Thursday, May 28, 2015

The ill-fated Menard brothers and their brief-triumph over parking tickets

   If you want to know the heartbreak that parking tickets can bring, just go down to 303 Notre Dame E and chat with anybody randomly sitting around. You'll get an earful of sad tales about parking tickets that started piling up and left a world of hurt. Last year I talked at length to a single mother who can't get to work without a car but can't afford to pay her $2,000 in tickets.   
    The legend of the Menard brothers suggests that threatening self-harm might wipe the tickets out.        So who were the Menard brothers? Back when they were gunned down in 2000, Charles Edward Menard, 45, Daniel Menard, 46, were LaSalle-based career criminals who knew the city. 
   Heck these guys would pull heists in Delson, the East End, on Jean Talon E., they knew their maps well. But that served them little on that fateful evening on Wednesday January 26, 2000 when they were gunned inside an IGA on Hochelaga near Honore Beaugrand.                             
   The brothers were fleeing a gunman. As a desperate quest for refuge they dashed into a grocery store in hopes that their would-be assassin would not follow. But the shooter was not shy to stride through those glass sliding doors. They fell in a hail of bullets and their bodies thumped to the ground near a pile of bags of salt.  Their killer was never apprehended.   
  These guys had long records as wayward scofflaws. The brothers had been arrested a decade before- with a third brother Richard - while hiding in the ventilation system of a shopping centre in Delson which they were casing for a robbery. Richard, by the way, is still alive. 
   At the time of his fatal shooting Charles was out on bail waiting for to be tried for armed robbery along with Normand Evrard, 41, another inveterate armed robber. 
   So about the tickets: One of the Menard brothers was - according to legend - ready to leap off a rooftop one day because he wanted to end his days. Police came and he said he'd only come down from the ledge if all of his parking tickets were wiped out. And indeed he was granted his wish, He came down safe and sound and had no more tickets to pay. The yarn- if true - would have happened quite some time ago, like in the 1980s, so don't try that at home kids. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Montreal's pig parasite poisoning trial

Eric Kranz, was acquitted on charges of poisoning his roommates
   Six postgrad students at McGill's West Island MacDonald Campus were living together in a house in Ste. Anne's in 1970 when something unprecedented happened: four fell ill with a bug never seen in humans.
   New York student Eric Kranz a 24-year-old Parasitolity student at McGill's MacDonald College Campus was charged with doing something so unusual that it earned a wikipedia page.
  Kranz feuded with his roomies over a $16 debt and supposedly threatened them in anger.
   Keith Fern, David Fisk, William Butler and Richard Davis all fell sick on February 11 with a mystery ailment.
   Dr. John Harrold quickly figured the boys were infected with the ascaris sum pig parasite, which can grow into a seven inch worm. It damages lungs and liver in pigs but its effect on humans is unknown.
   Davis and Butler came close to death, according to Dr. Harrold. Another roommate John Purdon of Quebec City was out curling and didn't ingest anything nasty.
   The doctor said that the boys would have ingested like 400,000 larvae.  It was the first time the parasite had ever been found in humans.
   Kranz took off for a few days on Valentine's Day and media leaped on the story, insinuating that Kranz was fleeing after poisoning his roommates. Kranz soon returned to face charges.
   His lawyer Gabriel Lapointe persuaded the court that there was insufficient proof that Kranz had poisoned anybody. So he was never found guilty of poisoning these guys.
    During the trial one roommate reported that Kranz had slogans on his wall reading Revolution now" and "The Police are Pigs."
   School  Dean Dr. George Dion said that "there is obviously a twisted mentality behind this thing."
   No word on what happened to any of these people. They would all be aged about 66 to 70. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Depressing proof that Quebecers are less friendly and more alienated

   Quebecers are living in fear, loneliness and suspicion - at least in comparison with the rest of Canadians - a recent Statscan study reveals.
   Now I'm usually shrugtastically immune to eye-popping jaw-
droppers like this. But this haunts.
    Compared to the Rest of Canada, Quebecers came in dead last in all categories of questions relating to our healthy views and dealings towards others based on Statscan survey numbers from 2003, 2008 and 2013.
   When asked if they participate in group activities, (ie: community organizations and associations) only 57 percent of Quebecers replied yes.
   Every other province scored higher, with B.C. leading at 71 percent.  The only other province with a toll nearly as low as Quebec was New Brunswick, four percent higher.
   When asked "can people be trusted?" Quebec came in dead last again, with just over one in three saying that yes, they could. That is far below any other province, which all registered over 50 percent, with PEI and BC coming tops with almost two-of-three replying yes.
   Quebec also came in last when asked whether they thought their neighbour would return their wallet.
  The study also shows that we have fewer friends than people in other provinces.
  Why the suspicion Quebec?
  Theoretically there might be some sort of translation issue that causes Quebec to be such a radical outlier in these numbers.
   It could also be spun positively, that Quebecers are independent and less gullible.
   But nah, there's nothing noble about this. Developing countries tend also to have such paranoia towards others, while wealthier countries - like the Scandinavian countries - tend to have more trust.
   Why we're so different is a mystery. Maybe it's something in Quebec's longstanding mission to be what they're trying to be is at the root of this.
   But it sure gets you thinking that if you picked up your tent and moved to B.C. - or any other province -  your dealings with others might be richer and more rewarding than what you're enduring now and that's a sad thought. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Montreal disorientation - infuriating East End geography

    So where's St. Catherine street? Easy! Any Montreal toddler could guide you there with their first-ever steps.
Sherb to St. Cat is a happy walk downtown
   Within seconds newcomers and tourists grasp our downtown street grid by memorizing St. Cat and buds Sherbrooke, Maisonneuve and Dorch.
    And they're all nice and close and walkable. Granny can stroll from Sherbrooke to St. Catherine in five minutes downtown, as the two east-west streets are just 350 metres apart.
A decent sprinter could run that in about a minute.
   But get thee to the east and try doing the same and the bewildering disorientation and inevitable perplexing discombobulation begins.
   That's because the further east you go, the more the main east-west streets sneakily drift apart.
   By the time you get to Viau, that pleasant urban stroll from Sherbrooke to Ste Catherine might require a map, solid hiking shoes, a place to rest and a reliable hunting rifle.
Sherb to St. Cat on Viau? Welcome to hell boy
   Viau between Ste. Cat and Sherb, is a 25 minute, 2.1 kilometre walk, including an often icy and windy hill. (Ice in the summer? From spilled cocktails?- Chimples)
   The cruelest part? Just when you think you see your destination in the distance you realize it's a decoy, a street you've never heard of, Adam, Lafontaine, Rouen, Hochelaga, Pierre de Courbertin, Charbonneau. There's even something called the Long Point Antenna, scrubland that looks like a great place to dump a corpse. Moral of the story? Things are very bad and quickly getting worse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Montreal cleaning maid thinks it smart to carry her life savings around in her purse, learns otherwise

  Poor ol' Elizabeth Ulrich. This cleaning lady, who moved to Montreal from Romania as a middle-aged woman in 1939, had a habit of hauling her life savings around in her purse.
   You can imagine how the rest of this story goes.
   So she finished cleaning on Somerville in the Westmounts and headed home to 3474 de Bullion with her purse jammed with $4,000 - mostly in $100 dollar bills.
  She got on the 52 tram at Guy and Ste. Catherine and noticed her purse that she usually left jammed under her arm had gone missing.
   It might have fallen out because she was also clutching some soap in the same manner.
   (Did she lose the soap too?- Chimples).
   She had been dreaming about buying a house with the money. Back then you could get a joint for like $14,000 in NDG or $9,000 in St. Laurent.
   That amount - $4,000 in 1947 - is worth about $42,000 in today's money by the way.
   Anyway she carried her life savings around because she thought that her son would stop sending her the $20 a month if he knew she had already saved that much cash.
   Moral of the story? There is no god. Nobody cares about you. People have it way worse than you. All, yes, all is futile. (Wow freaky! - Chimples)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quebec immigration officials busted for mishandling application

   During their 18 months in power the Parti Quebecois made it more difficult for skilled workers to immigrate to Quebec by hiking up language proficiency requirements with new rules that came into force on August 1, 2013.
   Four months prior to that change, Tatiana Stasenko, a Russian woman living in the United States, paid $900 to apply for acceptance as a skilled worker.
    The government attempted to apply the new rules on the old application.
   The application had been received four months before the new rules came into effect.
   Stasenko hired lawyers, went to court against the Quebec government for incorrectly using later rules to process her application.
   She won, as Justice Kirkland-Casgrain ruled that the government erred in applying later rules to the earlier application.
   No word on whether she will get her certificate but she exposed some shameful government incompetence.
   How many other applicants were incorrectly processed and refused due to the same mistake? We may never know.
   The Quebec chamber of commerce has pleaded with the Liberal Couillard government to loosen the language restrictions to allow businesses to recruit talent, but so far nothing.
   The decision mentions that 50,000 people apply for said certificate in Quebec, presumably per year. That's $40 million received.
  Stasenko's request came in one third of a year before the new rule was passed, so that suggests that at least 16,000 applicants had their requests evaluated under the improper language proficiency criteria.  

Stress turns 80 next year

   Stress turns 80 next year.
   The concept has become one of our modern favourites but it was only coined as a term describing a psychological state by Montreal researcher Hans Selye  in 1936.
  Selye, who was born in Vienna, studied in Prague and moved here in 1931, was researching some other thing and noticed that rats developed ulcers, heart disease and arthritis after being put in psychological y-challenging situations.
   He invented the term stress because the term strain wasn't quite right. It was picked up as a term in many other languages Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, French and others.
   (The word stress comes from distress and that is said to have been invented around 1,000 years ago but the usage of stress as a psychological term only started with Selye.)
   He was the longtime chief of Medicine at the Universite de Montreal. Other universities wanted to woo him away including one in Texas but he said he liked Montreal. He wrote 2,000 papers and 39 books, the best known of which as The Stress of Life from 1956..He opened the International Stress Institute in 1977 at age 70.
   He was also a shill for the tobacco industry. (I've always suspected that smoking might be linked to lower-rates of PTSD in the world wars, but that's another story).
  Selye married three times and had five kids in Montreal. He died in 1982 and his funeral was held in a church on Laurier.

Montreal tobacco company scientist denied smoking leads to cancer

   Good old Leo Laporte went to bat for his employer for decades denying the link between smoking and cancer.
   Is smoking bad for you? Leo Laporte, who graduated from McGill as a Chemical Engineer, didn't think so. He joined Imperial Tobacco in Montreal in 1928 and almost 40 years later was still insisting that there's no evidence of a link between smoking and lung cancer.
   His staff of 90 "scientists, engineers, quality control and technical service people" apparently agreed.
  In 1963 the Canadian Medical Association's proposal on warning labels on cigarettes.
  "No substance as found in tobacco smoke is known to be the cause of lung cancer in humans and this is a vital defect of hte proposal."  
"Many eminent scientists publicly question the cause and effect relationship of cigarette smoking and health," he said
   Some other notable smoking dates:
 In 1955 Canada had 13 projects to research lung cancer but by 1961 there were only two, and that's because they couldn't find any animals to smoke.
   1987: Air Canada "experiments with non-smoking flights."
   1994: study said that smoking should not be discouraged because it makes people die younger, hence the government saves money on old age pensions.
  2006: Indoor smoking ban kicks off in Quebec and Ontario. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Montreal's most badass prison revolt: 1886 nostalgia

  Perhaps the wildest all-time attempted jailbreak around Montreal took place in 1886 at St. Vincent de Paul in Laval where 16 convicts were shot.
   The main characters were Peters, jailed for holding a child on a stove and Viau, a notorious highwayman.
  The two inmates started the revolt by hammering a guard named Bostock on the head with a crowbar. Bostock was an Englishman who stood 6'3"of pure muscle.
   The two seized some pistols and set up a ladder and a full-out gunfight ensued with the convicts wielding pistols and the guards rifles.
   Convict Ouimet was shot at while attempted to get up a ladder and fell off and convict Corriveau was shot dead trying to climb the ladder.
   Chief Warden Laviolette bravely entered the fray in a futile attempt to negotiate. They tied him up.
   The hostages used human shields with the hostages, or as a reporter describes it:  "with diabolical calculation hit upon the plan of making a human breastwork of the warden and stewards.
   The nine guards were face to face with the 16 rebel convicts and Laviolette ordered the guards to shoot, even though he was being held hostage as a human shield.
    Laviolette was hit with four bullets, one into the jawbone which went through his neck, another in the back that came out of his groin and another through his wrist. He wasn't expected to survive, so we're assuming he died from the wounds.
   Convicts Holden and Norman were hit in a gun battle that last about one hour and saw about 100 shots fired.  
   A particularly wicked convicted known as "The Dummy" refused to show mercy on guard Bostock who was so tightly tied that he was in danger.
   When a convicted offered to loosen guard Bostock, The Dummy blocked the intervention and kicked Bostock in the stomach. The Dummy was going to smash Bostock in the head with an iron bar but another convict stopped him.
   The insurrection was eventually quelled and the inmates retreated to their cells and Detective Cullen rushed to the scene on horseback.

Mother's Day matricide

  Lots of stories about maternal love today on Mothers' Day, so we've got to counter that.
  Here's the tragic story of Myra Kanner, 21, who in 1972, purchased a $50 rifle, shot and killed her mother Anne Kanner, 50, will bullets to the dome and shoulder at their home at 4953 Rene Coty in Laval on April 5 and then returned the rifle for a refund.
Photoshop recreation of the tragedy
   Kanner bought the weapons at International Firearms on Bleury, a spot where a separatist terrorist had killed two employees eight years earlier.
   Her father Harry Kanner, 48, had been killed by stick up men in a $3,000 August 1968 at his scrap business General Junk Shop at 3701 St. Ambroise St. Henri. Two men were charged with shooting him six times in the chest and stomach.
   Myra Kanner had gone into a deep depression after her father was killed, according to her bro Hyman Kanner. She denied killing her mother, whom she said she loved.
   "When she died I died with her," said Myra Kanner.
  She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Kanner would be about 64 now. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Must-watch old documentary on old time Lakeshore in West Island

 Must-watch history of the Lakeshore on the West Island from 1979.
 Many thanks to the brilliant video archivist Martin Lamontagne for digging this up.
-Some people living out there who boast of being descended from navigators (49 mins)
 -Guy says that spaces between houses were not designed to bring boats down but rather so cars could pick up water and ice. (50 minutes).
 -Woman says that farmers would sit around and do nothing all day most of the year while their wives worked hard. (around 10 minutes)
 - In Ste. Anne's the anglos and francos don't mix much and have totally different traditions, for example anglos take the train into town to commute, while the francos drive .(55 mins)
 -No real land records were taken in early days so farmers would bury porcelain along their borers and in the event of any dispute the land was dug up to find the porcelain (Very interesting English guy, with Irish lilt, possible named Michael Carley 27 minutes)
  Claude Hoskin, Laurier Descary, Sarto Desnoyer, Germain Racin Jean Louis Rousse,  Guy Allard, Michael Carley, Lucien Mireault, Paul Perrier, Lucien Cardinal, Guy Dubreuil, Samuel Garceau, 

Tribute to the great old Hot Colonnade on Crescent and Dorch

Montreal's disrespected landmark file:
  The Hotel Colonnade, that's it on the right with the big windows.
   One of the city's great buildings sat at the southeast corner of Crescent and Dorch but Internet whack-jobs, red-eyed taxi drivers, crackheads, Tourettes-afflicted vagrants and others of their ilk think that it should be an object of derision.
   The Hot Colonnade, as the burnt-out lighted E and L would have you call it, was built in the mid-60s and demolished in 2002.
    The beaut was designed by legendary Montreal personality, friend of Coolopolis and former architect Michael Fish.
 Fish was part of a four man architectural firm with Morris Melamed, David Croft and Jim Grainger, (the last two weren't Canadian citizens so didnt get their name on the masthead.)
   In 1960 Kenny Wolofsky came to their tiny office on Monkland and laid out some plans that he had paid $500 for from the city permits department. He said zoning was set to change within a new days.
   The architects were thrilled. They were all under the age of 25. They had only done a couple of small projects and they were now excited to be doing a downtown hotel.
   The plan was for a 10 storey bachelor apartment with a 20 by 100 foot lot, which is very narrow, of course.
  Developer Morris Stahl, known for his fancy suits and Cadillacs, ran out of cash and couldn't finish the building. Some costly lawsuits ensued and it was built but at a higher cost, supposedly double the original cost.
  Stahl's initial plan was to gobble up the Crescent Tavern Snack Bar next door and double the size of the project but that never took place.
  The developers couldn't afford the precast facade so Stahl ordered shiny blazed bricks, fashionable in Montreal at the time.
   The mortar didn't match the bricks and the architects considered it an embarrassment. They never did another downtown building.
   But they became popular with developers seeking to build low-cost projects.
   The building was sold and its vocation as apartments slowly switched to a hotel after news of Expo 67 came in 1962. In 195 it was the Majestic Hotel with Godel and Shoet listed as owners.
  A room went for $7.50 a night, a double $10.50
  In 1966 it became the Colonnade Hotel with 65 rooms.  In 1987 air conditioners were removed and tinted glass installed. Rooms cost from $55 to $95.
  It was demolished in 2002.
   Its one possibly notorious moment? The guys who set the killer blaze at the Wagon Wheel/Blue Bird Cafe on Union assembled in the bar after doing the deed in 1972.
    Architect Mike Fish said of the building in 2002. "It had a decent life. It never went to jail. It did no harm. Like a prodigal son, I grew to like it very much despite its up-close defects and the original disappointments about its fidelity to our 'beautiful' designs.I gradually realized that there are no really 'bad boys, there are really 'no ugly buildings. Just boys and buildings that some of us don't want to know."