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  • The CBC u>notes the consensus that the new Ontario minimum wage will not hurt the economy, overall, but provide a mild boost.

  • The Toronto Star notes that, from 2019, analog television broadcasts will start ramping down.

  • The Toronto Star notes that high prices in Ontario's cottage country are causing the market to expand to new areas.

  • Gizmodo reports on one study suggesting that Proxima Centauri b does have the potential to support Earth-like climates.

  • Gizmodo notes one study speculating on the size of Mars' vanished oceans.

  • Quartz reports on how one community in Alaska and one community in Louisiana are facing serious pressures from climate change and from the political reaction to said.

  • CBC notes an oil platform leaving Newfoundland for the oceans.

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NPR's Tegan Wendland reports on how rising sea levels, arguably felt more in low-lying Louisiana than elsewhere, are contributing to the literal erosion of the state's history.

Louisiana is losing its coast at a rapid rate because of rising sea levels, development and sinking marshland. Officials are trying to rebuild those marshes and the wetlands, but much of the coast can't be saved. This makes Louisiana's history an unwitting victim. As land disappears and the water creeps inland, ancient archaeology sites are washing away, too.

Richie Blink was born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, La. — way down south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Now he works for the National Wildlife Federation.

[. . .]

What's locally known as the "Lemon Trees" is a stand of weathered old trees on a grassy tuft of land. It's a well-known landmark for fishermen, but Blink says they would rarely stop there to hunt or fish because it's a sacred Native American site.

"The legend goes that you were always to bring some kind of sacrifice, so somebody left some lemons for the ancestors," Blink says.

And those grew into big trees with grapefruit-sized lemons. But as land was lost to the Gulf of Mexico, saltwater made its way into the freshwater marsh, killing off the trees and other plants.

The trees stand like skeletons on the edge of this scrappy, wind-beaten island. Waves beat against the dirt, washing it away, exposing shards of ancient pottery.
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  • Beyond the Beyond notes how astronomers are now collecting dust from space in their gutters, without needing to go to Antarctica.

  • blogTO notes the many lost dairies of mid-20th century Toronto.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at how volatiles freeze out in protoplanetary disks.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a paper considering the exploration of ocean worlds.

  • Far Outliers links to a report of a Cossack mercenary working in North America for the British in the War of American Independence.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the grave and the life of Homer Plessy.

  • Steve Munro looks at some possibly worrisome service changes for the TTC.

  • pollotenchegg notes trends in urbanization in post-1970 Ukraine.

  • Strange Maps looks at a scone map of the British Isles.

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  • Anthropology.net notes that schizophrenia is not an inheritance from the Neanderthals.

  • D-Brief notes a recent study of nova V1213 Cen that drew on years of observation.

  • Dangerous Minds shares a Simple Minds show from 1979.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog argues in favour of educating people about how they consume.

  • Far Outliers notes the mid-12th century Puebloan diaspora and the arrival of the Navajo.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen reports on the Faroe Islands.

  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the impending launch of the OSIRIS-REx probe.

  • Spacing Toronto examines through an interview the idea of artivism.

  • Strange Maps notes the need to update the map of Louisiana.

  • Torontoist introduces its new daily newsletters.

  • Understanding Society examines liberalism's relationship with hate-based extremism.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russians are concerned about their country's post-Ukraine isolation but not enough to do anything about it, and looks at the generation gap across the former Soviet space.

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  • blogTO notes this weekend is going to be warm.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at moons of the dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at some photos of American malls taken in the late 1980s.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes a white dwarf that stole so much matter from its stellar partner to make it a brown dwarf.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes Greenland may not have been particularly warm when the Vikings came.

  • Language Hat tells the story of one solitary person who decided to learn Korean.

  • Language Log writes about Sinitic languages written in phonetic scripts.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a map showing how New Orleans is sinking.

  • Marginal Revolution suggests Brexit is not a good strategy, even in the hypothetical case of a collapsing EU. Why not just wait for the collapse?

  • The New APPS Blog notes with concern the expansion of Elsevier.

  • The NYRB Daily notes the perennial divisions among the Kurds.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer wonders what's wrong with Bernie Sanders.

  • Towleroad looks at the impending decriminalization of gay sex in the Seychelles.

  • Understanding Society looks at the work of Brankovich in understanding global inequality.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Crimean Tatars are no longer alone in remembering 1944, and looks at the unhappiness of Tuva's shrinking Russophone minority.

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The National Post carries Coral Davenport and Campbell Robertson's article in The New York Times noting the end of an inhabited island just off the Louisiana coast.

Each morning at 3:30, when Joann Bourg leaves the mildewed and rusted house that her parents built on her grandfather’s property, she worries that the bridge connecting this spit of waterlogged land to Louisiana’s terra firma will again be flooded and she will miss another day’s work.

Bourg, a custodian at a sporting goods store on the mainland, lives with her two sisters, 82-year-old mother, son and niece on land where her ancestors, members of the Native American tribes of southeastern Louisiana, have lived for generations. That earth is now dying, drowning in salt and sinking into the sea, and she is ready to leave.

With a first-of-its-kind “climate resilience” grant to resettle the island’s native residents, Washington is ready to help.

In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants totalling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change, by building stronger levees, dams and drainage systems.

One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees.

“We’re going to lose all our heritage, all our culture,” lamented Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, the tribe to which most Isle de Jean Charles residents belong. “It’s all going to be history.”
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Bloomberg View's Christopher Flavelle looks at how a small coastal village in Louisiana is set to become a test case, as the first American community to be evacuated because of environmental change (sea level rise, and the collapse of the Mississippi delta).

Early one morning at the beginning of March, two black Chevy Suburbans filled with federal and state development officials left New Orleans for Louisiana's coast. Almost two hours later, they turned onto Island Road, a low spit of asphalt nearly three miles long with water on either side. At the other end was Isle de Jean Charles, a community of 25 or so families that is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. The officials had a plan to save the town: by moving it someplace else.

Global warming presents governments the world over with two problems. One is to slow the pace of climate change. The other is to adapt to what humans have already wrought, either by protecting buildings and infrastructure from rising tides and extreme weather, or by moving people out of harm's way. The second part is harder -- so hard, in fact, that the U.S. government has never done it. At least not quite like this.

In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it would give Louisiana $48 million to resettle Isle de Jean Charles. The state won the money by promising not just to move its people, who are members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, but to do it in a way that creates a model that other towns and cities might share. (Most pressing are several communities in Alaska, which face similar challenges.)

"We have never done anything at this scale," said Marion McFadden, the department's deputy assistant secretary for grants. She said the project, still in the planning phase, is an attempt to learn how to explain "the value of relocating" to a community while involving its members in "designing their own new home or homeland."

In other words, how do you persuade people to abandon their town in an orderly fashion, before it becomes uninhabitable? How do you ensure their new home is one they're satisfied with, rather than a glorified refugee camp? And how do you safeguard against central planning gone berserk?

If it works, the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles will show that government-sponsored climate migration is viable, at least on a small scale. If it fails -- if the new community never gets finished, if residents refuse to move, if the project runs far over budget -- the story of the island will be a cautionary one, demonstrating the political, financial and psychological limits of our ability to adapt to global warming.

Beneath those criteria is one of the most vexing dilemmas in the climate-change debate: How should society choose which communities get protected and which must move? Isle de Jean Charles shows how little progress the government has made in answering that question.
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I may well not belong to the core demographic targeted by Beyoncé's "Formation". I've still be listening to the song on repeat, playing the striking video over and over again over the past week. It really works for me.

(I've gotten interested in the guest stars, too. Messy Mya strikes me as overrated. Big Freedia' videos and songs, though, I like. In this bounce singer's exuberant non-heteronormative gender presentation, the music's exuberant sexuality, and the close relationship with place, he really evokes a latter-day Sylvester for me.)

Recognizing that I'm approaching this song as an outsider in so many ways, I have to defer to Naila Keleta-Mae's op-ed for Vice's Noisey, "Get What's Mine: "Formation" Changes the Way We Listen to Beyonce Forever". "Formation" is a complex song, musically and lyrically and visually, that works so well at doing so many things. It's danceable; it's political.

Beyoncé’s a performer. That said, she’s invited us to watch her get free in “Formation” but she also needs us to witness—to “get” it; to get her as an artist. What we’ve witnessed, with the release of “Formation,” is a master class in how pop artists can clearly articulate political views that differ from the mainstream without being labeled didactic and marginalized by the media. And “Formation” couldn’t be quietly relegated to the ether of the internet because it’s such a good pop song. Its mainstream trap beat is skillfully created by producer Mike WiLL Made It; the lyrics, co-written with Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee, provide just the right amount of braggadocio, sex and cute one liners; the looks, styled by Shiona Turini and Marni Senofonte, got the attention of bloggers, and the video direction by Melina Matsoukas delivers just the right artsy-pop-documentary feel.

“Formation” is a notably complex meditation on female blackness, the United States of America, and capitalism. And the blackness that this song and video articulates is not some kind of abstract, cool, costume that can be put on and taken off at will. This female blackness is specific.

It’s “My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana / You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.” It’s 26 brown-skinned black women of multiple shades and shapes dancing in step. It’s dark basements and large mirrors where queer black male hips twerk and revel. It’s sun aversion, high collared dresses, corsets and spread thighs. It’s Messy Mya’s voice from the grave asking what happened to New Orleans. It’s black women’s braless breasts bouncing in hallways lined with bookshelves and brocade. It’s homes underwater because 11 years ago Hurricane Katrina broadcasted to the world that systemic and institutionalized anti-black racism was still state-sanctioned and real. “Formation” is Big Freedia, the queen of bounce music, announcing on behalf of Beyoncé and herself that, “I did not come to play with you hoes / I came to slay, bitch.” It’s Gucci Spring 16, Chanel pre-fall, vintage, and custom clothing. It’s declarations of the coming of a black Bill Gates. It’s a breadth of black cosmologies that means that worship happens on streets, verandas, floats, churches and parking lots. “Formation” is blue hair, piercing eyes and rows of snatched wigs for sale. It’s black hetero marriages where wives are non-monogamous and reward their good lovers with Red Lobster, shopping trips, chopper rides, and the possibility of radio play. It’s the words ‘Stop Shooting Us’ spray-painted on a wall. “Formation” is a magical place where police cars sink under the weight of female blackness; where white riot squads surrender to black boys’ rhythmic complexity; and where black girls play ring games unbothered and uncontained. “Formation” is a newspaper called The Truth with a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and the words “Why was a revolutionary recast as an acceptable Negro leader?” “Formation” is a warning to mainstream media not to attempt to strip Beyoncé of the politics born of her Creole Texas Bama blackness. But it’s also a warning to black folks to lay off the respectability politics that obsessively dissect and admonish Beyoncé for things as absurd as her daughter’s hairstyles (which, for the record, Beyoncé likes with “baby hair and afros.”)

The impact of “Formation” is derived precisely from this rich multivocality. Mae Gwendolyn Brooks argues that black women writers have long used multiple voices in their work because it allows them to “communicate in a diversity of discourses.” Not as a means to integrate into the white mainstream but instead to “remain on the borders of discourse, speaking from the vantage point of the insider/outsider.” In “Formation,” black women’s bodies are literally choreographed into lines and borders that permit them to physically be both inside and outside of a multitude of vantage points. And what that choreography reveals is the embodiment of a particular kind of 21st Century black feminist freedom in the United States of America; one that is ambitious, spiritual, decisive, sexual, capitalist, loving and communal.
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The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale looks at the engaging story of a New Orleans man, one Burnell Cotlon, who is trying to set up a grocery store in the Lower Ninth Ward. His GoFundMe page is a worthy cause.

In the decade between Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the opening of Burnell Cotlon’s Lower 9th Ward Market last November, the isolated, impoverished neighbourhood most devastated by the storm had no grocery store and no fresh produce.

The nearest Wal-Mart was an easy 10-minute drive for residents with a car. For those without, a milk run was a 50-minute bus expedition.

Cotlon’s bowls of fruits and vegetables are a lifeline. And a symbol, however modest, of returning normalcy.

“People have come in here and cried,” Cotlon said. “I’ve had total strangers high-fiving me.”

The Lower 9th Ward Market was an abandoned apartment building before Cotlon bought the property for $4,000. In truth, it looks more like a low-budget convenience store than a grocery. The entire produce section fits on one table. The only breeze comes from portable floor fans set to high. Cotlon stuffs his small supply of milk into a fridge Coca-Cola gave him strictly for its soft drinks.

Cotlon confessed his violation unprompted, with an unapologetic smile. He was making a point.

“You have to make this work,” he said. “No matter what.”
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  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that stars commonly ingest hot Jupiters.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the spread of robots.

  • Far Outliers shares terms for making shoyu.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Ashley Madison nearly bought Grindr.

  • Language Log notes the changing usage of "hemp" as a political term.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the plan to save New Orleans by abandoning the Mississippi delta.

  • The Russian Demographics blog notes the genetic distinctiveness of the Denisovans.

  • Towleroad notes the pulling-down of a Warsaw rainbow monument.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the American debate over birthright citizenship.

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Scientific American's Mark Fischetti reports that the only way to spare New Orleans possible overflooding is to abandon the Mississippi Delta, the long tail stretching into the Gulf of Mexico. This is unsurprising, but I wonder if this is at all politically viable.

[H]ow does one reengineer the entire Mississippi River delta—one of the largest in the world—on which New Orleans lies?

Three international engineering and design teams have reached a startling answer: leave the mouth of the Mississippi River to die. Let the badly failing wetlands there completely wither away, becoming open water, so that the upper parts of the delta closer to the city can be saved. The teams, winners of the Changing Course Design Competition, revealed their detailed plans on August 20. Graphics from each plan are below.

Scientists worldwide agree that the delta’s wetlands disintegrated because we humans built long levees—high, continuous ridges of earth covered by grass or rocks—along the entire length of the lower Mississippi River. The leveed river rims the southern boundary of New Orleans and continues another 40 serpentine miles until it reaches the gulf. The levees, erected almost exclusively by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, prevented regular floods from harming farms, industries and towns along the river’s course. However those floods also would have supplied the brackish marshes with massive quantities of silt and freshwater, which are necessary for their survival.

Silt carries nutrients that grasses and mangroves need to stay lush, and it provides new material to build up the soft substrate beneath those plants, which subsides naturally under its own weight. Incoming freshwater mixes with the delta's saltwater to create the reduced salinity required by the region's vegetation. This soup also prevents pure ocean water from intruding further inland, which kills grasses and trees from the roots up.

Instead, hundreds of miles of navigation channels, cut by the Corps for more than half a century through the wetlands have torn the wetlands apart from within. So have thousands more miles cut by industry during the same period to build and maintain oil and gas pipelines running in from the Gulf.
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The Conversation hosts an interesting article describing how early 20th century records of the language of the Chitimacha of Louisiana, drawn from the last two speakers, are being used to support a contemporary revival.

In the early 1990s, cultural director for the tribe Kim Walden received a call from the American Philosophical Society Library informing her that they had all of Morris’ notebooks, and even his drafts for a grammar manual and dictionary, which totaled hundreds of pages in all. Thus began the herculean effort to revive the language.

The tribe put together a small-but-dedicated team of language experts, who set out to learn their language as quickly as possible. They began to produce storybooks based on Ben and Delphine’s stories, and word lists from the dictionary manuscript.

In 2008, the tribe partnered with the software company Rosetta Stone on a two-year project to create computer software for learning the language, which today every registered tribal member has a copy of. This is where I came in, serving as editor and linguist consultant for the project, a monumental collaborative effort involving thousands of hours of translating, editing, recording and photographing. We’re now hard at work finishing a complete dictionary and learner’s reference grammar for the language.

Today, if you stroll through the reservation’s school, you’ll hear kids speaking Chitimacha in language classes, or using it with their friends in the hall. At home they practice with the Chitimacha version of Rosetta Stone, and this past year the tribe even launched a preschool immersion program.

The kids even make up slang that baffles adult ears, a sure sign that the language is doing well – and hopefully will continue to thrive, into the next generation and beyond.
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  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of some Neanderthal skeletons showing signs of having had the flesh carved off of them.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the messages carried by the New Horizon probe.

  • Crooked Timber makes the case for the continued relevance of Bob Marley.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at recurrent streams on Mars carved by perchlorate-laced water.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Edward Hugh argues that Spain is still digging out of the long crisis.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the story of a Louisiana trans man fired from his job for not detransitioning.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that China is not really a revisionist power.

  • Justin Petrone looks at ways in which young Estonian children are demonstrating and developing a fear of Russia.

  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the failure of the Dragon rocket.

  • Towleroad notes that the Russian-language version of Siri is quite homophobic.

  • Understanding Society looks at the criticial realist social theory of Frédéric Vandenberghe.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at trends in violence in the North Caucasus and warns of Central Asian alienation from Russia.

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Earlier this week I linked to an article describing how the Houma, an indigenous people of coastal Louisiana, were seeing their homeland wash away. I've more recently come across a Washington Post article are trying to revive their moribund language.

The challenges are steep: There are few available recordings and texts of the language and only a few dozen words are known, largely because of a Smithsonian anthropologist who interviewed native speakers in 1907.

The fate of the Houma language is not unique. Linguists say that the rate of language extinction is accelerating and that by the next century, nearly half of the 7,000 languages spoken around the world today — like the Houma, mainly spoken by small tribes in remote places — will probably disappear because of cultural assimilation and globalization. The loss will be profound, says Irina Shport, an assistant professor of language acquisition at Louisiana State University in Lafayette.

[. . .]

The starting point was a single recording made in the early 1970s by Elvira Molinere Billiot, the great-grandmother of [activist Colleen] Billiot, a Georgetown University graduate who grew up in St. Bernard Parish outside New Orleans. Her father’s distant cousin found the cassette recording and gave it to Billiot, who upon moving back home had already expressed a strong interest in learning more about her Houma ancestry. The recording was made by Mennonite missionary Greg Bowman, who was conducting research about the Houmas to help them achieve federal recognition. It features the elder Billiot singing “Chan-Chuba,” a simple children’s song that some believe is about chasing an alligator out of the house.

Earlier, at a Houma tribal council meeting outside Lafayette, Billiot met Dardar. The two women realized they shared an interest in researching their tribal roots but didn’t know where to start. When they listened to the elderly woman sing the strange melody, in a language they did not understand, they knew it presented an opening to their project.

“I was getting teary-eyed listening to a voice I was related to, but who died before I was born. It was surreal,” says Billiot, who now lives in Northern Virginia and works in government. “We knew there was something to be preserved, something we should care about, that we should at least try to find more about as Houma. We finally had something to go off of and we got exited.”
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In a sort of followup to the Brett Anderson Medium article on Louisiana's catastrophically eroding coastline that I linked to in September, Al Jazeera's Stell Simonton reports on the plight of the Houma Indians of the Louisiana coast. Their homeland is literally slipping away from them, even without oil pollution.

[Houma Chief Thomas Dardar Jr]’s administrative assistant, Bette Billiot, drove her black minivan down a narrow road alongside Pointe-aux-Chenes Bayou in early December, the white feathers of a dreamcatcher swaying from her rearview mirror.

The bayou is in Terrebonne Parish, one of six coastal parishes where the Houma and other Native peoples are concentrated.

She pointed to the right. “That’s Lora Ann Chaisson’s property,” she said. Chaisson, the vice principal chief of the Houma, used to own 15 acres, but only 12 acres of her land still exist. “She has three acres of water now,” Billiot said.

Billiot turned the van onto a narrow road leading to Isle de Jean Charles, a stretch of land that was inspiration for the 2012 film “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

For years, it was home to a community of Native Americans. Once, 125 or so families lived there, she said. Now it’s only about 25 families. The island was 5 miles wide and 11 miles long in the 1950s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Now it’s barely a quarter of a mile wide and 2 miles long.
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Brett Anderson's Medium article about the disappearance of much of south Louisiana as seas rise and shorelines erode, hidden by misleading maps, is a must-read. What actually is the proper coastline of Louisiana? It's rather different from the one we see.

Digital maps have expanded our freedoms to roam, removing much of the fear and hassle inherent in exploring unfamiliar terrain by exponentially decreasing the chances we will become hopelessly lost. But smart phone screens are programmed to spit out the granular information we need to get from point A to B. We don’t look to them to give us the large-scale views of border, land, and water of accurate paper maps. And so it’s becoming harder and harder to communicate the most urgent crisis facing Louisiana.

According to the U.S.G.S., the state lost just under 1,900 square miles of land between 1932 and 2000. This is the rough equivalent of the entire state of Delaware dropping into the Gulf of Mexico, and the disappearing act has no closing date. If nothing is done to stop the hemorrhaging, the state predicts as much as another 1,750 square miles of land — an area larger than Rhode Island — will convert to water by 2064. An area approximately the size of a football field continues to slip away every hour. “We’re sinking faster than any coast on the planet,” explains Bob Marshall, a Pulitzer-winning journalist in New Orleans. Marshall authored the series “Losing Ground,” a recent collaboration between The Lens, a non-profit newsroom, and ProPublica, about the Louisiana coast’s epic demise.

While the kind of state map that might have been useful for navigation or perspective was elusive on the road to Morgan City, the image such maps project — the iconic “boot” shape everyone recognizes as Louisiana — was impossible to escape. The map’s outline was ubiquitous on my drive: on bumper stickers (with the boot standing in for the “L” in “Love”), engulfing T-shirt fronts (my favorite emblazoned with “I drove the Chevy to the levee but the levee was gone”), and glowing on Louisiana-shaped neon beer signs in barroom windows.

But the boot is at best an inaccurate approximation of Louisiana’s true shape and, at worst, an irresponsible lie. It has to be.
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  • James Bow wishes he had better choices in the Ontario election than to vote for the least bad party.

  • Centauri Dreams shares an essay by Cameron Smith examining cultural evolution on long-duration interstellar missions, like generation starships.

  • Crooked Timber continues its symposium on the ethics of immigration, arguing in favour of open borders.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that streaks on Martian dune slopes might be ephemeral sheets of water.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the continuing devastation of Louisiana by the side-effects of the oil industry.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that the cap-and-trade economics of the carbon market are spreading throughout the United States.

  • The New APPS Blog wonders if the boredom plausibly associated with immortality could be dealt with by a short memory--the goldfish solution, as the blog calls it.

  • Peter Rukavina shares a lovely example of his printing, a short passage of Jack Layton's final address to Canada.

  • The Russian Demographics blog wonders what will happen to HIV in Crimea now that it's part of Russia.

  • Torontoist notes that the New Democratic Party promises many lovely things for Toronto if it wins the Ontario elections but doesn't describe how it would pay for it all.

  • Towleroad notes that playing a gay man in the 1981 film Making Love destroyed his film career.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the anti-terrorist campaign in eastern Ukraine is much less bloody than Russian campaigns in the North Caucasus, and notes that the Russian Orthodox Church isn't quite on side (losing Ukraine would hurt it).

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  • io9 shares wonderful illustrations of Titan's methane showlines.

  • The Atlantic Cities notes that the coastline of Louisiana is receding so quickly mapmakers are hard-pressed to keep up.

  • BusinessWeek wonders how great cities, like New York City or Rome, reconcile change and tradition.

  • Christianity Today features a Philip Jenkins article noting that the origins and alliances of the Crimean crisis can be traced back at least as far as the Crimean War.

  • Ha'aretz notes that Israelis are moving to Tel Aviv, abandoning peripheral areas (with large Arab population) like Galilee and the Negev.

  • MacLean's that condo construction is set to boom in Toronto.

  • Tablet Magazine notes that Crimea, immediately after the Second World War, was positioned as a potential homeland for Soviet Jews.

  • According to Time, changes in Canadian immigration law may be discouraging rich Chinese immigrants.

  • Universe Today notes that China's Yutu moon rover can't properly move its solar panels.

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The Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture's article on the French language in Lousiana, the only American state to belong to la francophonie, seems quite accurate to me.

During the nineteenth century, most Cajuns spoke only Cajun French, which frequently irritated Anglo-American observers. As one New Yorker noted on a visit to south Louisiana during the 1860s, the Cajuns were "unable to speak the English language, or convey an intelligent idea in the national tongue." Even those non-Cajuns who appreciated standard French frowned on Cajun French as inferior. For example, in 1880 a Chicago Times reporter on assignment in Iberia Parish stated that "The educated people speak the bona fide Parisian, but the ‘Cagin’ [sic] patois is deemed good enough for 'the low-down folks.’ . . ." Census data indicates that about eight-five percent of Cajuns born between 1906 and 1910 spoke French as their primary language. In 1916, however, the state board of education banned the use of French in public classrooms; in 1921 legislators confirmed the ban in a new state constitution. As a result, many educators subjected Cajun students to humiliating punishments for daring to speak their traditional language at school. In addition, twentieth-century Cajuns were increasingly exposed to powerful Americanizing forces (such as compulsory military service, radio and television, the coming of interstate highways and "the jet age," and so on). Because of these factors, the percentage of Cajuns speaking French as a first language dropped considerably, particularly after 1940. Today few young Cajuns speak French: of those born between 1976 and 1980, for instance, slightly less than nine percent speak French as a first language.

The Louisiana Creoles went through a similar process of Anglicization. French, it seems certain, is not very likely at all to recover--Francophone minorities in western Canada may well be in better shape.

What happened? Louisiana French did seem to have some advantages at the start. Unlike more sparsely populated Upper Louisiana, the core areas of French settlement in what is now the south of the State of Louisiana had accumulated a large Francophone population, composed of Cajuns and Louisiana Creoles, the second group including both whites and blacks. Even after Louisiana's sale to the Untied States, Louisiana retained a dynamic Francophone culture well into the 19th century--Degas spent no little amount of time in New Orleans, for instance, Kate Chopin was strongly interested in the stories of Maupassant, and generations before the Harlem Renaissance, free blacks in New Orleans composed a vibrant literature. Unfortunately, the dynamics of assimilation described in Carl L. Bankston III and Jacques M. Henry's 1998 paper in the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, "The Silence of the Gators: Cajun Ethnicity and Intergenerational Transmission of Louisiana French" (PDF format), ended up prevailing.

[I]n a movement which accelerated after the Civil War, wealthy Acadian landowners assimilated to the white Creole or American society, while small farmers, labourers and craftsmen of Acadian extraction retained their French culture, low status and Cajun label (Dormon, 1983). This was the basis for the stereotype of the marginal, poor and uneducated Cajun which endured through most of the 20th century. The industrialisation and urbanisation of Louisiana in the 1930s was accompanied by the rapid assimilation of Cajuns into the American way: in a three-generation span, English became their first language, traditional farming and fishing occupations gave way to jobs in the oil-and-gas industry and manufacturing, and a kinship- and neighbourhood- based way of life was transformed by modern amenities in communication, transportation and leisure.

Shifting demographics also played a role in ensuring the assimilation of Creoles.

With imported furniture, wines, books, and clothes, white Creoles were once immersed in a completely French atmosphere. Part of Creole social life has traditionally centered on the French Opera House; from 1859 to 1919, it was the place for sumptuous gatherings and glittering receptions. The interior, graced by curved balconies and open boxes of architectural beauty, seated 805 people. Creoles loved the music and delighted in attendance as the operas were great social and cultural affairs.

White Creoles clung to their individualistic way of life, frowned upon intermarriage with Anglo-Americans, refused to learn English, and were resentful and contemptuous of Protestants, whom they considered irreligious and wicked. Creoles generally succeeded in remaining separate in the rural sections but they steadily lost ground in New Orleans. In 1803, there were seven Creoles to every Anglo-American in New Orleans, but these figures dwindled to two to one by 1830.

Anglo-Americans reacted by disliking the Creoles with equal enthusiasm. Gradually, New Orleans became not one city, but two. Canal Street split them apart, dividing the old Creole city from the "uptown" section where the other Americans quickly settled. Tcross Canal Street in either direction was to enter another world. These differences are still noticeable today.

Finally, Creoles, unlike the Cajuns who were istanced from the sources of power, were even politically important, but even this involvement in state affairs worked to the disadvantage of French.

When the Constitutional Convention of 1811 met at New Orleans, 26 of its 43 members were Creoles. During the first few years of statehood, native Creoles were not particularly interested in national politics and the newly arrived Americans were far too busy securing an economic basis to seriously care much about political problems. Many Creoles were still suspicious of the American system and were prejudiced against it.

Until the election of 1834, the paramount issue in state elections was whether the candidate was Creole or Anglo-American. Throughout this period, many English-speaking Americans believed that Creoles were opposed to development and progress, while the Creoles considered other Americans radical in their political ideas. Since then, Creoles have actively participated in American politics; they have learned English to ease this process. In fact, Creoles of color have dominated New Orleans politics since the 1977 election of Ernest "Dutch" Morial as mayor. He was followed in office by Sidney Bartholemey and then by his son, Marc Morial.

From 1864 on, the state constitution imposed by the post-Civil War reconstruction regime explicitly removed prior commitments to French, particularly the requirement of state officials to be bilingual.

Efforts late in the 20th century to revive French, again seem doomed in the face of the numerous forces eroding French. The picture painted by Allard and Landry's 1996 paper "French in South Louisiana- Towards Language Loss" in English, and by reinforced by Jacques Leclerc's survey of Louisiana's linguistic and legal structures on French, confirm that French may not even survive this generation. Louisiana will likely become, past aside, as Francophone as fellow francophonie member-state Lithuania.


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