Monday, January 18, 2016

Good Company

My son leaned his head in the bedroom late last night to say he had enjoyed the “Loopified” album by Dirty Loops!


That was one of the albums I had recommended he listen to as he pursues his recent quest for continued musical enlightenment. He’s deliberately exploring different sounds and expanding his musical breadth, partly to complement the musical writing he’s doing and partly to connect the dots from a musicological point of view.

A couple of days ago, he was listening to Coltrane!


I would have hesitated to recommend Coltrane for my son, but one of his friends had suggested it, and Tristan was open-minded enough to take the legendary jazz saxophonist for a spin!


He told me he listened to The Isley Brothers because Kendrick Lamar samples them in his music.


About two weeks ago, out of the blue, Tristan asked my wife and I for the names of some of our favorite albums.

I surprised myself when the first album name I blurted out was “Led Zep 4”! I’m sure the choice of that 1971 rock classic says something deliciously insightful about my musical and social influences, not to mention my demographic identity, but I have no idea what those might be.

My wife, on the other hand, offered Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” and Journey’s “Escape”. Tristan had already listened to “52nd Street”, which would have been one of my top choices for Billy Joel.

It’s quite a question to ask of one’s parents; at the same time challenging and flattering. For me, it ranks right up there on the fun quotient with those hypothetical “desert island” questions, only this time, there was a real reason for us to scramble for favorite album names.


First album I recommended when my son asked
I have too many albums to suggest; jazz, rock, funk, folk, pop, blues, classical; it's terribly confounding!

Susan and I both agreed on Van Morrison’s 1969 “Moondance”. The title track is such a classic song, a version of which I performed during a show in Dorchester Square a few years ago and which you can listen to on my SoundCloud account.

Susan also suggested “Breakfast in America”, while my first choice for Supertramp was “Crisis, What Crisis”.

I offered the first album by Boston, “Minute by Minute” by the Doobie Brothers and “Brother To Brother”, the great album by Gino Vanelli, who I pointed out to my son, was from Montreal!

I thought “Dark Side of the Moon” might be too dreamy for him. I only liked a few tracks off “Back in Black” and Tristan was already aware of some other gargantuan albums like “Hydrid Theory”, “Thriller” and “Jagged Little Pill”.

If you're interested, on International Music Day 2010, I listed some of my favourite songs in a blog published October 1st of that year. By now, I've got many more songs to add!

Susan told Tristan he might want to listen to “Hotel California” by The Eagles. I have no Eagles on my ipod! I heard too much of them and The Beatles growing up, admittedly, reason enough for my son to lend them attentive ears.

I thought about mentioning “The Joshua Tree”, but decided against it, since I have a U2-credibility issue, having climbed onto their bandwagon for the 1987 album only to climb right off again.

Whaaaaaat? My legs just about buckled when my wife recommended Bad Company’s self-titled 1974 album! I had no clue she had ever heard of the band, who I had always liked. Who knew?

As my son learns something new, so am I!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Montreal Abuzz With Goodness

Montreal is abuzz with goodness.

There are so many good people doing good things in our city! They’re making a difference, and it’s a shame to think that in spite of their tireless dedication and energy, the people they’re reaching out to, free of charge, might be missed. 

Our winter season is about to get underway
That’s why it’s exciting to host a show that helps connect these difference-makers with the people who need what they have to offer. I also hope the show is helping connect worthy non-profit groups with individuals who can provide much-needed resources, either by volunteering, or offering funds.

I’ve been surprised to learn of the existence of many of these amazing groups and, hosting Montreal Billboard on MAtv, I’ve been astounded by the wide range of noble objectives toward which so many of these unsung groups are striving.

The very first guest of our very first show, Daniel Rotman of the NDG Food Depot, was just the beginning!

Daniel Rotman of NDG Food Depot
Daniel’s group, like many others I interviewed, strives to make sure Montrealers have enough to eat. Marche Citoyen is about filling a community’s need for healthier food choices and, not only does The Yellow Door foster intergenerational relationships, it helps feed hungry university students! The Generations Foundation dedicates itself to making sure children in economically-challenged neighborhoods have enough to eat.

Did you know anyone can walk into an Art Hive and create art, with all the materials supplied? How wonderful is that? Other groups enthusiastically promote the arts and make them available to youth, such as Overture With the Arts and Rock Camp for Girls. If you feel like it, you can go for an outing with Urban Sketchers, just to chat and sketch! Then again, if you like working with wood, you might want to look into a group like West Island Woodturners, which creates beautiful works of art! Breathtaking works of aboriginal art are energetically promoted by Sacred Fire.

I Can Dream Theatre helps children with special needs blossom through the performing arts, while Spectrum Productions offers autistic kids the chance to express themselves through video.

There are groups that promote the needs and interests of Montrealers grappling with mental health issues. They raise awareness and promote the integration of mentally challenged individuals into the workforce and other facets of society.

Montreal has non-profit groups that shine a guiding light for people living with AIDS, and the foundation established by two-time cancer survivor and MS patient Tristan Williams, lends a hand to anglophones dealing with Multiple Sclerosis.

The NDG Seniors Council looks after the interests of elderly Montrealers and their community, while Kids Help Phone offers a trained ear, ready to listen to the problems facing youth and their parents.

Groups like the LGBTQ Youth Centre and GRIS Montreal help people cope with vitally important identity-related issues.

Most of the groups I interviewed have the power to literally turn lives around, including Big Brothers & Big Sisters of the West Island, the Desta Black Youth Network and RECLAIM, which helps people learn to read and write. I interviewed other important groups whose steadfast efforts have been turning lives around in Montreal for years; groups like Dans La Rue, the Old Brewery Mission, Shield of Athena, Portage and MIRA.

During our fall season, I hosted 24 shows, highlighting three non-profit community groups per show. Many of the 72 groups we profiled are wonderfully original!

There is a group, the Quebec Movement for Family Vacations, which helps economically-challenged families take family vacations! Floranthropy repurposes unwanted flowers. Le Nichoir rehabilitates wild birds. 

With David Rodrigue of the Ecomuseum
The Ecomuseum Zoo educates people about conservation and environmental issues through many fun, family activities. Neurotech X promotes neurotechnology and human enhancement by going into schools! Kids Code Jeunesse teaches children how to code! Can a skateboard make a difference? Skateboards for Hope will tell you, you bet it can!

I interviewed groups like the SPCA, which promotes the interests of animals. Rosie Animal Adoption finds homes for unwanted dogs, while A Horse Tale does the same for unwanted horses.

Groups like Heritage Montreal, Les Amis de la Montagne and Friends of the Botanical Garden all work hard to look after our city.

The Robin des Bois restaurant and the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company pride themselves on helping to raise money for Montreal-area community groups.

That’s just a quick taste of our first season! To make sure you don’t miss out on a community group you’d like to connect with, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’m always letting followers know who’s on our shows and what times the show airs on MAtv. You can also watch the shows yourself on the website.

Our winter season is about to get underway and it’s guaranteed to highlight many more empowering, uplifting, enlightening, enriching non-profit groups dedicating themselves, in spite of sometimes dire funding and resource challenges, to making our great city an even better place to live!

Watch Montreal Billboard and renew your faith in humanity!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Teeny Stamp Nonsense

I did several errands yesterday only to arrive home to one more.

My wife wanted a few items from the grocery store for supper. Not a problem. She was offering to make one of my favourite meals!

I trudged off to the store with relative enthusiasm.

At the end of the transaction, the cashier handed me a teeny stamp. Just one. Months ago, when times were much simpler, I would ever so snootily refuse when they asked whether I collected the teeny stamps. Each time, I itched to reply aloud and haughtily, “No, not I - I have no time for your petty proletariat propaganda.”

Unfortunately, after weeks of me turning it down, it turns out my wife did have time for the teeny stamps. She urged me to start accepting the teeny stamp nonsense. Apparently, you can never have too many good pots and pans.

It was much easier when, after you spent a pre-determined amount, the cashier would offer you a choice between the complimentary gift, or a gasoline discount. I tried the gasoline discount for a while but decided it was perfectly pointless. I’d put gas in the car, hand them the discount slip and the clerk would hand me back a nickel. Golly, gee.

On the other hand, accepting the complimentary gifts meant unfamiliar breads, noodles, juices and cleaning products in our house. Naturally, when the gift was a chocolate bar or package of cookies, my wife would urge me to spend much and often, in order to get the gift more than once!

Now, I quietly try to cope with the stress of this teeny stamp nonsense. Sometimes, late at night, I scan the internet in hopes of locating a Teeny Stamp Anonymous group close to my neighborhood. So far, no such luck.

Days like yesterday are especially challenging because the single teeny stamp can disappear like a mischievous sock, carelessly transferred from the washer to the dryer. It’s there one second and gone the next! Every time I move my hand in or out of the pocket containing the single stamp, I switch to slow motion, staring intently, to make sure I’m not about to lose the teeny stamp.

A row of teeny stamps is not so bad, just slightly more difficult to lose. Provided you keep it on the down low, I will confess here to losing more than one row of stamps over the last several weeks, along with several single stamps. I haven’t told my wife.

They just float off to wherever; parking lots, snowbanks, lint traps...

Now, I’m resigned. When the cashiers ask whether I collect the teeny stamps, defeated and downcast, I nod yes. Crushed, I wallow in it.

Anyway, after weeks of collecting the teeny stamps, we finally redeemed some teeny stamp sheets for a pan. We were still required to pay $10 cash! What’s the point of all this collecting! We have ten million teeny stamps and we still pay cash? You can’t put a dollar value on the agony I endure but let me tell you, that pan ought to be free!

I’m told the pots and pans are only in the store until January 28th. Actually, I’ve heard different dates from different cashiers. No one seems certain. I ask whether the teeny stamps will continue, some think they will, others insist the teeny stamps will disappear. What if we have nearly completed teeny stamp sheets? Are we collecting the teeny stamps in vain? Am I continuing to endure this annoying stress for no reason? Will it be teeny stamps in exchange for cutlery or counter sponges?

I seek peace.

I need to know. No one at the grocery store has definitive answers. I’m hoping I’m off the hook, no longer required to accept and transport the teeny stamps, free and clear of all the teeny stamp nonsense. Not only is the alternative too difficult to contemplate, it could quiet seriously end with me stamping my feet.