“The whole world is a cactus”

“Le monde entier est un cactus
Il est impossible de s’assoir
Dans la vie, il y a qu’des cactus
Moi je me pique de le savoir
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe” – Jacques Dutronc, Les Cactus (1967)

Roughly translated the above passage from Jacques Dutronc’s 1967 hit, “Les Cactus” reads:

The whole world is a cactus

It’s impossible to sit down

In life, there are cacti

I prick myself to find out”

It’s an oddly appropriate song for how I feel about 2017.

While I have much to be thankful for, there seems to be much still left to do, and it’s not time to settle down and get too comfortable.

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I’ve had wonderful clients throughout the year who have given me interesting projects to work on, and through whom I’ve been able to travel to New York, Songdoo (South Korea), LA, and Toronto. I’ve worked with a growing team of talented videographers, other photographers, and creative designers.  I have benefitted from being at a stage in my career when I am able to leverage a wide network of contacts to continue to do the work I enjoy doing and hopefully continue to contribute something positive to the world. As an independent freelance photographer, I am in a very privileged position and I am extremely grateful to my clients and supporters who have helped me get here. Thank you.

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But I also recognize just how fortunate and lucky I have been and that much of what I have been able to achieve is due to circumstances I had nothing to do with: I was born into a large loving family, in a country that embraces liberalism and is truly, I believe, one of the best countries in the world to live in. I have had the support of friends, and family, and been exposed to other cultures, people and ideas through my education and my travels. I am fully cognizant of the fact that much of what I consider normal is the dream of people who – through no fault of their own – live under oppressive regimes, in countries torn by conflict and war, ravished by famine and subject to the myriad cruelties that arise when law and order are absent or corrupted.

I don’t really know what to make of it, or how to balance things out. One of my goals in 2018 will be to work towards giving back more and trying to contribute more towards the kind of world I want to live in, and want my child to grow up in.

The full lyrics for the song, “Les Cactus” by French Singer, Jacques Dutronc, are worth running through Google Translate for those not familiar with the French version.

“Le monde entier est un cactus
Il est impossible de s’assoir
Dans la vie, il y a qu’des cactus
Moi je me pique de le savoir
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe

Dans leurs coeurs, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs porte-feuilles, il y a des cactus
Sous leurs pieds, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs gilets, il y a des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille ouille ouille, aïe

Pour me défendre de leurs cactus
A mon tour j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon lit, j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon slip, j’ai mis des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe

Dans leurs sourires, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs ventres, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs bonjours, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs cactus, il y a des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe

I think as we wrap ourselves up in technology, on the inside we’re in a cocoon, but to those around us, we’re becoming more like cacti. We’re spending more time online than ever before, burying our faces in our phones and creating parallel, idealized versions of our life story in little curated snippets posted on Instagram that make everything look oh so wonderful. Much of it is fiction. And to the millions without access to the many beautiful glittering places and toys we in the rich world have, I can’t help but feel like it’s a slap in the face. There are a lot of people, young and old, who face much greater challenges in their daily life than dealing with a rapidly depleting iPhone battery.

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My hope in writing this is merely that we take a few moments to consider how we can do something for other people that takes a bit of sting out of their day. Can we be a little more compassionate? Spend a little more time with someone who needs our help and a little less time on ourselves?

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The world isn’t really a cactus. It’s a rich planet full of billions of people who all want the same things you and I want: to love and be loved, to be valued, and to do the work we want to do in life that provides for our needs and those we care for.

Can we do more in our individual lives to make things better for someone else?

Can we take the cacti out of our hearts and make things a little more comfortable for someone else, even if it means giving up a bit of comfort for ourselves?

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for in 2018.

Baby it’s cold outside – but  these warm-hearted Montrealers are heating things up

My view this afternoon from Cafe Shaika
My view this afternoon from Cafe Shaika

It’s cold in Montreal today. -10 Celsius and dropping. While it’s bright and sunny outside, it’s more fun to experience cold winter days like this through a window from a cosy café, which is my plan for this afternoon as I put together my roundup of events I covered so far this year. Luckily there are lots of people still braving the cold and getting out there for worthy events in these winter months, keeping me busy. Here are a few highlights worth sharing from goings on around town in Montreal this past January and February.

Here’s the link to the roundup in pictures. Please read on for details on the various events.

ProductTank MTL

ProductTank MTL

Montreal’s got a talented pool of tech entrepreneurs, developers and product managers who’ve now got another monthly  meetup/chance to drink and network with the monthly events hosted by ProductTank MTL. This month’s meet up which I covered at l’Appartement (one of Montreal’s hip resto/bars in Old Montreal), focused on the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Gartner Inc.: “ The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.” 128 people had gathered to hear presentations by Jean-François Martin, Director of Products at mnubo; Yahya El Iraki, CEO at mySeat and Mathieu Lachaine, Founder and CEO at Ubios. All three speakers are involved with connected products and had interesting, behind-the-scenes insights and advice for people interested in the exploding Internet of Things (IoT) space. Gartner forecasts that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. Yes, that means that your fridge will be able to order beer for you when you are running out and your toaster will be able to keep track of how much multi-grain toast you’re making.

Interested in learning more and attending the next Meetup? Check out ProductTank MTL here: http://www.meetup.com/ProductTank-Montreal/

Pedal for Kids / Pédalez pour les enfants

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Anyone who knows me, knows I love children and that I support child-friendly causes. I’ve been lucky to work with the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation (MCHF) for the past two years which puts me right in the heart of a lot of events aimed at raising funds for much needed equipment and programs the Montreal Children’s Hospital uses to save and improve the lives of sick kids. I rarely cover one of these kinds of events without something making me tear up and hide behind my camera, and the kickoff cocktail for the 25th anniversary of Pedal for Kids was no exception.

The Pedal For Kids / Pédalez pour les enfants event is one of the most fun and exciting fundraisers organized by the MCHF. I had covered it earlier this summer but had not had the opportunity to hear Michael Conway, one of the events co-founders, speak until this month. Sylvie Lalumière and Michael Conway launched Pedal for Kids in 1992 in memory of their daughter, Meagan. By the time he was done I was ready to put on my spandex suit and bike until next summer. If you’re curious or would like to get involved with Pedal for Kids check them out here. You can join an existing team, create a new one or go solo. Sign up here: http://pedalez.com/about-the-event/

30th annual Vision Celebration Fundraiser Gala for the Black Theatre Workshop #OscarsSoWhite

Black Theatre Workshop

Earlier this year I covered the Black Theatre Workshop’s 30th Annual Vision Fundraiser Gala and also marks the launch of Black History Month in Canada. This is my third year covering this party and I am always blown away by the talent in the room, both onstage and off.  The evening was superbly hosted by Nantali Indongo (of Nomadic Massive fame) with performances by Montreal’s Jireh Gospel Choir,  Kim Richardson and Daniel Loyer, and the coolest (and only) reggae version of Adele’s Hello that I’ve ever heard as part of DJ Don Smooth’s soundtrack for the night.

The guest of honour was Jackie Richardson, aka, Canada’s First Lady of gospel, jazz and blues who received the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. Also on the roster were: Otis Grant, world championship boxer who received the Dr. Clarence Bayne Community Service Award; Briauna James who received the Victor Phillips Award, and Vladimir Alexis who received the Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award. Artistic Director, Quincy Armorer couldn’t be physically present as he was performing in Twelfth Night in Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, but he made an appearance via Facetime.

Here’s a sample of the Jireh Gospel Choir in action (rather poorly filmed on my iPhone)

University Club Arts Event

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Though sadly I missed the Beaver Hall Group show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, I was lucky to catch a sneak peek at the curation of the event at a arts event held at the University Club of Montreal. I love the old world charm of the club, and events like these are a reminder of Montreal’s historic and ongoing role as a city of the arts.