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  • Centauri Dreams notes one source suggesting red dwarf stars may produce too little ultraviolet to spark life on their planets.

  • Hornet Stories notes how LGBTQ Dreamers will be hit badly by the repeal of DACA.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money approves of Frederick Crews' critical takedown of Freud as a scientist.

  • The LRB Blog looks at a new South Korean film examining the Gwangju massacre of 1980.

  • The NYR Daily notes that China seems set to head into a new era of strict censorship, with calamitous results.

  • The Planetary Society Blog considers the 40th anniversary of the Voyagers in the light of the Pale Blue Dot of Carl Sagan.

  • The Signal reports that, for archivists' purposes, online newspaper sites are actually very poorly organized.

  • At Spacing, Adam Bunch notes how Upper Canadian governor John Simcoe's abolition of slavery was not quite that.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the continued official contortions around Circassian history in Russia.

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In memory of the dead of Earlscourt, Toronto


Toronto's Prospect Cemetery extends as far south as St. Clair Avenue, touching Earlscourt. Back when this neighbourhood was a newly-annexed municipality on the northwest fringes of the City of Toronto, Earlscourt was a new communiy, home to many recent British immigrants. These people volunteered by the thousands to serve on the Western Front, and died in the hundreds. After the First World War, this memorial was built in Prospect Cemetery, Earlscourt's local cemetery, in honour of the neighbourhood's dead. Future king Edward VIII lent his presence to the ceremonies surrounding of this cenotaph in 1919.
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  • In The Globe and Mail, Ian Brown and Nam Phi Dang's photo essay tracking the adventures of a bus of Chinese tourists who went from Toronto to the Island and back is insightful and amusing.
  • Alex Ballingall's account in the Toronto Star of his week-long trek along the Trans-Canada Trail from Niagara to Toronto is enlightening. Would I could do this ...

  • Mark Milke in MacLean's argues that, regrettable excesses aside, Canadians should be proud of our British heritage.

  • The Montreal Gazette's Brendan Kelly wonders why a supposedly Canadian music compilation does not include any French-language songs.

  • In the Toronto Star, Emma Teitel points out that visibility, including corporate visibility, is hugely important in Pride.

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Playing amidst a fallen empire


The children playing on Canada Day around the equestrian statue of Edward VI, originally mounted in New Delhi to celebrate the British Empire and later shipped to Canada when independent India had enough of it, evoked the fall of empires to me.
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  • Language Log argues that, despite a lack of official or public support, Cantonese remains the dominant language of Hong Kong.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money makes the case for the global relevance of the Cranberries' song "Zombie."

  • Marginal Revolution seems to like the end results of Canada's immigration system.

  • The NYR Daily notes that, even after ISIS, Iraq will be beset by multiple ethnoreligious crises.

  • Out There's Corey S. Powell interviews an astronomer about the very strange Przybylski’s Star, rich in rare radioactive elements.

  • Savage Minds considers the decolonization of anthropology in the context of Iraq.

  • Arnold Zwicky considers the surprisingly deep historical resonance of the loon in Canada.

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  • blogTO notes the Distillery District's Toronto Light Festival.

  • Border Thinking Laura Agustín looks at migrants and refugees in James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.

  • Centauri Dreams suggests that Perry's expedition to Japan could be taken as a metaphor for first contact.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a report about how brown dwarf EPIC 219388192 b.

  • The LRB Blog notes the use of torture as a technique of intimidation.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at China's very heavy investment in Laos.

  • The NYRB Daily examines violence and the surprising lack thereof in El Salvador.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw touches on the controversies surrounding Australia Day.

  • Transit Toronto reports the sentencing of some people who attacked TTC officers.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that a Putin running out of resources needs to make a deal.

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Je me souviens (2)


Montréal's Papineau subway station is named after the nearby avenue Papineau which in turn is named after Joseph Papineau, an early politician known for his advocacy of the interests of the Canadiens under British rule. The murals in the station, by Jean Cartier and George Juhasz, all deal with the 1837 rebellion against British rule led by his son Louis-Joseph Papineau.
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My Feedly feed pointed me to a provoactive article by Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog written by one Matt Novak, "New Zealand Could Have Been Part of the United States". The title sounds sensationalistic, but Novak does make the good point that the young British colony of New Zealand in the mid-19th century did have very close ties with the United States.

New Zealand became a British colony in 1841, but white emigration to the island nation, which was inhabited by the native Maori people, didn’t really surge until gold was discovered in 1861. The gold rush saw New Zealand’s population explode in the 1860s from roughly 99,000 at the start of the decade to 256,000 by 1871. The gold rush brought plenty of Californians, and the colony became inundated with a relatively small but rowdy bunch of Americans who didn’t acknowledge any allegiance to the United Kingdom.

As historian Gerald Horne explains in the 2007 book The White Pacific, “When gold was discovered in Otago in 1861, it was the New Zealanders who attracted attention from California to the point where there was very temporary talk of New Zealand becoming a part of the United States. In both England and New Zealand it was widely believed that an independent New Zealand would gravitate toward the U.S. sphere.”

If the small colony of New Zealand had sought independence from Britain in the 1860s or 70s, Americans could well be calling it a territory, or even a state. After all, there were just 33 American states in 1860.

The New Zealand gold rush also happened to coincide with the beginning of the American Civil War. After the war, there was a Confederate diaspora to the South Pacific—former slave owners in the Southern United States who kept up the slave trade in places like Fiji and Australia. Former American Confederates fled to places like New Zealand, which itself had outlawed slavery, but was just a short hop away from where the trade of human beings was still tacitly accepted.

Anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 slaves were brought to Australia to work in sugar and cotton fields there between the 1860s and 1900, despite the fact that the country officially forbade slavery. Trade skyrocketed between the United States and New Zealand in the second half of the 19th century as a result of this increased activity by Californians and Confederates in the South Pacific—traders trafficking in both the gold rush of human beings, driven by British and American demand for cheap cotton, and the literal gold rush.


These certainly were close links. For the United States to have been able to challenge British rule in New Zealand, however, would imply a United States with a much stronger navy relative to the British Empire than OTL. Too, there would be plenty of closer targets in the British Empire for the United States to aim for--Canada, to start, and the Caribbean if the United States had the appetite. Notwithstanding the significant American influence in Polynesia, a United States that was able to take over New Zealand would be a much bigger naval power than OTL.

Is there a scenario that could give us an American New Zealand? What would it involve? With minimal divergences, I could only imagine a United States that had waged a successful war against the British Empire in concert with other great powers. A Franco-American alliance, maybe? A peaceful handover is more difficult to imagine still, though perhaps if the United Kingdom thought it could not secure these islands passing it to an ally might be imaginable. Another possibility I can imagine would involve Americans actually preempting the British and the French in extending their sovereignty over the homeland of the Maori, something perhaps involving early whalers.

What would work? As importantly, what would an American New Zealand look like? I am afraid that, if the paradigm applied to the indigenous peoples of the American West was applied here, the Maori might encountered significantly worse outcomes than in our history.
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  • blogTO notes the continued rise in rental prices for apartments.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at a time in the Earth's history when there was a lot of atmospheric oxygen but not much life.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting there is an authentic lack of gas giant planets beyond 10 AU.

  • Itching for Eestimaa notes the British politicians who favoured the recognition of the Soviet annexation of the Baltics, and notes that those imperialist times of old are back.

  • The Map Room Blog notes that Trump voters tend to prefer Duck Dynasty and Clinton voters preferred Family Guy.

  • Marginal Revolution notes California's ban on funding travel to jurisdictions which discriminate against people on grounds of sexual orientation or gender.

  • Peter Watts describes a trip on hallucinogens.

  • The NYRB Daily shares Masha Gessen's concerns about the threat of moral authority.

  • Spacing links to some article about improving bike infrastructure.

  • Window on Eurasia warns of a new consolidation of Russian federal units.

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In an article by CBC News' Sara Fraser looking at how Prince Edward Island has had its choice of Confederation-related anniversaries lately now that we're nearing the 150th--the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, the formation of Canada in 1867, the entry of Prince Edward Island into Confederation in 1873--local historian and folklorist David Weale raised the question of whether Confederation was necessary for the Island.

"The real problem on P.E.I. is that there is a really interesting story associated with Confederation and P.E.I. and we've turned it into a boring story," he said from his Charlottetown home.

In 1864, he points out, Islanders wanted nothing to do with Confederation — P.E.I. politicians didn't even really want to discuss Maritime union.

"Islanders had this feisty, independent spirit that they wanted to go on their own," Weale said. P.E.I. was prospering, its population was booming and Island politicians had even held independent talks with the U.S. on free trade.

"Islanders have probably never been united on any other issue as much as they were in their desire to be independent and to stay out of Confederation," Weale said. One Summerside newspaper, he said, was actively campaigning for P.E.I. to become a U.S. state.

"We'd been fighting against the British government control of us — now did we just want to turn it over to some people in Ontario? That was playing out in their minds," Weale said.

They were "heady times," he said, but whether P.E.I. would have been better off independent, he admits he doesn't know — but that's not exactly the point. It's the whitewashing, whether intentional or through ignorance, that bothers him more.


As a fan of alternate history, I would suggest that we can develop a reasonably good idea as to whether or not Prince Edward Island would have been better off independent. Francis Bulger's "Prince Edward Island and Confederation 1863-1873", published in 1961 in the Report of the Canadian Catholic Historical Association, observes that the entry of Prince Edward Island into Confederation was triggered by economic catastrophe, the costs of building the Prince Edward Island Railway forcing the Island to choose between Confederation and bankruptcy.

Since Prince Edward Island had rejected Confederation based upon the Quebec Resolutions because it considered such a scheme “would prove politically, commercially and financially disastrous to the rights and best interests of its people,” the Dominion realized that it would have to make a more generous settlement to offset these declared disadvantages if it were to succeed in inducing the Island to enter Confederation. Accordingly, the terms of Confederation offered to Prince Edward Island in 1869 were more generous than those provided by the Quebec Resolutions. The new provisions were “better” in that the Dominion government promised to establish efficient steam service and constant communication between the Island and the Mainland and to provide a loan of $800,000 to enable the Island to purchase the proprietary lands if this compensation could not be obtained from the Imperial government.

The attitude of Prince Edward Islanders to these proposals revealed that they were still so bent on maintaining their independence that as the Dominion offered more concessions they were prepared to demand additional ones. They refused to accept the new proposals. They maintained that the proposed terms did not include an adequate solution of the land question because the $800,000 compensation should come from the Imperial government accompanied by a guarantee that the proprietors would be compelled to sell their lands. They also asserted that the Dominion should build a railway on the Island. The reaction of Prince Edward Island to the “better terms” made it apparent that only the presence of some compelling crisis would ever induce it to enter into union with Canada.

In the year 1871 the Island government unwittingly took a step that was destined to provide the emergency which led to Confederation. In the session of the Legislature of that year a railway bill was passed which was decisive in making the Island a province of the Dominion. Two years later railway liabilities so imperilled the Island’s position in the money market and brought its economy so close to callapse that the Island government reluctantly admitted that Confederation was the only possible solution. Delegates from the Island entered into negotiations with the Dominion and submitted terms of Confederation to the electors. The people were informed that their independence could not be maintained any longer since the Island was encumbered with a debt entirely disproportionate to its resources. They were also advised that increased taxation, besides being unbearable, would only postpone the inevitable which in the end would have to be accepted. The people reluctantly yielded to these arguments.

The role played by Prince Edward Island in the final act of the Confederation drama was in perfect harmony with previous performances. Confederation was viewed primarily in terms of the financial settlement. The electors while voting in favour of the principle of Confederation gave the mandate to the party that promised to secure still better terms of admission. The new government entered into further negotiations with the Dominion and obtained a few additional concessions. In May, 1873, the new terms were carried almost unanimously by the Island Legislature. Local patriotism had finally been forced to yield to economic necessity and on July 1, 1873 Prince Edward Island became a province of the Dominion of Canada.


Note, too, that the other major provision of the Island's entry into Confederation was the buying out of absentee landlords, overseas proprietors who owned the land of the province.

Without the Island's entry into Confederation, what could have happened but catastrophe? The province was unable to finance its debts, and Confederation was the only bailout that the British Empire was willing to offer. Had the Island persisted in maintaining its independence in Canada, the only outcome imaginable would be that of a failed state. Long before then, I suspect that popular pressure for relief on any terms would have seen Prince Edward Island join its larger neighbour, the only difference being much avoidable suffering.

If the Island had not entered into the destructive plan to build a railroad--why not is beyond me, since a railroad seemed to be a popular and rational way to further the economic development of the province--could it have done better? Was there potential, as Weale suggests, that were left unfulfilled? For the Maritimes as a whole, perhaps: Nova Scotia was a province particularly well-positioned to experience a mercantile industrial revolution, but the whole of the Maritimes could conceivably have shared.

What of the Island specifically, almost wholly agricultural, without significant industrial resources, and--until Anne of Green Gables--without any other economic resources of note but its mobile workforce? Was there the potential for the Island specifically to develop somehow, to avoid being the agrarian source of labourers that it was almost to the end of the 20th century? I would argue that the necessary resources were not there, that the Island developed much as you would expect any peripheral agricultural region on the fringes of booming industrial areas to develop. The Island's pre-Confederation economic model, with the most promising proto-industrial sector being wooden shipbuilding, was failing by the 1860s. The scale of emigration had become so huge by the 1890s as to cause net population decline, but as Amanda Creamer noted emigration to New England had begun on a substantial scale as early as the 1850s in response to local problems.

Even in a best-case scenario, Prince Edward Island and its population would seem likely to lose out. Abandoning membership in a much larger and wealthier Canada would deprive the Island of resources that it simply lacked the wherewithal to acquire on its own, while independence would be unlikely to bring about a positive economic transformation. Particularly with absentee landlordism playing a role, the case could be made that Island agriculture would be worse off, and where agriculture went so would the entire Island. An independent Prince Edward Island might do better than Newfoundland, in that its agrarian economy would be more self-sustained, but not much better.
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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith writes about what he has learned from his huskie.

  • Bad Astronomy shares some gorgeous Cassini images of Saturn's polar hexagon.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at L2 Puppis, a red giant star that our own sun will come to resemble.

  • D-Brief notes climate change is starting to hit eastern Antarctica, the more stable region of the continent.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at some of the cool pins put out by supporters of LGBT rights over the decades.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at Susan Faludi's account of her life with her newly trans father.

  • Far Outliers examines the War of American Independence as one of the many Anglo-French global wars.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders why the Los Angeles Times allowed the publication of letters defend the deportation of the Japanese-Americans.

  • Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok argues that we are now moving beyond meat production.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Mexico as a seedbed of modernism.

  • Savage Minds shares an article arguing for a decentering of the position of human beings at the interface of anthropology and science.

  • Understanding Society has more on the strange and fundamentally alien nature of the cephalopod mind.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that the North Caucasus is set to go through austerity.

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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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  • blogTO praises the food court of Village by the Grange.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about the importance of self-care in times of stress.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that KIC 8462852 does seem to have faded throughout the Kepler mission.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that Planet Nine may be especially faint in the infrared and looks at the challenges mapping polar regions on Titan.

  • Imageo notes how melting of the ice cap continues in the Arctic Ocean.

  • Language Hat reports on a new script for the Fulani language.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that people who blame identity politics for the victory of Trump were not exactly non-supporters of the main.

  • Marginal Revolution considers the consequences of bribing the American president.

  • The NYRB Daily shares Charles Simic's deep concerns for the future of the United States.

  • Jim Belshaw's Personal Reflections discusses Australia as a target for immigration and calls for honesty in discussions on migration.

  • Peter Rukavina reports on the visit of then-Princess Elizabeth and her husband 65 years ago.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi makes the fair point that he can hardly be expected to know what his Trump-era novels will be like.

  • Window on Eurasia compares Russia's happiness with Trump's election to its elation over Obama's in 2008, and looks at how Russia is facing decline on a lot of fronts.

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The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani explains why the gray jay, Canada's new national bird, does not have the Canadian "grey" in its name.

Canadians haven’t wasted much time since the gray jay was named Canada’s national bird on Wednesday asking why its name is spelled the American way.

“We wholeheartedly agree that the Canadian/British spelling of “grey” would be preferable, but this is the species’ official name,” said Nick Walker, managing editor of Canadian Geographic magazine in an email to the Star. “As a journalistic publication, we must honour proper names of birds and other animals even when they conflict with Canadian spellings.”

What Walker would most like to see, he added, is for “gray jay” to be changed to “Canada jay,” which is what the bird was known as for about 200 years until the label was changed in 1957.

“Grey,” the British spelling of the colour, is the more common spelling in Canada, but it wasn’t always that way, said University of Toronto linguistics professor J.K. Chambers in an email.

“Until the 1700s, spelling was flexible. In Canada, we have a long history of accepting either British or American standards . . . . Because we are Canadian, we also accept ‘gray’ for ‘grey.’ ”
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  • blogTO notes that retail space on Bloor Street in Yorkville is not only the priciest in Canada, but among the priciest in the world.

  • Centauri Dreams notes how fast radio bursts, a natural phenomenon, can be used to understand the universe.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at a Kate Bush music performance on Dutch television in 1978.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to an analysis of the asteroids disintegrating in orbit of WD 1145+017.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes evidence from meteorites that Mars has been dry and inhospitable for eons.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the way we construct time.

  • Language Log highlights a 1943 phrasebook for English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Hokkien.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the resistance of the Tohono O'odham, a border people of Arizona and Sonora, to a wall.

  • The LRB Blog looks at a curious painting claiming to depict the cause of England's greatness.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the sheer scale of mass tourism in Iceland.

  • Strange Maps shares an interesting map depicting support for Clinton and Trump, showing one as a continental landmass and the other as an archipelago.

  • Towleroad praises the musical Falsettos
  • for its LGBT content (among other things).
  • Window on Eurasia looks at controversy over ethnonyms in Russian, and argues Putinism is a bigger threat to the West than Communism.

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  • Beyond the Beyond shares an early 17th century Catholic Church communication doubting the Earth went around the sun.

  • blogTO notes the sympathy cards placed outside the American consulate in Toronto.

  • Crooked Timber argues that liberal progressivism hasn't been tried in recent years and so can't have failed.

  • The Dragon's Tales shares one model explaining the contradictions between the faint young sun and a warm early Mars.

  • Far Outliers reports on the roles of different types of British servants in India.

  • Language Hat shares a history of Canadian English.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Richard Rorty's prediction of a Trump-like catastrophe and argues that economics do matter.

  • On the anniversary of the Bataclan, the LRB Blog reflects on the music of France.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes the grim predictions of Hans-Joachim Voth as to the degeneration of American life likely under Trump.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the relatively low population growth of France in the 19th century.

  • Towleroad notes Trump's statement that gay marriage is settled.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Belarus will have less maneuvering room under Trump.

  • Arnold Zwicky considers the colours of the pride rainbow.

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The Toronto Star's Alicja Siekierska reports on how two African-American migrants, escaped slaves, are now being honoured for their role in Toronto's history.

Nearly 200 years ago, shortly after fleeing slavery in the United States using the Underground Railroad, Lucie and Thornton Blackburn became leaders in their newly adopted community in Toronto.

They helped construct the historic Little Trinity Anglican Church on King St., and Thornton established Toronto’s first cab company — a red-and-yellow horse-drawn carriage that seated four.

On Wednesday, George Brown College will honour the story of the Blackburns, naming a conference centre at their student residence, The George, after the courageous couple and unveiling a mural designed and painted by George Brown students.

“This goes beyond the incredible story of a couple fleeing slavery to seek freedom in Canada, building incredible community partnerships and opening up the doors to blacks in Toronto,” said Nikki Clarke, the president of the Ontario Black History Society.

“Their story runs parallel to many people’s stories: taking refuge, seeking safety, and trying to start over in a new country. It resonates with many.”
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CBC News' Havard Gould reports on a new, belated memorial to John Brant, a First Nations leader who played an important if neglected role in Upper Canada's defense in the War of 1812.

More than 200 years after a courageous group of First Nations warriors and war captains saved the day at the Battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812 between the Americans and the British, their accomplishments are finally getting large-scale recognition.

A massive memorial, Landscape of Nations, is being dedicated and opened to the public on the site where the battle against the American invaders, who were trying to capture territory on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, was fought.

[. . .]

"It's almost the missing piece," said Niagara Parks Commission chair Janice Thomson. "We need to fill in that piece of history."

The project is supported by the federal, Ontario and local governments, the Six Nations Legacy Consortium and many donors.

British army officer Maj-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock was killed in action at Queenston Heights on Oct. 13, 1812. His memorial, a soaring column, overlooks the battleground and is a popular tourist attraction. It is actually the second monument to Brock on the site; the first was damaged by an explosion.

But until now, much less has been done to acknowledge the efforts of the First Nations in the battle, efforts most historians believe were decisive.

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