Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who Says Art Can't Exist in a Vacuum?

Check out this flikr page devoted to the emerging field of Roomba art. Yup, time-lapse photography of robotic vacuum cleaners making their rounds. Kinda cool.
This is one of several pix by the photographer Reconscious.

Broken link has been fixed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Introduction to Verdun

Writer Laura Roberts has posted an introduction to Verdun on the Gifted Travel web site. She thinks it's a great place to live, too.
I know the Douglas Hospital grounds are large, but I had no idea they accounted for one-seventh of the borough's area.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Dog Days of August for Montreal Real Estate

Resale housing in the Greater Montreal region rose by robust 9 per cent in August, according to the latest figures from the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board.
The prices increases were seen in all property types and across a wide geographic area.
The number of single-family home sales rose by 5 per cent compared to August of last year, totaling 1,674 properties. On the condo front, sales rose by 15 per cent to 855, while plex sales rose by 17 per cent to 337 units.
All three property types saw price increases, too. Single homes rose by an average of 6 per cent, plexes ( 2 to 5 units) rose 5 per cent and condos by 3 per cent.
The board pointed to the usual factors -- low borrowing rates, an improving job market and stronger consumer confidence -- as the key to the August market.
It must also be noted that August, 2008 was about the time all hell began to break loose in the U.S. economy, with failures setting off a chain reaction of business failings and job losses.
Montreal managed to dodge the bullet, at least compared to many other large North American cities. Still, the beginning of the year was a little too quiet for most agents' liking.
First-time buyers kept us busy during the bleakest part of winter. New rules allowing first-timers to withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSPs helped quite a bit. Eventually, vendors and buyers regained their nerve, making for a busy May through August.
The cheery portrait was confirmed in a new report by RBC Economic Research, the thinking end of the big chartered bank. RBC tracks housing affordability across Canada - ie the portion of pretax household revenue needed to service mortgage, utilities and taxes. Affordability got a boost in the second quarter, thanks to lower mortgage rates and a softer real estate market.
In Montreal, that meant carrying costs for the typical bungalow ate up 37.3 per cent of household income, down from 38.1 per cent during the previous three-month period.
For the average condo owner, 30.1 per cent of household income were dedicated to paying the mortgage et al, compared to 30.9 per cent three months earlier.
The average Vancouver bungalow owner spends 63.4 per cent of household income paying the mortgage. In Tawrawna, it's 45.6 per cent.
"Greater affordability has opened the door more fully to buyers, who have sprung into action," noted Robert Hogue, senior economist at RBC. "Sales of existing homes in Quebec have rebounded strongly, rising by more than 40 per cent from the cyclical low reached mid-winter, with improved market sentiment helping prices rise."
Taking the current market conditions into account, the Royal says affordability is unlikely to show much more improvement locally in the near term.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ikea goes Høllywood

IKEA Heights from DaveAOK on Vimeo.

And I thought Ikea drama meant choosing whether to go with the Tylosänd or the Hovås.
Silly mig!
Winkingly subversive filmmaker David Seger and a troupe of equally naughty actors have pulled off a feat at least as daring as assembling an Ikea commode without instructions. He's filmed a web-only soap opera, Ikea Heights, inside one of the Swedish retailer's cavernous stores in Burbank, CA.
Here's the subversive part. They filmed with hand-held cameras during regular store hours, using the display areas for sets. They never sought corporate permission. Confused customers occasionally wandered through the frame, perhaps wondering why a couple appeared to be arguing amid the rumpled sheets of a Tromsö bed.
You can check out more of their cheeky yet cheesy webisodes at
Last time I browsed there were four installments. Something tells me there might not be a fifth, now that Seger has gone public with an interview in the LA Times.
We all have our Ikea weaknesses, right? For me, the call of the meatball sometimes proves irresistible. If it isn't the cheap yet tasty eats, which I wolf down in a noisy cafeteria like a prisoner sprung from hard labour, it's the cheap and transiently stylish furniture. Let she who hasn't solved a home decorating problem with an unfinished pine end table throw the first Allan key. I love my Ivar shelves, reliable companions in every place I've lived from student dive to second home.
But my relationship with the Swedish sower of random diacritical marks is conflicted. They use too much melamine, a material that will ride out nuclear winter in the landfills of the world. Ditto extruded plastic. And they use some kind of mind control to make us buy vases and throw pillows that we almost instantly regret once we get home. (I think it's got something to do with the smell of the freshly baked cinnamon buns, which, frankly, taste like cardboard.)
I digress.
What delights about Seger's stealthy cinematic gambit is that he surveyed the Swedish giant and used its limitless space, endless room settings and dazed shuffling consumers for his own purpose. I'm not sure that Ikea Heights is art, but I'm pretty sure it is genius.

My posting prompted a response from a former Ikea wage slave.

"I assume this will die on the vine, as IKEA is notoriously litigious. They get cranky if IKEA isn't fully capitalized, let alone the interior of a store *GASP* is filmed by some scruffy artsy type. Scruffy artsy types are only permitted if they're photographed for the catalogue...

Despite the thin white melamine foil veneer on the company, and it's image as the Swedish themed Socialist Worker's Paradise, the truth is pretty far removed. Environmental policies, while noble, are pretty much undone by the toxic materials used to construct their goods, the maufacturing processes of developing nations they're built in, and by extension the high carbon costs of transporting those charming $2.00 brightly coloured acrylic fridge magnets from halfway across the face of the planet. The waste, if those with an actual environmental conscience could see it, is appalling.

And Ingvar Kamprad help you if you say the U word. (That's 'union', in case you were guessing).

The very least of their sins is feeding the growing worldwide consumer mentality hyped up on a cocktail of cheap, disposable goods and immediate gratification.

I've seen some pretty cynical things done in the name of The Big Blue Box while I was there, but here's what I like to call "Travel Tips From Those Who Know". Now, it would be in breech of a non-disclosure agreement to say why I don't do what I don't do. But I don't do what I don't do for good reasons. Here's a couple of the highlights.

- Don't eat the meatballs. Just... *shudder* trust me.
- Don't buy light fixtures. In fact, don't let your neighbors by light fixtures. Again, you're just going to have to take my word for it.
- Don't even TOUCH any toy, stuffy or other brightly colored object that might appeal to children. You don't want to know where they've been. It's unspeakable.
- And while we're on the subject of the little ones, don't check them into the Smaland® kiddie area.

Shame about the film going public, and thereby slamming the door shut on that project. It's definitely an idea with (I'm sorry, I can't contain it) Nordic designed, sensibly constructed, flat packaged, affordably priced, and if it can be helped, modular, legs.

Recovering Ikean