Feb. 10th, 2017

rfmcdonald: (obscura)
The idea is to occupy Facebook with art. Whoever "likes" this post will be given an artist and invited to post a piece by that artist with this text. I was given Charles Rennie Macintosh by Facebook's Suzanne.



I picked his painting 1925-1926 "A Southern Port", drawn from his late in life visit to the Rousillon port of Port-Vendres.
rfmcdonald: (photo)
Spire of St. Jacques Cathedral, UQAM


The spire and transept of Montréal's Saint-Jacques Cathedral was incorporated in the 1970s into the architecture of UQAM's downtown Montréal campus.
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  • Centauri Dreams notes the sad news that, because of the destructive way in which the stellar activity of young red dwarfs interacts with oxygen molecules in exoplanet atmospheres, Proxima Centauri b is likely not Earth-like.

  • Crooked Timber takes issue with the idea of Haidt that conservatives are uniquely interested in the idea of purity.

  • D-Brief notes the discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole in the heart of 47 Tucanae.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the search for Planet Nine.Far Outliers reports on the politics in 1868 of the first US Indian Bureau.

  • Imageo maps the depletion of sea ice in the Arctic.

  • Language Hat remembers the life of linguist Patricia Crampton.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes some of the potential pitfalls involved with Buy American campaigns (and like political programs in other countries), including broad-based xenophobia.

  • The LRB Blog looks at nationalism and identity in their intersections with anti-Muslim sentiment in Québec.

  • The Map Room Blog links to an essay on the last unmapped places.

  • Torontoist notes the 2017 Toronto budget is not going to support affordable housing.

  • Transit Toronto reports on TTC revisions to its schedules owing to shortfalls in equipment, like buses.

  • Window on Eurasia claims that Putin needs a successful war in Ukraine to legitimize his rule, just as Nicholas II needed a victory to save Tsarism.

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The Globe and Mail's Oliver Moore describes a proposal by Pearson Airport to make the area of Toronto's international airport a transit hub for the Greater Toronto Area generally, Toronto and Mississauga and beyond.

The pitch from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, backed by politicians from the region, comes amid a growing sales job for transit at the airport. Noting that the vast majority of people who use or work at the airport get there by automobile, advocates of this plan say that there needs to be fundamental shift to transit.

[. . .]

The proposal, which would be funded by the GTAA and has been estimated by them at $500-million, would involve a new and larger passenger processing terminal where travellers would be able to check in for flights and clear security. The plan also calls for new mixed-use commercial space, with room for retail, office space or hotels.

But the biggest change would be making Pearson more accessible to transit. Advocates call for it to become a sort of Union Station for the western side of city – albeit one that would serve far fewer people than the station downtown.

[. . .]

It’s a bold pitch made more daring by the fact that transit plans for the region already are moving ahead. Although politicians have repeatedly shown their willingness to change on the fly – a greater emphasis on GO rail by the province, for example, or Toronto Mayor John Tory’s acceptance of LRT instead of heavy rail on Eglinton Avenue – the broad strokes of the transit vision hasn’t shifted too much in the past few years. But the GTAA is hoping to tweak the plans in new ways.

As envisioned, a transit hub would involve changing the Finch LRT, which is in its very early stages, from its current terminus at Humber College and extending it instead to the airport. It also requires that the proposed Eglinton West LRT be built to run to the airport. This has been proposed by Toronto but the project would need a substantial contribution by the city of Mississauga, which reacted unhappily to the idea.
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Torontoist's Emily Macrae looks at how the Finnish city of Oulu keeps its citizens biking during winter. As always, planning is key.

With fewer than seven hours of sunlight a day at this time of year, Oulu is an unlikely leader in winter cycling. Timo Perälä discovered that his hometown’s approach was unique while doing research into winter maintenance of cycling routes for his thesis more than 15 years ago.

Since that time, Oulu has gained an international reputation for its efforts to facilitate active transportation in the winter. Today, 27 per cent of the population are active cyclists all year long, while Perälä has become the founder and president of the Winter Cycling Federation.

So what’s the secret to ensuring that people choose to bike regardless of the weather?

First, Oulu has an enviable cycling network that extends 613 kilometers to connect a population of 200,000. For comparison, Toronto has 579.4 kilometers of on-street cycling infrastructure for a population more than 10 times as large.

Oulu’s bike lanes are the result of decades of municipal leadership. The city’s first cycling plan was developed in 1969. In an email, Perälä explains: “It was understood early that walking and cycling [have] to be treated as equal modes of transportation.”
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The Toronto Star's Jonathan Forani recently reported about how the concerns of skateboarders are now being considered in planning for parks in the city of Toronto.

For years, the only skate park Ariel Stagni had was the concrete and metal of the financial district.

Its railings and stairwells transformed into the perfect space for kick flips, grinds and ollies — until, inevitably, a security guard appeared with the typical scolding.

“There was a lot of ‘Don’t do that here’ and ‘You can’t skateboard here.’ Me and my buddies were like, ‘Where are we supposed to go?’ ” he recalls. They instead turned inward to their garages and converted plywood and junkyard finds into their own makeshift skate parks.

“That was the experience of a lot of people skateboarding,” says Stagni, now 41 and a skateboard consultant. “A lot of it was finding a place or making a place.”

But now, as the public park movement grows to become more inclusive of varying demographics and cultures, Stagni and his community are seeing more spaces for themselves. There are now over a dozen skate parks spanning from Etobicoke to Scarborough.

The movement has gathered steam in recent months, with the city’s October unveiling of a Skateboard Strategy, which outlines how the city can transform spaces into a skater’s paradise. One of the key features is the inclusion and consultation of groups such as the Toronto Skateboarding Committee, of which Stagni is a founding member.
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CBC News reports on how Toka and Thika, two elephants formerly resident at the Toronto Zoo, are adapting well to their sunset years in a California sanctuary.

For Toka and Thika, retirement is turning out just fine. There's warm sunshine, new friends to spend time with and the chance to do whatever they want.

Three years after they were sent halfway across the continent, the aging elephants from the Toronto Zoo have found a new lease on life roaming the hills of a northern California sanctuary.

"Toka has fit right in and she is a part of the group now and I think that's really good for her," Ed Stewart, executive director of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary, told CBC's the fifth estate.

"Thika is a much bigger challenge but it's been good for her, too."

After much debate and controversy surrounding the fate of the zoo's last elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa were trucked 4,000 kilometres to the PAWS sanctuary in San Andreas.
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CBC shared Liam Casey's Canadian Press report about the vicious fighting for power in the Toronto Zoo's baboon population following the death of the troop's matriarch.

A brutal battle for the throne of a baboon troop at the Toronto Zoo that erupted when the matriarch died became so vicious that staff intervened with hormone treatments to take "a little bit of an edge off" the fighting females.

Medical records show that while the intervention in March of last year helped reduce the number of vicious attacks and resulting injuries, it also helped an unlikely female to emerge as queen in the baboons' game of thrones.

The fighting — first reported by The Canadian Press in late 2015 — began shortly after the troop's leader, 16-year-old Betty, was euthanized.

Baboon troops are run by females, and their behaviour dictates that the matriarch's oldest daughter become queen. But zoo staff have said Betty's oldest daughter, Molly, was still too young to assert her dominance when her mother died in December 2014.

Putsie, the troop's eldest female, saw an opportunity to grab the throne with support from her three daughters, Kate, Kristina and Kalamata.
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The Globe and Mail's Eric Andrew-Gee explains Hollywood's fascination with Boston as a setting in terms of an interest in the idea of an American city bound by tradition.

Boston Magazine has suggested that generous tax credits lure studios to Massachusetts. But Boston movies are not just set in Boston; they’re about Boston, and what it does to you: the wages of loyalty, the tug of roots, the comforts and claustrophobia of home. The movies do not always romanticize this world. But even the harshest depictions of the city evince a grudging fondness for its grit and closeness.

Those qualities are twin manifestations of the nostalgia that’s hard not to see as central to the city’s cinematic appeal. It’s a nostalgia that can be wholesome and sinister in equal measure, pining for a time of closer civic bonds and richer local culture even as it fondly remembers a whiter, manlier, and more violent past.

It’s no coincidence that movie Boston is almost perfectly synonymous with Irish Catholic Boston; there’s something almost European and Old World about the communitarian ethos at the heart of its worldview. The opening shot of Gone Baby Gone, starring Casey Affleck as a working-class private detective trying to solve a kidnapping, speaks to this with disarming candour. As the camera pans over an American flag painted on the side of a water tower, Affleck’s voice propounds a most un-American credo: “I always believed it was things you don’t choose that makes you who you are,” he says. “Your city, your neighbourhood, your family.”

Sure enough, the characters of the Boston film boom are defined above all by their sense of place. Their parochialism is almost medieval: the Seans and Patricks of these stories never move away from home, speak with thick regional twangs, are forever draped in city sports regalia, and enact folk traditions seen as quaint by the rest of the country, like playing hockey and going to mass. For a North American culture homogenized by cable TV, shopping malls, chain stores, and increasingly by the sleek, antiseptic design of websites like Facebook, a splash of local colour is refreshing.

Patriots Day hints at the best of this Boston. It shows a city where the gentle strictures of tradition give a pattern to daily life, narrowing the infinite field of choice thrown up by 21st-century consumer culture. In an early scene, before the bombing, a Boston native tells his out-of-towner wife that there are three things you can do on Patriots Day: run in the marathon, watch the marathon, or take in a “Red Sawks” game (as he insists she pronounce it). She is charmed, and so are we: here is life made simple by adherence to the tried and true.
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Bloomberg View's Conor Sen talks about how emerging southern US metropolis Atlanta may finally be coming into its own as a city of broader repute.

Coming so close to its first Super Bowl victory in franchise history, just as the city prepares to open two pro sports stadiums, Atlanta is reaching for a civic dream as much as an athletic one. Sports have a special significance for this Southern city; the arrival of the Falcons and the Braves in 1966, and the Hawks in 1968, represented the beginning of Atlanta's transcending its Southern roots and becoming a national city. Professional sports didn't come to North Carolina until 1988. Tennessee didn't get its first professional team until 1997. Pro sports were a way of competing in a recruitment arms race with other Southern cities, and Atlanta won.

Atlanta has embraced its growth, even defining itself as the thriving economic engine of the New South. Until the financial crisis in 2008, that meant an endless boom in suburban real estate growth and development. An apartment tower in the Buckhead business district famously sported an "Atlanta's Population Now" sign, a prideful boast celebrating gaudy metrics that you might expect to see at a tech startup.

Atlanta is a proud importer. As the foodie and craft cocktail movement found its way to Atlanta, one of the restaurants that epitomized this trend starting in 2010 was named Empire State South, a nod to New York. Thanks to tax credit changes in Georgia state law in 2008, Atlanta has become a center of movie production, but its nickname "Y'allywood" harks back to its big brother out west. And like so many cities, Atlanta has worked to grow and hype its startup and tech community, seeking to become the undisputed "Silicon Valley of the South."

Over the past few months, something in the city has changed. The Braves played their final game in Turner Field, awaiting the opening of SunTrust Park, a controversial taxpayer-subsidized boondoggle that ultimately cost its architect, Cobb County Commissioner Tim Lee, his job in a July special election. The Falcons' trip to the Super Bowl and move next season to its new taxpayer-subsidized $1.5 billion home has focused attention not only on their on-field success, but also on some of the poverty and blight in nearby neighborhoods. And in the final year of his administration, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, famous for blocking reporters or just about anyone that disagrees with him on Twitter, has come under increased scrutiny for some of the improprieties surrounding City Hall. Could a city famous for its boosterism finally be ready to acknowledge some of its shortcomings? That would be yet one more marker of Atlanta's arrival in adulthood.

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