A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for December 2009

[LINK] “Polish-Belarusian Border: Separate Lives”

The knot of territory where the frontiers of Lithuania, Poland and Belarus meet, the European Union and the what-does-it-do-now? Commonwealth of Independent States, is the subject of this reposted 2004 article from Transitions Online. Back in 2008, I linked to an article describing the impact that the European Union’s hard frontier had on the Lithuanian-Belarusian frontier, historically quite permeable, while not very long ago at all I blogged about Belarus’ Polish minority, although not about Poland’s Belarusian minority. Authors Gosia Wozniacka and Wojciech Kosc went to the village of Tokary, divided since 1945 between Poland and its eastern neighbour, and investigated how the division would impact the lives of Tokary’s people on both side of the border.

Antonina, perched on a wooden stool by the white-tile stove, says the best thing her son ever did as mayor was to unite the two Tokarys, if only briefly. Her husband, Konstanty, has four brothers on the Belarusian side of the village and a sister in Brest. During the course of Konstanty’s lifetime, Tokary belonged to Poland, briefly to Germany, then to the Soviet Union, again to Germany, and, finally returned – or half was – to Poland.

As mayor, Wichowski was able to open the border in Tokary on two occasions during religious holidays, in the early 1990s. Prior to this, Konstanty had not seen his relatives for 40 years. His wife and son had never met them.

“You should have seen it when we met again for the first time,” Antonina recounts. “We were all kissing each other and cursing those who had divided us. My husband was crying. They [the relatives from Belarus] slept here; the house was full with three generations of our family.”

Things are more complicated now. To cross from one Tokary to the other, Poles now need to go to Bialystok, the province’s capital city 130 kilometers away, to get a visa. And the nearest border crossing is in Polowce, 25 kilometers away.

[. . .]

Ireneusz Koziejuk, 35, an Orthodox priest based in Polish Tokary, says he sometimes sees people driving up with old maps and waiting. “They sleep in their cars, and in the morning they are baffled as to why the gate is not rising. [I imagine] it used to be so nice, people going back and forth, back and forth. Now that’s just a memory.”

Go, read before it goes up beyond their paywall.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 30, 2009 at 7:21 am

[PHOTO] It’s like what you’d make on the beach, only in concrete


It’s like what you’d make on the beach, only in concrete
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

I love the originality of this front yard fence, done unusually in concrete and decorated with stones much as I used to buttress my own sand castles and dams with the worn pebbles and stones I’d found around my construction areas.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 30, 2009 at 7:12 am

Posted in Assorted

[PHOTO] The Essex School bridge


The Essex School bridge
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

Essex Junior and Senior Public School, part of the secular Toronto District School Board and located on 90 Essex Street in the Annex neighbourhood, has this really cool studnet walkway connecting the main part of the school with an outbuilding.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 30, 2009 at 7:09 am

Posted in Assorted

[PHOTO] Bell ExpressVu @ home


Bell ExpressVu @ home
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

Written by Randy McDonald

December 30, 2009 at 2:07 am

Posted in Assorted

[LINK] “Network effects”

Doug Saunders at Twitter linked to this article from the Economist examining the impact of the telegraph on journalism in the mid-19th century. The newspaper survived, amazingly enough.

CHANGE is in the air. A new communications technology threatens a dramatic upheaval in America’s newspaper industry, overturning the status quo and disrupting the business model that has served the industry for years. This “great revolution”, warns one editor, will mean that some publications “must submit to destiny, and go out of existence.” With many American papers declaring bankruptcy in the past few months, their readers and advertisers lured away by cheaper alternatives on the internet, this doom-laden prediction sounds familiar. But it was in fact made in May 1845, when the revolutionary technology of the day was not the internet—but the electric telegraph.

It was only a year earlier, in May 1844, that Samuel Morse had connected Washington, DC, and Baltimore by wire and sent the first official message, in dots and dashes: “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT”. The second message sent down Morse’s line was of more practical value, however: “HAVE YOU ANY NEWS”. (There was no question-mark in Morse’s original alphabet.) As a network of wires spread across the country, referred to as “the great highway of thought” by one contemporary observer, it was obvious that this new technology was going to have a huge impact on the newspaper industry. But would the telegraph be friend or foe?

James Gordon Bennett, the editor of the New York Herald and author of the gloomy prediction of May 1845, concluded that the telegraph would put many newspapers out of business. “In regard to the newspaper press, it will experience to a degree, that must in a vast number of cases be fatal, the effects of the new mode of circulating intelligence,” he wrote. He returned to his theme in another editorial in July. “All those papers which serve merely as vehicles of intelligence will be destroyed,” he declared. “The scissors-and-paste journalism of the country will be annihilated.”

The newspaper did survive, since it served as a convenient distribution method for the news, adapting quickly enough to the timely arrival of news from all points. “The telegraph was first seen as a threat to papers, but was then co-opted and turned to their advantage.”

Today, papers are doing their best to co-opt the internet. They have launched online editions, set up blogs and encouraged dialogue with readers. Like the telegraph, the internet has changed the style of reporting and forced papers to be more timely and accurate, and politicians to be more consistent. Again there is talk of news being commoditised and of the need to focus on analysis and opinion, or on a narrow subject area. And again there are predictions of the death of the newspaper, with hand-wringing about the implications for democracy if fewer publications exist to challenge those in authority or expose wrongdoing.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 29, 2009 at 9:26 pm

[LINK] “Canadian recession a ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ phenomenon; report”

According to the the Canadian Press, Canada’s recession is the United States’ fault.

Dale Orr Economic Insight says the Canadian domestic economy largely stood still during the 2008-2009 slump that shaved $100 billion from where economic output would have been.

That is precisely the loss in the value of exports from where they would have been had the economy continued to chug along at a stable 2.7-per-cent rate of growth that preceded the downturn.

Economist Dale Orr says since most of those exports would have been bound for the U.S., the recession was mostly a “Made in the U.S.A.” phenomenon.

Although Orr says all provinces fell into recession, the downturn impacted Ontario and Newfoundland the most.

The hit to Canada’s most populous province was so severe that it elevated Saskatchewan into second place in terms of standard of living, past Ontario and behind Alberta.

Orr says the standard of living of residents of Saskatchewan, as measured in terms of per capital gross domestic product, rose to 104 per cent of the Canadian average, past Ontario, which fell to 103 per cent of the national average.

The report in question is here. In it, he makes the interesting point that the recession has been least severe in Québec, partly because of an industrial structure less vulnerable to the American recession (aerospace, not autos), perhaps also–when talking about GDP per capita–because of the province’s relatively lower rate of population growth.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 29, 2009 at 9:18 pm

[LINK] “NFB downloads a hit outside Canada”

I’m sure that people my age remember National Film Board of Canada short animations like the “Log-Driver’s Waltz.”

The Globe and Mail reports that the National Film Board is apparently becoming a bit of an international success.

The National Film Board of Canada’s new iPhone application has proven to be a hit beyond this country’s borders, with 40 per cent more people downloading NFB content from abroad than in Canada.

Since its launch on Oct. 21, there have been nearly 80,000 downloads internationally and just over 56,000 in Canada from people seeking out the NFB’s documentaries and animation. Among the top five plays on the iPhone are The Cat Came Back, Canada Vignettes: Log Driver’s Waltz and HA-Aki.

The iPhone app is just one of the international successes recorded in the 70th anniversary year of the NFB, the national producer and distributor of films, documentaries, animation and shorts.

Besides looking back at its fabled past, chair Tom Perlmutter said the NFB continued its efforts to position itself solidly in the future by exploring new markets.

[. . .]

“The National Film Board, especially with their online offerings, is a really easy and accessible way to tell our stories not only to Canadians but internationally as well,” said Stephanie Rea, a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister James Moore.

NFB.ca, the board’s retooled Web site, has had almost three million views since it launched a year ago. About 1,700 of the NFB’s 13,000 productions are online and more are constantly being added.

Ms. Rea said Mr. Moore often praised the board and considered it “a great way to show off Canadian talent and Canadian content around the world.”

Norm Bolen, the president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, said Canadians don’t really appreciate how highly regarded the NFB is abroad and how much it is regarded as “a real player in the international marketplace and (as) a model for other countries.”

I ask my international readers, is Canada’s model of government production and distribution of Canadian filmic works a model for other countries?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 29, 2009 at 11:03 am

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