Fall has begun

and football season is upon us again. (NB: when I say “football” I mean the version with the helmets where they use their hands. And usually with 100 yard fields and 11 players, though Carrie and I are exploring the possibility of a relationship with the CFL).

So, we’re watching the games yesterday and the FOX announcers keep saying that former coach and Fox personality Jimmy Johnson “really ripped into Ricky Williams” in the pregame show. For those who don’t know, Williams was a star running back for Miami who decided to retire rather than continue playing, despite being at the top of his game. He joins a group of African American running backs who retired at the top of their careers: Robert Smith (who has since come out as an atheist and written a book) and Barry Sanders (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer and still won’t apologize for quitting). Williams always hated the publicity that came with the job (some say due to social anxiety disorder), and on top of that, he was on his way to setting a record for carrying the ball. Which means that he probably would have been unable to walk at age 50. Williams is going to travel the world and eventually wants to teach kindergarten or otherwise work with kids.

What’s stunning to me is the sense of betrayal from Johnson and others (some articles actually Williams’ retirement a dumb or inexplicable move), like Williams owed them more time. It may be the case that he owes Miami some money, but he had no moral obligation to continue playing. The howls of agony from sport personalities all over the US confirm that they still believe ultimately players have no right to determine their own lives. And part of me, of course, wonders if there isn’t also a racial undertone to it all.

Pierre the Nationalist Dishwasher Salesman

Ok, so one of the things that’s totally weird to me here is that tenants (at least at the end of the rental market we’re at) are usually responsible for their own appliances. Our landlord (who is pretty cool) left us a stove, a fridge and a dishwasher. The dishwasher had a “trick” to it to make it work, and of course, the “trick” stopped working. We tried to fix it to no avail, and so — since we are hopelessly bourgeois about these sorts of things — we found ourselves in need of a new dishwasher.

We hear tell of $250 dishwashers at a place called Brault and Martineau. (Remember, American friends, all prices in this blog are CANADIAN, so your American dollar goes further. I routinely annoy Carrie by converting things into American dollars in my head to see if we’re getting a “good deal.” That’s a story for another time.) So we drive out east to a surburb called Anjou. Total Francophone land, where we learn that we want the “scratch and dent” place, which is in the REAL east of Montreal. “Est ou ouest?” I ask the saleswoman in my best Franglais; “est, est!” she says. And so we drive east on the main drag, further than we’ve ever gone, past this heavy industrial corridor, past oil refineries and into a strip-malled, suburbanish part of the island.

there, we find scratch and dent heaven, but predictably, the $250 dishwashers are gone. We wound up dropping a lot more than that, but the real story here is Pierre. We are in the Frenchest of the French part of town, and as he is illuminating us on the finer points of dishwasher technology, he slips in a few political references. A few more come after we seem not to mind. Eventually we encourage him and all hell breaks loose. First, our new dishwasher is Quebecois Nationalist Approved because it was made in Quebec. Also energy-efficient. But we got a serious education on language politics and everything else. He’s the first person I’ve met where the conversation has gotten far enough to say “yes I voted for independence and I think it would be a good idea” (nb: the polite term is “independence” — if you say “separation,” it’s a loaded term. Like “pro-life.”). So, I asked him what he thought would happen if the nationalists actually won a referendum here.

I actually can’t recount everything he said because it was so complex and made little sense to me (especially the part about the “special deal with the United States” which I just think would be bad news for the Francophones if they already dislike Canada’s language politics, since Americans are like 10 times worse). But I did come away with a takeaway point that I found quite enlightening. It is eminently clear that althoguh Canada professes to be a bilingual nation, the Anglos have a better deal on the language front than the Francophones, especially outside Quebec. I can walk into my local Loblaw’s (Pittsburghers: Loblaw’s=Giant Iggle) and even though almost nobody speaks English as their first language, if I have a question, they’ll go out of their way to find someone who can communicate with me. At least to hear Pierre tell it, if I’m a French speaker in a grocery store in Toronto, I’m screwed. thee are lots of resentments back and forth on this score, and no easy answers. But what would REALLY happen if Quebec won a referendum for independence? Probably, the province would be in an amazing strong negotiating position with Canada, since Canada needs it. And if you speak French and are worried about the assimilation of your culture into Anglo Canadian culture, it seems like you’d need to keep the pressure on.

Anyway, that’s what we learned. As for me, I’m still planning on French lessons once school settles down a bit (haha, I know, but it’s really bad right now). And it seems like a little politeness (apologizing for not knowing French) goes a long way.

Sorry for all the typos, if there are any. This just won’t be any fun if I have to proof it. So my semiliteracy will be exposed.

Oh, and I should apologize in advance for exposing my cluelessness about Canadian politics. Watch me learn.


The blog begins. I’ve been waiting to do this because I’ve been so busy with other things. Startup at any school is a pain in the butt, and McGill has its (ahem) own “unique bureaucratic conditions.” That aside, I’m in love with the school, the town, and my new life.

Let me start by apologizing for the next six months to a year of postings. I’m afraid they’re going to be a little reminiscent of this stretch of dialogue from Pulp Fiction

You’ll dig it the most. But you
know what the funniest thing about
Europe is?


It’s the little differences. A
lotta the same shit we got here,
they got there, but there they’re a
little different.


Well, in Amsterdam, you can buy
beer in a movie theatre. And I
don’t mean in a paper cup either.
They give you a glass of beer, like
in a bar. In Paris, you can buy
beer at MacDonald’s. Also, you
know what they call a Quarter
Pounder with Cheese in Paris?

They don’t call it a Quarter
Pounder with Cheese?

No, they got the metric system
there, they wouldn’t know what the
fuck a Quarter Pounder is.

What’d they call it?

Royale with Cheese.

Royale with Cheese. What’d they
call a Big Mac?

Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call
it Le Big Mac.

What do they call a Whopper?

I dunno, I didn’t go into a Burger
King. But you know what they put
on french fries in Holland instead
of ketchup?




I seen ’em do it. And I don’t mean
a little bit on the side of the
plate, they fuckin’ drown ’em in


FWIW, I’ve already noticed how cool the metric system is, though Canada has their weird inbetween thing. Also, I cheat on the weather by looking up farenheit readings on weather.com. Gotta get over that vice. I am still very much in that “wow, the Metro trains sure are a cool color of blue” stage, so there’s going to be a fair amount of naive “gee whiz” commentary. But I know of at least one reader who likes that stuff.

I’ve got lots of rants and raves, and in part wish I had this set up for some of August’s exploring, but I’ll just refer back to that as necessary. Some highlights, though:

–not having to drive everywhere

–awesome colleagues and students at McGill

–The Globe and Mail

Okay, I should stop and ruminate on my love affair with the Globe and Mail. Canadians will make fun of me for it, especially left wing Canadians who will poo-poo it as a centrist, mainstream paper. But it is so delightfully left of US mainstream news, and extremely literate to boot. Sure, they spent like two weeks on MP Carolyn Parrish, who called U.S. supporters of missile defense “idiots.” Though in their defence (love the “c” in “defence” and the “u” in “labour”), CNN did notice for about 5 minutes. That aside, though, the Globe and Mail is more international than the New York Times, and pleasingly left now that they’ve got the National Post competing with them to their right.

(Side note on that: they ARE idiots, aren’t they? Missile defense is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. It can be 99.99% perfect in its functioning and the population of your country will still be annihilated. Stupid, right? So then the problem becomes about deference to the US and Canadian standards of civility, which are, admittedly, surprisingly high).

Okay, so now that I’ve started, onto the next entry.

First Entry

Alright, so I’m going to try this blogging thing. It’s also my first foray into php, so the formatting or look of this page may be off or may change. Or not.
Possible topics will include:

–my exploration of Montreal

–musings on music, culture, politics, and sports that I like

–occasional thoughts on academic stuff

Pictures will come once we’re set up to do digital photography here.

EDIT: 18 Months Later

The first post was a good guess. I pretty much blog about what I said I’d blog about. I never did work out my issues with php and wound up hiring someone to customize WordPress for me. Unfortunately, the formatting didn’t translate perfectly from B2 to WordPress, which means that my older posts have a lot of white space in them and the quotes are a little messed up. Oh well.

Super Bon! doesn’t have an overarching theme, and it’s certainly not a proper “professional” blog. As far as I can tell, the Super Bon Concept is this:

–take some of the “keep in touch with friends” thing you might find on LiveJournal

–mix it with some political, philosophical and cultural commentary when I am so moved

–milk the “American in Canada” thing for all it’s worth

–put it, inappropriately, on a professional website

–post some pictures now and then

–mention when my other writing appears in print

. . .and there you have it. Enjoy!