A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for January 2015

[CAT] “Gay Man Creates $50,000 Indoor Playland for His 15 Rescued Cats”

From Towleroad:

Peter Cohen, Manuel Flores, and Hiroyuki Furumoto have built an indoor playland for their 15 rescue cats which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

CatguysThe playland consists of dozens of platforms, tunnels, nooks, spiraling ramps, and holes that look like a shark’s gaping mouth on which the cats can scratch their backs. It even has closets with filtration systems and exhaust fans to hold the many litter boxes as well as constantly cleaning Roomba vacuums.

Cohen, who lives in Goleta, California (near Santa Barbara), says that he has spent as much as $50,000 on the project.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2015 at 6:39 pm

[CAT] “Vietnam Seizes Thousands Of Cats Smuggled From China For Consumption”

Shuan Sim’s International Business Times article about thousands of cats caught from smugglers makes for distressing reading.

Police in Hanoi saved thousands of cats from potentially becoming barbecue after seizing a truck in Northern Vietnam carrying more than 3 tons of live cats smuggled in from China. While the cats will have to be culled in accordance with local laws, officers on Thursday indicated reservations about saving the cats bound for restaurants, only to have to kill them anyway.

“After receiving a tip, we searched the truck and discovered the cats inside,” Cao Van Loc, deputy chief of police in Hanoi’s Dong Da district, told German press agency dpa on Wednesday. “The owner, also the driver, said he bought the cats at the border area of Quang Ninh province,” Loc said, adding that all of the cats were from China.

Photos and videos from the local An Ninh Thu Do newspaper showed the cats crammed into wooden crates with their limbs and tails sticking out. Loc told dpa that local laws dictate smuggled goods – that includes the cats – have to be destroyed. But the next day he told Agence France-Presse that they were undecided on killing the cats because there were so many. Loc said the driver will be fined around $350 for transporting goods without the correct documents.

The smuggling of cats from China into Vietnam is on the rise, according to local media reports, as cat meat has grown in popularity in recent years. Known locally as “little tiger,” cat meat is usually fried or barbecued, and served with rice wine at festive occasions or eaten as a snack in Northern Vietnam. Cat meat is seen as a delicacy and is typically eaten at the start of each lunar month, unlike dog meat, which is eaten at the end, according to AFP.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2015 at 6:29 pm

[CAT] “India’s Tigers May Be Rebounding, in Rare Success for Endangered Species”

Brian Clark Howard’s National Geographic feature is hopeful.

More money has been spent on tiger conservation than on preserving any other species in the world, yet wildlife biologists have been seemingly unable to stop the decline of the iconic big cat in the face of poaching and habitat loss.

That appeared to change Tuesday, when the government of India—the country is home to most of the world’s wild tigers—announced preliminary results of the latest tiger census that reveal a surge in the number of the big cats in its preserves over the past seven years.

India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, announced that its scientists had counted 2,226 wild tigers in the country, up from 1,411 seven years ago, a rise of nearly 58 percent. The country now hosts about 70 percent of the world’s wild tigers, Javadekar said, calling the increase “a great achievement … the result of the combined efforts of passionate officers, forest guards, and community participation.”

“The tiger community is thrilled to finally hear some good news,” says Sharon Guynup, an author who writes about tigers, including co-authoring the recent book Tigers Forever for National Geographic.

A new global survey of tiger numbers is expected in about a year, says Guynup. Until then, scientists estimate there are around 3,000 living in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.

The big cats used to live in 23 countries but have been reduced to 11. Most recently, they disappeared from the wild in Cambodia and Vietnam in the past few years.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Politics, Science

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[CAT] Shakespeare, as if posing

Shakespeare, as if posing #catsofinstagram #cats #shakespeare

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Photo

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[URBAN NOTE] “Rust Belt revival: Lessons for southwest Ontario from America’s industrial heartland”

I’ve been meaning for some time to link to Adam Radwanski’s extended article at The Globe and Mail, originally published on Friday the 16th of January, about the revival of American Rust Belt cities. There’s much that the Ontarian portion of the North American Midwest can learn from its neighbours.

[A]s young Americans recoil from the 20th century’s suburban sprawl and are priced out of New York City and San Francisco and Washington, the Rust Belt offers an alternative within the bones of once-great cities. Past glories have bequeathed a legacy of well-respected universities, cultural entities, attractive neighbourhoods and gritty industrial spaces. Courtesy of past exoduses, the cost of living is often jaw-droppingly low. And for those who seek a sense of community, there is a chance to be leaders in (re)building. “There’s this psychogeographic pull, this humanness,” is how Mr. Piiparinen puts it. “We all have this longing to be part of something.”

There has been less longing, in recent years, to be part of our own country’s version of a rust belt – the one that comprises such Southwestern Ontario cities as Windsor, London and St. Catharines, and patches of Eastern Ontario. Young people have fled in droves as the region’s employment numbers have tanked, seeing the loss of more than a quarter of manufacturing jobs in the last decade.

[. . .]

With oil’s current slide, Canada really can’t afford for it to remain a drag – and in fact there is some expectation that Ontario will instead reclaim its old role as the leader of Canada’s economic growth. Its premier, Kathleen Wynne, recently expressed optimism that plummeting oil prices and a sinking dollar will prove a boon to manufacturing. “I don’t wish for low oil prices and a low dollar for Alberta,” she said earlier this month. “But at the same time, we want our manufacturing sector to rebound. So if that [low oil price] helps, then that’s a good thing.”

While they could indeed help in the short term, it’s difficult to imagine those volatile factors leading to the lasting revival of traditional sectors competing with consistently low-cost jurisdictions such as Mexico, China and even the American South.

For sustainable renewal, Ontario’s old industrial towns will have to work harder at reinvention – and they should be looking to some of their counterparts in the U.S. A two-week road trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan revealed in often surprising ways how our neighbours are much further along in reinventing their most hard-hit cities, and how much we have to learn.

“The wind is at the back of these cities in a way that it wasn’t before,” says Jennifer Vey, a fellow at the Brookings Institute who studies the revitalization of old industrial centres. And although many of them will remain smaller than in their industrial heyday, the numbers bear that sentiment out. When the Manhattan Institute ranked America’s 100 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas for their economic performance in the wake of the Great Recession, mid-size Northeastern and Midwestern cities accounted for nine of the top 20.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2015 at 3:50 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Millennials Are Moving To Buffalo & Living Like Kings”

Gothamist featured Jordan G. Teicher’s article describing how the upstate New York State city of Buffalo is thriving, an affordable community attracting migrants from across the United States as it recovers from its post-industrial nadir. (An implicit contrast is with an unaffordable New York City.)

I do have to go one of these days.

According to census data analyzed by the New York Times, from 2000 to 2012 the number of college graduates between the ages of 25 and 34 in Buffalo jumped 34%—more than Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

If moving to New York City is like dating the most popular kid in your high school only to discover “all the blemishes that aren’t visible when gazed upon from a distance,” then Buffalonians will tell you that moving to their city is like dating the girl next door who’s undergoing a She’s All That-style transformation.

In 1900, Buffalo was the eighth largest city in the country and had the most millionaires per capita in the world. In the first half of the 20th century, with the opening of the Barge Canal, Buffalo’s shipping and manufacturing boomed. The city was also the world’s largest supplier of grain. Things started to unravel in the 1960s after the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway; shipping went elsewhere, and eventually so did other industries. Over the next couple decades, the city’s population plummeted, and many homes and buildings were left vacant.

Part of attracting a younger demographic involves filling in those vacancies through programs like the Buffalo Building Re-Use Project, which provides loans for businesses to improve property downtown, and the Urban Homesteading Program, which offers $1.00 abandoned homes for qualified applicants.

It also requires jobs. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged a so-called “Buffalo Billion” for economic development in the city. The continued construction on the state-of-the-art Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is bringing new jobs and development to the surrounding downtown area. And sometime next year, Elon Musk’s SolarCity, a $750 million factory designed to produce high-efficiency solar panels, will employ thousands.

All these initiatives are starting to pay off. According to The Buffalo News, incomes in the Buffalo Niagara region grew about 1.5% a year (after inflation) between 2003 and 2013—double the average annual increase nationwide during that time. In 2003, per capita personal income in the region was 11% lower than the national average, but by the end of 2013, it was $44,301, just 1% less.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2015 at 1:02 am

[URBAN NOTE] On the New York City video archives of Nelson Sullivan

I recently came across the films of 1980s New York City-based videographer Nelson Sullivan, whose candid videos of his community are available on a YouTube channel, via Jen Carlson’s Gothamist post “This New Yorker Filmed 1,900 Hours Of Fantastic Footage In The 1980s”.

The below videos—featuring a cast ranging from Ru Paul to local bodega guys—were filmed by Nelson Sullivan, who was basically attached to his cumbersome handheld video camera (and later 8mm) during that decade. Just like Warhol, he had his own “factory” at 5 Ninth Avenue (a former carriage house, which you’ll see down below), and traveled with his own eclectic crew.

All in all he “shot over 1,900 hours of tape over a period of seven years, capturing himself and his friends in the glossy façade of Manhattan’s downtown life… He sought to tape all of New York’s citizens, including its outcasts, striving to candidly capture their lives. He taped anything and everything that interested him—outrageous performances in bars and clubs, swinging house parties, chaotic gallery openings, park and street festivals, late-night ruminations of his friends, absurd conversations with taxi drivers, prosaic sunset walks with his dog on the then-still-existing west side piers.” Sullivan died of a heart attack in 1989, just as he was preparing to produce his own cable television show.

In 2012, his video archive was donated to New York University’s Fales Library & Special Collections. Here is some of what he captured—from small details like the stickers attached to trash cans in the East Village, to a bigger picture of what was going on inside clubs and run down hotels in the Meatpacking District back then.

My attention was caught by this video featuring no less than pre-star RuPaul.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2015 at 11:04 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Exploring “downtown” Centreville in the winter: A ghost town in more ways than one”

Spacing Toronto’s Daniel Rotsztain looks at the Toronto Islands’ Centreville, once a living community but since transformed into an amusement park. Abundant pictures demonstrate what used to be.

When Metro Toronto decided to convert the Island to uninhabited parkland in the early 1950s, they began a program of demolishing Island homes starting from Hanlan’s Point and slowly moving east.

Before homes were demolished, Metro Toronto razed Manitou Road, the heart of the Toronto Island community. According to Sally Gibson’s More Than an Island, the Island’s services were eliminated to make it easier to convince Islanders to give up their homes. How could they live on the Island, especially through the winter, without a grocery store?

With main street extinguished, Metro easily began expropriating houses and demolishing them. As we know, the city only got as far as Algonquin Island before they were halted by protests and a peaceful uprising. With their main street demolished more than 60 years ago, today’s Island residents continue to rely on city-side grocery stores, movie theatres and dance-halls.

In 1967, Main Street Centre Island was replaced by the Versailles-style gardens of the Avenue of the Islands and by Centreville Amusement Park down the road. Along with its rides and petting zoo, the amusement park includes a full size replica of Small Town Ontario, complete with a Town Hall, town square and Ontario heritage homes with decorative bargeboards.

To add insult to the displacement of most of Toronto Island’s residents, it seems the city demolished a living, breathing town and replaced it with a bogus version of itself.</blockquote?

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s RUNT-naissance”

Torontoist’s Carly Maga describes the life of Toronto street artist RUNT and a new filmed biography of his ina nice little piece.

It seems Toronto is in the middle of a RUNT-naissance.

“For a while I felt like a drag of the past, but I don’t feel that way anymore,” the 54-year-old street artist RUNT told Torontoist during a discussion of his latest projects. They include the cover of the 2015 TTC Ride Guide, a special-edition can for Pabst Blue Ribbon, seven to eight commissioned projects from clients at any given time, and now, a new documentary about his life and life’s work, titled RUNT. The increased attention means a lot to the longtime artist: “It’s an amazing boost of confidence.”

Alex Currie, better known by his artistic moniker RUNT or Al Runt, began his art career in Toronto’s underground scene in the early ’80s, drawing posters to hang around the Cameron House and eventually landing the gig to paint the now-iconic mural outside Lee’s Palace. He and his army of neon monsters and rascally creatures amassed a devoted following among musicians and other artists, as the Lee’s mural made the venue one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. Despite his highly visible artistic contributions, things have not always been easy for RUNT; for a good chunk of the new millennium, the art died.

“In 2007, I shovelled snow for the whole winter. I was on welfare, working under the table just doing anything. Definitely living up to the starving artist stereotype.”

Things got better. More at the site.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2015 at 10:51 pm

[LINK] “Trinity Western law students OK to practise in Nova Scotia”

CBC reports on the scene in Nova Scotia. What, I wonder, will come in other provinces?

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has struck down a decision by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society to deny graduates of British Columbia’s Trinity Western University the right to practise law in the Maritime province.

The Christian university had asked the court to review the society’s decision to deny accreditation to its graduates. It argued the law society overstepped its jurisdiction and failed to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge heard the case in December and rendered a 139-page decision in less than two months.

“What one person sees as having the strength of moral convictions is just sanctimonious intolerance to another,” Justice Jamie Campbell wrote.

“As with a lot of things, it depends on perspective.”

Campbell said the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society exceeded its authority in trying to exclude Trinity Western students.

“The extent to which NSBS members or members of the community are outraged or suffer minority stress because of the law school’s policies does not amount to a grant of jurisdiction over the university,” Campbell wrote.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Canada, Politics

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