A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[PHOTO] “Anthem” by Cohen, in chalk and in song

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The other day, I was walking along College Street in west-end Brockton Village when I saw that someone had written, in chalk on the sidewalk, the lyrics of the Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” from his 1992 album The Future. I had seen similar chalk inscriptions on nearby sidewalks, but this was much the most extensive, occupying eight panels of concrete.

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (1) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (2) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (3) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (4) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

A 2008 live performance of the song by Cohen is as close a we’ll have to an official video.

Four years ago, Quartz shared an explanation by Cohen of this song, a rarity.

The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

The full lyrics, of course, are sheer poetry.

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent:
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Written by Randy McDonald

March 29, 2020 at 12:30 pm

[PHOTO] Our Mother Mary in blue, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church (1515 Queen Street West)

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I was walking last weekend west past Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church, in the west of the neighbourhood of Parkdale, when I saw this statue of the Virgin Mary. I had wanted to take a photo of the tatue, framed so nicely by the window behind it and with a coat painted in an earnest sky blue, for aesthetic reasons. I also recalled the old tradition of asking the Virgin Mary to intercede with Christ for mercy in–for instance–times of plague.

This image has turned out to become one of my most popular photos on Instagram, largely because of apparently Lebanese users finding the image via hashtags.

Our Mother Mary in blue #toronto #parkdale #queenstreetwest #ourladyoflebanon #virginmary #blue #statue #maronite #maronitecatholic

Written by Randy McDonald

March 29, 2020 at 11:30 am

[VIDEO] The streets of Toronto, as seen by drone

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Written by Randy McDonald

March 29, 2020 at 10:30 am

[AH] On the 1914 Europe map of Diplomacy as an alternate history (#alternatehistory)

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One of the things that I am doing now, in the early days of my quarantine, is playing an online game of Diplomacy with some old friends. Looking at the standard European map, an elaboration on the map of Europe and adjoining areas, makes me think of the way that this map might better represent different alternate history scenarios than our own history.

1914 map of Diplomacy

The distribution of supply centres, the starred regions capable of supporting military units, comes to mind. Each region is capable of supporting military units of very comparable power. This suggests to me a relatively even level of development across the map, that (say) Belgium and Bulgaria are at similar levels.

One thing that particularly jumps out at me as the relative power of southeastern Europe, including the Ottoman Empire. Anatolian Turkey apparently does have the economic power and military heft necessary to support Great Power status, to a level comparable to Italy or Austria-Hungary. Is Diplomacy set in a timeline where Ottoman modernization succeeded? (But then, how can the loss of the Balkans be explained?) On a smaller scale, Tunis being a supply centre might also suggest successful modernization there.

(Another thing that pops out as me is the space on the map for other Great Powers. A Scandinavia that encompasses three power centres could surely be a great power. A United Netherlands with only two supply centres would be more vulnerable, while it seems that the main problem with a Balkan conglomeration would be a backstory.)

An idea: WI there is an earlier separation of the European Balkans from the Ottomans, the shock of this separation triggering more successful modernization not just of the Ottoman Empire but of other Muslim states in the Mediterranean? Perhaps the Ottoman Balkans managed to split off as a unified state–a broader Orthodox conspiracy–and even managed to become a separate power themselves?

Another thing that pops out to me is the distribution of supply centres on the map in specific regions. A world where western France industrializes before eastern France, where Bavaria beats the Ruhr, where Trieste outstrips Bohemia (an Illyrian unit in the Hapsburg empire?), would be a very different world.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 28, 2020 at 5:35 pm

[PHOTO] Blurry selfie, with portrait of Shakespeare

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Shakespeare died a month ago. (Well, a month ago yesterday.)

I am fine. It is just–well, what a month this has been.

This has been a very weird experience.

Blurry selfie, with portrait of Shakespeare #toronto #dovercourtvillage #shakespeare #caturday #catstagram #catsofinstagram #shakespeare #photo #inmemoriam

Written by Randy McDonald

March 28, 2020 at 3:35 pm

[PHOTO] Six photos from a weekend evening walk in midtown Toronto

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ABC Lumber #toronto #abclumber #abandoned #westonroad #thejunction #latergram

Looking south down the tracks towards the Crossways #toronto #rogersroad #rail #skyline #thecrossways #latergram

Two Canada geese, returned #toronto #rogersroad #birds #spring #canadagoose #latergram

1600 Keele Street #toronto #silverthorn #1600keelestreet #solaracondo #patio #red #blue #yellow #latergram

East into Sadra Park #toronto #earlscourt #sadrapark #evening #parks #latergram

Looking west, St. Clair at Dufferin #toronto #stclairave #stclairwest #dufferinstreet #intersection #evening #sky #latergram

[PHOTO] No excuses for not gardening properly this spring

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No excuses #toronto #theannex #dollarama #gardening #seeds #latergram

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2020 at 3:15 pm