? Could they not have just said ‘a grey mid-sized car’?

But perhaps the people who should be most irked by the Info-Crime radio ads is Honda. Yep, the car manufacturer. During the Montreal radio spot an actress is heard portraying someone placing, what is assumed to be an anonymous and confidential call, about a person she thinks is selling drugs. She mentions his name, his address, and her concern about his nefarious business. All fictitious one hopes. However, the call on the ad also includes a description of the alleged drug dealer’s car; a grey Honda.

Are we to extrapolate from this advertisement that grey Hondas are the cars of choice for drug dealers? Could they not have just said ‘a grey mid-sized car’? Why did they include the make of car in the ad?

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COVID In The White House

 Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP

Like many, I awoke this morning to the shocking news that United States President Donald Trump, and his wife, had tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus. I’m in no way a big fan of the current president, his policies, his demeanour, what he has done to abase the highest office in the land, are all part of why I dislike him. But did the news of his illness make me happy? Certainly not. I sincerely hope that he and the first lady both make full recoveries.

That being said, one has to wonder at the timing of the announcement. Forty-eight hours earlier the president had not only been trounced by Joe Biden in a debate, but managed to make a fool of himself in the process. The constant media analysis and regurgitation of that debate couldn’t have pleased him. How to change the news cycle?

Would it be beneath the president of the United States of America to use a pandemic to try to bolster his numbers? Not this president.

Going into the debate last Tuesday many polls had Biden with a comfortable lead. Trump’s performance can only have caused that gap to grow. Yet I recall four years ago at this time when Hilary Clinton seemed to be cruising to victory. We all know how that turned out.

Would it be beneath the president of the United States of America to use a pandemic to try to bolster his numbers? Not this president. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who wished Trump a speedy recovery, was originally, like Trump, one who played down COVID-19. That was, of course, until he contracted the virus, was hospitalized and, thankfully, recovered. When Johnson left hospital and eventually returned to Parliament, he was a changed person. His view of the virus was changed – how could it not be?

Trump is a lover of the phrase ‘Fake News’. I don’t think it is beyond him to use fake news to his own end.

My hunch is that Trump hopes to make a full recovery (if, indeed, he really is ill) with enough time before the November election to tout his ability to beat the virus.

Mark Makela / Getty Images

Wouldn’t his base just love that? Even the alleged killer of over one million people worldwide couldn’t harm our man would be their approach. Trump will appear at rallies, the man who beat COVID-19 (even if he also denied its existence, but then again his base members have short memories). He’ll become the pandemic Golden Boy, surely Sleepy Joe Biden could never have shaken off the ‘Chinese Flu’.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the First Couple have very mild cases and are back in no time. But I still have my doubts. Trump is a lover of the phrase ‘Fake News’. I don’t think it is beyond him to use fake news to his own end.

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Grass Roots And Grassroots

 Photograph: Harry Durrant/Getty Images

The Grass Roots was an American rock band in the late sixties and early seventies. Their biggest, but certainly not their only, hit was Midnight Confessions, a song that still gets played on many oldies stations.

On the other hand, the concept of Grassroots politics is significantly different, but no less an integral part of US culture. According to Wikipedia, “Grassroots movements and organizations use collective action from the local level to affect change at the local, regional, national, or international level”.

That’s the way politics used to work. Men and women – sometimes children – working locally to affect change. Community groups and lawn signs are all part of grassroots politics. Striving for improvements to society from the bottom up.

Today we see the natural progression (regression?) of negativity. Attack ads are much more prevalent than are those promoting positivity.

But that was then and this is now. The man/woman in the street’s opinion really doesn’t seem to matter, which may lead to many of them not bothering to vote. Perhaps I’m being naïve; perhaps it never did. Yet I have to believe that without this input the system is doomed to fail.

I sense that the beginning of the end was the advent of, and essentially total switch to, negative politicking. Grassroots politics focus on positive change; making things better. A new municipal swimming pool or a new president. Today we see the natural progression (regression?) of negativity. Attack ads are much more prevalent than are those promoting positivity. “Never mind what I will do, we must stop my opponent from doing whatever he or she will do” is the mantra.

In Canada, the 1993 election provided us with an example of how our two countries view negative political advertising. The Progressive Conservative (oxymoron?) Party of Canada ran an ad featuring very unflattering photos of Liberal candidate Jean Chrétien, who suffers from “partial paralysis” of his face, which he believes was a birth defect and which his mother thought was the result of a childhood disease or virus. The PCP went on to lose the election and many consider this ad to have been the turning point. Canadians are nice folks; the electors did not like the nastiness.

I fear that a candidate’s platform – remember those? – is less crucial today than criticizing the opponent’s promises – dare I say it – ad nauseam .

However, in the early days of negative campaigning, this mud-slinging was kept to actual pre-election periods and was done by backroom flunkies, for the most part, the candidates kept their hands clean except for ‘approving’ the ads, of course. But the current resident of the Oval Office practices it on a daily basis all year round. From his favourite “fake news” to his total disregard for scientific facts, he constantly demeans the Office he holds.

When United States Senators can say one thing four years ago, then completely flip-flop on that statement today shows incredible disrespect for those who elect them, to say nothing of the process.

Sowing lies and mistruths from the highest office in the land is something totally out of character for any inhabitant of the White House. Sadly this distortion of facts and warping of the electoral process has exposed the many people who are easily duped. The time has come for elected officials at all levels of government to consider what is best for their constituents, not what is best for their own political careers.

When United States Senators can say one thing four years ago, then completely flip-flop on that statement today shows incredible disrespect for those who elect them, to say nothing of the process.

It is a sad turn of events indeed.

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My Neighbour Is Sick

For as long as I can remember we’ve had the same neighbour. We go back years, decades, indeed centuries. We live in what in the real estate world is known as a semi-detached. Which of course means it is also semi-attached; we share one very long partition, I am hesitant to call it a wall, given what my neighbour has in mind for the other side of his house.

We are very similar in so many ways, and get along just fine for the most part, even if we disagree on how to spell neighbours. Oh, sure we have the occasional spat, a little falling out. But when push comes to shove we have each other’s back. For instance, my neighbour had an ungodly upset on September 11, 2001 when one of the central family members was struck down in an egregious act of violence. We did what we could to help the situation and felt our bond grow stronger as often happens in difficult times.

Before the current pandemic, we often spent time in each other’s place; in fact, we are each other’s most frequent visitor. Over the years many members of my extended family have married into my neighbour’s clan, and vice versa.

Our cultures are similar, sports, arts, entertainment are all on the same track. Not identical mind you, but shall I say variations on a theme. The way we run our household and make decisions is, again, on the surface comparable, yet dig deeper and it is almost like night and day.

Before the current pandemic, we often spent time in each other’s place; in fact, we are each other’s most frequent visitor. Over the years many members of my extended family have married into my neighbour’s clan, and vice versa.

All in all, we are a pretty close pair. Which is why I write this. You see it has occurred to me recently, after poring over newspapers and electronic media, that my neighbour is sick, undeniably very ill. Over the past four years there has been something akin to a cancer coursing through my neighbour. Perhaps it has always been there, but since a new head of the household moved in, the vile malignancy has surfaced. For the most part this sickness started manifesting itself in relatively small flare-ups, but lately major outbreaks have erupted erupts that knock everyone for a loop.

Over the past four years there has been something akin to a cancer coursing through my neighbour. Perhaps it has always been there, but since a new head of the household moved in, the vile malignancy has surfaced

My sadness over my neighbour’s sickness is compounded by a strong feeling of frustration. You see, the illness, hideous though it is, is absolutely curable. Other neighbours in our community have suffered from similar afflictions, and have taken appropriate actions to remedy the situation, and rid themselves of the demon. But many of my semi-detached neighbours not only refuse to consider the cure but rather insist on confronting the disease by applying even more disease.

We have been good neighbours for so long that it pains me deeply to see this lovely big household  (mind you our house is bigger even if our family is smaller!)  afflicted in such a destructive manner. I hope that in early November, before it is too late, my next-door neighbour will realize that something must be done to eradicate this infirmity. In conclusion, I must come clean, I would be lying if I did not admit to also having a selfish desire to see my neighbour well, and that is the concern that, like popular culture, the disease may spread to our house.

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TIME: You Saw It Here First

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Taking Advantage of the Pandemic

The current pandemic has opened doors to all kinds of people, giving them an opportunity to promote their theories. Including Montreal’s mayor using it to fast-track her desire to pedestrianise a main downtown street. But that’s just politics.

Then there are the anti-vaxers, those folks who refuse to even think about having themselves or their children vaccinated for any number of reasons. Even time-proven vaccines are verboten for these people. They don’t care how many people they may make sick by not being vaccinated, after all, it’s all about them isn’t it?

Perhaps it is a natural progression that leads many anti-vaxers to become anti-maskers during a pandemic. Once again they cite bogus science to claim that the masks are in fact bad for the wearer, or they drag out the old ‘It’s my right’ argument – no government is going to tell me to wear a mask. Well, actually they are.

Then we have the Flat Earthers who believe (or at least profess to believe) that the whole COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. There is no virus. There is no need for vaccines or masks. It is all a ploy to control people. Big Brother is everywhere and is now using COVID-19 to herd people like sheep. Why? Well, that remains to be seen. Aside from refusing to wear masks, the Flat Earthers believe that Bill Gates is behind the vaccine, and is using it to implant microchips in us that will lead to our demise. Of course, they also believe Australia does not exist.

Why Gates would want to do that when almost all people voluntarily carry a cellphone and have a home device (Hi Alexa) that is probably already tracking us. So what. Big Deal.

But perhaps the group that has pushed its agenda the most during the pandemic is the Politically Correcters. These are the people who have decided they will sit in judgement of all others and will decree whether statements, statues, team names, and gender pronouns are offensive. They use social media as a bully pulpit to draw attention to what they deem to be wrong.

Recently NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury was relieved of his duties on NHL broadcasts for the rest of the playoffs. His crime? His colleague Brian Boucher, talking about COVID bubbles, said “If you think about it, it’s a terrific environment with regard to — if you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place,” Milbury responded “Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration.”

1965 Montreal Canadiens

During the heyday of the Montreal Canadiens, in the fifties, sixties and seventies, when the playoffs arrived the team was sequestered in a lodge in the foothills outside of Montreal. No wives, no girlfriends (long-term or otherwise), no kids, dogs, no media etc. It was all about hockey. No distractions. I can’t recall anyone suggesting this was offensive.

I think we have become way too sensitive in these politically correct days.

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Team Names And Intention

200713143126-02-atlanta-braves-tomahawk-exlarge-169

Team names are one thing. But this has to go.

With major league sports attempting to save a pandemic ravaged season by reducing the number of games that will be played in a bubble with no fans present, other issues are being thrown into the mix. I write of team names that are, or perhaps are not, offensive to indigenous people.

… the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has decreed that teams with such names will be referred to only as the city and sport

In the latest turn, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has decreed that teams with such names will be referred to only as the city and sport. For instance, the Chicago Blackhawks will be known henceforth on the CBC as the Chicago hockey team. The Atlanta Braves must be called the Atlanta baseball team when they are mentioned in a report.

These names are considered to be racist, but by whom? The Edmonton football team in the Canadain Football League (CFL) is called the Eskimos. Much has been made of this name over the past several years, with calls for the team to change the name.

Jordin Tootoo, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first Inuk player, sees no problem with the name. He states that he refers to himself as Inuk, but that members of his father’s generation and beyond were proud to be Eskimos.

Also, what is the intention? Tootoo goes on ““Was it racially charged, or, was it because of admiration for the ability of the Eskimos to thrive in cold climates, for their mental and physical toughness and for their resilience?”

I believe the decision to change names should rely for the most part the opinion of actual indigenous people

For me, that’s the important question. Were these teams named out of respect and admiration, or was it an attempt to be derogatory? Was it meant to be an honorific? I can’t imagine any team intending to call themselves something negative.

Of course, some of the accompanying elements of the team name leave little doubt.  Foolish Indian mascots, rhythmic fan chants, and caricatured logos should all be rethought.

For now, I believe the decision to change names should rely for the most part the opinion of actual indigenous people. No longer should we tell them what’s insulting to them and what isn’t.

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Dear CBC: Time For Balconville

hudson-players-club

Dear CBC,

While many areas of the country take the first tentative steps in reopening during the novel coronavirus 2019 pandemic, the ‘Stay at Home’ edict is still deemed to be the best way to stem the spread of the virus.

People who would have traveled will be unable to do so. Those who prefer the ‘staycation’ kind of holiday will be limited in what that can do

As we begin to experience summer weather conditions the natural tendency is to start thinking about vacation. It certainly cannot be denied that we all, but particularly those providing  essential services, have earned a good rest. However, as with virtually all aspects of life with COVID-19, things will be different this summer.

People who would have traveled will be unable to do so. Those who prefer the ‘staycation’ kind of holiday will be limited in what that can do, given the cancellation of festivals and other annual events.

So, we are looking at spending time locally, with our neighbours. For those with access to balconies this is the year to spruce-up your perch and spend as much time on it as the weather permits. For those without that option, social-distancing in parks is probably your best bet.

It would appear that for many Canadians Balconville is…the best vacation option for this coming summer

It is with this in mind that I write to you, the national broadcaster, with a suggestion. I believe this would be an ideal time for someone with the wherewithal to produce a televion version of David Fennario’s classic play Balconville.

It would appear that for many Canadians Balconville is, whether they want it or not, the best vacation option for this coming summer.

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