Quebec 1970: Graphic Design Peak?
Quebec 1970: Graphic Design Peak?
Anyone living in Quebec has seen the election poster designs of the 3 major parties - and here's my critique. There's the Liberals with their "Pop-Up Video" style word balloons - a style that clashes with their stiffly posed photos of 55+ candidates and their new logo which resembles the "contents explosive" mark on spray cans. The PQ have Quebecor's corporate colours - blue-and-yellow - but at least they have big colour head shots of the candidates. (Although in my neighborhood, I could do without seeing Laurent Malepart's disturbingly goofy mug every 20 feet or so.) The Mouvement des Forces Progressistes - where applicable - have some interesting typography going on, but... too many colours.
Hands down, the best-designed posters of the campaign are the ADQ's. Crisp Herb Ritts-y black and white photography, elegantly square-shaped with generous white borders, reversed-out Helvetica type, and depth of field; Candidate large in foreground, Mario Dumont in the middle ground, Assembl?e Nationale in the background. Their candidates are largely young and photogenic; they look serious but approachable. The visual language seems borrowed more from fashion, not politics. In tone and typography, they remind me of Dior "Higher" ads. Thankfully, Dumont at least keeps his shirt on.
This trend is interesting only for the fact that posters have been so frickin' boring lately. I was searching for examples of the current posters to link to - there are none, apparently - but thanks to the uncanny engine behind Teoma, I found the Bibliotheque Nationale du Quebec's online poster archives. Quebec graphic design from the 50's and 60's seems rather limited and imitative of mainstream trends, but after Expo 67 it seems to have flourished - thanks to Big Events, Megaprojects and a cultural renaissance. By my yardstick, it seems to have peaked in the early 1970s, and degraded soon after that in a haze of trendy airbrushing, 1980s geometric-fragments-in-aqua minimalism and later, 1990s grunge photography and distressed type. The work the Quebec Government commissioned, particularly in 1970 for the Sports and Loisirs category, is striking and timeless, like the Soccer poster above, one of dozens promoting different activities.
But here's the hidden link of the day: erstwhile Britpop band Pulp seem to have nicked their whole visual identity from Quebec government health and employment services posters! Check out the "Service Social" image above: isn't that a Pulp single sleeve, circa Different Class? And isn't that Jarvis Cocker himself walking through the door at the center of the "Placement" poster?
EcoCit? green condos Startup company
EcoCité is a "green condos" company offering small-footprint urban housing with a surprising array of eco-friendly features. Reduced water and energy use, maximized passive solar heating, recovery of waste heat, green roofs to reduce impact on city storm drains, greywater / blackwater separation, gardens, and an emphasis on high quality of life all factor into their designs. Their construction partner, Build specializes in creating new infill buildings for old neighborhoods that maximize daylight and make tiny sites seem very spacious.
Higuma, Rue St-Denis / Avenue Roy
Higuma is right next to one of our old favourites, the ultra-popular pasta joint La Popessa. (They've since opened a second branch on Stanley just above Rene-Levesque.) In a city crowded with Gap-like Sushi Shops, price competition is fiercer and even old favourites like Mikado aren't the luxe experiences they used to be. (If I had a nickel for every time I've encountered pickled ginger so fibrous it's like chewing on pencil shavings...)
A typical St-Denis "garden apartment" space, long and narrow, it is minimal and spacious. Upon entering, you notice the open-concept kitchen, and you're greeted by the chef himself. Walled on one side with beautiful dark-blue slate tiles, with a muted gold-tone smoke hood above a central island, decorated with a row of tealights, the kitchen faces a row of banquettes in neo-Japanese / Frank Lloyd Wright style, roofed with decorative, acid-etched metal panels. The tables have clever slotted edges to add extensions, to accommodate groups of 6 to 8 people). A mix of contemporary-classical and light symphonic music makes an unobtrusive background.
We started with a very hearty miso soup and a tempura appetizer platter which had some odd choices in it, such as red bell peppers - not an optimal flavour choice in my opinion. The main courses were artfully presented with a well-shaped dab of wasabi. Higuma's menu has several intriguing maki rolls not seen elsewhere - the 'Satsuma' roll with sweet potato, avocado and ginger, the 'Alaska' roll with red clam, the 'Calgary' roll with fried chicken, and an amazingly rich Chinese mushroom roll. The fish was exceptionally fresh and tender, and the rice suprisingly flavourful and well-textured; we both agreed that the clam in the Alaska roll, at least this time, had a slightly oceanic taste, but this could just be due to our taste buds or to seasonal availability - we'll have to try it again in a month or so.
If you're a light eater, 2 or 3 rolls will easily satisfy 2 people - choose carefully because portions, at least when we visited, were large; we almost regretted having the soup and appetizer beforehand. Service was friendly, solicitous and attentive. A regular meal with soup, appetizer and 2-3 rolls should cost between $35-40 for 2 people before drinks, tax and tip.
English Sans French
Via the Christian Science Monitor. Freedom fries optional.
Gandhi, Rue St-Paul, Old Montreal
Gandhi is a rare bird among Montreal's flock of well-known Indian restos. Besides being the only one in Old Montreal, it has upscale ambitions, stylishly Indo-modern decor, unusual regional dishes, and (shockingly) a lengthy, varied and affordable wine list. The menu has most of the staples of Western Indian restaurants, but the dishes we sampled had a definite twist to them, more Peshawari than the usual Gujarati or Punjabi.
The interior is minimal and clean, with hardwood floors and a mix of exposed red brick and regular walls in cream up front, and maroon towards the bar and back hallway. The designers sensibly resisted the usual urge to 'out-India India' with paintings, mosaics, and associated bric-a-brac - they don't try to pretend the building isn't 19th century French. One of the only nods to Far Eastern design are pair of tasteful Persian-arch sculpture niches, with internally lit shelves displaying graceful bronzes.
We visited the restaurant on a Wednesday night and thus, the restaurant was caught understaffed, with only two waiters to serve what seemed like 25 people at one point. It looks like Montrealers are at that breaking point of winter where they just want to go out, no matter what - we saw dozens of would-be diners roaming St-Paul street that night. In any case, service, despite being slow, was highly competent and polite.
After the obligatory starter poppadums (presented with a silver cruet set of quality Branston pickle, raita and tamarind sauces) we ordered a pair of soups- a dal and a mulligatawny. I've had dal in pretty much every Indian place in town, and (sorry Grandma) this was the best - subtly herbed with an undertone of earthiness and smokiness, perfectly seasoned. B.'s Mulligatawny was spicy and equally complex.
A pair of meat samosas arrived - filled with lean, minted ground beef and wrapped in a lightly fried, thick and chewy dough (as opposed to the thinner, oil-saturated kind) that seemed to have a kind of perfume to it, much like naan (of which we also had one, which was excellent, as well as a roti flatbread - and I have to come back to try the puris, the small, flat, fried 'puffball' breads that I haven't seen outside the kitchens of friends and relatives.) Sadly, the iceberg lettuce salad that accompanied it was bitter and not an ideal complement to the dish.
Our main dishes were an unusual Malay curry, to which we added beef from the mix-and-match menu, and a chicken dish we'd never seen before, with a spicy mint-based tomato sauce . The Malay curry was thick and mild, rich with coconut milk, with slices of pineapple and whole lychees. Portions were accordingly small, but filling. The one disappointing note was an accompanying spinach dish which had been overcooked, with a pronounced grassy taste.
The wine we selected was our old favourite, the full-bodied Maitre D'Estournel Bordeaux 1999, which was priced reasonably at $26, only a 66% markup over retail. We chose to skip dessert this time, but we're definitely going back.
Eats, Shoots, And Leaves...
Excerpted from the always-right-on 50cups.com
The "plural apostrophe" (e.g. no dog's allowed, sofa's for sale, UGH) is running rampant these days, and it's not just my imagination. It's so wrong that I can't even begin to fathom how anyone could make such a mistake. I hate it when people dismiss it with, "Oh, not everyone's a grammar freak." Grammar? You think it's an issue of grammar? I hate to break it to you, but if you can't spell "dogs," you're illiterate.
In the same vein, what's up with people that pronounce words with perfectly good short vowels as long: "ee-ssential, ee-lectronic," and the one that always kills me, "proe-ject?" As opposed to an amateur ject, I suppose.
It's a stiff, schoolmarmish way of speaking, as if one learned the word from a book and not by hearing it, but it's widespread (the CBC's Shelagh Rogers talks like this); is it an example of linguistic hypercorrection? In any case, it's peculiarly unique to Canada, from my experience.
And of course, let us not forget the mother of all horrible back-formations, "orientated?"