Michael Jackson is dead!

No, not that one, the other Michael Jackson; the internationally renowned critic, scholar, historian, and writer on beer and whiskey. He died last night at his home in London, age 65.

Jackson’s first publication was The World Guide to Beer in 1977. He went on to become the world’s leading authority on beer and its natural companion, whiskey. His Web site, The Beer Hunter, is very popular among those who eschew the grape for the barley.

Drink a toast to Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, tonight. Man, there’s going to be some kinda wake for that fella!

De Maisonneuve bike lane update

I rode on the de Maisonneuve bike lane today, twice. The lane is still under construction (when completed it will run from Berri to Green Ave. in Westmount), but parts of it are now usable. So on my way to work today I hopped on at Bleury and rode the bike lane all the way to McGill-College, stopping only to deke around the roadblock between Aylmer and Union. I did the same thing, in the opposite direction, on my way home in the evening. (See map, below.)

But here’s the funny part – I think I’m the only person who’s using it. There were other people around on their bikes, but they were all riding on the street. Because no one has officially declared the thing “open,” and I suppose because much of it is still under construction, it doesn’t seem to occur to people that they can, indeed, at least ride on the finished parts.

So go ahead and give it whirl. It’s particularly fun going east, as de Maisonneuve is a one-way street with traffic going west. The only thing you have to watch out for are stupid pedestrians who step from the sidewalk into the bicycle lane without looking because it doesn’t occur to them that there might actually be bicycles in the bicycle lane. (I almost clipped one today, in front of the Eaton Centre.)

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30th Anniversary of Bill 101

Today is the 30th anniversary of the day when Bill 101, the foundation of Quebec’s language legislations, passed into law. Much has been said and written about the Bill 101 so I’ll spare you another dreary essay. On this anniversary, however it is interesting to observe that most Quebeckers seem to feel that on the whole, the results of Bill 101 have been positive. According to a CROP poll reported by 940 news, “75 per cent of francophones and 57 per cent of non-francophones think the bill has been positive. Six out of 10 Quebeckers would not change the language law.” Hubert Bauch backs this up with an article in Saturday’s Montreal Gazette titled “Bill 101 paved way for peace.”

Generally speaking I feel that way too. At its core, Bill 101 is intended to declare that French is the only official language here, and that everyone has the right to conduct business and be served in French. That’s not unreasonable, given that francophones are, and historically have been, the largest demographic group in Quebec.

On the other hand, I bristle at any law (or set of laws) that segregates people into groups and declares that one group has different rights than others. That aspect of Bill 101 comes through in the education system, in which a family’s right to send their child to school in English depends on a somewhat murky formula based on where the parents went to school and what was their mother tongue.

The unfortunate thing is that when someone like me speaks against one or two aspects of Bill 101, it is often interpreted as a holus-bolus condemnation of the law. This is made worse by the “angryphones” who actually do that – declare the whole thing invalid based on a few sharp edges and a handful of fanatics who over-interpret some aspects of the law.

The best part of this anniversary is that it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite photos from 1990 on the Monday Morning Photo Blog. I took it at the Sir George Etienne Cartier Monument at the foot of Mont-Royal on St. Jean Baptiste Day (June 24) 1990. St. Jean Baptiste day is basically Quebec’s “national holiday.” Click the thumbnail to see the full image.