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Found 12 results

  1. Local architect pledges to stop the ‘joke’ of high-rise Rotterdam World War II saw the destruction of many cities around Europe and not least hit was the city of Rotterdam. While devastating on a human and financial scale this allowed the city to evolve into what is now considered as the ‘high rise city of the Netherlands’. But local architect Jan Willem van Kuilenburg, principal of Monolab Architects has derided this label as ‘a joke’ calling for an extension to the local authorities’ planned high rise zone to the south and proposes Rotterdam's first super-tower, the 450 m high City Tower. “Rotterdam is too hesitant, too defensive and too much like an underdog. After the Erasmus bridge we are in need of a real skyscraper of European scale of which Rotterdam can be proud,” says Kuilenburg, “All currently realised towers in Rotterdam are of mediocre quality and very primitive. As we should save in prosperous periods, it makes the current economic crisis the right time to invest.” Kuilenburg proposes City Tower as the leader in this campaign. The 450 m mixed-use tower with a photovoltaic skin would be built in the water by the Maas Harbour. According to Kuilenburg it would allow the high-rise zone to serve the whole city and help to connect Europe’s largest port to the rest of the city. The tower would be connected to land via a steel pedestrian boulevard to a separate parking lot with the capacity for 1000 cars. Kuilenburg believes this element of the project could aid the local authorities’ plans to liberate the downtown area of traffic by creating a 6th park and ride zone with its close proximity to the Metro. Asked about the likely response from the people of Rotterdam to what would be a very bold visual landmark, Kuilenburg said: “I don’t know. In general Rotterdam people are proud of the skyline, they are energetic and ready to go for new proposals. It has always been a scene for experiment. Rotterdam was bombed in the Second World War and so new buildings emerged, since then people are used to change.” Kuilenburg is currently in talks with developers and calling for international investment for the project. Niki May Young News Editor http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=10909
  2. Here some pictures of Aleppo before the war and now. A total lack of willingness. Photo Comparison: Aleppo City - Before and After 'Arab Spring'
  3. Oooh that is not good: http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00100&num=7051 http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00400&num=7050 If they had decided to make their megalopolis somewhere reasonable in the south instead of in that sleepy little town it would be so much easier to have taken care of this problem decades ago...
  4. Commentary from St. Lambert war veteran Okill Stuart: Click Here This sort of thing really disgusts me. The bastards that took that ought to rot in prison for the rest of their lives. It'll serve as a lesson to anyone else thinking of doing something similar. The guy who urinated on the National War Memorial in Ottawa was drunk, and apologized to the veterans. Stealing a plaque is not something that someone can do when they are drunk, or drugged or whatever. Whoever took this knew exactly what they were doing.
  5. How Switzerland camouflaged its ready-to-explode architecture during the Cold War I finally had a chance to read John McPhee's book La Place de la Concorde Suisse, his somewhat off-puttingly titled 1984 look at the Swiss military and its elaborately engineered landscape defenses. To make a long story short, McPhee describes two things: how Switzerland requires military service from every able-bodied male Swiss citizen — a model later emulated and expanded by Israel — and how the Swiss military has, in effect, wired the entire country to blow in the event of foreign invasion. To keep enemy armies out, bridges will be dynamited and, whenever possible, deliberately collapsed onto other roads and bridges below; hills have been weaponized to be activated as valley-sweeping artificial landslides; mountain tunnels will be sealed from within to act as nuclear-proof air raid shelters; and much more. First, a quick look at the system of self-demolition that is literally built into the Swiss national infrastructure: To interrupt the utility of bridges, tunnels, highways, railroads, Switzerland has established three thousand points of demolition. That is the number officially printed. It has been suggested to me that to approximate a true figure a reader ought to multiply by two. Where a highway bridge crosses a railroad, a segment of the bridge is programmed to drop on the railroad. Primacord fuses are built into the bridge. Hidden artillery is in place on either side, set to prevent the enemy from clearing or repairing the damage. Further: Near the German border of Switzerland, every railroad and highway tunnel has been prepared to pinch shut explosively. Nearby mountains have been made so porous that whole divisions can fit inside them. There are weapons and soldiers under barns. There are cannons inside pretty houses. Where Swiss highways happen to run on narrow ground between the edges of lakes and to the bottoms of cliffs, man-made rockslides are ready to slide. The impending self-demolition of the country is "routinely practiced," McPhee writes. "Often, in such assignments, the civilian engineer who created the bridge will, in his capacity as a military officer, be given the task of planning its destruction." But this is where a weirdly fascinating, George Dante-esque artifice begins. After all, McPhee writes, why would Switzerland want anyone to know where the dynamite is wired, where the cannons are hidden, which bridges will blow, or where to find the Army's top secret mountain hideaways and resupply shelters? But if you look closely, you start to see things. Through locked gates you see corridors in the sides of mountains-going on and on into the rock, with alight in the ceiling every five meters and far too many to count... Riding around Switzerland with these matters in mind-seeing little driveways that blank out in mountain walls, cavern entrances like dark spots under mountainside railroads and winding corniches, portals in various forms of lithic disguise-you can find it difficult not to imagine that almost anything is a military deception, masking a hidden installation. Full size Indeed, at one point McPhee jokes that his local guide in Switzerland "tends to treat the army itself as if it were a military secret." McPhee points to small moments of "fake stonework, concealing the artillery behind it," that dot Switzerland's Alpine geology, little doors that will pop open to reveal internal cannons and blast the country's roads to smithereens. Later, passing under a mountain bridge, McPhee notices "small steel doors in one pier" hinting that the bridge "was ready to blow. It had been superceded, however, by an even higher bridge, which leaped through the sky above-a part of the new road to Simplon. In an extreme emergency, the midspan of the new bridge would no doubt drop on the old one." It's a strange kind of national infrastructure, one that is at its most rigorously functional — one that truly fulfills its promises-when in a state of cascading self-imposed collapse. I could easily over-quote my way to the end of my internet service here, but it's a story worth reading. There are, for instance, hidden bomb shelters everywhere in an extraordinary application of dual-use construction. "All over Switzerland," according to McPhee, "in relatively spacious and quiet towns, are sophisticated underground parking garages with automatic machines that offer tickets like tongues and imply a level of commerce that is somewhere else. In a nuclear emergency, huge doors would slide closed with the town's population inside." Full size Describing titanic underground fortresses — "networks of tunnels, caverns, bunkers, and surface installations, each spread through many tens of square miles" — McPhee briefly relates the story of a military reconnaissance mission on which he was able to tag along, involving a hydroelectric power station built inside a mountain, accessible by ladders and stairs; the battalion tasked with climbing down into it thus learns "that if a company of soldiers had to do it they could climb the mountain on the inside." In any case, the book's vision of the Alps as a massively constructed — or, at least, geotechnically augmented and militarily amplified — terrain is quite heady, including the very idea that, in seeking to protect itself from outside invaders, Switzerland is prepared to dynamite, shell, bulldoze, and seal itself into a kind of self-protective oblivion, hiding out in artificially expanded rocky passes and concrete super-basements as all roads and bridges into and out of the country are instantly transformed into landslides and dust. http://gizmodo.com/5919581/how-switzerland-camouflaged-its-ready+to+explode-architecture-during-the-cold-war?tag=design
  6. Du site de BBC News - 2 articles sur la conférence à McGill en fin de semaine, in "the Canadian city of Montreal" - lol Forum tackles genocide prevention Local people in front of burnt out buildings in Darfur Delegates said atrocities continued to this day in Darfur A conference in the Canadian city of Montreal has been discussing ways to try to prevent genocide. Delegates heard from survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, as well as genocidal campaigns in Rwanda and Cambodia. Many delegates referred to the current crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which has been described as "genocide in slow motion". "It seems that for the most part the vow of 'never again' was not taken seriously," Payam Akhavan, the conference chair, told AFP news agency. Esther Mujawayo, a Rwandan woman who lost her mother, father and husband in the 1994 genocide, said she was sceptical about the world's willingness to prevent atrocities. "Don't tell me you didn't know. The world did know. The world looked away. You knew but did not have the will," said Mrs Mujawayo. "When the people were evacuating, the French, the Belgians, the Americans, all the expatriates, they even evacuated their dogs and their cats," while Rwandans were left behind, she said. 'Arm opponents' Much of the discussion at the conference, sponsored by McGill University's law faculty, has centred on how to prevent common aspects of genocides, like media outlets demonising potential victims and foreign bureaucratic inertia preventing intervention. But a controversial thesis was also presented by the French scholar, Gerard Prunier. He said the only way to stop government sponsored mass killings was to give military backing to opponents of that government. "If we decide that in fact what is going to happen is of a genocidal dimension, we have to support, including militarily, the people who are fighting against it," he said. He told the BBC that would mean arming and assisting the rebels fighting against government-backed militia in Darfur. Some two million people have been displaced and at least 200,000 have died during the four-year conflict in western Sudan. Can the world stop genocide? Can the world stop genocide? A conference in the Canadian city of Montreal has been discussing ways to prevent genocide. BBC world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle, attending the meeting, asks whether this can be done. Remains of victims of the Rwandan genocide laid to rest at the Murambi Genocide Memorial. Some 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered in 100 days in 1994 The 75-year-old woman sat on stage in front of hundreds of United Nations officials, legal experts and academics. The day before, Marika Nene had travelled from Hungary to Canada - the first plane she had ever taken on her first journey outside Hungary. She was not intimidated by the gathering. Her long hair was lit up by a stage light and her facial features were strong. But the strongest thing about Marika Nene, a Roma - or Gypsy - woman who was trapped in the anti-Gypsy pogroms during World War II, was her determination to tell her story. "I had no choice. I had to give myself up to the soldiers," Marika Nene said through a translator. "I was a very pretty little gypsy woman and of course the soldiers took me very often to the room with a bed in it where they violated me. I still have nightmares about it". Many members of Marika Nene's Roma family died in the work camps and the ghettos. She had travelled to Montreal to give a reality check to the experts and UN officials at the "Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide". We do not need to have a legal finding that genocide has been committed in order to take preventive action Payam Akhavan Former war crimes prosecutor She was joined by other survivors - from Rwanda, Cambodia and the Jewish holocaust. They all told their horrific stories bravely. But there was something especially extraordinary about the elderly Roma who had transported herself from a village in eastern Hungary into the glare of an international conference in one of the most modern cities in the world. It was an example of what Nigerian Nobel Prize-winning author Wole Soyinka would later describe to me as one of those points where people meet each other in a spirit of "egalitarian awareness". Six million Jews or one million Tutsis are just numbers. But this strong Roma woman was a human being who was not ashamed to tell her story. Betrayal The Montreal conference drew personalities from the UN, academia and the legal profession. Romeo Dallaire Romeo Dallaire could do little to prevent the Rwandan genocide The general aim was to build pressure on politicians to take mass killings - even in far-off places about which we know little and sometimes care less - far more seriously. If that sounds like a fuzzy and vague ambition, Canadian Gen Romeo Dallaire, who commanded a UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, begged to differ. Gen Dallaire led a force in Rwanda which was betrayed by UN headquarters in New York - his mission was starved of resources and so forced to observe genocide rather than stop it. Since that failed mission, he has made a career out of lobbying politicians to do better on issues like peacekeeping, abolishing the use of child soldiers and nuclear disarmament. "This conference is aimed especially at young people," said Gen Dallaire from a hotel surrounded by the campus buildings of McGill University, which organised the conference. "If these young people became politically active," he continued, "they could dictate a whole new concept of what national interest should be and what humanity should be." What is genocide? Payam Akhavan, professor of international law at McGill and a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said defining genocide mattered from a legal point of view - but that analysing how it could be prevented was the real point. Pol Pot in the 1970s, and shortly before his death in the 1990s Pol Pot, who led Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, was never brought to justice "The legal definition of genocide is contained in the 1948 Genocide convention," he told me. "In simple terms, it is the intentional, collective destruction of an entire human group based on national, racial, religious or ethnic identity." "But the key point", Mr Akhavan continued, "is that we do not need to have a legal finding that genocide has been committed in order to take preventive action." That is because, of course, by the time the lawyers have decided a mass killing fits their definition, it is usually too late to act. The Iranian-born professor said it was necessary to think about the ingredients of genocide, which he listed as: * incitement to ethnic hatred * demonisation of the target group * radicalisation along ethnic or religious lines * distribution of weapons to extremist groups * preparation of lists of those to be exterminated Similarities As someone who personally witnessed and reported on the Rwandan genocide, I found it quite disturbing to read about other mass killings. Genocides can only be stopped by the people directly involved Gerard Prunier It was not the details which I found shocking, but the spooky similarities that kept cropping up across the world. The lists prepared by the Hutu extremists in Rwanda, for example, were mirrored by the obsessive recording of the details of victims by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The yellow identity stars Jews were forced to wear in World War II were the equivalent of the ethnic identity cards every Rwandan had to carry. This is the grim opposite of Wole Soyinka's "egalitarian awareness". It is the social science of genocide, which appears to have common features across history. The conference aimed to isolate and analyse Mr Akhavan's "early warning" factors to raise awareness. But what to do with the information? As speaker after speaker reminded the Montreal conference, the US government, among others, has asserted that genocide is being committed right now in the Darfur region of Sudan. It was continuing even as we sipped our coffee in softly carpeted rooms and nibbled our Canadian canapes. Everyone has known about it for several years but virtually nothing had been done to stop it. A dissident voice So all the talk about "early warnings" and "United Nations peacekeeping forces" and "the will of the international community" could be said to amount to little. Local people in front of burnt out buildings in Darfur The US and others have said a genocide is unfolding in Darfur At this point, a controversial scholar intervened with comments which challenged the entire conference. French author Gerard Prunier, like the proverbial ghost at a wedding, said genocides could not be prevented by the international community. "When you see a dictatorial regime heating up, everyone starts talking, talking, talking ... and by the time the talking stops, either matters have quietened down or they have happened." And that is the crux of the matter, according to Mr Prunier - it is difficult for politicians or the military to intervene in a situation that has not yet evolved into a crisis. Give war a chance? So what is Mr Prunier's solution? "Genocides can only be stopped by the people directly involved - and usually that means people involved in the war that accompanies most mass killings." And if it is the government committing the genocide, the solution is "arm the rebels", he says. "It won't be clean - it will be messy," the French author said, "but it is more likely to stop the mass killing than international intervention." To a large extent, Mr Prunier has history on his side. The Holocaust only ended when the allies destroyed Hitler's regime. The killing fields of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge were only stopped when the Vietnamese army moved in. And the genocide in Rwanda only ended when the Tutsi rebels overthrew the extremist Hutu regime. Against this, it could be argued that some interventions have worked - for example the Nigerian intervention in Liberia, which was followed up by a UN peacekeeping mission. It seems that resolving dramatic human rights abuses may require some of the diplomacy and the "international good will" that flowed so freely in Montreal. But as well as what Winston Churchill called "Jaw Jaw", some situations, it seems, may only be resolved by "War War".
  7. via the New Yorker : FEBRUARY 28, 2015 Leonard Cohen’s Montreal BY BERNARD AVISHAI PHOTOGRAPH BY ROB VERHORST/REDFERNS VIA GETTY Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—a hymn to souls too carnal to grow old, too secular to give praise, and too baffled to mock faith—recently turned thirty. Cohen himself, now eighty, came of age in Jewish Montreal during the twenty years after the Second World War, and those of us who followed him, a half-generation later, can’t hear the song without also thinking about that time and place, which qualifies as an era. The devotional—and deftly sacrilegious—quality of “Hallelujah” and other songs and poems by Cohen reflects a city of clashing and bonding religious communities, especially first-generation Jews and French Catholics. Montreal’s politics in the early sixties were energized by what came to be called Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, which emancipated the city’s bicultural intelligentsia from Church and Anglostocracy. The pace of transformation could make the place half crazy; that’s why you wanted to be there. Religious thoughts seemed to be the gravest ones in Montreal then, insinuated, even inculcated, by its architecture, seasonal festivals, and colloquialisms. Cohen grew up in affluent Westmount, the best part of Mount Royal, about a mile from my family home in Snowdon—a neighborhood on a lower Western slope, where “the English” (as my mother called them) had no choice but to make room for Jewish factory owners, lawyers, and doctors. Towering over both our neighborhoods, impressing itself on our senses, was the dome of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Quebec’s great basilica, the dream palace of (the now canonized) Brother André Bessette, who healed the body and spirit of pilgrims—the place we simply called the Shrine. A. M. Klein, the first of the Montreal Jewish poets, wrote, “How rich, how plumped with blessing is that dome! / The gourd of Brother André! His sweet days / rounded! Fulfilled! Honeyed to honeycomb!” Its neon-illuminated cross was visible from my bedroom window, an imposing rival for the whispered Shma Yisroel of bedtime. The city’s ironwork staircases, its streets tangled around Mount Royal, carried the names of uncountable saints (St. Denis, St. Eustache, St. Laurent); the fall air was scented by rotting leaves and, on Rosh Hashana, polished synagogues. Fresh snow sharpened Christmas lights. Our curses, borrowed from Québécois proles, were affectionately sacrilegious mocks of the Mass: “calice,” “tabarnak,” “osti”—chalice, tabernacle, host. For Jews, a sense of rivalry was palpable, triangular, and almost Old Country in character. French public schools were run by the Catholic Church, English schools by the Protestant School Board, and some fifty per cent of Jewish students went to Anglo-Jewish day schools that embraced (and effaced) Old World movements: Orthodox, Zionist, folkish Yiddishist. Montreal’s Jews numbered well over a hundred and twenty thousand in those years. A great many men and women behind the counters of our bakeries, delis, and bookstores spoke (as did my father) the Yiddish-inflected English of immigrants who had come in the twenties. The Soviet revolution had changed the boundaries of Russia’s borderlands, closing Russian markets that had previously been open to Jewish merchants and textile manufacturers in Lithuania and White Russia (now Eastern Belarus), forcing them West—just when the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 closed America to more Jewish immigration. My father and his widowed mother and siblings were trying, in 1928, to get from Bialystok to Chicago, where an uncle lived. The port of Montreal was supposed to be their starting point, before heading down to the Great Lakes. It was where they stayed. (If the accents were heavier, you knew the new arrivals had come mainly from Romania or Hungary after the Nazi defeat, and had witnessed horrors that we did not speak about.) Jewish community life after the war was imbued with a sense of intensely felt tragedy, but so was traditional Judaism as a culture. The world of Yiddishkeit, three generations back for New York intellectuals, was just one generation back for us. Compared with “Dick and Jane” in our English readers, the characters of the Hebrew bible—their violence, jealousies, and treacheries—seemed like family. On a streetcar ride up Queen Mary Road, where the Shrine stood, a nun once told me that I had “the look of Abraham” on my face. Another, apparently reading my mind, asked me if I knew what it meant to have sinful thoughts. (She also kindly shared an amusing word game, so her Inquisition ended with grace.) The largest English talk-radio station had a call-in show on Sunday evenings on which the vexingly courteous Pentecostal Pastor Johnson explained why Jews, in rejecting Jesus, were sadly damned. Most of his callers were Jews who debated and denounced him. Unlike in the United States, Jews in Quebec did not have a neutral civil space to melt into. We had nothing as stipulated as the American Constitution; our liberties derived organically, within the tradition of British Common Law. Canada’s money had a Queen on it, not the founding fathers. The institutions of Jewish Montreal created places in which we fell back on ourselves. The heads of our welfare services and of the Y.M.H.A., the public library, the free-loan society, and political congresses were local celebrities. The family of the liquor baron Sam Bronfman, who supported these institutions, were our nobility. The progressives among us didn’t go to Reform synagogues; we just went to Orthodox and Conservative synagogues, and irregularly. If we got sick, we went to the Jewish General Hospital. My father, a Zionist leader who travelled to Israel in 1954 as if on the hajj, often admonished me with the famous aphorism of Moses Mendelssohn, the eighteenth-century liberal philosopher, that I should be a Jew at home and a human in the street. I understood Mendelssohn more readily than, say, Leonard Bernstein, who, teaching us sonata form on television, seemed human pretty much everywhere. Tolerance meant dialogue and reciprocal recognition, not assimilation. A few years ago, I walked through Bialystok with a historical map of the now destroyed Jewish city—before the First World War, Jews comprised about half the population—and found my father’s house. I was struck by how familiar Montreal’s large immigrant Jewish neighborhoods might have seemed, at least on the surface, to my father in 1928, when he arrived at the age of fourteen: the same hard winter and the same thick-walled constructions, the same forested hills, the same churches, the same easy insular Yiddish dominating commerce in textiles and clothing—the shmate (“rag”) business. The same farmers who had, a couple of generations back, been peasants, speaking a strange national language, working in our factories, speaking against us from hearths and pulpits yet greeting us warmly and with a practiced humility. The same sense that, by contrast, the propertied classes, our local nobility, would tolerate Jews so long as we helped them get richer but did not cross some invisible boundary—the presumably unavailable daughters. In his iconic Canadian novel, “Two Solitudes,” Hugh MacLennan describes Quebec as being defined by two competing cultures, nested in two little nations that were also classes, French and English. The gruff, brilliant, promiscuous Irving Layton—who had been an acolyte of Klein, and who became Cohen’s mentor and advocate—observed many years later that Montreal actually had three solitudes—a Jewish one, too, sitting somewhere between the others. Commercial life was English, so Jews as a community were drawn to the Anglophone world, narrow only in Quebec. Yet immigrant Jews engaged more poignantly, pushing and pulling, with French religious culture, which was locally engulfing. Catholic priests and nuns were ubiquitous public servants, tending to the French population, largely subsidized by provincial taxes and dominating Quebec’s French universities, hospitals, and social agencies, as well as the public schools. Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, installed in 1953, was a kindly man, concerned for the poor, who ended his days as an African missionary (“a mensch,” my father called him), and the equal of any mayor; he kept anyone under sixteen from entering a movie theatre, except when Walt Disney films made the rounds. In the thirties and forties, the Church in Quebec had been ultramontane, and the not silent partner of the reactionary National Union Party of Premier Maurice Duplessis, who ruled, with a five year interruption, from 1936 until his death, in 1959. He had been xenophobic, populist, ambivalent about the war against Hitler, and classically (if discreetly) anti-Semitic. Behind the scenes, this political establishment instructed French voters, many of whom lived in far-flung farming villages where parish schooling was limited. They were barely literate and easily swayed. Duplessis presided over an apparently impregnable majority, rallied against sinful Montreal—Cardinal Léger sought to ban bingo—and used the provincial police thuggishly, turning it into a personal force. But the war and its aftermath gradually put the Catholic Church on the defensive. The exposure of Québécois soldiers to the triumph over Fascism, the penetration into the countryside of radio and television, the inescapable guilt that Catholic intellectuals felt about the death camps, the Second Vatican Council in 1962—all of these unleashed dissent. The Church’s chief critics were dazzling, cosmopolitan French Canadian intellectuals: Jean Marchand, the charismatic, leftist union leader; Gérard Pelletier and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the editors of Cité Libre magazine (Trudeau would eventually lead the federal Liberals to victory in 1968); and René Lévesque, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s most famous French-language host. When, in the 1960* election, the Liberal Party came to power (Lévesque joined the Liberal’s cabinet as the resources minister), the priests and nuns began losing their grip on the city’s schools and social services, and Quebec entered the humanist insurgency of the Quiet Revolution. The arts began to flourish: the Comédie-Canadienne blossomed, and the filmmaker Denys Arcand joined the National Film Board, producing award-winning French-language documentaries. The University of Montreal and community colleges were infused with provincial funds, and their graduates took social-service jobs in a new, fiercely secular Quebec bureaucracy. Public schools, still divided by language, were taken over more firmly, and funded more lavishly, by the regional government (though the formally “confessional” nomenclature—Catholic and Protestant—was not finally abandoned until 1998). By the spring of 1963, the Quebec government had nationalized old English-owned power companies, disturbing the peace of the residual Anglostocracy. In this loosened political atmosphere, Jews—who voted “Liberal” as faithfully as we conducted Seders—emerged into the culture. We grew infatuated with Trudeau’s federalist idealism. He was elected from a largely Jewish Montreal constituency and remained there throughout his years as Prime Minister. The Quiet Revolution transformed Montreal, at least for a while, into a kind of Andalusia: contesting religious-linguistic cultures rubbing each other the right way. Jews shared professional and literary ties with les Anglais, but we shared an affinity with French Catholics, for religious traditions that were thickly esthetic and that we, each in our own way, both loved and loved to distance ourselves from. We also intuitively understood congregational routine, authoritative interpretation of sacred literature, the prestige of historical continuity—we understood that messiahs matter in this world, that the divine emerged within the precincts of a discipline, commandments, and the mass, all of which produced decorum before they produced grace. As Cohen writes in “Hallelujah,” you cannot feel so you learn to touch: works, not just faith alone. Our rivalry with Catholics at times seemed fuelled by an unacknowledged tenderness, theirs for our historical struggles, professional erudition, and exegetical trenchancy, ours for their majestic spaces, genuflecting hockey champions, and forgiving, suffering servant—a Jew, after all. “I love Jesus,” Cohen told his biographer, Sylvie Simmons. “Always did.” But, he said, “I didn’t stand up in shul and say, ‘I love Jesus.’ ” My mother—the amiably innocent scion of another Bialystoker family—took me, overdressed (oisgeputzt), to Eaton’s department store to see the Christmas pageantry; and then, more reverentially (and to my father’s dismay), she took me to the Shrine’s wax museum, to see depictions of the passions of the saints. When I first heard a recording of Judy Collins’s iconic rendition of Cohen’s “Suzanne,” at McGill in the fall of 1967, a year after my mother’s sudden death—heard about the lonely wooden tower and its occupant searching out the drowning—it occurred to me that I had never expected much empathy from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It also occurred to me that Cohen, whose father had died when he was nine, knew loss, and that the distance from mama’s boy to ladies’ man could be short. Which brings me, finally, to McGill. If our emancipation was not in civil society, it was on that campus. The university had been chartered in 1821 to provide English and Scottish Protestants a colonial piece of the Enlightenment, above the atavism of habitant manors and parishes; the student population at the Arts and Sciences Faculty, in the mid-sixties, was something like forty-per-cent Jewish. Cohen was a legend by the time I got there. He had graduated in 1955, and had published three books of poetry and two novels; the National Film Board had made a fawning documentary about him. It was at McGill that Cohen found Irving Layton (he said of Layton, “I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever”). Klein, Layton’s teacher, had been there in the thirties, studied law, and went on to simultaneously write “The Rocking Chair,” a poetic tribute to French Canada, and edit The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. (Secretly, he also wrote speeches for Sam Bronfman). By the time Cohen got to McGill, Klein had fallen silent, spiralling into, among other sources of melancholy, a never-completed exegesis of Joyce’s “Ulysses.” For our part, we found at McGill a kind of finishing school to make ourselves more sovereign, like Cohen was. There was no need for young Jews to offer Quebec some new model of political insurrection—no American-style howl. The restrained, verbose liberalism of John Stuart Mill seemed insurgent enough, even for Trudeau and Levesque. So was the tolerance—the scientific doubt—of the Scottish enlightenment and the lyricism of English and Irish poets, from Wordsworth to Yeats. Hemmed in by Jewish and Catholic sexual norms—and also by Victorian prissiness—the first right that we thought to exercise was the right to Eros. Cohen told Sylvie Simmons that he was first inspired to write poetry when, in his teens, he read, in English translation, the work of the Spaniard Federico García Lorca. But, like many other Jewish youths at McGill, he shuttled between the debating union and the traditions of the English, immersing himself in the study of liberty and literature as in a yeshiva. This open-spirited time of cross-fertilization did not last. The Quiet Revolution, which prompted Trudeau’s federalism, in time gave rise to a more stridently nationalist idea, encouraged by Charles de Gaulle on his trip to the 1967 World’s Fair, and soon championed by Lévesque, too: that Quebec would be better off as an independent country, maîtres chez nous (masters of our own). Spooked by the vitality of English culture in Montreal, and by the fact that many more French were learning English than the other way around, separatists began agitating for an end to English-language education for new immigrants and English signs in the city. Socialists among the separatists, recalling Lévesque’s nationalization of the power companies, began calling for the nationalization of banks and large businesses. At the beginning of the sixties, radical separatists—impatient with the Liberals’ nonviolent democratic methods—had formed the Front de Libération du Québec, or F.L.Q., and gone underground. By the end of the sixties, they had placed bombs in the stock exchange and in mailboxes in English neighborhoods. In 1970, after a spate of F.L.Q. kidnappings (a Quebec minister, Pierre Laporte, was murdered), Trudeau imposed martial law. The city was roiled by arrests; a friend at McGill known for his New Left sympathies saw his flat raided; the police confiscated books, including, he laughed nervously, one entitled “Cubism”. Lévesque despised the violence of the underground, but was undeterred in his commitment to pursue national sovereignty democratically, ultimately through a referendum. In 1968, he had founded Le Parti Québécois. Jews, like most English-speaking residents of Quebec, were shocked when Lévesque was unexpectedly elected Premier in 1976. This proved the cue. Tens of thousands moved to Toronto. Some Jewish intellectuals, professionals, and artists stayed, but most left, and the amity of the sixties dimmed. Cohen kept a house in Montreal, but as his fame as a songwriter grew he spent little time there. Nevertheless, something of his native Montreal could not be shaken off—the short, sweet tradition of which Cohen was, in a sense, the end. In his 1978 poem “The Death of a Ladies’ Man,” Cohen writes of a lover’s “high religious mood” brought low by the dangers of desire: “She beckoned to the sentry / of his high religious mood. / She said, ‘I’ll make a space between my legs, / I’ll teach you solitude.’ ” You hear the resonances of Cohen’s own religious mood, and Montreal’s, in the lyrics of many songs—“Sisters of Mercy,” “Story of Isaac,” “Who by Fire,” “If It Be Your Will”—culminating, perhaps, with “Hallelujah.” The resonances and the losses are even clearer, I think, when you go to the start of the tradition—roughly, Klein to Layton to Cohen—rather than hear only its end. Klein’s 1947 poem “The Cripples,” about French Catholic worshippers at St. Joseph’s Oratory, which I quoted from earlier, reaches this climax: They know, they know, that suddenly their cares and orthopedics will fall from them, and they stand whole again. Roll empty away, wheelchairs, and crutches, without armpits, hop away! And I who in my own faith once had faith like this, but have not now, am crippled more than they. There you have it: a freethinking Montreal Jew, in whose bones the Torah was bred, inventing precise English lines to express envy for French Catholic piety. “Anything beautiful is not your own,” Cohen told a Jewish student newspaper in 1966. “When I write, I place myself in contact with something much more glorious than anything I can pull up from within myself.” Poetry was unlocked by reverence. But reverence might, ironically, embolden the poet to cross boundaries, to perhaps court one of those beautiful Westmount girls. And if you did, if you touched the dew on her hem, you could throw your crutches away. *Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified the election year that the Liberal Party came to power.
  8. http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/monument+defaced/3012787/story.html Whoever did this should be sent to Guantanamo.
  9. Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Canada+last+known+Great+dies/2583337/story.html#ixzz0fx2D0x3D