A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘holidays

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

leave a comment »

  • Kambiz Kamrani at Anthropology.net notes new findings suggesting that the creation of cave art by early humans is product of the same skills that let early humans use language.
  • Davide Marchetti at Architectuul looks at some overlooked and neglected buildings in and around Rome.
  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait explains how Sirius was able to hide the brilliant Gaia 1 star cluster behind it.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at new procedures for streamlining the verification of new exoplanet detections.
  • Crooked Timber notes the remarkably successful and once-controversial eroticization of plant reproduction in the poems of Erasmus Darwin.
  • Dangerous Minds notes how an errant Confederate flag on a single nearly derailed the career of Otis Redding.
  • Detecting biosignatures from exoplanets, Bruce Dorminey notes, may require “fleets” of sensitive space-based telescopes.
  • Far Outliers looks at persecution of non-Shi’ite Muslims in Safavid Iran.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the history of the enslavement of Native Americans in early colonial America, something often overlooked by later generations.
  • This video shared by Language Log, featuring two Amazon Echos repeating texts to each other and showing how these iterations change over time, is oddly fascinating.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Erik Loomis is quite clear about the good sense of Will Wilkinson’s point that controversy over “illegal” immigration is actually deeply connected to an exclusivist racism that imagines Hispanics to not be Americans.
  • Lingua Franca, at the Chronicle of Higher Education, looks at the uses of the word “redemption”, particularly in the context of the Olympics.
  • The LRB Blog suggests Russiagate is becoming a matter of hysteria. I’m unconvinced, frankly.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a map showing global sea level rise over the past decades.
  • Marginal Revolution makes a case for Americans to learn foreign languages on principle. As a Canadian who recently visited a decidedly Hispanic New York, I would add that Spanish, at least, is one language quite potentially useful to Americans in their own country.
  • Drew Rowsome writes about the striking photographs of Olivier Valsecchi.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes that, in the 2030s, gravitational wave observatories will be so sensitive that they will be able to detect black holes about to collide years in advance.
  • Towleroad lists festival highlights for New Orleans all over the year.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how recent changes to the Russian education system harming minority languages have inspired some Muslim populations to link their language to their religion.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell makes the case that Jeremy Corbyn, through his strength in the British House of Commons, is really the only potential Remainder who is in a position of power.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • The Buzz recommends twenty-four different novels for Valentine’s Day, drawing on the recommendations of employees of the Toronto Public Library.
  • Centauri Dreams links to a new paper suggesting there are thousands of objects of extrasolar origin, some tens of kilometres in size, in our planetary system right now.
  • D-Brief notes that cryptocurrency is hindering the search for extraterrestrial life, as miners buy up the graphics cards SETI researchers need.
  • Lyman Stone at In A State of Migration notes how unbalanced the marriage market can be for professional women in the United States interested in similar partners, especially for African-American women.
  • JSTOR Daily notes how deeply the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. for racial equality in the United States were driven by anti-colonial nationalism in Africa.
  • The LRB Blog notes how the life and writing of Penelope Fitzgerald was influenced by two decades of living on the English coast, suspended between land and water.
  • At the NYR Daily, Melissa Chadburn tells of what she learned from counting, and queueing, and perservering in routines.
  • At The Numerati, Stephen Baker shares an excerpt from his new book, Dark Site, describing a teenager’s attempts to control a cognitive implant.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer takes issue with elements of the timing of Lyman Stone’s schedule for immigration controls imposed in the United Kingdom on Caribbean migrants.
  • At the Planetary Society Blog, Emily Lakdawalla explains how scientists are keeping the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in good stead despite its age.
  • At Roads and Kingdoms, Timi Siytangco explains the history of the Philippines through nine Filipino foods.
  • Drew Rowsome is impressed by the power of The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
  • Ethan Siegel at Starts With A Bang explains why black holes have to contain singularities, not merely superdense normal matter.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the rather misogynistic essay of ideologue Vladimir Surkin about women and power, timed for Valentine’s Day.

[PHOTO] New Year’s Day, Long Branch

The sky yesterday, on New Year’s Day, in the southwest Toronto neighbourhood of Long Branch was brilliant, cold and clear and deeply blue as it stretched above the Lake Ontario shoreline.

New Year's Day, Long Branch #toronto #longbranch #newyearsday #winter #twentyfifthstreet #white #snow

Written by Randy McDonald

January 2, 2018 at 2:30 pm

[MUSIC] Wham!, “Last Christmas”

I largely agree with Noisey’s Josh Baines: The Wham! song “Last Christmas” is one of the top contemporary Christmas songs out there.

Loss, of course, is what powers “Last Christmas.” In itself, that isn’t unusual: pop music is an extended treatise on a topic that’s troubled mankind since we emerged from the swamps, our mouths glued shut with primordial ooze. As a feeling, loss is eminently relatable; it is an indivisible inevitability of life itself, something each and every one of us experiences to varying degrees of seriousness day in, day out.

What makes “Last Christmas” a truly incredible evocation of loss, however, is that it shows rather than tells. By that I mean that anyone can sing about a break up, and a lot of people do, but crafting something that sounds almost analogous to the feeling of weightless vertigo that comes with accepting something is over when, in fact, that’s the very last thing in the world you want, is nigh on impossible. But George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley managed to do it.

It is there in that galloping bassline, a juddering thud that sounds like a lost lover desperately trying to backtrack their way into the good books. It is there in the droopy, weak, drippy synth that plinks and plonks its toytown melody over and over again, sounding brokenly childish in the way that all of us can when romantic fantasy meets adult reality. Even the oddly inert drums manage to evoke a sort of curdled stagnancy reminiscent of a post-breakup hangover where you’re convinced you’re hurtling towards an irreparable regression.

The words that “Last Christmas” uses are fine, perfunctory. They are completely adequate, as most lyrics are. You could, and I have, engender the same emotional response—firing up those same sad synapses that only light up at the sight of a half-crushed minced pie in a drain and the sound of dogs crying with cold on the beach after an ill-advised Boxing Day dip in the sea, all in the name of charity of course—with a German europop version, or a cover from Greece.

But even without the words, without George Michael’s utterly extraordinary vocal performance—and rarely has a singer demonstrated such understated mastery of phrasing, intonation, and delivery—”Last Christmas” drips with feeling. Like Leyland Kirby’s work as The Caretaker, the instrumental version “Last Christmas” manages to summon the ghosts of everyone you’ve ever loved, of everyone who’s ever lived and been loved and been left and been left unloved. The presence of something that once was and will never be again—however many stars we wish upon, however many bones we crack—haunts the song.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 21, 2017 at 11:59 pm

[NEWS] Four links: post-strike education in Ontario, mummers of Newfounland, Vancouver, Mary Edelman

  • News that one-tenth of Ontario college students dropped out during the recent strike is not surprising. The National Post reports.
  • Atlas Obscura shares photos of the mummers of Newfoundland and the backstory of this cultural phenomenon.
  • Making abandoned housing in the Vancouver neighbourhood of West Point Grey into student housing sounds great to me. Global News reports.
  • This obituary for Mary Edelman, long-time Toronto resident and repairer of the typewriters of famed authors, offers insight into a fascinating literary past. The Toronto Star has it.

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: Church and Wellesley, Ontario Place, Junction, Airbnb, Kleinburg

  • Jenna Moon talks about her experience living and loving in a Church and Wellesley that is starting to feel dangerous, over at the Toronto Star.
  • Toronto Life notes the lights of the Winter at Ontario Place festival, transforming the west island into a fantastical array of shapes at night. I must go see it.
  • Toronto Life profiles Nations Experience, an immense supermarket in the former Target Canada space in the Junction’s Stockyards that looks to be as much a tourist attraction as a store.
  • One Toronto condo owner is interviewed criticizing the new restrictions on Airbnb. (I wonder what his neighbours think.) The Toronto Star reports.
  • In Kleinburg, in Vaughan region, the definition of “detached home” has been rewritten to better enable development. The Toronto Star reports.

[MUSIC] Robbie Robertson, “Ghost Dance”

The song “Ghost Dance”, by Robbie Robertson, is the third track on his 1994 soundtrack album Music for the Native Americans. I first heard the song on MuchMusic, when I saw the video, and was caught by it. This song is as powerful now as it is when I first heard it more than two decades ago, in its promise of survival and rebirth.

You can kill my body
You can damn my soul
for not believing in your god
and some world down below

You don’t stand a chance
against my prayers
You don’t stand a chance
against my love
They outlawed the Ghost Dance
but we shall live again,
we shall live again

Written by Randy McDonald

November 23, 2017 at 11:59 pm