Tag Archives: Montreal

French «Intellectuels» (draft)

[Old draft of a post that I never finished writing… Started it in late February.]

Been thinking about intellectuals, especially French ones. It might have been a long-standing issue for me. To this French-speaking North American academic, the theme is obvious.

More specifically, though.

Was listening to a podcast with French journalist Daniel Schneidermann who, among other things, is a blogger. During the podcast, Schneidermann made a simple yet interesting comment about validation by readers. As a journalist, he has an obligationto adopt strict standards, verify sources, etc. As a blogger, he knows that if something that he says is inaccurate, blog readers will quickly point out the mistake. Again, dead simple. One of the basic things people have understood about online communication since at least 1994. But some journalists have typically been slow to understand the implications, perhaps because it causes a sea change in their practise. So Scheidermann’s comment was relatively “refreshing” in such a context.

Wanted to blog on that issue. Went to Scheidermann’s blog and read a few things. Noticed one about a Wikipedia entry on Schneidermann. While the blogger understands the value of reader validation, he seems to be uneasy with the fact that his Wikipedia entry was, when he first read it, disproportionally devoted to some specific issues in his life. Which leads me to the intellectuel thing.

A little over ten years ago, Pierre Bourdieu was on Schneidermann’s television set for a show about television. Bourdieu had been thinking and writing about television’s social impact. The context in which Schneidermann invited Bourdieu was a series of political and social events centering on an important strike with which Bourdieu had been associated. By participating in the show, Bourdieu had the (secret) intention of demonstrating television’s incapacity at taking distance from itself. Bourdieu had participated in another television show a few years prior and apparently saw his presence on a television set as an occasion to experiment with some important issues having to do with the media’s channeling of dialogue. Didn’t see the show but had heard about the events that followed without following it. A brief summary, from very limited evidence.After appearing on the show, Bourdieu published a short piece in Le Monde diplomatique (Schneidermann was a journalist at Le Monde). That piece was strongly-worded but can be seen as a fairly typical media analysis by a social scientist or other scholar. Not Bourdieu’s most memorable work, maybe, but clear and simple, if a bit watered down at times. In fact, the analysis looked more Barthes-type semiotics than Bourdieu’s more, erm, “socially confrontational” work.

Schneidermann’s response to Bourdieu’s analysis looks more like a knee-jerk reaction to what was perceived as personal attacks. Kind of sad, really. In fact, the introduction to that response points out the relevance of Bourdieu’s interrogations.

At any rate, one aspect of Schneidermann’s response which is pretty telling in context is the repeated use of the term intellectuel at key points in that text. It’s not so much about the term itself, although it does easily become a loaded term. An intellectual could simply be…

[Google: define intellectual…]:

a person who uses his or her intellect to study, reflect, or speculate on a variety of different ideas

[ Thank you, Wikipedia! 😉 ]

But, in context, repeated use of the term, along with repeated mentions of Collège de France (a prestigious yet unusual academic institution) may give the impression that Schneidermann was reacting less to Bourdieu as former guest than to the actions of an intellectuel. Obligatory Prévert citation:

Il ne faut pas laisser les intellectuels jouer avec les allumettes.

(Intellectuals shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches.)

Now, second stream of thought on intellectuels. Was teaching an ethnomusicology course at an anthropology department. A frequent reaction by students was that we were intellectualizing music too much. Understandable reaction. Music isn’t just an intellectual object. But, after all, isn’t the role of academia to understand life intellectually?

Those comments tended to come in reaction to some of the more difficult readings. To be fair, other reactions included students who point out that an author’s analysis isn’t going beyond some of the more obvious statements and yet others are cherishing the intellectual dimensions of our perspective on music. Altogether the class went extremely well, but the intellectual character of some of the content was clearly surprising to some.

The third strand or stream of thought on intellectuels came on February 27 in a television show with Jacques Attali. His was a typical attitude of confidence in being a “jack of all trades” who didn’t hesitate to take part in politics, public service, and commercial initiatives. I personally have been influenced by some of Jacques Attali’s work and, though I may disagree with several of his ideas, I have nothing but respect for his carreer. His is a refreshingly unapologetic form of intellectualism. Not exclusion of non-intellectuals. Just an attempt at living peacefully with everyone while thinking about as many issues as possible. He isn’t my hero but he deserves my respect, along with people like Yoro Sidibe, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Armstrong, Boris Vian, Jan Garbarek, Georges Brassens, Steven Feld, Roland Barthes, James Brown, and Serge Gainsbourg.

A fourth thread came in a departmental conference at Université de Montréal’s Department of Anthropology. Much discussion of the involvement of anthropologists in social life. And the visit of two public intellectuals who happen to be anthropological provocateurs, here in Quebec: Serge Bouchard and Bernard Arcand.. . .

Never finished this draft.

Should really follow on these threads. They have been haunting me for almost a year. And connect with multiple issues that I tend to think about.

My attitude now is that through blogs, mailing-lists, online forums, classes, lectures, conferences, informal and formal discussions, I’m able to help people think about a large set of different issues, whether or not they agree with me on any single point. Not because I’m somehow better than others: I’m clearly not. Not because my ideas are better than those cherished by others: they clearly aren’t. Possibly because I’m extremely talkative. And enthusiastic about talking to just about anyone. There’s even a slight chance that I may have understood something important about my “role in life,” my “calling.” If so, great. If not, I’m having fun anyway and I don’t mind being (called) an intellectual. 😉

Montreal Culture and Linkup

Noticed an event on Montreal Linkup set up by the Linkup founder. In it, he says:

I’d like to help Montreal Linkup eventually become just as active, so I am scheduling a series of events on the Montreal site to help get things started. I will not be able to attend this event myself, but I wanted to provide this opportunity for people on Montreal Linkup to gather for dinner and get acquainted in a relaxed, comfortable setting.

(Follows: a description of the restaurant, apparently coming from a guide.)

Given my ongoing commentary on the Montreal Linkup and Quebec culture, I really had to say something.

Here’s my message to him:


Though you may do the same for all of the less active Linkups, I get the impression that you’re trying to get the Montreal Linkup up and running.
As a cultural anthropologist from Montreal, I feel compelled to give you my perspective on what may or may not work. I blogged specifically about this issue.

Since then, I participated in two events in Montreal with people from New York Linkup.

Obviously, you know your business very well and this is not meant as a way to “teach you your job,” but in case these comments make a difference, I wanted to send them to you.

Clearly, every Linkup has its own life, feel, “personality.” From direct contacts with members from Boston and New York City, it seems that these differences are quite consequential. My argument is that Montreal might be even “more different.” Businesses from the U.S. that have established branches here were either already well-established outside of the U.S. or went on to become quite well-established elsewhere. Chances are that your success outside of North America (Paris, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai) will bring success to the Montreal Linkup, and vice-versa.
The key here is to adapt to the culture.

So let me pinpoint some differences between Montreal and other North American cities in the hope of helping you adapt Linkup to Montreal. Similarities between Montreal and the rest of North America are quite obvious but differences are making adaptation desirable.

The first thing to realize is that, as you probably know, Francophones make up for the majority of Montreal’s population (including a significant part of the business community which seems to be your primary target). This is not to say that you alienate two-thirds of the population by having an English-only site. After all, most of us French-speakers also read and write in English fairly frequently. (Contrary to Paris, English proficiency may not necessarily correlate with business-mindedness.) Yet the sociolinguistic constitution of the city might help explain why homegrown solutions are usually preferred. Quebec portals and blogs are really quite popular and even the traditional media are controlled locally (in a unique and much-bemoaned example of vertical integration).
Even English-speaking Montrealers perceive themselves as significantly distinct from the rest of North America. This is no mere city rivalry.It’s an actual identity.

While it has little to do with Hollywood or New York City, Montreal has its own star system. Montreal celebrities aren’t necessarily well-known outside of Quebec but they have a tremendous impact on the culture and appear in most of the media. Those celebrities are perceived as very personable and people meet them regularly, as they live in specific neighborhoods and tend to “hang out” at specific cafés, bars, and restaurants (hint: not Nizza). If a Montreal celebrity were to host an event, chances of getting the word out and the ball rolling would increase tremendously. Few celebrities are truly part of the two language communities but attendees may come from both communities if they really feel compelled.

To compare with Boston, locations listed for the Montreal Linkup (Saint-Jérôme, Joliette, Granby, Drumondville) are more like Springfield than like Cambridge. Similarly, your “Paris area” sounds as if the New York area included Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Bangor. A common way to divide up the Montreal region is (Island of) Montreal, South Shore, Laval, North Shore. Quebec itself is divided up in very distinct (and large) regions (the aforementioned cities are all in different regions).

Quebec culture in general tends to emphasize informality in many circumstances. One reason the Montreal Linkup appears to only be working with a specific group of entrepreneurs is that most other people are quite fond of impromptu, informal gatherings.
For an example of a homegrown network, you might want to look into the history of YulBiz, started by members of YulBlog (a blogger network).
The YulBlog rules may clash with Linkup’s “Good Hosting Guide.”

By the way, the website for Nizza is http://www.nizza.ca/.
Sorry to be blunt but the link you gave is for a restaurant in Minneapolis. It might just be that you were going through a list for all Linkup locations but it makes us think that your choice was arbitrary. There are many great restaurants in Montreal to host Linkup-type events, including way too many French restaurants. It doesn’t sound like Nizza would be a first choice for anyone to make.

Again, I hope some of this can help you understand what needs to be done to make Montreal Linkup a success.


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Beer Comments by a Wine Expert: Redux

CBC’s Home Run did the second part of their “crash course” on beer, with their “wine expert.” For some obscure reason, they used a wit and a lambic as the main examples for ales. Comments made during the show had more to do with personal experiences of enjoying non-wine alcohol and getting drunk than with actual qualities of fermented beverages made with grain. We have a long way to go.

See my previous blog post (on the first part of that show’s “crash course,” talking about lagers). Here are my comments about this weeks discussion of ales:

This installment of Bélanger’s beer “crash course” is somewhat more appropriate than the previous one (although, lambics are usually not considered ales as S. cerevisiae isn’t necessarily the main fermentation agent). You might still consider getting help from one of several beer writers in Montreal. Some of them write in the local beer publications mentioned in my previous message, which has been reproduced here.

Not to be flip but, in Quebec, asking a wine expert to talk about beers is like asking a rugby expert to explain hockey. In Quebec, beer is more than a simple summer beverage and the craft beer industry across the globe is taking an interest in beer people in Quebec. It would make sense to dedicate a short segment of your show to quality beers in Quebec, especially if you get one of the numerous beer writers in Montreal.

lightspeed chronicles: carifiesta

lightspeed chronicles: carifiesta

t’es fatiguante quand t’es heureuse

C’est juste trop facile de faire son blasé. Être de bonne humeur, être heureux, c’est pas un affront, c’est une façon de voir les choses en face.
De toutes façons, la joie de vivre à Montréal, l’été, c’est une ressource inestimable. Suffit de sortir de son trou un tant soit peu pour s’en rendre compte.

Beer Comments by a Wine Expert

CBC Montreal – Programs – Homerun

Norm Bélanger recently made a few comments about beer during one of his segments on CBC Radio One (listened to it on the Quebec This Week podcast).

My comments to them:

Glad to see beer is getting some media attention in a city which is getting international recognition for its beer scene.
Several factual errors slipped in this segment. The part of hops which are used in beer is in fact the flower itself, not the leaves. Typically, only female flowers are used. While hops are sometimes “macerated” in the beer (a process known as “dry hopping”), neither Schloss Eggenberg nor Moretti are brewed in this way, to the best of my knowledge. Hops are boiled in the wort to contribute bitterness and the length of this boiling process will determine the bitterness of the final beer (along with the percentage of alpha acids in the hops themselves). Hop flavour and aroma, on the other hand, come from late boil additions or dry hopping.
While lagers are typically fermented at lower temperature, the defining characteristic is the type of yeast used during their fermentation (Saccharomyces uvarum, formerly known as carlsbergensis). These yeast strains typically work from the bottom of the fermentation tank and are thus known as “bottom fermentating” yeast, while ale yeast (S. cerevisiae) works from the top of the fermenter and is known as “top fermenting” yeast. Yeast type affects the taste as ale yeast strains develop more of the fruity esters typical of Belgian and British ales while lager yeast strains tend to make for cleaner and crisper beer if it is used at lower fermentation temperatures. Some lagers are fermented at higher temperatures, such as California Common beers (Anchor Steam being the best-known example).
Wine glasses may work for some beer styles but are far from ideal for most. Snifter-style tulip glasses are preferred for some of the stronger examples of Belgian ales while pilsner glasses are closer to a flute.
Kilning temperature and method does affect colour but other factors are involved. Darker grains are not typically contributing more body than lighter grain. Guinness is in fact a very light-bodied beer (the impression of body comes from the nitrogen head and the general mouthfeel of the beer).
Too bad you didn’t focus on some of the many outstanding local breweries (i.e., not InBev’s Labatt breweries).
As for the more subjective aspects (beer being a summer drink, beer being somewhat less complex than wine, etc.), it’s hard to trust a wine enthusiast on other beverages but a training in wine tasting may not prevent someone from learning something about the wide world of beer (including the variety of its food pairings, some of the many seasonal varieties of the drink, the complexity of its aromas and flavours, etc.).
Information about beer is plentiful and it would be useful if your researchers could look deeper into the beverage. Montreal has a vibrant beer scene and your audience would surely appreciate the sophistication of the beverage if you could help them learn more about it.
You could also lead listeners to some of the following sites:
Beer guide to Montreal from a North American perspective

Beer guide to Montreal from a British perspective

Local organization for beer aficionados

Local beer publication

Another local beer publication

Yet another local beer publication

Local beer resource

Another local beer resource

Local brewing club

North American beer publication with Quebec coverage

Information about beer styles

General information about beer

Beer and brewery ratings

Beer ratings

Thank you for your kind help!


Eventually, even the “wine people” of this world will give some credit.

Ah, well…

Bloguage (Bloguer au Québec II)

Michel Leblanc en entrevue sur le Carnet techno de Bruno Guglielminetti. Michel a d’ailleurs répondu à mon propre billet sur la blogosphère québécoise, ce qui m’a permis d’admirer son propre blogue (et de commenter sur un de ses billets).
ClodiMedius a aussi répondu à mon billet et a créé son propre billet sur le même sujet. Nous devrions aller prendre un café dès mon retour à Montréal.
Cette chaîne de contacts par blogues interposés a démarré grâce à un billet de Marie-Chantale Turgeon mentionné par Guglielminetti dans l’épisode précédent de son carnet en balado-diffusion.

Donc, ça se précise.
Dans cette entrevue avec Guglielminetti, Michel parle brièvement de la formation de YULBiz, petit groupe de blogueurs et de gens d’affaires montréalais créé par l’entremise de blogues. (Michel explique la création de YULBiz entre 5:58 et 7:35 pendant l’entrevue). Selon Michel, la formule de YULBiz commence à avoir des échos à Québec (la capitale) et en France. On peut penser au marketing viral (si on le désire ardemment) ou même à un mouvement “grassroots” comme Kino.
Évidemment, c’est pas une formule réellement unique, il y a certainement beaucoup d’exemples ailleurs. Mais c’est un regroupement qui s’est créé à l’aide de cette fameuse blogosphère québécoise, prouvant donc la vitalité de ladite -sphère.
Détail intéressant, YULBiz semble avoir été déclenché par une rencontre dans un café. Rien d’unique là-dedans: la Révolution Française elle-même a été planifiée lors de rencontres dans des cafés parisiens. Mais c’est une tendance très forte, pour nous Québécois, de donner rendez-vous à des nouveaux contacts sans nécessairement avoir de but très précis. Ici à Northampton, ma femme a eu un peu de difficulté à appliquer ce même genre de procédure en ce sens que le rendez-vous semblait présupposer un but plus spécifique. Ici dans le Nord-Est des États-Unis, des amis se rencontrent parfois sans but précis (“just to hang out”) mais les nouveaux contacts requièrent souvent des procédures légèrement plus formelles. C’est un détail, mais il est lié à plusieurs aspects de la culture québécoise, depuis le statut des rapports amicaux avec distinction sexuelle (c.-à-d. qu’au Québec une femme et un homme peuvent facilement être de véritables amis) à la gestion de l’horaire hors de la vie professionnelle (un soupçon de «compartimentalisation»).

Donc, la blogosphère québécoise dans tout ça. Une de ses caractéristiques (probablement partagée avec plusieurs autres parties de la Blogosphère globale) est de donner lieu à des rencontres in situ. Cette tendance est peut-être due en partie au fait que les Québécois accordent beaucoup d’importance aux rapports directs mais elle est surtout liée à un contexte de concentration démographique métropolitaine. Dans ce cas-ci, on parlerait plutôt de blogosphère montréalaise, puisque c’est le fait d’habiter à Montréal (code d’aéroport «YUL») qui semble avoir permis aux membres de YULBiz de se rencontrer. Et, parlant de blogosphère montréalaise, un regroupement de blogueurs de la métropole québécoise s’appelle YULblog. Et ils semblent se rencontrer régulièrement.
Une autre caractéristique, assez évidente peut-être, c’est que les blogueurs québécois (ou, du moins, montréalais) franchissent la barrière linguistique entre Anglophones et Francophones. C’est une tendance assez prononcées parmi plusieurs groupes (y compris des brasseurs-maison), mais ça demeure un phénomène très intéressant.
Ensuite, on pourrait parler de l’importance de la «vie expressive» (art, poésie, création, musique, etc.) dans les blogues québécois. Michel Leblanc lui-même blogue de façon poétique. Rien de rare là-dedans, plusieurs blogues ailleurs ont des contenus artistiques. Mais le mode expressif semble assez fréquent dans la blogosphère québécoise. Quoique, c’est une observation très préliminaire qui mériterait une analyse un tant soit peu poussée. À ce sujet, cette fameuse étude comparative entre internautes français et québécois me paraît réellement fascinante.

Dans ce contexte, et pour être parfaitement honnête, il me semble plus utile de tenter d’observer la blogosphère québécoise «pour elle-même» (par ses propres caractéristiques) que de la mesurer à un critère démographique. Bon, c’est un peu le culturaliste et relativiste qui parle, mais quand même… Un ami Iranien me disait à propos de la communauté iranienne de Montréal qu’elle était plus petite que la communauté iranienne d’une ville un peu plus grande, mais qu’elle était selon lui «de meilleure qualité». Sans nécessairement parler de qualité intrinsèque, on peut dire que la blogosphère québécoise est petite mais qu’elle est certainement dynamique.


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(It’s me, a couple of months ago.)
Was editing some older entries with ecto to add categories and tags. Saw this old one (from late March, 2k5) which was meant as an introduction/blurb. Was teaching at IUSB then. Time for an update or three.
Since then, been teaching in Massachusetts (BSC and Tufts, during the Fall 2005 semester) and Montreal (Concordia during the Winter/Spring 2006 semester). Came back to Tufts to teach during the first summer session. Currently (06-06-14 13:19:34) in Cambridge, at a condo that belongs to some friends who are spending some time in Paris for academic reasons.
So, many of us, in academia, end up moving around quite a bit. Been moving more than twice a year for the last six years. Looking forward to a bit more stability. In fact, because my wife is in Northampton, MA (doing a post-doc at Smith), my time in Massachusetts has typically been divided between the Western part of the state and the Boston area.
Speaking of my brilliant wife, she’s in Montreal right now to defend her dissertation! Can’t go myself, because of my course, but it’ll very likely be an extremely good defence (Catherine knows her stuff in and out!).
Whew! It’s weird to post entries like these but it’s probably what people expect from blogs. Even wanted to start blogging while in Fredericton, NB, in 2003. Kept sending messages to my wife instead (she was in Moncton, NB at that time). Should eventually report back on some places where my semi-nomadic lifestyle has led me in the past (Somerville, Lausanne, Baguinéda, Bloomington, Sienna, Northampton, Kassela, Zinal, Bamako, Fredericton, Mandelieux, Markala, Edimburg, Moncton, South Bend, Brockton, Hyères, Montreal, and, of course, Poggibonsi).