AngryFrenchGuy

Phoque Paul McCartney

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Paul McCartney eating meat

Paul McCartney eating meat

Québec City is know for being old, boring and white. A pretty place with a glorious past but whose recent contributions to art, history and culture are far and few between. It’s a wonder anybody is surprised Québec City would ask for (and obtain) a special show by Paul McCartney, the world’s most famous has-been and the idol of old white people worldwide, as it’s special treat for it’s 400th birthday.

Hey, it’s their birthday…

The controversy over Paul McCartney’s show on the Plains of Abraham as part of Québec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations has been erroneously portrayed in the media – this includes Québec’s French-language press – as another fight between bitter Québec separatists who object to an Englishman signing in English in Québec and open-minded federalists who have moved on.

That’s not at all what it’s about.

To understand the controversy properly you need to know two things about Québec City; the first is that Québec City is Québec’s most pro-Canadian town outside Montreal’s English-speaking enclaves and the Outaouais. The second is that it is one of the worlds biggest markets for very very bad music.

Legend has it that the young Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins were about to give up on their pretentious nerd rock band Genesis until they started selling tickets in, of all places, Québec City. The loyal public they found there allowed them to live off their music a little bit longer, until other college students who don’t date started buying their albums.

Québec City is and has always been a place where retired Quebecers and tired music went to wait for death. To this day it is common to hear Rush’s Tom Sawyer and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon between Usher and Avril Lavigne on Québec’s commercial radio stations. Genesis cover band The Musical Box is another one of the summers headliners who will play the Battlefields Park and Elvis Story, a musical revue of the King’s life and music had a near 10 year run at the Capitole, Québec’s historic theater in the heart of the old city!

Just take a look at the headliners of the Festival d’été de Québec this summer: Van Halen, Stone Temple Pilots, Primus, Wyclef Jean… Wasn’t that the lineup at Lollapalooza 98?

That’s Québec city for you…

Nor is it surprising that the people of Québec City did not anticipate that the symbolism of the leader of the so-called “British Invasion” playing on the Plains of Abraham where Britain conquered New France just maybe might offend some people in Québec.

You see, contrary to widespread belief in Canada, Québec City is a conservative and federalist bastion, with even the local chapter of the ultra-nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste still on the fence about national unity. In the 1995 referendum on sovereignty, Québec City’s francophones (that is to say everybody) were among the least favorable to independence in all the province.

Hey, when the Parti québécois offically designated Québec City as Québec’s “National Capital”, the only opposition came from Québec City itself!

Now imagine if the the big finale of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in Ottawa in 2017 was Bruce Springsteen singing Born in the USA! Canadian nationalists would be setting themselves on fire on Parliament Hill! The issue would not be the talent of The Boss or the “open-mindedness” of Canadians. It would just be the wrong event at the wrong time.

It is, however, a little more surprising that organizers did not anticipate that the victims of Paul McCartney’s very visible and dishonest campaign against seal hunting, the only livelyhood of many native and remote communities in Québec, would not seize the occasion to take a shot back at him.

But hey, contrary to what Stephen Harper, Pauline Marois and Paris Match have tried to tell you, this summer’s celebration is not about Canada, the Québec Nation or New France. It’s about Québec City.

And Québec City and Paul McCartney deserve each other.

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Written by angryfrenchguy

July 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm

82 Responses

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  1. No one is forcing you to like these or any other acts, and by the way I don’t recall referring to anyone as a cultural chauvinist.

    But none of this changes the fact that the vast majority of anglos in Canada (including those living in Quebec) aren’t interested in francophone culture (or most any cultural stuff produced in other languages) in the slightest. You only have to sit down and talk to people to figure this out. Plus, the statistics bear this out as well: record sales, TV ratings, movie box-office figures, bookstore sales, etc.

    As I already mentioned, that doesn’t make them evil… or cultural chauvinists if you prefer. But that’s still the way it is.

    Acajack

    July 25, 2008 at 2:37 pm

  2. Acajack–I can’t help but think that your Anglo-Montrealer friend was ignorant of Cajun music (zydeco, etc.), because the first time I heard popular Québécois songs, I immediately saw a connection between the two genres. And chacun a son gout of course, but if you ask me, there is a lot of damn good (and “significant”) music coming out of Québec just now. I listen to it for one reason: I like it. And I think it is as distinct–loaded word–as Cajun or Brazilian or Puerto Rican music.

    Any Anglophone who asserts that Québécois save their French for ceremonial use ought to be sentenced to find their way in a car around the Monteregie without a map. I have done this, and I can assure everyone out there that your high school French will come in mighty handy, because a lot of people around that way either don’t speak English or find it a struggle to do so.

    littlerob

    July 25, 2008 at 5:40 pm

  3. After writing this post I went over to my buddy Vince’s house expecting a glass of wine and maybe a little joint while watching his hilights of Juste pour Rire galas (Vince is a pathological TV addict).

    Nope. He had a special treat. You guessed it: Paul McCartney live on Indigo (19,99$).

    The show was what I expected: a few Beatles songs and way to many Wings/solo material. People seemed to appreciate that he took out a Québec flag and said “Salut la gang” but that was pretty standard arena Rock n’ Roll stuff if you ask me.

    I think what many people found distasteful in McCartney being the BIG event of Québec 400 is that if there is one world in which Québec kicks ass it is showbizz and music. There are many Québec artists that could (and have and will) draw massive crowds people.

    The difficulty was creating an event. A special event. They could’ve have cooked up some kind of mega-show with les Cowboys Fringant, Gilles Vigneault, Robert Charlebois, Loco Locass, Karkwa, Malajube, the cast of Star Académie, etc, etc… But that would just have been a Big St-Jean show event like we have every year. Hundreds of thousands of people would’ve come (in fact they did, on june 24th) but it would hardly have been a unique event.

    The other objective was of course to get Americans and tourists to discover the city. Céline Dion is perfect for the job, her show on the plains in a couple of weeks will attract hundreds of thousands of people too and although her music is as insufferable as McCartney’s, she’s from around here.

    Again, the problem is that it’s hardly a unique event. Of course she was going to come. And she’s been in Québec before and will be back again.

    McCartney does three show a year (otherwise word would get around that you have to suffer through two and a half hours of Wings songs to get a little bit of Hey Jude.) His show was a more unique event, and publisized (heavily) as such.

    I still think a more local lineup could’ve been billed the Big Event. Think Céline Dion and Leonard Cohen hosting a showcase of Québec artists from Arcade Fire, Cowboy Fringants, Malajube, Simple Plan, Jean Leloup, Éric Lapointe, Loco Locass, Karkwa, Gatineau, etc… with the Cirque du Soleil people doing their thing around the crowd.

    It’s not about English or French, It’s just about doing our own thing and showing off a little. I mean, that’s way more exciting that PM and could’ve still attracted Americans and Europeans attention to just how vibrant Québec’s musical scene is.

    That would’ve been my Big Event. Vince wanted Madonna (hey, at least her mom was French-Canadian..)

    angryfrenchguy

    July 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

  4. He AGf.

    Those that pays the piper calls the tune.

    Quebec provincial budget is funded over 13% by people in other provinces. So why dont you do a commentary on the welfare status of Quebec…and the soup kitchen line…which you are a member of same. (yes you are a welfare recipient by association)

    Come on, contridict the comment and tell me it aint so….

    This is all boring, get to the facts and heart of the matter without all the musing about arts etc…which is really a facade about the real issues which are fact…Quebec is a financial drain on the ROC.

    Guess I am feeling nasty this evening…

    ABP

    .

    ABP

    July 26, 2008 at 2:34 am

  5. @ ABP:

    I don’t know how can someone tolerate talking to you for more than 10 minutes… Do you have any friends?

    Cancerous

    July 26, 2008 at 10:23 am

  6. Don’t you have anything better to do than posting messages at 2:30 in the morning?

    Cancerous

    July 26, 2008 at 10:27 am

  7. Acajack et al.–I wanted to say, but forgot to, that I think that the 3 Accords, at least, are aware that they have a Canadian audience outside Québec. In fact, I suspect that that their song “Saskatchewan” was tailored to this audience.

    littlerob

    July 26, 2008 at 12:05 pm

  8. “Don’t you have anything better to do than posting messages at 2:30 in the morning?”

    It was only 12:30 am actually, but of course for many the time stops west of Toronto.

    The concert has come and gone…but still there are those which want to spend time analyzing the effect and the whys. Move on.

    Yawn.

    ABP

    ABP

    July 26, 2008 at 4:34 pm

  9. @ ABP:

    “The concert has come and gone…but still there are those which want to spend time analyzing the effect and the whys. Move on.”

    So how about you move on with the Quebec provincial budget?

    Cancerous

    July 26, 2008 at 6:32 pm

  10. “So how about you move on with the Quebec provincial budget?”

    Move on, forget it…its costing me and a helluva lot of other people in this country a pile of money!! Maybe you dont pay taxes so you dont have a stake or give a shit??

    Its just like the OLA and “official bilingualism”. No one in forty years has questioned its validity and if it needs to be changed or revised to reflect the realities of Canada. “just the way it is”…you cant question the sacred cow, now , can you? even after statistics indicate it has totally failed.

    Note there is nothing wrong with bilingualism,,,but enforced bilingualism with job discrimination and bias is another issue althogether.

    About time people give their head shake.

    ABP

    ABP

    July 26, 2008 at 6:49 pm

  11. AFG: “After writing this post I went over to my buddy Vince’s house expecting a glass of wine and maybe a little joint while watching his hilights of Juste pour Rire galas (Vince is a pathological TV addict).
    Nope. He had a special treat. You guessed it: Paul McCartney live on Indigo (19,99$).
    The show was what I expected: a few Beatles songs and way to many Wings/solo material. People seemed to appreciate that he took out a Québec flag and said “Salut la gang” but that was pretty standard arena Rock n’ Roll stuff if you ask me.
    I think what many people found distasteful in McCartney being the BIG event of Québec 400 is that if there is one world in which Québec kicks ass it is showbizz and music. There are many Québec artists that could (and have and will) draw massive crowds people.
    The difficulty was creating an event. A special event. They could’ve have cooked up some kind of mega-show with les Cowboys Fringant, Gilles Vigneault, Robert Charlebois, Loco Locass, Karkwa, Malajube, the cast of Star Académie, etc, etc… But that would just have been a Big St-Jean show event like we have every year. Hundreds of thousands of people would’ve come (in fact they did, on june 24th) but it would hardly have been a unique event.
    The other objective was of course to get Americans and tourists to discover the city. Céline Dion is perfect for the job, her show on the plains in a couple of weeks will attract hundreds of thousands of people too and although her music is as insufferable as McCartney’s, she’s from around here.
    Again, the problem is that it’s hardly a unique event. Of course she was going to come. And she’s been in Québec before and will be back again.
    McCartney does three show a year (otherwise word would get around that you have to suffer through two and a half hours of Wings songs to get a little bit of Hey Jude.) His show was a more unique event, and publisized (heavily) as such.
    I still think a more local lineup could’ve been billed the Big Event. Think Céline Dion and Leonard Cohen hosting a showcase of Québec artists from Arcade Fire, Cowboy Fringants, Malajube, Simple Plan, Jean Leloup, Éric Lapointe, Loco Locass, Karkwa, Gatineau, etc… with the Cirque du Soleil people doing their thing around the crowd.
    It’s not about English or French, It’s just about doing our own thing and showing off a little. I mean, that’s way more exciting that PM and could’ve still attracted Americans and Europeans attention to just how vibrant Québec’s musical scene is.
    That would’ve been my Big Event. Vince wanted Madonna (hey, at least her mom was French-Canadian..)”

    Best arguments I’ve read anywhere on why Paul McCartney had no place at Quebec’s 400th. Most other comments (including those of politicos who should be more intelligent in their analysis) have been full of historical resentment, bitterness, etc.

    I still don’t think it was that big a deal to have Sir Paul there, but AFG’s views did make me pause for thought.

    Acajack

    July 28, 2008 at 9:04 am

  12. Littlerob: I presume you are living somewhere in Quebec, right? I will grant you that there may be a bit *more* uptake of francophone culture from Anglo-Quebecers (as compared to anglos in the ROC), but I’d still say it’s far from being commonplace.

    I’ve been to dozens if not hundreds of shows by francophone artists over the years from small concert halls to large arena and stadium shows and can’t recall overhearing anyone speaking English at any of them. (Not saying there were ZERO anglos in the audience, but certainly very, very few.) In fact, when I did go to see artists perform at places like the old Forum or the Molson/Bell Centre, that’s the first thing I noticed: it was so weird to hear no audible English at all in those places, whereas you always hear lots of English at Canadiens’ games.

    The last time I went to the big St-Jean-Baptiste show in Montreal, there were hundreds of thousands of people there, and the very, very rare English I heard was 10 times less audible than Spanish, which somewhat curiously was obviously the second-most spoken language in the crowd.

    Plus, I fail to see how people would be partaking in francophone culture to any large degree outside Quebec when only something like 7.5% of anglos in the ROC know French.

    Acajack

    July 28, 2008 at 12:55 pm

  13. Acajack–I live in Pennsylvania. Our family has had connections with la francophonie since the 1950s through the family of the late Judge Harry Batshaw of the Superior Court of Québec (see my posts on AFG’s article “Québec needs more Jews.”)It is taken for granted in our family that you study French and become functional in it, and our family is not at all unique in this respect here. I know two other such families in this area, and the young woman I went out with in college–er, at university–was from such a family as well. I would guess that there is a number of anglo Canadian families in which it is also understood that all members know French.

    My French is functional all right, but not good enough to get through Loco Locass :-(

    It is a damn shame that so few Anglos show up at Franco music events. I am planning to go to one in Québec in November if I have the time and can scrape up the money. The music is as good as any I have ever heard (I am playing some as I write this).

    littlerob

    July 28, 2008 at 1:25 pm

  14. Thanks Littlerob! Pretty cool that you’re from Pennsylvania!

    Acajack

    July 28, 2008 at 1:56 pm

  15. I remember hearing the French cultural critic at the Gazette on the radio talking about how Les têtes à claques (tetesaclaques.tv) was popular among Anglos. He was amazed. “For years I’ve been covering Franco culture for the Gazette and I’m always the only Anglo. At a Jean Leloup show I’m the only Anglo. I go see les Cowboy Fringant and I’m the only Anglo. It’s the first time my colleagues actually know what I’m writing about!”

    Littlerob. Interesting about the PA French connection. PA wasn’t a French-Canadian exodus destination as far as I know. Tell us more.

    And yes, I also agree Septante, Octante and Nonante make a lot more sense. no argument here.

    angryfrenchguy

    July 28, 2008 at 3:38 pm

  16. AFG–the people I know who here who are Francophone/francophile/francowhatever come to it from all sorts of directions. One woman I know was born in France, has lived in this country since college, married an American, and uses French exclusively with her three kids. Another is an American of Belgian descent who teaches high school French; she makes sure that all her kids learn the language too. My college friend was actually trilingual (Japanese, English, French); her family had connections in France, and she lived there the year after she graduated. Her roommate was an American of French parentage who later moved to France and married a Frenchman. Both my parents learned French during their youth, and after they became friendly with Judge Batshaw’s daughter, they inherited her connections in both France and Québec. I am sure that there are lots of other Americans like me, especially in the large Eastern cities. And don’t forget the Haitian and North and West African communities here; lots of people in them speak French too. The Francophone USA isn’t just southwest Louisiana and northern New England.

    Not too many Québécois around here. You run into more people with Québec roots in Ohio and Michigan (e.g. Madonna, who was born in Detroit, I think) than you do in Pennsylvania.

    littlerob

    July 28, 2008 at 4:29 pm

  17. Correction: Madonna was born in Bay City, Michigan, and grew up near Detroit. BTW, I like tetes a claques too, although it takes me several hearings to pick up the Joual. Un jour, je le maitriserai, j’espere…

    littlerob

    July 28, 2008 at 8:14 pm

  18. “I remember hearing the French cultural critic at the Gazette on the radio talking about how Les têtes à claques (tetesaclaques.tv) was popular among Anglos. He was amazed. “For years I’ve been covering Franco culture for the Gazette and I’m always the only Anglo. At a Jean Leloup show I’m the only Anglo. I go see les Cowboy Fringant and I’m the only Anglo. It’s the first time my colleagues actually know what I’m writing about!”

    Ahhh… les Têtes à claques. The proverbial exception that confirms the rule. In my lifetime, those dorks might be the first cultural (using the term loosely) icon that’s come out of French-speaking Canada that isn’t greeted with blank stares from our English-speaking compatriots. Even the wildly popular La Petite Vie wasn’t able to pull that off.

    All of this talk of cultural blind spots reminded me of a “diplomatic incident” a few years back. A rather large festival in Montreal (I think it was Just for Laughs, but it might have been another – pretty sure it was the comedy fest though) had hired a bright, fairly young and fluently bilingual Anglo-Montrealer to handle its media relations.

    So, one day, La Presse columnist Pierre Foglia (the most widely-read newspaper columnist in Quebec at the time – his star has faded slightly in recent years) walks up to the media desk to take in some of the festival. He says, hi I am Pierre Foglia from La Presse, blablabla I’d like to get in, etc. To which the kid (well, not really a kid, but you get my point…) responds: “Who the hell are you? If you think I’m just gonna let some chump off the street in for free who’s pretending to be a somebody”, or something to that effect.

    The kid had no idea who Pierre Foglia was. Now imagine the dude handling the media at a comedy fest somewhere in the U.S. having never heard of Andy Rooney or Dave Barry…

    Acajack

    July 29, 2008 at 1:29 pm

  19. “are far and few between”

    I think that should be “few and far between”. :D

    SonyAD

    July 30, 2008 at 1:20 pm

  20. Acajack–your anecdote about Pierre Foglia is proof once again that it is one thing to learn a language, and another to learn cultural references. My own cultural ignorance of Francophone North America, for example, is fairly broad, and it begins with my never having watched Passepartout as a kid. I also sense that Francos in general know much more about (the admittedly pervasive) Anglo culture than the reverse.

    littlerob

    July 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm

  21. Québec is, well, stupid, not necessarly because it is mostly inhabited by civil servants (a big minority), but all those who gravitate around the civil servants, those who are too stupid to get a job from the government. So they are left enjoying the crumbs left behind by the civil servants by selling them crap. Since the civil servants are immune to recessions, those who sell to them are also immune to recessions, and thus haven’t learned the hard way how markets operate, and are therefore woefully incompetent.

    This kind of stupid people are easy fodder for the providers of garbage media (such as Radio-X or André Arthur) which, incidentally, makes a fine breeding-ground for right-wing parties.

    In the 1930’s, R.B. Bennett’s conservatives were able to seize power in Canada largely thanks to the region of Québec, where nazi Adrien Arcand published his fascist trash-newspaper (with under-the-table money from Bennett). Look no further to Québec-city’s garbage-media for the current conservative minority, also acquired to nearby Beauce.

    Ah. About Beauce. Québec’s paradise of entrepreneurs, it is also the region in Québec with the lowest average scholarity. So you will find there legions of stupid drones who are perfectly happy working 60 hours a week at minimum wage for a boss that, thanks to this “dedication” can go about in a $80,000 car instead of having to do with a $50,000 car.

    That uneducated population will be ready suckers for right-wing demagogues, as shown by electoral results.

    Sadly, this is one thing that left-wing parties haven’t understood: ignorant people are perfectly happy to be ignorant, and they certainly will not be swayed by logic, rational arguments backed by facts, because analyzing the facts is too tiresome; better let that demagogue politician “analyze” them for you…

    Jean Naimard

    September 14, 2008 at 10:27 am

  22. test

    [u]test[/u]

    Raman

    October 18, 2008 at 4:14 pm


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