rfmcdonald: (obscura)


In a great Wired article, Charley Locke describes how a photo taken on the New York City subway system by Instagram user subwaycreatures ended up going hilariously viral.

Samuel Themer never planned to be a symbol of everything that’s right or wrong with America. He just wanted to go to work. But when he hopped on the subway to head into Manhattan on February 19, the Queens resident was in full drag—he performs as Gilda Wabbit. He also ended up sitting next to a woman in a niqab, a fact he initially didn’t even notice. “I was just sitting on the train, existing,” he says. “It didn’t seem out of the ordinary that a woman in full modesty garb would sit next to me.”

Someone on that W car with them, though, thought otherwise. Boubah Barry, a Guinean immigrant and real estate student, wanted to document what he saw as a testament to tolerance, so he took a photo of the pair and posted it to Instagram. “It’s diversity,” says Barry, who says he doesn’t identify as liberal or conservative but does oppose President Trump’s refugee ban. “They sit next to each other, and no one cares.”

But someone did care. After the post was shared by Instagram account subwaycreatures, the photo drifted across the internet until /pol/ News Network attached it to a tweet on Wednesday with the message “This is the future that liberals want.”

/pol/ News Network, which also recently declared Get Out to be anti-white propaganda, probably intended the post to be a warning about the impending liberal dystopia. But as soon as actual liberals saw it, they flipped the message on its head—and began touting the message as exactly the future they wanted. They filled /pol/ News Network’s mentions with messages endorsing the photo and adding their own visions of a bright future. By Thursday, it was a full-blown meme. Soon images of a future filled with interspecies companionship, gay space communism, and Garfield flooded onto social media.
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News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.



Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post "A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!".

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.


Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at "Model Planets", comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.



The Planetary Society Blog's Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams' "Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1" has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post "Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1" notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in "We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back" about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in "The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets", hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)


Facebook's Simon tagged me with André Masson, and I picked his Pedestal Table in the Studio. This work of his speaks to me, what can I say?

If you want to take part in this ongoing Facebook event, just like this post.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)
For his birthday, Facebook's Fabrice issued his readers a familiar challenge: "L'idée est simple et belle : occuper l'espace de Facebook avec de l'art et briser la monotonie de l'actualité politique, des selfies et du food porn.

Celui ou celle qui "aime/Like" ce statut se verra attribuer un artiste et publiera, s'il/elle le souhaite, une de ses œuvres accompagnée de ce texte sur son mur."



I liked his post, and I was given Yves Klein. I picked his 1957 canvas Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 81). Blue is my favourite colour, and so was Klein's--he even invented a shade of blue all his own, the ultramarine-dominated International Klein Blue. That this blue directly inspired Derek Jarman's Blue is an added plus.
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 Pablo Picasso by Facebook's Barrett, and I picked Picasso's famous 1937 canvas Guernica.
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: (obscura)
I was given a challenge by Facebook's Paul: "The idea is to occupy Facebook with art, breaking up all the political posts. Whoever 'likes' this post will be given an artist and has to post a piece by that artist, along with this text." He gave me Alex Colville, and for me, after a certain amount of consideration, there was only one artist I could pick.



Alex Colville's "To Prince Edward Island" is my favourite work by the man. I was so pleased to see it in the AGO's 2014 Alex Colville exhibit--I even have a picture of me before it. What is the central figure looking at, and how did the ferry to the mainland (from the mainland?) get to be so exciting?
rfmcdonald: (obscura)


I was not the only person on my Facebook friends list stunned by the above photo, taken in Ankara by Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici in the seconds after the assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov. Ozbilici's photo--he took multiple photos, but this is the most famous one--of the killer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, caught in his delivery of his manifesto with gun raised, is striking. It might even be iconic.

One early reaction of the media, as seen at Slate and Petapixel and Mashable, was to congratulate Ozbilici on his nerve, on his ability to take these photos while he was justified in fearing for his life. The Los Angeles Times carried an interview with interview with Ozbilici, explaining what he was thinking at the moment he took this and the other photographs.

I was, of course, fearful and knew of the danger if the gunman turned toward me. But I advanced a little and photographed the man as he hectored his desperate, captive audience.

This is what I was thinking: "I'm here. Even if I get hit and injured, or killed, I'm a journalist. I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos…. But I wouldn't have a proper answer if people later ask me: 'Why didn't you take pictures?' "

I even thought about friends and colleagues who have died while taking photographs in conflict zones over the years.

As my mind raced, I saw that the man was agitated — and yet, he was, strangely, in control of himself. He shouted at everyone to stand back. Security guards ordered us to vacate the hall and we left.


I myself am impressed by his skill. Ozbilici deserves something.

I was also wondering what Susan Sontag, writer and commentator on all things including philosophy, would think of this. As noted at Brainpickings, Sontag's writing was astonishingly prescient, noting the ability of the photograph to fix an audience's understanding of what happened with an event. What would she have thought about this photo, memorializing this moment and this event for all time, shared instantaneously across the Internet?

I was also reminded of an article I read in 2012, by sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, noting how images of atrocity can be fixed and preserved and used to actively maintain memory and a desire for vengeance for far longer than we think. What will this photo be taken to signify in the longer haul, I wonder and fear?
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The above photo, showing a residential high-rise development outside of the interior Chinese city of Yinchuan, is one of a few stunning photos of similar developments taken across China by photographer Aurelian Marechal. Marechal's work was the subject of a brief Wired article by Charley Locke.

Venture to the outskirts of China’s biggest cities and you’ll find soaring towers and a barren landscape. One day, these futuristic high-rises will house the 250 million or so people the government hopes to move from villages into cities. For now, though, they remain all but empty. “They look like ghost towns,” says photographer Aurelien Marechal. “They’re suburbs in the middle of nowhere.”

China’s relocation plan is designed to give those in poor, rural areas access to healthcare, schools, and jobs. To entice people into the cities, the government is paying people for their land and subsidizing their housing in gargantuan towers that stand 40 stories or more.

Marechal, who has lived in Shanghai since 2012, noticed the developments during a train ride to Nanjing. He found their size and location intriguing and spent two years documenting their construction in 15 cities throughout the country. The images in Block look like an abandoned civilization, a dystopian vision of a city immediately and completely emptied. Exactly the opposite is happening, of course, as China’s plan to relocate people fills the standing suburbs waiting to house them.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)


I was startled to see the above image in my RSS feed, contained within Emily Landau's Toronto Life feature "This Toronto photographer reimagines the skyline as a post-apocalyptic dystopia". This image, and many others, is the product of Instagram user Justin Main, known as photified on that platform. His surreal alternate histories are amazing.

Over the past few years, the iconic Toronto skyline has become a creative blank slate for Toronto artists, who are taking familiar elements—the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, waterfront skyscrapers—and transforming them into fantastical cityscapes. One of the most inventive Instagrammers on the scene is Justin Main, a prolific photographer who goes by the handle @photified on Instagram. Main’s shots make the city seem like the world of a video game: he shows the skyline sprouting out of an iPhone screen, envisions giants stomping on the city and reimagines Toronto as a miniature city in a turtle tank. The photos are cheeky, striking and sometimes a bit scary.

The 30-year-old Main grew up in Barrie. When he was 14, he fell in love with Photoshop, spending all his spare time manipulating images. He studied photography at Georgian College, but after he graduated, he found himself weighed down by OSAP loans and decided to give up his photographic aspirations for something more stable. He got a gig at the Honda factory in Alliston, Ontario, and spent the next three years assembling car engines.

About five years ago, Main decided to quit his job, move to Toronto and pursue photography full time. “I was discouraged by most of my family and friends, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” he says. For the first couple of years, he worked in the music industry, creating album covers for hip-hop mixtapes. His ultimate goal was to get into advertising, so in 2013 he embarked on a Project 365, which involves posting one image every day. He never missed a day—even during the 2013 ice storm, when he lost power and had to camp out in Tim Hortons to work on his laptop. Three years later, he’s amassed tens of thousands of Instagram followers, and when he’s not posting on Instagram, he’s creating images for brands like Google, Club Med, Crayola and Timberland.

Main’s shots are complex photo collages: he often spends up to 12 hours a day cropping, lighting and tinting on Photoshop, splicing together anywhere from two to 15 individual images. Many of his images are magical twists on classic Toronto sights, like the Island, the DVP and Brookfield Place.

[. . .]

This vaguely apocalyptic landscape combines the Toronto waterfront with a rocky cliffside, making the city resemble an isolated medieval fortress. “I dreamed this up after a discussion with a friend about lunar tides,” Main explains. “I wanted to exaggerate Toronto, so it kind of looked like the Bay of Fundy.”


I normally don't follow Instagram photo art accounts, but I followed this one. You may want to do the same.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)


For the past couple of winters, I've been feeling as if I live in a foreign country.

Canadians self-define their country as a northern one, verging on the Arctic. This is true, and yet, most of the major population centres of Canada--the great Windsor-Québec City corridor, the Maritimes, Vancouver, Winnipeg, even--are concentrated in the extreme south of the country. In terms of latitude, all of these cities are located considerably further to the south than many European cities we think of regularly, not just as peers but as warmer destinations. It is the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe warm, that gives Tallinn (for instance) the chance to enjoy a climate significantly more clement than the northern Manitoba port of Churchill.

This has been changing in the past couple of years. It hit me most strongly last year, just before Christmas, when I went out for lunch with a friend (hi Mark!). He was wearing bike shorts, and comfortable wearing them. Why not? It was 15 degrees out. Afterwards, I got out of the TTC at Spadina station and just stood for a moment, looking at the Annex around me. It was 4 o'clock, and starting to get dark, and yet it was warm.

Canada, unlike Europe, doesn't have a Gulf Stream. It does share in the greenhouse effect that is already contributing to record winter highs in the Arctic, and elsewhere.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)


I found this black-and-white photo depicting the Toronto skyline circa 1971 at Tumblr's Fuck Yeah Toronto. I could not find a source for this image, which is a pity since it does provide a lovely overview of downtown Toronto in the early 1970s. The skyscrapers of the Financial District are mostly there, but the CN Tower is still under construction and vast wastes stretch out to the Lake Ontario shoreline.
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Jessica Wong's CBC News article highlights the growing popularity of Canadian art on international markets, like the Lawren Harris's 1926 painting Mountain Forms set to be auctioned off tonight. Sadly, this does not seem to be one of the canvases I photographed in September at the AGO.

The thing about Canadian art is that Canadians have largely kept it to themselves — so says British art historian Ian Dejardin.

But there's definite potential for worldwide appreciation of Canadian art, and tonight could mark one instance where the cat's out of the bag.

The commanding large-scale canvas Mountain Forms by iconic artist and Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris — a vibrant Rockies scene from his coveted 1920s creative period — hits the block with Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto. The work depicts Mount Ishbel, which is in Alberta's Sawback Range in Banff National Park, east of Johnston Canyon.

Tapped with a conservative presale estimate of $3 million to $5 million, the painting is expected to sell for more.

If it crosses the upper threshold of the estimate, it would likely become the most expensive Canadian artwork ever sold at auction, knocking off longtime record-holder Paul Kane's Scene in the Northwest. Harris works already take up three spots among the top five most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction.

The audience for Canadian art is out there, says Dejardin, pointing to his own experience at London's Dulwich Picture Gallery, mounting critically acclaimed exhibitions on Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven as well as Emily Carr — shows that introduced Canadians to many new admirers, inspired lengthy queues, drew raves from attendees and also moved on to other European galleries.
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This afternoon, I shared a photo post from another WordPress blog. Only after I had shared it did it occur to me that I actually did not provide a context for this. So:

Look For A Moment, originally based here, is a global photo project organized by a kind woman in the Netherlands who gets people from around the world to share one photo from their environment. It goes on for a month. I joined it when it was going this April, and I was in from the start when it got going this month.
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blogTO's Derek Flack was the first person I saw explaining what the above graphic--ostensibly, a City of Toronto notification of a planned condo conversion of Old City Hall--was about.

Plenty of people fell for the prank when they first encountered the sign, especially as it started to make the rounds on social media. Part of the reason for this is that the production of the sign looks convincing (notwithstanding the wood poles and the dated colour scheme.

The other reason, however, is that the real applications we're seeing these days have become so wildly outlandish. It wasn't so long ago, after all, that a massive residential tower was proposed just to the east above the F.W. Woolworth Building at Queen and Yonge.

Aside from the minor giveaways, there was a significant hint as the facetiousness of the application: the Tumblr link at the bottom of the sign. This would normally send people to the city planning website, but instead leads the curious follower to a treasure trove of other prank development applications.

They range from Casa Loma to OCAD to the CN Tower -- in other words Toronto's most sacred buildings. Another proposes to build a whole new condo atop of 1 Bloor East, the nearly complete development that already soars to 65 storeys. The whole lot of them offer some much appreciated levity in the midst of a development world gone mad.


The Toronto Star's Peter Goffin went into more detail.

From 180 residential units built atop the Ontario legislature, to condos balanced on the CN Tower’s observation decks, to a Toronto Islands ferry reimagined as a floating base for a residential tower, the “proposals” get more surrealistic as it goes on.

It’s all a goof on Toronto’s condo-building fervor, care of a pair of artists and self-described “urban interventionists” who work under the pseudonyms Glo’erm and Tuggy.

“It is a piece of satire asking the public and the city to take a critical look at many of Toronto’s recent development projects, which show countless examples of condo towers being naively plopped on top of historic buildings as if this could preserve their elegance and our tie to their history, despite these additions,” Glo’erm told the Star in an email.

“We hope that it reveals how poorly these signs serve Torontonians as a means of notifying them and seeking their feedback about changes to be made to the urban environment,” he added.


Their Tumblr account is here.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)
Google+ David David Belliveau posted, from the website of the National Weather Service's Environmental Modelling Centre, a rather disturbing map showing anomalous sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic.



This is bad, isn't it?
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Toronto transit blogger Steve Munro has been kind enough to share his vintage photos of the 1972 move of the 19th century Campbell House through the streets of Toronto, from a site near the Financial District to its current location on the northwest corner of Queen and University.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)
blogTO has let me know that Toronto's Graffiti Alley has led to a world record: It is the source of the world's longest Instagram photo.

Toronto's Graffiti Alley is one of the most Instagrammed spots in the city - it really does make a great background for broody, pseudo-gritty fashion shoots. But now this downtown laneway is a star in its own right thanks to a new project by Heritage Toronto and Havas Worldwide Canada, an advertising firm.

Called Instatour, this Instagram-based projects stitches together 1,300 separate posts to create the longest continuous Instagram photo in the world. The result is quite stunning, but make sure you check out graffitialley.to on mobile. Simply turn your phone sideways and scroll away.

Local photographer Justin Poulsen documented Graffiti Alley for three weeks earlier this year. His work gives viewers a glimpse at this iconic Toronto spot at a specific moment in time.

"Heritage Toronto is thrilled to be involved in this innovative project commemorating a key site in our city's intangible cultural heritage," says Heritage Toronto executive director Francisco Alvarez in a news release.

"It's a reminder that even our recent past can be fleeting, and how important it is to celebrate moments of creation like Graffiti Alley that create a distinctive sense of place and pride in Toronto."


The Instagram account, graffitialley.to, is worth checking out. For people not on mobile, the below video provides a taste.


Graffiti Alley Instatour from Havas Worldwide Canada on Vimeo.

rfmcdonald: (Default)


Verity Stevenson's Toronto Star article describing how a Peterborough family ran into Justin Trudeau while exploring Québec's Gatineau Park blew up all over my Facebook wall today.

When a Peterborough family set out on a hike inside Quebec’s Gatineau Park, they didn’t expect to see a cave, let alone a shirtless prime minister popping out of one!

“It was like a 20-foot-wide round hole and Justin (Trudeau) emerged with his family in tow and said, ‘This is the moment of truth; do we stop here or do we carry on?’” said Jim Godby, who was on a five-day camping trip at the park last week with his wife, Arlene, and two kids — Alexander, 13, and Charlotte, 10.

They had decided to go on a hike on one of the trails near their campsite Tuesday and happened upon the Lusk Cave, a marble cave thousands of years old in the centre of the park.

As they went to take a peek inside, Godby heard the familiar voice. That’s when Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and two of their children surfaced in what Godby described as a casual chance encounter that humanized the prime minister.

“It was just said with such an enthusiastic, joyful tone that that’s what kind of struck me,” Godby said of Trudeau’s comment, which appeared to be referring to whether the family should continue hiking or not. “He evidently enjoys leading. . . . It seemed pretty characteristic of his personality.”


This is just fun.
rfmcdonald: (obscura)
This Canadian Press article describes something glorious.



Make way, Liberal cabinet: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have another all-Canadian crew in his corner as he suits up for his latest feature role — comic book character.

Trudeau will grace the variant cover of issue No. 5 of Marvel’s “Civil War II: Choosing Sides,” due out
Aug. 31.

Trudeau is depicted smiling, sitting relaxed in the boxing ring sporting a Maple Leaf-emblazoned tank, black shorts and red boxing gloves. Standing behind him are Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora, who are members of Canadian superhero squad Alpha Flight. In the left corner, Iron Man is seen with his arms crossed.

“I didn’t want to do a stuffy cover — just like a suit and tie — put his likeness on the cover and call it a day,” said award-winning Toronto-based cartoonist Ramon Perez.

“I wanted to kind of evoke a little bit of what’s different about him than other people in power right now. You don’t see (U.S. President Barack) Obama strutting around in boxing gear, doing push-ups in commercials or whatnot. Just throwing him in his gear and making him almost like an everyday person was kind of fun.”

The variant cover featuring Trudeau will be an alternative to the main cover in circulation showcasing Aurora, Puck, Sasquatch and Nick Fury.

Trudeau follows in the prime ministerial footsteps of his late father, Pierre, who graced the pages of “Uncanny X-Men” in 1979.

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