Signs of Chaos

Anyone with a finicky sense of design would best avoid this restaurant on Jean Talon Street in Montreal’s St. Michel district. I particularly like the thrifty way that “Beer Wine” was changed to “Bière Vin” in compliance with Quebec’s language laws.

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Don’t Bulldoze the Slums

Street scene in Dharavi. Photo from the Economist “Around 6am, the squealing of copulating rats—signalling a night-long verminous orgy on the rooftops of Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai—gives way to the more cheerful sound of chirruping sparrows. Through a small window in Shashikant (“Shashi”) Kawale’s rickety shack, daylight seeps. It reveals a curly black head […]

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West End Dusk

Over the bridge and into Vancouver’s West End.

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Morning Coffee: Sitting at Casa Acoreana

There are a few café terraces I really love, like Caffè Beano at 9th Street and 17th Avenue in Calgary, or Social Club at St. Viateur and Esplanade in Montreal. They’re perfect places to watch the city, but they’re also interesting social spaces in and of themselves, with regular customers and even little cliques that […]

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Thinking About Summer

Queen Street West in June

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Chengdu’s Odd Christmas Tradition

I was at dinner last night when one of my friends told me about a strange Christmas Eve tradition in her hometown of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. “Every year, people go to the main pedestrian street and start hitting each other with inflatable toys,” she explained. I was perplexed, though far from surprised. Christmas […]

Christmas Time for the Jews

[youtube]lbFFltjoGdI[/youtube] It’s December 25th, that bizarre day when much of the population seems to have vanished into their living rooms in a sugar-and-turkey-fuelled daze. But what about everyone else? If you don’t celebrate Christmas, there’s no better day to catch a movie or grab Chinese food, as this classic animation by Saturday Night Live’s Robert […]

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Chinatown by Night

In comparison to the increasingly polished neighbourhoods around it, Boston’s Chinatown is an oasis of grit, a place that actually feels comfortable and well-worn, like an old pair of jeans.

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Turning the Place Over

[youtube]ZXn6PXBOyRY[/youtube] What do you do with an abandoned building? Turn it into art. Such is the case in Liverpool where the British sculptor Richard Wilson has created Turning the Place Over, an ambitious intervention that removes an eight metre chunk of façade from a building in central Liverpool, rotates it and puts it back into […]

“Une bonne vieille tempête”

Until the rain washed much of it away today, it seemed like the snow wouldn’t stop accumulating in the streets of Montreal. A big storm in early December left more than 30 centimetres of the stuff on the ground; no sooner had that been cleared away did another 40 or 50 centimetres fall over the […]

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Apartment Buildings on Decarie

Decarie Towers, built 1955

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Numbering the City

I think it’s safe to say that most cities have some kind of house numbering system, but the nature of that system differs from place to place. It took me awhile to figure out that there are two sets of civic numbers in Paris, one for residential buildings and another for retail spaces. Here in […]

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A Hidden Street

I’ve always been intrigued by Demers Street. It’s a tiny street in the north end of the Plateau, running parallel to Villeneuve between Coloniale and Hôtel de Ville, lined mostly by cute duplexes built around 1900 to house workers from the nearby quarries. Demers was just another back lane in a working-class neighbourhood full of […]

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Safe to Say…

Montreal has eight American Apparel locations, more than any other city but New York and LA, but our streets are devoid of the company’s notorious advertisements, except for those on the stores’ façades themselves. (The back pages of our weekly newspapers, however, are another story.) In New York, though, American Apparel has made a mark […]