Archive for September 2014
The Atlantic‘s Victoria Baena writes about the campaign to save Paris’ Librarie Delamain from rising rents. Baena explores at length the ways in which the French economy is structured to inhibit the growth of chain and online bookstores, protecting independents.
It’s difficult to imagine the shuttering of a bookstore causing a similar outcry anywhere else—not to mention direct government involvement in the matter of a private lease. This has something to do with what the French call l’exception culturelle. It doesn’t just mean cultural exceptionalism; the phrase refers more precisely to the notion that cultural goods should not be subject to the whims of the free market—and should be protected from the homogenizing onslaught of global, and in particular American, cultural imperialism.
In the U.S., such a policy would smack of protectionism. The French prefer to justify it in terms of maintaining “cultural diversity.” L’exception culturelle is the source of production quotas for radio programs made in France. It’s the reason the initial arrival of Netflix executives in France was met with a letter from producers bemoaning the “implosion of our cultural model.” And in a more general sense, it is part of a conviction in France—albeit one increasingly debated—that cultural heritage is a good with its own internal logic and value system, one that the government has the duty not only to protect but to actively promote. France even entombs its most celebrated literary and cultural figures, among other “great men” (and now women), in the Panthéon in Paris.
In the publishing sphere, l’exception culturelle morphs from a committed ideal into concrete policy. It has allowed the French to mount a challenge to the digital revolution in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.
As an independent bookstore, the Librairie Delamain already receives a partial merchandising subsidy—5,000 euros in 2013—from the Centre National du Livre. In 2013, the Ministry of Culture announced a further injection of 5 million euros into the independent bookstore industry, as well as the creation of a new bureaucratic position (the stereotypical solution to all French problems)—the “book arbitrator”—who could, in cases like this one, intervene in legal disputes without forcing the small businesses to involve themselves in expensive litigation. Booksellers like Delamain are also aided by the loi Lang, a 1981 law named after a former minister of culture, which limits discounts on books to 5 percent of their cover price. Earlier this summer, a so-called “anti-Amazon” amendment extended this limit to online booksellers and prohibits them from offering free shipping on reduced-price books.
I’ve made two link posts so far this year about gay African refugees settling in New York City, one in April and one in June. At The New York Times‘ Lens blog, Fayemi Shakur has a photo essay examining the lives of gay refugees from Nigeria.
Nigeria’s passage of a law criminalizing same-sex relationships drew immediate international outrage earlier this year. In New York, gay activists held protests outside the Nigerian government’s offices, something that amazed Rahima Gambo. With so much of life hidden in Nigeria, she said, nothing so bold would have happened there.
That realization led Ms. Gambo, a Nigerian photographer raised in London, to explore the lives of the growing number of gay men who have fled to the United States seeking asylum and a chance to live freely. It was during the March protest in New York that she met Saheed Ipadeola, a young man living in Brooklyn who introduced her to other asylum seekers. They shared their stories in ways that would never be seen in Nigerian media, which she said reduced them to stereotypes without dignity.
She saw them as survivors.
“Many of the men I document are proud of their identities and still connected to family members in Nigeria, but there’s this constant strain of wanting to be vocal but fearing for family and loved ones,” Ms. Gambo, 28, said. “All of the men always say there was nothing to go back to. They all talk of this fatigue of the Nigerian system, and the law being passed was a final nail in the coffin.”
Global News’ James Armstrong reports on the causes of today’s subway stoppage at Dundas West station. It sounds as if much more extensive repair work will be needed, likely involving more subway stoppages. One only hopes the next ones are planned.
Subway service was suspended both ways between St. George and Ossington stations this morning after water and silt fell onto the tracks forcing the TTC to stop trains at Dundas West station.
The silt and rain water made its way to the track floor through a puncture of the tunnel by Metrolinx contractors working on the Union Pearson Express nearby.
“It came to the point where the wheels of the train were going to be obstructed by the silt,” Mike Palmer, the deputy COO of the TTC said.
The TTC patched up the puncture a few weeks ago, Palmer said. But overnight, something “shifted” leading to Tuesday morning’s closure.
Close to 100 people are working on cleaning up the debris, Palmer said. The TTC fully reopened Line 2 at approximately 3 p.m.
But that’s only a temporary solution. The TTC and Metrolinx crews are working on coming up with a permanent solution to plug the hole for the next two to three decades, Palmer said – but right now, they don’t know exactly how they’ll do it.
Subway service between Keele and St. George stations was halted at 8 a.m. this morning due to track issues at Dundas West Station. “The tracks are being blocked,” tweeted TTC Customer Service, “and for safety reasons we have to wait until area cleared.” A later message indicates the subway shutdown is now affecting service between Keele and Ossington stations.
Originally, the TTC announced service would resume by noon, but it is no longer offering a predicted time: “Please disregard the expected completion time for the delay at Dundas West Station. There is currently no expected clearing time.”
The situation is creating both subway and surface route delays: the shuttle buses pressed into service to run between the stations affected have had to be pulled off regular routes.
blogTO’s Chris Bateman had more. (Plenty of pictures from Twitter, too.)
The TTC was forced to shut down a large portion of the Bloor-Danforth line at the height of this morning’s rush hour after debris was found on the tracks near Dundas West station.
The closure forced packed trains to empty at Keele and St. George, leaving hundreds of people to crowd into station corridors and stairways. There were reports on Twitter of people fainting amid the crush.
A small portion of the line beyond St. George re-opened in an effort to reduce crowding. Right now, the subway is out between Keele and Ossington.
At a press conference this afternoon, TTC Deputy Chief Operating Officer Mike Palmer said a Metrolinx contractor punctured the concrete roof of the tunnel with a metal I-beam earlier in the week, but a subsequent inspection determined the structure was safe.
Palmer said changing ground water conditions allowed sand and silt to come through the roof. Repair crews are patching the leak in anticipation of removing the beam, which is protruding about three inches into the tunnel, at a later date.
Happily, the Toronto Star reports that things are back to normal. I’d comment that it’s fitting that an event like this happened at the end of the term of Rob Ford, a mayor who talked about boosting the TTC and building subways but actually ended up doing very little that was not destructive to urban mass transit.