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  • As VICE notes, it is terribly frustrating that we still have to fight to make sure others do not lie about our queer lives.

  • Julia Carpenter at the Washington Post
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  • Torontoist remembers Pam McConnell, former deputy mayor and a person committed for a long time to the health of Toronto.

  • The Toronto Star's Jesse Winters notes the controversial planned addition of two condo towers, somewhat modified, to the Distillery District.

  • The Toronto Star reports on the rescue of two photo-taiking tourists stranded midway the Scarborough Bluffs. I'm not saying I've climbed these very same inclines, just that I empathize with their position.

  • The Star's Emma McIntosh confirms what we suspected: The flooding of the Toronto Islands is such that large portions will remain closed off all summer.

  • The Globe and Mail's Stephen Wickens notes that there is not a large commerical real estate boom along the new Eglinton Avenue LRT.

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  • Vice's Noisey celebrates the life and music of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, whose medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" outlived him.

  • The AP describes how Britain's pop music charts have changed to stop future bouts of Ed Sheeran-style domination.
  • Hannah Ellis-Peterson reports for The Guardian about how (and why) Sony has opened a new vinyl pressing plant in Japan.

  • Carla Gillis reported for NOW Toronto about David McPherson's forthcoming book on the famed Horseshoe Tavern.

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  • The Independent notes a denial that Scotland's Conservatives will split from the national party. I wonder, thought, if Scotland's political spectrum is going to shift, like Québec's, from a left-right split to a separatist-unionist one?
  • Owen Jones argues in The Guardian that the rampant prejudices of the DUP, including its homophobia, make it an unsuitable coalition partner.

  • Andray Domise argues in MacLean's that a perceived need to fit in means that immigrants can be too ready to dismiss local racisms.

  • Fast Company lets us know that the minimum wage increases in Seattle have not led to higher retail prices.

  • CBC notes the death of Sam Panopoulous, the Canadian man who invented Hawaiian pizza.

  • Adam West, the first man to play Batman on the screen, has died. We all, not just the fandom, are the poorer for his passing.

  • Are the robots not poised to take over our world? What does their absence demonstrate about our underachieving economy? The Atlantic wonders.

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  • The New York Times' Michael Wilson tells the sad story of how a woman murdered in Harlem was only identified 47 years later.

  • In NOW Toronto, Gelek Badheytsang writes about the complexities surrounding the visit of the 17th Karmapa to Tibetan-heavy Parkdale.

  • Novak Jankovic writes in MacLean's that there are real declines in the Toronto real estate market, but not enough to set a trend.

  • The Toronto Star's Jackie Hong reports that protecting Bluffer's Park from the waves of Lake Ontario could also wreck an east-end surfing haunt.

  • The National Post reports on how the Ontario NDP claims, probably correctly, that the Wynne Liberals are stealing their ideas. Good for them, I say.

  • Universe Today's Matt Williams notes a study reporting that life on Mars' surface is a much greater risk factor for cancer than previously thought.

  • Seth Miller argues that efficient electric cars will push Big Oil through the trauma of Big Coal in the 2020s.

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  • Centauri Dreams remembers Ben Finney, this time from the angle of a man with an interest in space colonization.

  • Crooked Timber wonders what will happen to the Anglo-American tradition of liberalism.

  • Dangerous Minds imagines the VHS tapes of Logan and Stranger Things.

  • Far Outliers notes the Soviet twist on Siberian exile.

  • Inkfish notes that Detroit is unique among cities in being a good place for bumblebees.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders if modern Germany really is a laboratory for innovative politics.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at José Maria de Eça de Queirós, the "Proust of Portugal".

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw updates his readers on his writing projects.

  • Torontoist reports on how Avi Lewis and Cheri DiNovo have advocated for the NDP's Leap Manifesto.

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  • Centauri Dreams describes a new type of planet, the molten hot rubble cloud "synestia".

  • Far Outliers describes the Polish rebels exiled to Siberia in the 19th century.
  • Language Hat looks at words for porridge in Bantuphone Africa.

  • Language Log examines whistling as a precursor to human language.

  • The LRB considers the new normal of the terrorist state of emergency.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the weakness of the Indian labour market.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer tries to explain to Uruguayans how Donald Trump made his mistake on the budget.

  • Savage Minds remembers the late anthropologist of Polynesia and space colonization, Ben Finney.

  • Towleroad examines the rather depressing idea of a porn-dominated sexuality.

  • Understanding Society examines Hindu/Muslim tensions in India.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the weakness of Belarus' opposition.

  • Arnold Zwicky talks about Arthur Laurents.

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"For Monty"


This touching Croft Street mural and poem remembers neighbourhood cat Monty.
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The CD single of Robert Miles' "Children" is one of the first singles I had ever bought, on (I think) one of my family's shopping daytrips to the mainland, to Moncton. There we could buy canned pop, or French-language books, or CD singles.
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  • blogTO notes that yesterday was a temperature record here in Toronto, reaching 12 degrees Celsius in the middle of February.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the pleasure of using old things.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the death of Roe v Wade plaintiff Norma McCorvey.

  • Language Hat notes that, apparently, dictionaries are hot again because their definitions are truthful.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers if the Trump Administration is but a mechanism for delivering Pence into power following an impeachment.

  • Steve Munro notes that Exhibition Loop has reopened for streetcars.

  • The NYRB Daily considers painter Elliott Green.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that North Carolina's slippage towards one-party state status is at least accompanied by less violence than the similar slippage following Reconstruction.

  • Window on Eurasia warns that Belarus is a prime candidate for Russian invasion if Lukashenko fails to keep control and notes the potential of the GUAM alliance to counter Russia.

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At Demography Matters, I have a brief note noting the sad death earlier this week of Gapminder's Hans Rosling. 68 was too young for anyone, certainly too young for someone so dedicated to helping the world know itself through the truth. Scott Gilmore's article in MacLean's is one I recommend.




What can I say but that I wish that his vision be continued?
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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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  • Beyond the Beyond shares Yves Behar's thoughts on design in an age of artificial intelligence.

  • blogTO makes the case for the east end of Toronto.

  • The Big Picture shares photos of a family of Congolese refugees resettled in New England.

  • Centauri Dreams hosts an essay looking at the prospects for off-world agriculture.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the beauty created by graffiti removal.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks for signs of possible cryovolcanism on Europa.

  • Joe. My. God. shares audio of the new Blondie track "Fun."

  • Language Hat remembers the life and career of linguist Leon Dostert.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues protest is needed in blue states, too.

  • The LRB Blog warns people not to forget about Pence.

  • Marginal Revolution considersa trends in the British economy.

  • Neuroskeptic shares disturbing findings about the prevalence of plagiarism in science.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russia does not expect Trump to take all the sanctions down at once.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly calls on journalists to stand up to Trump.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at exocomets.

  • Language Log shares an ad from the 1920s using the most vintage language imaginable.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money talks about globalization as a mechanism for concentrating wealth at the top of the elite.

  • The LRB Blog talks about the ghosts of the Cold War in the contemporary world.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen argues that Germany has its own responsibility in transatlantic relations.

  • The New APPS Blog looks at the importance of administrative law.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates John Berger.

  • Savage Minds proposes a read-in of Michel Foucault in protest of Trump's inauguration on the 20th.

  • Towleroad reports on the latest statistics on the proportions of LGBT people in the United States.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the continuing depopulation of the Russian Far East and examines the shift to indigenous naming practices in Kyrgyzstan.

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At NPR, Ari Shapiro interviewed Wesley Morris about the deaths last year of three musicians, David Bowie and Prince and George Michael, who each pushed the boundaries of acceptable gender performance in different ways. Morris' take on each of these artists is noteworthy, as is his conclusion.

It's obviously a tragedy — a coincidence of the calendar — that all three of these artists died in 2016. But do you think that when you put the three of them together, you see something about the evolution, or maybe devolution, of masculinity in pop music?

Yeah. I mean, to have that happen in a year in which we were re-debating the propriety of maleness with regard to women, and excusing it as just the thing that men do?

You're talking about the presidential race talk about sexual assault, things like that.

Yes, yes. And I think that just looking at what the coming administration is going to look like, it's gonna be full of generals, full of men who have exerted power in this very traditional way. I think that we go through these waves, these periods. It's gonna be really interesting to see what the next three or four years turns up — in terms of how you might be able to trace some through-line from people like your Princes and David Bowies and George Michaels to whatever is happening in music in two years.


What will come of these men's shared legacy?
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Rajeev Balasubramanyam's short piece at the LRB Blog looking at the importance of Wham!, including George Michael, for him as a British schoolboy of South Asian background growing up in northern England in the early 1980s, is superb. This is how important pop music can be.

I used to listen to Wham! in secret. It was 1984 and I was nine. My school was in a white and mostly working-class village in Lancashire. I knew only one other Wham! fan and, though it’s been thirty years since we last met, he was the first person I contacted after I heard George Michael had died. He once claimed to have reached the singer on a secret number he found in a magazine and had a hilarious conversation with him. I still wonder if this might have been true. We used to listen to the albums over and over at one another’s houses, but at school we kept our adoration to ourselves. It was normal for boys to like Duran Duran. They said Wham! were ‘poofs’. George Michael was loved by older girls, teenagers, but in my class the girls hated him too (they liked Madonna). ‘He loves himself,’ they said. ‘He looks at himself in shiny floors when he’s dancing.’

I didn’t understand the appeal of Duran Duran, with their pale, sullen look, the sallow, understated maleness of English post punk. It felt so far away from the black American singers I also used to listen to in secret – Michael Jackson, Prince – and so far away from Wham! In contrast to the dull, rainy, post-industrial landscape around me, they always looked as if they were having the time of their lives. They were young, beautiful, tanned, and made spectacular pop music. Their first two albums were called Fantastic and Make It Big. After their first number one single, George Michael performed on Top of the Pops in a T-shirt with ‘Number 1’ embroidered in gold on it; in the video, he wore one with ‘Choose Life’ printed on it in bold black letters. In gloomy, northern, cold, racist England, this was what I wanted to hear. I wanted hope. I wanted fun.
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Ben Rayner wrote earlier this week in the Toronto Star about how 2016's toll of notable rockers is set to only grow, in 2017 as in the future. The stars of old are aging, and as age approaches death inevitably comes in behind.

If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that even pop’s most seemingly immortal figures are, in fact, quite mortal and destined for the grave just like the rest of us. It was an annus horribilis that began on a low note with the death of David Bowie just three days after the release of his blackly magical 27th albumBlackstar on Jan. 8 — and basically stayed down there in the depths for the next 12 months.

The pop deaths just kept coming: Prince, felled at 57 on April 21 by something as impossibly prosaic as an opiate overdose. The Eagles’ Glenn Frey. Merle Haggard. Prince Buster. Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire. Suicide’s Alan Vega. Sharon Jones. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, whose twin departures from this plane rendered Emerson, Lake & Palmer a solo act within the space of just nine months. Canadian icon Leonard Cohen, too, of course, who predicted his own looming demise in Bowie-esque fashion with an album-length goodbye of his own, You Want it Darker, released just a couple of weeks before his very private death on Nov. 7 at 82 years of age. George Michael, announced on Christmas Day.

Scarcely a week would pass without the mention of another drummer here or another guitarist there of a certain age quietly saying goodbye forever — and this after the shock of the sudden death of whiskey-swillin’ metal survivor Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister at 70 just three days before the end of 2015.

The Canada-stunning announcement in May that Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip was fighting to survive against terminal brain cancer didn’t help matters much, either, even if the Hip’s triumphant farewell tour in the summer and the subsequent release of his noble Secret Path solo album in the fall proved inspirational rather than sad.

In any case, 2016 was not the happiest time to be a music fan. As the Georgia Straight put it, “About the only good thing that happened in 2016 was that Keith Richards didn’t die.”

Unfortunately, at some point Keith Richards, who just turned 73, is going to die, along with the rest of the Rolling Stones, who have played the poster boys for rock longevity for 50 years now but simply can’t keep it up forever. Time is on no one’s side, not even the Rolling Stones’.
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The Washignton Post's Matt Schudel provides a fitting obituary for Vera Rubin, the astronomer whose observations of the wider universe confirmed the existence of dark matter (whatever it is).

Vera Rubin, an astronomer who proved the existence of dark matter, one of the fundamental principles in the study of the universe, but who battled sex discrimination throughout her career, died Dec. 25 at an assisted living facility in Princeton, N.J. She was 88.

She had dementia, said a son, Allan Rubin.

Dr. Rubin’s groundbreaking discoveries, made primarily with physicist W. Kent Ford, have revolutionized the way scientists observe, measure and understand the universe.

The concept of “dark matter,” an unknown substance among stars in distant galaxies, had existed since the 1930s, but it was not proved until Dr. Rubin’s studies with Ford in the 1970s. It is considered one of the most significant and fundamental advances in astronomy during the 20th century.

“The existence of dark matter has utterly revolutionized our concept of the universe and our entire field,” University of Washington astronomer Emily Levesque told Astronomy magazine this year. “The ongoing effort to understand the role of dark matter has basically spawned entire subfields within astrophysics and particle physics.”
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Chinese blog the Beijingers noted, in the aftermath of George Michael's death, that the late British pop singer actually played an important role in Chinese popular culture: As part of Wham!, in 1985 Michael was the first Western pop star to perform in Deng Xiaopeng's People's Republic of China.

A tribute tag on Weibo #georgemichaelhasdied has over 8.5 million views and 2,700 comments as of 11am this morning, many referring to the legendary concert on April 7, 1985, when George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley's band Wham! played to a crowd of 15,000 at Gongti.

From the perspective of Beijing's music scene circa 2016 – where we're being treated with a visit from Metallica next month and local punk bands are having 10-year anniversary tours – it's hard to fathom the revolutionary impact of a visit from any foreign band, let alone one that at the time was one of the most popular acts worldwide.

It took 18 months to get the show off the ground, and that it was a bit of a consolation prize for the duo now making it bigger in the US earlier, according to the group's former manager, Simon Napier-Bell. "Jazz (Summers, the group's co-manager) came up with the idea of perhaps we could make you the first ever group to play in China. George [Michael] just liked the idea – he said, 'yes – fix that.'"

As is still somewhat customary at rock performances here in Beijing, the crowd did not go wild. After a breakdancer he had hired was asked to go dance with the audience, the authorities got antsy and announced over the PA system that the audience must remain seated, Napier-Bell told the BBC in 2005. "Everyone had to sit down through the whole show – which was 100 percent my fault. It really killed the atmosphere," he recalled.
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  • blogTO notes that a Vancouver nerd bar is opening up shop in Toronto.

  • Dangerous Minds provides its readers with a take on an upcoming Tom of Finland biopic.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that Enceladus seems altogether too hot and notes that dwarf planet Makemake seems to have a surprisingly uniform surface.

  • Far Outliers looks at Afghanistan and Poland at the end of the 1970s.

  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad each respond to the untimely death of George Michael.
  • Language Log explores the evolution of the term "dongle".

  • Marginal Revolution wonders if Donald Trump is guided by his thinking in the 1980s about a Soviet-American condominium.

  • Torontoist looks at the Toronto's century house plaques come to be.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russian media outside of Russia are gaining in influence and talks about modern Russia as a new sort of "evil empire".

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