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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
(Montréal Jazz Festival)
Métro Place-des-Arts
Montréal, Québec Canada
June 26th to July 6th 2014
1-855-299-3378 (in North America)
www.montrealjazzfest.com

The last night of Montréal Jazz Festival, officially known as Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, closed on Sunday after eleven days of free and outdoor concert events, ticketed attractions, and lots and lots (and lots) of roaming spectators across the grounds at Place des Arts in Montréal.

The 35th edition of this annual summer festival did not disappoint. The lineup of free and outdoor, or ticketed (with fees) events included a range of artists that were not only rooted in jazz but meandered into the other usual genres such as pop, hip hop and rock. This year’s participants had heavy hitters such as Cassandra Wilson, Angélique Kidjo, Keith Jarrett, married couple Elvis Costello and Diana Krall (who performed individual events), Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Mulatu Astatke; Canadians Rufus Wainwright, Nikki Yanovsky, Coeur de Pirate, Barenaked Ladies, and Michael Bublé; and contemporaries represented by Snoop Dogg, Of Montreal, St. Vincent, frequent participant Ben Harper, Bonobo, and Deltron 3030 who closed the festival with a free outdoor concert.

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What does your Valentine’s Day sound like?

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays rife with confusion and controversy. Some of us like to call it “Another Hallmark Holiday” (said with a sigh), or Singles Awareness Day (accompanied by rolling eyes), and for others it is the day to take out all your cheese (fromage) reserves and lay it all down for your partner. Others shrug “meh” and I definitely fit into this category year after year, whether or not I have a date once the 14th of February rolls around.

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Here in Montréal many of the panhandlers are perfectly bilingual. Scrawled on ripped cardboard box parts, the signs read:

“J’ai faim. S’il vous plaît aider.
I am hungry. Please help.”

In the dead of the Québec winter they line the interior tunnels leading to the subway systems, or metro as we call it here in francophone Canada. Most are sleeping, some are drinking openly visible bottles of alcohol, others are slumped against a wall and staring vacantly into space. I have even seen some of them shooting heroin, not at all bothered by the sight of perturbed pedestrians in broad daylight.

I never spoke very much to any of these homeless people. I knew their lives were much more complicated than a simple summary could attempt and were often marred by drugs, mental health issues, and broken homes. I sometimes gave them food but never money as I have been afraid that my donation would serve as a vehicle to fulfill any addiction urges. Though many of the members of the homeless community in my cities of residence became familiar faces, I didn’t know them. I didn’t know anyone who was homeless. Until recently.

A week ago I was comfortably perched on a café stool, an overpriced pot of tea at my right, my books at my left, the view of my neighbourhood street ahead. My laptop was at the centre and my piano fingers were quickly tapping out some notes when a new email popped up in my inbox. It was from “Mike”, my ex-boyfriend. We had broken up many years ago.

Mike was sending me a barrage of emails after almost a year-long bout of silence. I had asked him not to contact me many times but, per usual, he circumscribed past the imaginary boundaries that I had erected between him and I. Mike pleaded for me to be his “friend” again. His emails were block letters, ellipses, and irregular grammar. He told me he was homeless.

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Happy Lunar New Year! The new year according to the lunar calendar is also known as “Chinese New Year” for those of us in English-speaking countries. Koreans, just like the Chinese, traditionally followed the lunar calendar before adopting the Gregorian calendar of the west, so we Koreans refer to the same horoscopes as the Chinese. For 2014, we celebrate the Year of the Horse, and apparently it is the year of the “Blue Horse” for this cycle. According to the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the Blue Horse, unlike a regular horse horoscope character, comes around every 60 years. This is just as unique as the two other “special” horoscopes that I am aware of — The Golden Pig, which happens to be my dad, and the White Horse, which happens to be my sister.

The Lunar New Year is a very big event in Korea; it is considered the most important holiday of all, besides Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving in the fall. And holidays in Korea mean family and food, not unlike the celebratory traditions of many other cultures. So what does my family do? We make a feast. But what do Korean people make at home to feed a crowd? I am the kind of person who asks my friends from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds what their families make at home, so I thought others may be interested in what the dinner table looks like for Korean-Canadian families. So here it is.

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“Kalbi” or barbecue short ribs

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Since arriving in Toronto from Montréal, my holiday has so far consisted of a major ice storm, power outages, and sloppy but frigid weather. Thankfully my family was lucky and celebrated Christmas in a lighted and heated home, and today we dropped by Baldwin Village in Chinatown for dinner. Baldwin Village is a family favourite enclave off of Chinatown that houses some of our favourite long-running restaurants in Toronto, and is just a very pleasant street to walk about between the clutter of downtown. Tonight the streets were sleek and slushy, but the Christmas lights illuminated beautifully on the pavement. Is it weird that I miss the weather being below 0 °C? I can’t wait to be back in the land of real snow in Montréal next week. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone.

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Rob Ford at the 100th Grey Cup celebrations on November 20, 2012

Sometimes I miss living in Toronto. But this is not one of those times. In the past two days all my friends have been bombarding me with messages of the likes of, “Look what’s happening in your home town!” or “What on earth is going on with your city?” or “Oh dear, Rob Ford.”

I agree, but I’m more concerned for the city: Oh dear, Toronto.

I left Toronto for Montréal before Rob Ford, current mayor of Toronto, was voted in 2010. Ford’s popularity is mainly backed by the support from the city’s suburban ridings which contrasts sharply with the votes from the downtown sectors. Suburban Toronto’s unwavering support for the fumbling, erratic mayor is named Ford Nation, and this enduring love was clearly demonstrated after the Toronto Police confirmed the existence of the video “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was referring to Gawker.com and The Toronto Star’s assertion that their editor and journalists, respectively, viewed a video of mayor Ford smoking a crack pipe in May. And how did Toronto react to the news on Hallowe’en? Rob Ford’s approval went up by five percent.

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October means many things for different people: school has started to settle for parents and students, others are excited by Hallowe’en candy, and winter is at the doorstep as per the current weather here in Montréal. For me, I also note that the month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I feel grateful for my health and think about the many families that are impacted by diseases such as breast cancer. As I young child, I knew how the diagnosis of breast cancer can shake a family as my mother was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. After battling cancer for eleven years she succumbed to the illness more than a decade ago.

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