Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nixon Graffiti in Reverse

15th November, 2011 (Montreal) Graffiti fans ought to get a kick out of this. Those who hate graffiti should have a laugh too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jonathan Himsworth: My Favourite Football Grounds of the Stadium Art Movement

Now the good news brings you-- My Favourite Football Grounds

Here are some of the football grounds that have inspired me as
an artist within the Stadium Art Movement. None of my Art could pass without mentioning the debt I owe to the people who built these stadiums. Some of these still survive today. I could go on forever, instead I created a team. I have placed them in my own order.

11)Whitehart Lane

Tottenham in the days of standing-room terraces epitomized all the ingredients of a proper big league football ground. The distinguishing feature of football folklore was of course The Shelf—a stretch of terracing that sat perched upon a sort of um, shelf along the sidelines underneath the huge East Stand—the tallest stand in the land. When the East stand was packed and the Shelf in full voice, it could be as loud as in any nation.

The rest of the ground was already enclosed on all four sides and had seating receding into the shadows. These wooden chairs, behind paddocks of terracing, were all set beneath pitched roofs crowned with iconic gables that were the hallmark of their designer—the patron saint of Stadium Art—Archibald Leitch.

His common signature on many of the great stands of the day was a central roof gable and iron crisscrossing designed into the balcony wall of his upper tier seating (see Ibrox, Goodison, Sunderland-Roker Park, Plymouth Argyle, Fulham). What I liked most about it was the parterre—the little paddock surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the frontlines anytime a goal was scored. In 1981 the new West Stand was opened, and after the Taylor Report they boxed in the Shelf to make it all-seater, and a verse of football poetry came to an end.

Very little remains today to conjure an image of the glory days, and with all the redevelopment, it is no matter—Tottenham have unveiled plans for a completely new stadium to be built right next to the site. Not worth a visit to this part of London unless you've got six or seven mates to protect you as your girlfriend does cocktails in the West End while being chatted up by art dealers and the European idle rich.

10) The Baseball Ground

I always liked the Baseball Ground since it had the big city football club feel of double-deck stands, no empty exposed corners and paddocks surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines the odd time it looked like a goal was about to be scored. A stadium where they actually did in fact once play Baseball, underlining the fact that no matter how American baseball is to Americans, it was still invented in England, and to have such an iconic name for what evolved into a football ground, who could not have a laugh? The Brooklyn Dodgers had their Polo Grounds after all.

It had four distinct stands, each with different levels and compartments—miniature versions of Tottenham's Shelf. It was also in a bleak outstretch of industrial wasteland quite far from Derby city centre, and the trip back to the Railway station was always a bit touch-and-go.

I remember visiting my mother who had moved close to the city, perfect chance to catch my boys playing away at the Baseball Ground. At the end of the match the cops marched me back to the city centre with all the other Londoners despite my pleas that I was visiting my mother who only lived around the corner. My accent got me in trouble. When I showed them a telephone number in Long Eaton, they finally let me go back the other way.

Perhaps if you are one day wondering around the East Midlands of England looking for a pint of beer, for just a chance to get away from your girlfriend while she looks for socks and handkerchiefs in Nottingham, then coming down to where the Baseball Ground used to be and perhaps seeing where the Baseball Ground used to be might be a diversion worth considering since there's no way you can make it back to London in time for dinner. You still might get arrested, however.

9) Highbury

Ok ok, I hate Arsenal and so would you if you were not an Arsenal fan, so that out of the way, the very least we can admit, now that it is gone, is that Highbury was one of the coolest grounds in all of England. Utter class with its twin grandstands facing each other. Utter class with it its art deco moulding and cornices and flourishes. Utter coolness that the entire ground was enclosed—no exposed corners, 60,000 people tightly packed into the urban landscape. It even won architectural awards from the Royal Society of Architects.

The North Bank was a legendary terrace that even I have to admit, could send your hairs on end as the Gunners advanced towards it on an attack. I watched mostly from the opposite side—the Clock end (right side of picture), where the visitors were crammed in like animals, in front of the famous clock, which was made from no more than just a simple plank of wood as far as I could tell.

My worst memory was of sitting amongst the home fans on the one day in thirty years my team actually beat them there, only to watch my brothers in the Clock End go mental, while my friends restrained me from cheering, holding my fists to the armrests like a death-rower, preventing me from getting beaten up like a tourist from Boston on Montreal's Ste-Catherine Street.

What I liked most about Highbury was the parterre—the little paddock on each side of the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only-fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines anytime a wonderfully-crafted offside trap was executed by the white-sleeved Reds. It is no joke to say that not much remains of Highbury since the Arsenal moved to the sterile confines of the Emirates, but you have to applaud the fact that they have turned the wonderful old grandstands into apartments, and have therefore saved two of the most attractive examples of 1930's art deco architecture in England. For all of London's charms, the Old Highbury is certainly worth the visit if you are an Arsenal fan, otherwise forget visiting the Emirates and go shopping with your Girlfriend for socks and hankerchiefs in Oxford Circus.

8) Hillsborough

Hillsborough cannot be mentioned without thinking of the disaster of the same name. To all intents and purposes, it was our 911. It changed the entire face of football stadiums across Europe. Gone were the little paddocks surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines anytime the pies arrived.

But before the disaster, Hillsborough was one of the most important grounds in England. The home terrace held the biggest in Europe—23,000 behind the goal. The North Stand beside it is an engineering masterpiece which introduced the first truly cantilever stand to England in time for the World Cup in 66. Opposite it was another prized example of Archibald Leitch`s handiwork with the usual paddock and pitched gable done in his hallmark fashion.

The away end (pictured) which is where the disaster occurred, had until that

time been my favourite part—a steeply-sloped stand affording an amazing view of the pitch and the rest of the city, propped above a lower deck for standing.

Meanwhile the South Stand has been redeveloped and the new design has paid homage to Archibald Leitch's gable yet not much has changed since that fateful day in April 1989 except that a lot of the terracing has had seats simply tacked on to the cement.

If you happen to be in Sheffield and your girlfriend is hanging outside a steel mill being chatted up by unemployed metal workers on parole, not jumping on the 49 bus to Owlerton in the outskirts of the city to see one of the North of England's most historic landmarks would be an act of absolute negligence. Since the beer is so cheap.

7) Goodison Park

Goodison Park reminds everybody that there isn't just one team in Liverpool. In fact, till the mid-sixties, Evertonians could claim to be the more accomplished of the two outfits. And to give weight to that assertion they had the ground to prove it. Double-decked on all four sides until the late 60s once the famous East Stand was erected, this 'New' stand remains the first three-tier football stand built in the United Kingdom.

What I like most about the ground is the parterre—the little paddock surrounding the pitch.

Not much has changed at Goodison since the Taylor report except the rather crass nailing of seats onto what once were standing-room terraces, so it is easy to imagine the old days where the bells of St. Luke's church still watch over the pitch from the north west corner, while the magnificent artwork of Archibald Leitch contains the swells of Evertonians dancing in rare victory.

Definitely worth passing up the Beatles Museum (where you would only be watching your girlfriend getting cruised by begging scousers) while you and your mates have a beer across the road from the famous main stand.

6) Vila Belmiro, Santos

Yeah, yeah, we know, Brazil is cool and all that. Basically they are the World's darlings, and of course there is Rio, Carnival, Copa Cabana, Fiesta, the skyscrapers of Sao Paulo and those beautiful female fans of indeterminate origin who take up a lot of our imagery whenever we think of the country, or even the nut, which actually came first. This country, named after a nut, can be summed up by one person: Pele. Ok, so a few of us can name some other Brazilians, and think of other cool things to say about the place, but talk to any granny in Stockholm or Nairobi concerning Brazil, and she'll soon enough mention the word Pele.

Just down the road from Sao Paulo, on the ocean, is a port town of a half million or so people called Santos. This is where Pele remained his entire career, away from the limelight here in this little matchbox of a stadium and great distance from the big metropolises. He embodied the spirit of loyalty, fairness and humility, and this stadium has not changed since the days he scored 1000 goals. To the tune of some anthem, it is a glorious gift to the world of football fan-dom that this ground could nurture the likes of Pele, a history of which they can never shake off no matter how small a club in stature they might remain.

The double-deck art-deco structure, with little niches and angles that are strange but beautiful, has class and vintage. Of course there are several parterres.

This is holy ground as far as I am concerned. So, while your girlfriend is hanging out in Copa Cobana getting chatted up by dance instructors on a drum break, and you don't take a quick flight down to Santos to visit this sanctuary of what little remains from the truly golden age of civilization as we know it, then you might not even have bothered going all the way to Brazil.

5) Azteca

Mexico isn't that big a country once you jump on a plane so next time you are in Cancun or some other cheap getaway, make route for the capital city, which is one of the great capitals of the World. Ignore the people bribing you to take a visit to the far-off volcano where you can see snow, instead make your way to Azteca Stadium, home of the Game of the Century—a 1970 World Cup Semi-Final played between Italy and Germany that saw something like six goals in extra time. Whatever the failings of the Mexican team on the World stage, any foreign observer would have to be well impressed with how strong the support for football is in this country, considering how close it is to the football desert to the north.

Considering there are very few North American stadiums that date back as far as 1970, it is astounding it hasn't perished like the others. Yet it still remains today such a modern-looking ground. Almost all the current stadiums we see opening around the world owe the Azteca a tip of the hat in homage to their design.

What I liked most about it was the parterre—the little paddock surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines for little more than the winning of a throw-in. Since the all-seater rule doesn't really mean much in Mexico it seems, nothing has really changed here except a slight reduction in capacity where they've tacked seats onto old terracing. Otherwise, in the bench-like sections the mass of headcases in the upper tiers hardly stop from jumping up and down the entire match.

A friend of mine was recently posted to Mexico City for work and of course I asked him to do some freelance football reporting on my behalf. “Don't ask me to go to any matches again. It`s too dangerous.” This coming from a guy who is no small dood and has spent time in a Russian prison, so when you do go to Mexico City, while your girlfriend hangs out drinking mojitos in the Pink Zone while getting chatted up by a bunch of Mariachis on a lunch break, missing out on Azteca stadium, a true international trophy, a monument to the original founders of the city, and the sight of the Hand of God, I mean site of the Hand of God, then you'll have committed a major crime of negligence.

4) Real Madrid, Santiago Bernabeu

Ok so everybody hates Real Madrid. I hate them, you hate them, even the King of Spain has a bone to pick with them right now, but nothing off the pitch matters to me except the bricks and mortar rising up in cascading tiers and set-backs to enclose the ground in a womb of Castilian passion. Right outside is a boulevard that might as well be the Champs-Elysees—with palatial apartment blocks of the Beaux Arts style. No need to argue with the Royalty tag.

What I like most about it is the parterre—the little paddock surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines anytime a pass was completed. Since the all-seater rule, nothing much has changed here except a slight reduction in capacity where they tacked seats onto old terracing.

Oh who cares what side you were on during the civil war, of course everybody knows Barcelona had the moral high ground. So Camp Nou became a cathedral of Catalan spirit where they could sing together in their banned language and fly the colours of their banned national flag (kinda like the Nordiques did) in defiance of Franco. However, visiting Madrid and not stopping past Estadio Santiago Berni even while your girlfriend checks out the Picassos and Carmen at the Opera, getting cruised by Senors on a coffee break, remains a major crime of negligence.

3) Nou Camp

FC Barcelona hasn't always had a big stadium. Until the Nou Camp came along, they played to less than 40000 spectators round the corner. But the Nou Camp did come along, and what`s more, they are about to change its exterior with a bunch of hi-tech LED lighting made by some flash starchitect so check it out before it`s ruined. They will also extend the top tier to increase the capacity to near on 100000 making it the largest ground in Europe.

What I liked most about it is the parterre—the little paddock surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines anytime they caught as much as the sight of a fifth-choice substitute warming up. Since the all-seater rule, nothing much has changed here except a slight reduction in capacity where they tacked seats onto old terracing.

Promoting a visit to the Nou Camp to a bunch of football fans is rather obvious but it goes without saying that a visit to Barcelona without stopping by the Nou even if your girlfriend gets chatted up along the Ramblas by sensitive macho guys talking about Gaudi, Picasso and Bolero over wine and tapas goes down as a major crime of negligence.

2) The San Siro

The Guisseppe something-or-other Stadium (San Siro to football fans) in Milan is older than it looks. In advance of Italia 90, two extra tiers were assembled on top of the original four-sided enclosure that makes the first floor base of the stadium. Then some flash starchitect added the rest. One of the truly great world stadiums for the passion of the fans (think vespas thrown from the top deck) and the ingenuity of its design, the San Siro cannot be matched for it`s simplicity.

What I like most about it is the parterre—the little paddock surrounding the pitch that in the old days would allow standing-room-only fans to create the spilled-can-of-baked-beans effect as they surged towards the front-lines anytime a goal was scored, or a stray vespa (or lambretta) thundered down from above. Since the all-seater rule, nothing much has changed here except a slight reduction in capacity where they tacked seats onto old terracing.

For all the epic culture, innovative couture, fine cuisine and sleek prestigious design standards Milan is known for, visiting this city without checking out the San Siro Stadium even if your girlfriend is getting chatted up by barristas discussing Verdi and Sauxi Doux goes down as a major crime of negligence.

1) The Bombonera

This is a natural inclusion—one of the few examples of a stadium with three vertical tiers of standing-room-only terracing (see picture of home 'ends') that have crush barriers to protect the crowd from tumbling down like a row of open cans of baked beans—this stadium is the one they show you whenever they want to illustrate South American football fans in their graphic displays of banners, confetti, ticker tape madness, latin yo la tengo, smoke bombs, flares and cocaine-crazed barros bravas throwing missiles. It is an architectural gem surrounded by a cozy neighborhood of colourful houses—many painted in support of the resident football club—Boca.

Which everybody knows means 'mouth' since the district is on the mouth of the river something-or-other, or as everybody knows the houses are yellow and blue because the team founders decided on their colours by choosing whatever national flag the next ship that came to dock happened to be flying—Sweden.

A visit to Buenos Aires is a complete waste of time if it doesn't include a mention of one of the THIRTY TWO professional football venues. Almost all of which feature mad terraces full of standing-room-only nutters producing that spilled-can-of-beans-effect anytime a goal is scored or a fan's been kidnapped. Might as well make it the Bombonera. River fans might object but the fact remains, not even my girlfriend could resist a place whose nickname is literally 'The Chocolate Box.'

All of this is of course viewable on a very readable blog at the Burgundy Lion Website

thanks to all who advised with the photos

Saturday, October 6, 2007

GEOGRAPHY SPOTLIGHT SERIES! let's hear it for North-facing Waterfront Cities!

Ever notice yourself walking along the sea-wall of your favourite port, and thinking to your other self, “Hey! I’m always either facing West (as in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Tel Aviv etc), East (as in Boston, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Miami, Detroit, Rio, etc) or South (Brighton, Liverpool, Marseille, Melbourne, Montevideo, Montreal, Toronto, Odessa etc?)” So why not take a holiday at a port city that faces North for a while. Here is a list of suggestions, and by no means do we imply that it is comprehensive. Part of the fun is trying to compile your own batch of favourite north-facing Waterfront cities. Everybody from Bono to Jane Goodall has his or her list. It’s all the RAGE!

1. Cleveland, Ohio. Metro Population: 2,931,774 Tallest Building: Key Tower (57 stories 947ft) Main Tourist Attraction: Rock-n-Roll Hall Fame; Key Tower, but if you are afraid of heights check out the several new sporting stadiums Cool Neighbourhood: The Flats Famous Children: Pere Ubu, Drew Carey

Cleveland has been the butt of many jokes down the years, with particular pride of place being the dismal performance of their sports teams. However, don’t let this stop you from enjoying some of the urban fabric. Cleveland is cool for simply not being mapped out like a grid—come and buy yourself a cappuccino in The Flats on Such-and-such Street (yes! There really is a street called that) and stroll through vast swathes of yesteryear in the form of 19th century industrial architecture in the brick shadows of a bye-gone sooty era.

Un-encumbered view of Canada across Lake Erie, often nice, snowy and freezing (as this 1937 aerial view shows)
Cons: Not enough aging rockers have died yet to make the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame worth it for the long haul

2. Alex, Egypt. Metro Population: 3,328,196 Tallest Building: Abu Al Abbas Mosque (293ft) Main Tourst Attraction: Cleopatra’s Needles (unfortunately one is in New York and the other is in London) so check out Abu al Abbas Mosque but if you are afraid of heights visit Alexandria football stadium or the place where the Lighthouse- one of the Ancient Wonders of the World used to stand
Cool Neighbourhood: The Royal (or Greek) Quarter, The Jewish district, The Coptic Area
Famous Children: Gamal Abdel Nasser (president) Omar Sharif (actor) Mohamed Al-fayad (owns Harrods, son Dodi died with princess Di)

Alex has been hip since before they even heard the word. In fact, it is probably where the word hip-replacement came from, since those early Egyptians were pretty mean medical researchers. Down the centuries, so many “scenes” have flourished in this city (bye-the way, nobody in Egypt calls it Alexandria, dude) that we don’t have time here to outline them all. Obviously there was the whole “Greek” scene led by Alexander the Great, who certain Brooklyn magazine editors would have you believe was the one and original hipster. For a while there was even a “Roman” scene that held up until what we guess you would call today more of an “Arab” scene. On top of all this there has been a “Coptic” wave as well as the Old (Orthodox) School. Either way, there is still plenty of historical remnants from the previous “scenes’ near Such-and-such Street (yes! there really is a street called that) to keep any Park Slope hipster digging the groove fashionably ahead of the archeologists.
My interest in this North-facing Waterfront city began after I met an Egyptian from Alex whose name was something like El Akbar Guadalopolopolous and I was immediately intrigued by his name before I had started thinking about the contents of this character. He explained his roots were from the ancient Greeks who had moved there a couple of millennia ago. Of course he couldn’t speak Greek anymore, and even if he could, any language buff could tell you that the modern lingo on the streets of Athens has kinda moved on since those days back when Alexander and his flaneurs were setting the tone on Maamoura beach.
Pros: Plenty of cafes and beaches
Cons: Habit of getting invaded by other civilizations. Very hot and sunny.

3. Havana, Cuba. Metro Population: 1,201,344 Tallest Buiding: Edificio FOCSA (27 stories, 402 ft, 1956) Main Tourist Attraction: Edificio FOCSA but if you're afraid of heights after hearing how somebody once died in the failed elevator [this is not a joke, although we try to keep things cheery here] try the illegal cock fights in Via Del Norte; also: hunting down the American Embassy can be kind of fun at times if you can't find the football stadium Cool Neighbourhood: Old Habana has very little air conditioning, try one of the new Wal-marts on the outskirts Famous Children: Diego Maradona is apparently responsible for a few of them, the Bacardi Brothers, the father of schlock-writer Anais Nin (a give-away upper class Cuban Establishment family name)

Havana life has changed a lot since the mid-fifties where you could just cruise over from Nassau-boy, Kingston-mon, or Corpus Christi-dude on your Boston Whaler and start ordering Bacardi and Cokes by the crate. See, Fidel Castro and his chums sent the Barcardi boys to Bermuda, and most of the intelligentsia and unintelligentsia to Miami after performing what was little more than a foxy Coup d’Etat, which is a very controversial word here for such an upbeat news source. [foxy?-ed] Fast forward fifty years and instead of Honolulu-fication we can see many of the same buildings along Such-and-such Street (yes! there really is a street called that) only they are just a bit older. Old Havana has tract after tract burgeoning with colonial structures in the Beaux Art and City Beautiful style –flaking at the cornices and balconies rusting through the stone. If you happen to enjoy smoking healthy tobacco and imagining you’re that Hemingway dood reflecting on life-exotic, this could be your scene. We sent our reporter Melissa Cartwright to investigate the sitch last April. Her longstanding memory was of waiting at the airport departure queue behind an arrogant young International Development student who had been volunteering for an NGO for like, no more than say--five days, wearing his Che Guevara shirt, Che Guevara cap, his Che Guevara badge sewn into his knapsack while smoking the most putrid-smelling of cigars as he bragged into his mobile phone to someone back home how he’d just met "Fidel’s..." barber.
Pros: Cheap cigars! Hurricanes more frequent and amplified; rum is almost free, they say
Cons: Very hot and sunny; “No, I will not tell you where they filmed the Buena Vista Social Club!

4. Hamburg, Germany.Metro Population: 1,715,392 Tallest Building: Ferrnsehturm Tower (918ft, 1968) Main Tourist Attraction: Ferrnsehturm Tower, or if you are afraid of heights try the two football stadiums Cool Neighbourhood: St-Pauli
Cool Football Team:
FC St-Pauli Cool Girl: St-Pauli Cool Beer: St-Pauli Girl Famous Children: Mendelssohn and Brahms both born here; Stanley Kubrick lived here a while

Hamburg, which might as well just be called St-Pauli to all intents and purposes, has got to be the most famous place in the world after the Beatles. I mean, who hasn’t ever heard of a hamburger? When I first moved to Britain as a child, I noticed people there would refer to these bun-bordered burnt thingies as beefburgers, giving rise to the wonder if there was ever such a place as Beefburg. Fact is, hamburgers were invented in Connecticut, USA while Hamburg is responsible for wiping out the entire German insurance industry in the great fire of 1842 and therefore giving rise to what we now call re-insurance underwriters (or risk-spreads, hedge funds, commercial paper or futures options, or okay, gambling syndicates) and a new design to put Venice and Amsterdam to shame.
Local Scourge
Right now Hamburg is seeing a resurgence of fake-hipsters, descending like culture-vultures in an effort to encompass themselves with all that this place encapsulates. They are obvious to spot, because they are dressed exactly like you. A good way to throw them off the scent and make them come up to you and meekly ask “Eh-eh-ex-cuse me? Do you—oo speak English?” (in order to send them in the opposite direction of the notorious St-Pauli district) is to wear a very old second-hand Hamburg SV football club shirt. Be careful if you're walking around St-Pauli with this shirt however, since St-Pauli has it’s own team and this would be considered taking a serious liberty on their home turf. However, you can’t wear a damb FC St-Pauli shirt otherwise every bloody fake-hipster in the world will be hanging off you trying to find their way to the Reeperbhan. Best to travel light, right?
Pros: Excellent choices in beer; lots of canals; it’s often nice, windy and rainy.
Cons: Fake-hipster junction. Not really north-facing; has no street they tend to call Such-and-such

5. Beirut, Lebanon. Metro Population: 1,500,000 and hiding
Tallest Building: Marina Tower (27 stories 496ft, 2006) Main Tourist Attraction: Marina Tower, or try the new football stadium if you are afraid of heights Cool Neighbourhood: the hotel district is probably your safest bet, and it is a bet Famous Children: Rawi Hage (the writer and artist now living in Montreal) Keanu Reeves (movies rights owner) Two members from surprisingly popular LA-based rock band System of a Down

Ok, so Beirut took a bit of a hit during summer 2006, and there has always been a bit of rivalry between the different sectarian interests living in the city, so you might just want to time your visit during a break in hostilities. No matter the issue of the day or which trendy band is using its name as an album title [see foto], no matter the side of the fence you are on, all Beirooties (as they are affectionately now known) love their city. Even in the heights of the civil war cab drivers would risk their lives to go score cigarettes for the distressed, yet still the whole while marveling at the natural Corniche, as the waterfront stretch is known (although some people call it Such-and-such street if the location is irrelevant to the story and they are in a hurry.) Certain detractors might be claiming Beirut has no right to be on this list, since it faces West. We agree, it is a bit tendentious of us to include it, but please, hold your indignant letters to our editor--it must be pointed out that the most famous stretch of the waterfront faces North. Don’t let the wilds of years past hold you back from missing out on one of the world’s most historical cities. Make no mistake, you might not come back, it's that wonderful. Or dangerous. Only a few minutes drive to the East you can find yourself high in the snowy alpine after spending the morning on a yacht. Why you would want to bother risking your life doing both on the same day is a mystery as deep as some of the archeology digs that abound the country- resplendent with legends, myths and heritage to remember.
Pros: Some locals still speak French, so you can order Dijon mustard on your fries; sometimes nice, cold, windy and rainy
Cons: Those pesky surface-to-air missiles that seem to be part of the urban fabric by being air-to-surface as well; Keanu Reeves worshipers; Often hot and sunny

DID NOT MAKE THE LIST: Gdansk, Cartagena, Auckland, Hong Kong, Rochester NY, San Juan PR, Calais, Amsterdam, Tripoli, Algiers,
NOT ON ANY LIST BECAUSE THEY FACE TOO MANY DIRECTIONS OR HAVE NO DECENT FOOTBALL STADIA: Vancouver (Downtown faces north, but West End faces West), San Francisco (as per Vancouver), New Orleans (too many bends in the river), Sydney (the downtown faces northwards on an estuary, but the hearts of the people most certainly face east to the Pacific)

Thanks to all our contributors who let their photos out, and all the intrepid reporters who filed their stories under deadline and the new crackdown by management

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


MONTREAL is one of the most painted cities in North America. As one of the World Capitals of Graffiti, more and more attention is being paid to the people behind the masks, the gas-masks we mean. The "writers" or "artists" are moving in to the mainstream, now that people like Banksy in the UK have become pop stars in their own right. Montreal, with its rows and rows of terraced houses, has proved to be an open playground for those beginning. Here we see a portion of Avenue Duluth, the spiritual heart of the Plateau Graffiti Movement. This is of course from where the, semi-famous, gang called the Crew Duluth sprang. More and more we are seeing throw-ups and tags (irrelevant squiggles that resemble a badly done signature) being painted on the sidewalks-- something the Crew Duluth has been advocating for many seasons.
All this talk of Graffiti in the mass media has lead to some pretty scruffy history written on the art form. I have read in one respectable journal that Graffiti was invented in New York in the 1960's. True-- the Sixties did have some major youth sub-cultures make huge marks and impressions on the established views of the day-- but to say it was invented in New York of all places, and only as recently as the Beatles would mean you were talking about the modernist movement in graffiti, such as the FDR-Style and Posi-negative Effects. New York (or Paris or London) can claim to be the birthplace of just about anything, while at the same time always be five years behind! Natural hubs are the first places new movements and human patterns arise or resisted-- (q.v. cultural diffusion in a decent encyclopedia) so no wonder the press is mistaking the tribal markings in the Bronx and Brooklyn as first blood of the Graf Nation.
But take this response from my favourite Mexican in New York's Village Voice (where most of my leads for stories originate) Somebody asked him why Mexicans are always writing graffiti. (Ok, so now it's Mexicans in New York who invented graffiti!) Here is his repsonse:

Graffiti is as old as the wheel but reached its classical apex during the age of Caesar. Archeologists have documented Latin graffiti everywhere from Pompeii to the Catacombs to latrines, the Coliseum, and Nero's estate. The lack of aerosol or freeway overpasses didn't stop the Romans from etching a fascinating array of drawings and rants: Great examples include caricatures of politicians, eloquent love letters, and the mysterious Miximus in lecto. Fateor, peccavimus, hospes. Si dices: Quare? Nulla fuit matella. (Google away!) For a historical analysis, consult Raffaele Garrucci's mid-19th-century classics, Il Crocifisso Graffito Nella Casa dei Cesari and Graffiti di Pompei. But if you just want to laugh, check out the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum for thousands of random rambles (typical entry: "Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men's behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!"). As for Mexicans using graffiti more than other ethnic groups—go ask Kilroy.

The rooftops of Montreal: ripe for Graf


Everybody loves it when the TEEVEE commentators have their mouths full of mash potato and we are left to make fun of them. These people are being paid for mincing their words.

"Any team can beat any other in this league and just to prove it there were seven draws yesterday." --The genius that is Don Goodman commentating during the West Brom v QPR game.

"A man down, they have everything to play for."
BBC pundit Mark Bright is not writing off the American ladies, especially when they've got some blokes playing for them.

"He's clearly not the player we saw playing for Inter Milan a few years ago."
Alan Shearer on Andriy Shevchenko...that's because he played for AC Milan!


Monday, October 1, 2007

GEOGRAPHY SPOTLIGHT SERIES! let's hear it for the kamchatka peninusula!

Please let me draw your attention to that seldom-talked-about place called the Kamchatka Peninsula. It is roughly half the size of British Columbia, but has the advantage of not having to share a border with Alberta! Imagine how few cowboys are on the loose. It has a history similar to the conquest of the American West by the colonials; the Russians even set up a company called the such-and-such-America company during the colonial period-- it was part of their American territories along with that little patch of land we now call Alaska.


Can you imagine this paradise lost that awaits us? Think Vancouver Island WITHOUT all them Spotty-faced British Immigrants! Paradise! Think British Columbia without all those pesky highways and towns dotted all over it! Paradise! Think the Straight of Georgia except there's no boats- just dolphins and whales and eagles! Paradise! Think Vancouver except there is no over-grown logging camp with a post office and coffee truck full of red-neck construction workers building cheap-facades for lego-like housing! Paradise! Think skiing Whistler-Blackcomb without having to bump into Seal and his Gazelle-Victoria Secret Model! Or walking through a tacky tourist trap they call a ski village! Paradise! Think of the Kootenays without all those be-robed neo-hippies in their ashrams! Paradise! Think of the mighty Fraser River without all those Grow-ops along the banks because weed grows au naturel! Paradise! A land where there are no exclamation marks! Paradise [!]
One problem, though. The area gets a major earthquake-- enough to raze the entire West End of Vancouver in one wobble-- almost, say, twice a week. Take a look at the map, it's like California will be-- after the San Andreas Fault has cut and run and left it to dangle in the Pacific.In fact two of the most catastrophic-able earthquakes recorded by humankind occurred here. But hey! I think we'd get used to it.
See, the Kamchatka River and the surrounding Central Valley are flanked by large volcanic belts, containing around 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active. Thus, the peninsula has perhaps the highest density of volcanoes and associated volcanic phenomena in the world, with 19 active volcanoes being included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Not that anybody is capable of knocking down a volcano, but I guess we might as well preserve it, yeh, just in case?


The highest volcano is Klyuchevskaya Sopka (4,750 m or 15,584 ft), while the most striking is Kronotsky, but if you like volcanoes as much as most hot-blooded Montrealais, then you are just like me. How's this for a nice tip? (Here we see Sopka, only about 100 feet shorter than Mont Blanc! Makes Mount Fuji look like a bump on a log.) Some German-sounding guy was the first one to climb it, and you would think it would be way popular amongst trendy rock-type people, but the last expedition that gave it a try ten years ago had to turn back down fleeing or face being gobbled up by fresh flowing ravines full of molten lava. What's the big deal about a few rivulets of steaming magma? Lava is not that hard to accept! Oh well, the fact is that not all of them in the party made it to safety. Makes you wonder why they called it a "party."


Kamchatka contains probably the world's greatest diversity of salmonid fish, including all six species of anadromous Pacific salmon (chinook, chum, coho, seema, pink, and red salmon). Biologists estimate that a sixth to a quarter of the world's Pacific salmon originate in Kamchatka. [So take that! British Columbia!] Kuril Lake is recognized as the biggest spawning-ground for red salmon in Eurasia. In response to pressure from poaching and to worldwide decreases in salmon stocks, some 24,000 square kilometers (9,300 sq mi) along nine of the more productive salmon rivers are in the process of being set aside as a nature preserve. That's a mighty big campground.

During the Crimean War (you know-Charge of the light Brigade, Flo Nightingale etc) the French and the Brits were on the same team! They came past Kamchatka and fought a bloody battle with the main garrison the cossacks had established. The feisty Russians held off the Galls and Anglos despite being outnumbered by several factors, and the Frenchies and Brits decided to call it a day, and try take the outpost the following year. Deal is, Moscow had abandoned the garrison, much like the Frenchies had abandoned Quebec, and so when the Brits and Frenchies arrived the next time, they found nothing but old rope and rafters. What is striking, is that the attackers turned around and that was it. How come they didn't settle! This place is paradise! That was our opportunity as Brits and Frenchies. There would have been no need to try and keep New Zealand which is a terribly positioned place--way out in the middle of nowhere. Here is a paradise island that is actually attached to the mainland. The Frenchies have a word for it- they call it an almost-island, or Presque-isle.
With Moscow abandoning the peninsula, or at least not exactly turning it into Disneyland, the remaining European-type people blended into the background by mating with the local natives over the course of two centuries. Them folks even speak a special sort of Russian there, with it's own slang and urban street talk (except they have no large cities).
World War II hardly affected Kamchatka except for its service as a launch site for the invasion of the Kurils in late 1945. After the war, Kamchatka was declared a military zone. Kamchatka remained closed to Russians until 1989 and to foreigners until 1990. So for further enquiry into this land of intrigue I invite you to check out your local adventure travel company and ask for something entirely non-local!

(all info shamelessly lifted from the following:)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Everybody loves the cops. All throughout history literature and TV has served to conjure an image of those fuzzy men with their cuddly bullet-proof vests coming to the rescue of innocent bystanders being trapped in a stand-off between escaped convicts and their rap-singing beat-boxing entourages.
Here we see the brave men of THIRTY-EIGHT-DASH-TWO squad car, meaning they tore all the way from Prectinct 38 on Prince Arthur to come to the rescue of the residents under seige at the corner of Duluth and St. Urbain some time recently (actual date can be had by calling the precinct)
This reporter was on hand for the incident. The audio feed is so bad we cannot run it here, but the opening dialog went something like this: COP ON LEFT--Heh, hostie, c'est ca avec le kodak! (transl: hey man, that's enough with the camera, we got lives to save, this ain't no public spectacle)
What has now been cemented in the memories of the Plateau residents in the area as THE SEIGE OF DULUTH almost got off to a rocky truce as the COP ON LEFT got bogged down with our cameraman.
Here we see the hoodlums of the DULUTH CREW getting sent inside, and off the street for their own safety. A call had been sent out that the street had been full of people walking around with beers in their hands-- and that the neighbours felt they could not safely leave their homes in fear of some kind of interaction with these beer-holders. (t-shirt on one of them said 'beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder etc')
Eyewitnesses who refused to change their name for fear of being ignored by the masses reported that only ONE person had been carrying a beer, and that it was in fact a Root Beer. Now, in Quebec, Root Beer is called "Racinette" from the word "racine" meaning root in English. Therefore, we can unequivocally declare that the cops from Precinct 38 are RACINEST.
Spokesmen from Precinct 38 were not called for comment, under the presumption we would be giving over a huge portion of our spotlight to them, of which enough has already been granted (what with the glamour shot of the starsky and hutch in drag, above.) This has also given us more control on how we wanted to present the story, since Cops want to get all specific on time and dates and that sort of bollocks.
More updates to follow! Keep spreading the good news. Send a copy of this blog to your friends!