Artistic genres may soon be a thing of the past, so quickly are the walls crumbling. Fusion, connection, hybridity are the order of the day. So it is with one’s own cultural programme. Hence I’ve elected to report one day’s events as a personal journal: Saturday, April 28, 2013. Yesterday once more.
7:30 am: Wake up, read three newspapers while drinking coffee and eating yogurt in bed, brought by husband on tray.
9 – 10 am: Agonize over what to wear. Settle on light cotton Diesel pants and tailored charcoal jacket, Dana Buchman, purchased during last salaried employment in the late 90s.
10 am: Power walk to Hotel 10 on Sherbrooke St., HQ of Blue Met literary festival.
11 am: Participate on panel chaired by veteran journalist and Concordia prof Matt Hays, with Lorraine Carpenter, editor-in-chief of CULT Montreal, dynamic new web mag that sprung up after the death of The Mirror. The theme is New Forms of Alternate Newspapers. I’m there to talk about Rover, founded in 2008. Ms. Carpenter tells how the Mirror staff rallied around after being brutally dumped (the site’s 15-yr archive destroyed) by its corporate owners, Quebecor Inc.. She says it’s much easier to sell ads for their monthly print edition than for the website. As publisher of Rover, I concur. The web as a solo platform is a tough sell.
Hays berates the Huffington Post for making millions by “aggregating”, ie stealing from publications that pay writers, and engaging celebrity bloggers to work for free. Three experienced journalists, we admit to sometimes writing for free. Are we licking the hand that doesn’t feed us? So far, I haven’t convinced Canada Council juries that critical writing is an art form, and Rover is worthy of their support. What better proof, than this? When a market collapses, practitioners keep writing, out of duty and desire.
12:30 pm: Lunch with Philippe Lemieux and Linda Renaud. Lively discussion of how to make Rover self-sustaining.
2 pm: Attend The Walrus Talks, a Blue Met event in association with McGill and the Segal Centre. (Nobody does anything alone any more.) The theme is “building bridges”. A brilliant format thwarts inherent flaws of panel discussion: 9 speakers get 7 minutes each to talk. Vincent Lam, Alison Pick, Pasha Malla, Saleema Nawaz, Will Straw, Henry Mintzberg, Rachel Gies, Cameron Charlebois, Jonathan Goldstein. Riveting, funny, thought-provoking. At the reception afterwards, I seek out McGill’s pop culture guru Will Straw to compliment his intervention (about how regulatory bodies killed Montreal’s nascent bilingual radio movement). In the cacophony of merriment, he thinks I called it “mealy”, and scowls. No, no, meaty.
3:45 pm: Dash off to find a bank machine, then to the Bain St. Michel where Infinithéâtre is holding their annual Poker Night fundraiser in the swimming pool where plays are performed each fall and winter. Must arrive early for the lesson, as I have no idea how the game works. Playwright Arthur Holden, our teacher, is well into the psychology of bidding but I still don’t know the basics. Play close attention, give up, decide to bluff.
5:30 pm: Take seat next to Roy Surette (Centaur artistic director), who is also a novice. At first I confuse the game with Euchre and lose half my chips on early folding. Other novices do the same. We are cowed by a vivacious young blonde from Centaur’s fundraising department, who bets wildly with what turn out to be ridiculous hands, and cleans up. As we struggle to stay in the game, volunteers ply us with pizza slices and drinks, urge us to buy raffle tickets and talk up various items about to be auctioned off. Wearing a red brocade vest and a Stetson, Infinithéâtre artistic director Guy Sprung approaches our table, proffering a guilt-framed portrait of Queen Victoria, Albert and a few children in full royal regalia. Thinking my Welsh nationalist husband would (not!) love it, I bid $20 and Sprung goes away. Somebody else gets it for $40 (no sense risking divorce).
Meanwhile, I’m finally dealt a pair of fours. Confusing the game with go-fish, I get excited and bet wildly. Surprisingly, I win – twice, with the same kind of hand – and am in the game again. Sprung is back at our elbows, this time to flog a gold and white soup tureen. (Do people without maids use tureens?) I resist. My luck turns bad. Chips dwindle.
At the end of the table, Bryan Demchinksy, who belongs to a regular guy’s poker circle and has played quietly, carefully, successfully, is suddenly “all in”. I expect he will clean up, but he loses, says he has to go home anyway. It dawns on me that losing is how you get out. So I bet the house and lose.
8:05 pm: Hurry to McGill in a cab, where husband is hosting an academic conference. Arrive in mid-reception, slip in unnoticed, thereby salvaging marital credit for support. Young PhD candidate and musician, Caroline Segale pours me a glass of wine. I ask, what’s new? She’s just joined an anarchist marching band. They’re working up a repertory and will be available for various protests expected to erupt over the summer.
Anarchist? Marching? Band? Isn’t that an oxymoron? She laughs. Well, maybe, but…
This is Montreal.