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  1. Trouble on The Main The former home of American Apparel on St. Laurent Blvd. now carries a For Rent sign. “I won’t deny that the construction on the street did affect traffic,” says Dan Abenhaim, the chain’s Canadian regional director. Other shop owners say the recession and high rents have hurt business on along the strip. Photograph by: John Mahoney, The Gazette By Irwin Block, The GazetteApril 24, 2009 The former home of American Apparel on St. Laurent Blvd. now carries a For Rent sign. “I won’t deny that the construction on the street did affect traffic,” says Dan Abenhaim, the chain’s Canadian regional director. Other shop owners say the recession and high rents have hurt business on along the strip. It’s known to generations as The Main and it’s as Montreal as smoked meat and the Habs. St. Laurent Blvd. is us, and in tribute to its Portuguese component, city officials on Friday inaugurated a dozen marble-topped benches between Bagg and Marie Anne Sts. But things are not going that well for some merchants, especially on the trendiest part of the street between Sherbrooke St. and Pine Ave. It’s still home to such fancy eateries as Buona Notte and Primadonna, but in the past months several major tenants have closed. They include an American Apparel store and a Mac Cosmetics outlet; the space formerly occupied by Sofia Grill at the northwest corner of Prince Arthur St. and St. Laurent is for rent, as are several other shops farther north. Dan Abenhaim, American Apparel’s Canadian regional director, said that after five years the firm decided not to renew the lease. “I won’t deny that the construction on the street did affect traffic and we decided we want to open in another location.” He also said that over five years “the street has changed and the traffic is more north of Pine Ave.” However, clothing shops are also hurting north of Pine, where Adam & Lilith has closed one of two adjoining shops on St. Laurent. According to assistant manager Carmel Pacaud, people are still attracted to the street but they are not buying as they used to. Other shop owners blame almost two years of disruptive road repairs that ended last year, as well as the recession and high rents. “The city has murdered the street,” said one real estate agent, who spoke on the condition his name not be used. People who were put off by the construction are not coming back and there is a moratorium on new restaurants and bars between Sherbrooke and Mount Royal Ave., he added. Rent at the former Mac Cosmetics store is about $7,500 a month for 1,600 square feet. Rents tend to decrease north of Pine. “It’s a little distressing, slower than usual” remarked Marnie Blanshay, who owns Lola & Emily ladies wear just south of the abandoned American Apparel. Many who were discouraged from shopping there by the ripping up and repaving of the strip have not returned, she observed. And because few retail clothing shops remain, hers is more of a “destination store” with fewer shoppers coming by to go from store to store checking out and comparing. “It reminds me of Crescent St. in the 1990s,” she said, adding that “the landlords believe it’s better than it is and need to reduce rents.” When rents go down, the creative people will return to reinject the street’s normal vitality, she said. “St. Laurent Blvd. is not a street where chains succeed.” Apart from Jean Coutu and Pharmaprix, American Apparel was the only chain outlet on the street, noted André Beauséjour, executive director of the Société de développment du Boulevard St. Laurent. He said the vacancy rate between Sherbrooke and Mount Royal is a “normal” two per cent. A stroll up the boulevard yesterday indicated that many stores that have become institutions – Bar Bifteck, Salaison Slovenia, Schreter’s, Coco Rico, Moishe’s, Segal’s grocery, Berson Monuments – are still going concerns. And there was the proverbial lunchtime lineup inside Schwartz’s. But if you have a concept, there is lots of space for rent, including the former Laurentian Bank at St. Laurent and Pine. – all 5,400 square feet. [email protected] © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette
  2. See link for a look at the strips: Pearls Before Swine cartoonist shows his love for Montreal in comic strips BILL BROWNSTEIN, MONTREAL GAZETTE More from Bill Brownstein, Montreal Gazette Published on: January 16, 2015Last Updated: January 16, 2015 4:11 PM EST Stephan Pastis, creator of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, was so taken with Montreal that he has drawn two strips on the city. Note the Habs jersey. Stephan Pastis, creator of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, was so taken with Montreal that he has drawn two strips on the city. Note the Habs jersey. Stephan Pastis is in love. With Montreal. The comic-strip creator of Pearls Before Swine took in the city for the first time last fall. He caught the Habs playing the Bruins. He made the mandatory bagel, deli and poutine pilgrimage. He checked out the bistro and indie bookstore scene. He marched and/or biked from Old Montreal to Mount Royal. Upon leaving, he expressed a desire to uproot to the city. Of course, the temperature was relatively balmy back then. Pretty similar to that of his current San Francisco home. Fast-forward three months. The thermometer has hit a punishing minus 29 Celsius – not even factoring in wind-chill factor – during our telephone chat. “So maybe I’ll live in Montreal only during the warm months,” says Pastis, clearly unaware that the warm months generally constitute less than half a year here. No matter. Pastis is, unarguably, one of the most successful cartoonists on the planet. Pearls Before Swine runs in more than 750 newspapers, including the Montreal Gazette. He has an estimated 17.6 million readers a day. Pastis’s professed love for our city is not just idle talk, either. He is providing Montreal a showcase that will leave tourism officials here drooling. Pastis has drawn two Pearls Before Swine strips – to appear on Monday and Wednesday in our paper and worldwide – not only extolling the merits of our bagels, smoked meat, poutine et al but also this declaration from his Pig character: “I AM MOVING TO MONTREAL!!” 0117 col brownstein Of course, Pastis’s second strip could trigger thermo-nuclear war. His Habs-sweater-sporting character (Pastis, in fact) proclaims that “MONTREAL MAKES THE BEST BAGELS IN THE WORLD” – much to the chagrin of a New Yorker who feels otherwise. This process began innocently enough when Pastis asked his friend, Just for Laughs’s Andy Nulman, if he could help him acquire tickets for the Canadiens-Bruins bout on Oct. 16. Nulman obliged him and when Pastis asked how he might repay him, Nulman suggested perhaps a single drawing of a Pearls Before Swine character in a Habs sweater that could be hung at JFL headquarters. But when Pastis found himself sitting on ice level at the Bell Centre, right at centre ice next to the penalty box, he was so overwhelmed that he decided to put together the two Montreal strips. It was only weeks later that Nulman learned of Pastis’s scheme, after receiving the strips at his office. Nulman, in turn, was overwhelmed. So, in his capacity as “Chief Attention Getter” for Montreal’s 375th birthday bash, Nulman arranged to have an original of one of the strips – the “moving to Montreal” – presented to Mayor Denis Coderre and to have Pastis named an honourary Montrealer. “I don’t draw very well,” says Pastis, who turned 47 on Friday. “So the single drawing Andy asked me to do came out really badly. I felt terrible about that, especially after he got me that awesome seat. So when I got back home, I had the idea to do the two strips about Montreal. “Maybe when I come back to Montreal, I will be able to get a free drink as a result,” he muses. No doubt. But what’s this about his inability to draw? “If you lined up all the cartoonists in the world, I think I’d be in the bottom quartile. I was just a lawyer before. No art school training or anything.” But what Pastis does have is a battery of quirky characters: Rat, Pig, Croc and Goat. He also has edge and provides his characters with a narrative that clearly resonates with readers. “There are tons of talented people who come out of art school every year, and they don’t become syndicated. There are maybe 200 people in the U.S. who make their living doing this. You’d be better off telling your parents that your financial plan is the lottery. 0117 col brownstein “What it comes down to is the writing. If you can write and make people laugh, then you really have a leg up – and can even get away with drawing stick figures.” Regardless, Pastis has come a long way. Because he was a sickly child and missed a lot of school, his mother provided him with crayons and paper to keep him amused. Inspired by his favourite strip, Peanuts, he began drawing. And he kept on doodling through law school and through his stint as a lawyer for an insurance company. It was during a “boring” law school class that he came up with Rat, the first of his Pearls Before Swine characters. In 1996, on a whim, he drove to a skating rink in nearby Santa Rosa, Calif., where Peanuts creator Charles Schulz had his coffee and an English muffin every day. “That was such a weird confluence of events,” Pastis recalls. “My wife just happens to be from the town where he lived. So I waited for him and after he got his coffee and muffin, I went up to him and with the worst opening line ever, I said: ‘Hi Sparky (Schulz’s nickname). My name is Stephan Pastis and I’m an attorney.’ He turned white. He probably thought he was getting served with papers. It was terrible. “Then I said: ‘Oh, I also draw.’ So he asked me to sit down. And that was the start of a long conversation.” Not long after that encounter, Pastis began drawing Pearls Before Swine. Two years later, he began submitting to the various cartoon syndicates before signing a contract with United Features. His strips initially appeared online. It wasn’t until 2002 that Pearls Before Swine made its debut in newspapers. It didn’t take long for Pastis to earn praise from fellow cartoonists. The National Cartoonists Society awarded him Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2004 and 2007. RELATED Mayor Coderre beams over comic strips praising Montreal Also a huge fan of Gary Larson’s Far Side, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes and Scott Adam’s Dilbert, Pastis remains much inspired by Schulz. “For me, Schulz is the basic rhythm of sequential art,” Pastis says. “He is basically the air we breathe and the water we drink. He is the foundation. As for Larson? How funny can one human be? I learned a lot from him.” In addition to the comic strip, Pastis recently began writing children’s books, based on his character Timmy Failure, the 11-year-old CEO of a detective agency. The first in the series, Timothy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, became an instant bestseller. He has since penned three more volumes. Making life more complex for this cartoonist is that he usually produces his strips seven to nine months – save for the two Montreal efforts – before they are published. As a consequence, it’s difficult to remain topical. “There have been all these polarizing events that have taken place in the interim – be they in Ferguson, New York or in Paris. So when I wake up and see what strip is in the paper and what’s going on in the world, it can be radically different, but it can also, strangely enough, be quite relev ant – because hostilities in the world seem to be a constant.” The tragic events that took place at the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo have, not surprisingly, left Pastis shaken. “Our job as cartoonists is to make fun of everything. There are no sacred cows. It is such a horrific thought that there are people out there who would kill you if you make fun of certain things. “That’s just so medieval to me. Are we living in 2015 or in 1215?” he notes, before adding: “If there is one small silver lining to this, it’s that the goal of these people was to suppress, but the result is that a magazine that would have sold maybe 60,00o copies is going to sell 5 million. That’s what you get, and that’s what you deserve, when you try to stifle creativity and freedom of expression.” sent via Tapatalk
  3. C'est souvent intéressant de voir comment des Montréalais se connectent avec le reste du monde. May 11, 2008 Art By CAROL KINO PITTSBURGH BY celebrity standards the cartoonist Lynda Barry leads a reclusive existence. When she first developed a cult following in the 1980s, she cut a highly public figure, with frequent appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman” and the like. But after the market for her work began shrinking in the late 1990s, she gradually withdrew, refusing to talk on the phone with reporters or her editors. Today she draws her 30-year-old weekly strip, “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” on a dairy farm just outside Footville, Wis., where she lives with her husband, Kevin Kawula, a prairie restoration expert. Since moving there six years ago, the couple have been relatively self-reliant, growing much of their own food and chopping their own wood for fuel. Even though Ms. Barry has a new book coming out next week — “What It Is,” which explains her method of making drawings and stories — she isn’t always eager to emerge. “I can go three weeks without leaving, or driving my car,” she said in a recent interview. But you would never guess that from Ms. Barry’s behavior on a recent weekend here. On a balmy spring day she stood at the front of a classroom, effusively greeting 25 strangers who had signed up for her two-day workshop, “Writing the Unthinkable,” which is also the basis for her new book. “I can’t believe you’re here and you look so 3-D!” she said, grinning toothily at them from beneath thick black glasses. “I was wondering about you all last night!” On a table behind her she had laid out scores of scribbled 3-by-5 note cards, each of which held a nugget of information that she would relay over the next several hours (like “Don’t read it over” and “An image is a pull toy that pulls you”). On the blackboard was a chalk drawing of Marlys, the spunky pigtailed kid protagonist of “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” the strip about growing up that made Ms. Barry a star of new-wave comics soon after it began running in alternative weeklies in 1978. “Dang! I’m in Pittsburgh!” Marlys was saying in a word balloon. And Ms. Barry, who at 52 still has the habit of twisting her own curly red hair into Marlys-like pigtails, addressed her students in a similarly exclamation-mark-studded style. As they snapped open their three-ring binders, she said delightedly, “That’s the only sound I want at my funeral!” Taking the workshop, which Ms. Barry teaches several times a year, is a bit like witnessing an endurance-performance piece. Aided by her assistant, Betty Bong (in reality, Kelly Hogan, a torch singer who lives in Chicago), Ms. Barry sings, tells jokes, acts out characters and even dances a creditably sensual hula, all while keeping up an apparently extemporaneous patter on subjects like brain science, her early boy-craziness, her admiration for Jimmy Carter and the joys of menopause. But this is just camouflage for the workshop’s true purpose: to pass on an art-making method that Ms. Barry learned from Marilyn Frasca, her junior- and senior-year art teacher at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. It involves using a random word, like “cars” or “breasts,” to summon a memory in unexpected, filmic detail; writing about it by hand for a set time period (as she says, “Limitation creates structure!”); and then not reading it or talking about it for at least a week. Within the workshop it also involves positive feedback. As students read aloud, Ms. Barry kneels before them, head bowed, listening intently, and says: “Good! Good!” (“I was a kid who was never read to,” she explains.) This is essentially the method that Ms. Barry has always used, not just for “Ernie Pook” but also her novels: “The Good Times Are Killing Me” from 1988, about biracial childhood friends, and “Cruddy” (1999), whose 16-year-old narrator recounts a long-ago murder rampage. She also deployed it for “One! Hundred! Demons!,” a soulful 2002 graphic memoir that she describes as “autobifictionalography.” “What It Is,” which outlines the method in detail, could be considered a picture book for grown-ups. Using ink brush, pen and pencil drawings as well as collages and luminous watercolors, many of them on lined yellow legal paper, it explores deep philosophical questions like “What Is an Image?” (The answer, Ms. Barry says, is something “at the center of everything we call the arts.”) It also includes an activity book, instructions, assignments and several passages of purely autobiographical writing and drawing in which Ms. Barry recounts her own journey to making art. As the book starts, we see her as a child, crouching as still as possible in a corner, waiting patiently for pictures in her bedroom to come to life. “We lived in a trailer then, and any pictures we had up were taped to the walls,” she writes. “Sometimes they fell. But this is not what I mean when I say they could move.” Later we see her as a young adult, puzzling over the method as she learns it from Ms. Frasca. And later, on the farm with her husband, we see her battling depression and frowning as she struggles to quiet her inner editor’s voice and get back to making pictures and stories happen “in a way that didn’t involve thinking.” Meditations, stories and images float past in a random fashion, segueing between darkness and hope, or adulthood and childhood, the way they might in dreams or memory. “I think of images as an immune system and a transit system,” she said; not only does working with them keep her emotions running smoothly, but it has also taken her to unexpected places. (As she told the class: “I am here in Pittsburgh because I drew a picture. And all of you are in this room because you saw this picture.”) Clearly her ability to draw and tell stories was her ticket out of a difficult childhood. When she was 5, her family moved from Wisconsin to Seattle, where they at first lived with five Filipino families (Ms. Barry’s mother immigrated from the Philippines) in a house whose rooms were subdivided by bedsheets. Her father, a butcher, decamped a few years later, leaving Ms. Barry and her two younger brothers at the mercy of what she describes as an unhappy mother. (Ms. Barry said she has had no contact with either parent for more than 15 years, and “it’s been mutually joyful.”) Although her more fictional work has always focused on children, she is not sure why. “I used to think it was easy to write about them because their world is small,” she said. “But it might be because writing about what’s happening with people my age, I’m too deeply in it.” (Surprisingly, her next novel is about a man in his 70s.) Perhaps she has memorialized childhood because she didn’t have much of one herself. By 16 Ms. Barry was virtually independent, supporting herself by working nights and weekends as a hospital janitor. “I lived at home,” she said, “but that was it.” The experience gave her great exposure to people’s stories. “I don’t think it was good for me, necessarily, but I saw stuff, and I grew up really, really fast. And I wrote all this really sad janitorial poetry.” With savings, a scholarship and work-study Ms. Barry made it to college, where she struck up a long friendship with a fellow student, Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons.” In those days Mr. Groening was editor of the school newspaper, and she was a reporter. As a self-described hippie, “I used to love to torment him because he looked really straight,” she said. “I always kind of mixed up drawings and words,” she said, “but college is where I definitely started to do cartoons, and it was mainly for Matt.” In secret she began to concoct odd drawings and zany letters to the editor, which she submitted anonymously. Mr. Groening, who knew it was her all along, called her bluff and published the lot. “I had a policy of running all letters to the editor, and Lynda took advantage of it,” he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “She was very, very funny,” he said. “It seemed obvious that creative self-expression was going to be her life.” It was a happy accident that Ms. Barry graduated just as alternative weeklies were springing up around the country and searching, as she put it, “for oddball comics.” She soon became one of a small elite, her strip appearing with Mr. Groening’s “Life in Hell” alongside the work of Jules Feiffer. At its peak in the mid-1990s her strip appeared in 75 papers. She also published books and collections, and in 1991 her theatrical version of “The Good Times Are Killing Me” had an Off Broadway run. But her career took a nose dive as alternative weeklies fell victim to corporate acquisitions and mergers in the 1990s. “Ernie Pook’s Comeek” now appears in only six papers, and the bulk of her books are out of print. These days, Ms. Barry said, her most reliable source of income is eBay, where she sells original artwork, and MySpace, where she markets her workshops. She hit a low point in 2002, she said, right after the publication of “One! Hundred! Demons!,” when her longtime publisher, Sasquatch Books in Washington, rejected an early proposal for “What It Is” and declined to publish more new work. “It was like an ax in the forehead,” she said. But today her career seems on the verge of resurgence. In early 2006 Drawn & Quarterly, a small comics publisher in Montreal, approached her with a surprise offer to reprint her old work and collect all the Ernie Pook strips. Ms. Barry leapt at the opportunity and proffered her new book. The plan is to publish one Ernie Pook collection a year, starting this fall. In early 2009 another new book, “The Nearsighted Monkey,” on which she is working with her husband, will be issued. To Ms. Barry her career trajectory still seems somewhat unbelievable. “The fact that anybody knows what I do and likes it feels surreal to me,” she said. “It feels like the Make-a-Wish Foundation.”
  4. Family Guy (briefly) visited Montreal last night and featured a song about Canadian strip clubs, done to the tune of "The Merry Old Land of Oz." Quagmire: "French also comes in handy when I have layovers in Montreal, that place is the best [...] Montreal has the best strip clubs in the world!"