A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular culture

[MUSIC] Alexis Petridis in The Guardian on the magic of pop music concerts

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Writing in the aftermath of the Manchester attack, The Guardian‘s Alexis Petridis writes about how his understanding of the pop music concert changed when he saw the impact that it had on his daughter. It points the young child to the possibility of an exciting adult future.

There was more to the magic than infectious enthusiasm. I have spent a not-insignificant proportion of my working life at pop gigs in arenas filled with kids and teenagers, usually in a state of mild bemusement. I have seen shows I thought were abysmal and shows I thought were impressively slick. I have seen artists treat their audience with something bordering on contempt (there is something incredibly galling about watching a singer who can’t even be bothered to pretend to mime) and artists who genuinely left me open-mouthed (Miley Cyrus, following her decision to abandon her squeaky-clean Disney image for something deliberately provocative). I could make an informed, objective critical judgment about them, but I never fully understood them, never really grasped what they were for, never really got what was going on in the audience, until I saw one through my daughter’s eyes.

It wasn’t just that she was overawed by the spectacle, although she was: stuff I took for granted – lasers, pyrotechnics, confetti cannons, all the usual bells and whistles of a big pop show – were a constant source of overwhelming sensory overload. Nor was it the way her lack of cynicism made me reconsider my own feelings, although that happened too. I have always been deeply suspicious of the kind of rhetoric that modern pop surrounds itself with: all that platitudinous “just be yourself”, “if you dream it you can do it” stuff. But my daughter took it all at face value and I ended up thinking: Well, there’s certainly worse messages you can send out to kids.

But mostly it was the way it gave her a first glimpse of a world that was previously outside her experience, a more adult, or at least more mature world than the one she knew, a world that would one day be her own, and how excited she was to see it, how – as she put it – grown-up it made her feel. She experienced something that transcended her pretty fickle and changeable musical allegiances. Jessie J has long been replaced in her affections – by, among others, Ariana Grande. The selfie she took that night is still on her bedroom wall. If that was true of a seven-year-old being chaperoned by her father, how much more true was it for the kids that were just old enough to be there without their parents, the ones who had relegated their mums and dads to waiting in the foyer or outside in the car?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 25, 2017 at 11:37 pm

[URBAN NOTE] Five links about Toronto neighbourhoods, past and present and future

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  • Metro Toronto‘s David Hains reports on a new interactive map of Trinity-Bellwoods Park designed to help users find other people in that large complex space.
  • You’ll never have to spend 20 minutes trying to find your friend in Trinity-Bellwoods Park again.

    New York-based cartographer (and former Toronto Star employee) William Davis loves Toronto, and so he knows this is one of the city’s great summer frustrations. It’s because of the geographically complicated, but very popular park, that he and Tom Weatherburn made an interactive map for Torontonians to share their location.

    All users need to do is drag and drop a “here” pin on a map of the park. It can be accessed for free at the MapTO website, a personal project with Weatherburn that features quirky and interesting maps on a variety of city subjects.

    The Trinity-Bellwoods map is overlaid with easy-to-read icons, including a dog at the dog bowl, a baseball at the baseball diamond, and beer mugs where people like to hang out.

  • The Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Pagliaro describes the catastrophic state of repair of far too many of the houses of Toronto Community Housing.
  • Half of Toronto Community Housing developments will be in “critical” condition in the next five years without additional funding for repairs, according to an internal database provided to the Star.

    Already, the data shows more than 30 social-housing properties are in serious disrepair. Of 364 developments — which include houses and groupings of low-rise buildings and towers — 222 developments are ranked in “poor” condition, with dozens edging on critical condition, based on a standard ranking used by the housing corporation.

    Those critical sites are homes for more than 3,000 individuals and families.

    The data shows a pervasive problem at a time when the city is grappling with how to keep thousands of units open with a $1.73-billion funding gap.

    Of the 364 developments, more than 100 were offloaded onto the city by the province more than a decade and a half ago without money needed to cover the repairs. Of the buildings in the critical and poor categories, more than a third were downloaded by the province.

  • Back in August, Yasmine Laarsroui wrote for Torontoist about the potential for the housing co-op model to help solve the Toronto housing crisis.
  • Those affected by the lack of rent controls left young professionals, like reporter Shannon Martin, with no option but to turn to more extreme alternatives, such as couch-surfing.

    Young people seeking more reliable housing options are turning to co-op housing—at least, those lucky enough to get a unit.

    Toronto renter Donald Robert moved into Cabbagetown’s Diane Frankling Co-operative Homes in September 2016 and speaks highly of his experience.

    Robert pays $1,300 for a large two-bedroom unit with access to an underground parking and a small gym, almost $500 cheaper than the average one-bedroom unit in Toronto. Robert explains that, “the best part though has been the community here. Everybody says ‘hi.’”

  • Also back in April, John Lorinc wrote in Spacing about the oft-overlooked musicality of the lost neighbourhood of The Ward.
  • If you try to imagine your way back into the early 20th century streets and laneways of The Ward — the dense immigrant enclave razed to make way for Toronto’s City Hall — you might pick up the sounds of newsies and peddlers hawking their wares, the clanging of the area’s junk and lumber yards, and shrieking children playing on the Elizabeth Street playground north of Dundas.

    Those streets would also reverberate day and night with a jumble of languages — Italian, Yiddish, Chinese. The dialects and accents of these newcomers were considered to be not only “foreign,” but also proof (to the keepers of Toronto’s Anglo-Saxon morality) of the area’s worrisome social and physical failings.

    But despite the fact that many mainstream Torontonians saw The Ward as an impoverished blight on the face of the city, the neighbourhood resonated with energy and culture and music — evidence of the resilience of the stigmatized newcomers who settled there in waves from the late 19th century onward.

    Photographers recorded fiddle players and organ grinders with their hurdy gurdies, playing as mesmerized children listened. After their shifts ended, one 1914 account noted, labourers whiled away their free times playing mandolins or concertinas as they sang rags and the Neapolitan songs so popular at the time.

    “When sleep in crowded rooms seems all but impossible,” journalist Emily Weaver observed in The Globe and Mail in 1910, “the people of ‘The Ward’ are astir till all hours, and the Italians amuse themselves by singing in their rich sweet voices the songs of their far-away homelands or dancing their native dances to the music of a mandolin or guitar in the open roadway beneath the stars.”

  • The Toronto Star‘s Azzura Lalani describes how the rapid growth of young families in Leslieville threatens to overload local schools. What will the Downtown Relief Line do?
  • As the mother of a 16-month-old boy, Michelle Usprech is looking to leave the Financial District where it’s just “suits and suits and suits,” for a more family friendly vibe, and she’s got her eye on Leslieville.

    But one of Toronto’s most family-friendly neighbourhoods may be a victim of its own success as signs from the Toronto District School Board have cropped up, warning parents in Leslieville their children may not be able to attend their local school because of possible overcrowding, school board spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed.

    Those signs warn that “due to residential growth, sufficient accommodation may not be available for all students,” despite the school board making “every effort to accommodate students at local schools.”

    [. . .]

    It’s a concern for some parents, including Kerry Sharpe, who lives in Leslieville and has a four-month-old daughter named Eisla.

    “It’s still early days for me,” she said, but, “it is a concern. Even daycare, that’s hard to get into, so I don’t see it getting any better.”

    [BLOG] Some Monday links

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    • Anthropology.net reports on new evidence that Homo naledi may have used tools, buried their dead, and lived alongside Homo sapiens.
    • Centauri Dreams remembers an abortive solar sail mission to Halley’s Comet.
    • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the “Apache” dancers of France.
    • Cody Delistraty writes about Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg and his efforts to plan for humanity’s future.
    • At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer talks about her day as a sociologist.
    • Joe. My. God. notes the good news that normal young HIV patients can now expect near-normal life expectancies.
    • Language Hat looks at a recent surge of interest in Italian dialects.
    • Language Log looks at the phenomenon of East Asians taking English-language names.
    • The LRB Blog considers the dynamics of the United Kingdom’s own UDI.
    • Marginal Revolution looks at the existential issues of a growing Kinshasa still disconnected from the wider world.
    • Steve Munro notes that Metrolinx will now buy vehicles from France’s Alstom.
    • The New APPS Blog uses Foucault to look at the “thanatopolitics” of the Republicans.
    • The NYRB Daily looks at Trump’s constitutional crisis.
    • Out There considers the issues surrounding the detection of an alien civilization less advanced than ours.
    • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the United States’ planetary science exploration budget.
    • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at Argentina’s underrated reputation as a destination for foreign investment.
    • Progressive Download shares some thinking about sexual orientation in the context of evolution.
    • Peter Rukavina looks at the success of wind energy generation on the Island.
    • Understanding Society takes a look at the dynamics of Rome.
    • Window on Eurasia shares a lunatic Russian scheme for a partition of eastern Europe between Russia and Germany.

    [PHOTO] Ten photos from TCAF 2017 (#tcaf)

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    This morning, I headed over to Yonge and Bloor in order to take part in this year’s latest incarnation of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

    Cover #toronto #tcaf #comics

    TCAF is a big event, spilling over from the Toronto Reference Library into the conference rooms of the Marriott Bloor Yorkville hotel to the east and north into the Masonic Temple.

    Welcome to TCAF! #toronto #tcaf #comics

    (We actually got to see the fifth-floor conference room in the Masonic Temple, a chamber that looked uncanilly like the Canadian Senate.)

    Entering fifth floor, Masonic Temple #toronto #tcaf #masonictemple

    Whiteboard #toronto #tcaf #masonictemple #whiteboard

    The Reference Library was packed. By mid-afternoon, the temperature was still comfortable, but the milling crowds will surely change that.

    Crowded #toronto #tcaf #torontoreferencelibrary

    Ascending #toronto #tcaf #torontoreferencelibrary #elevator

    Looking down #toronto #tcaf #torontoreferencelibrary

    From the fourth floor #toronto #tcaf #torontoreferencelibrary

    Bram and Bluma Appel Salon #toronto #tcaf #torontoreferencelibrary #bramandblumaappelsalon

    I ended up coming away lightly, buying only Toronto Comics Mini #1. This, one of the latest entries in the successful Toronto Comics Line, is a must-have.

    Toronto Comics Mini #1, acquired #toronto #tcaf #torontoreferencelibrary #torontocomics #books

    Written by Randy McDonald

    May 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    [BLOG] Some Monday links

    • Centauri Dreams reports on asteroid P/2016 G1, a world that, after splitting, is now showing signs of a cometary tail.
    • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers outrage as a sociological phenomenon. What, exactly, does it do? What does it change?
    • Joe. My. God. reports on a new push for same-sex marriage in Germany, coming from the SPD.
    • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the Alabama government’s disinterest in commemorating the Selma march for freedom.
    • Marginal Revolution looks at Oxford University’s attempt to recruit white British male students.
    • At the NYRB Daily, Masha Gessen warns against falling too readily into the trap of identifying conspiracies in dealing with Trump.
    • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of Muslims in Crimea according to the 1897 Russian census.
    • Savage Minds takes a brief look at ayahuasca, a ritual beverage of Andean indigenous peoples, and looks at how its legality in the United States remains complicated.
    • Elf Sternberg considers the problems of straight men with sex, and argues they might be especially trapped by a culture that makes it difficult for straight men to consider sex as anything but a birthright and an obligation.
    • The Volokh Conspiracy considers how the complexities of eminent domain might complicate the US-Mexican border wall.
    • Window on Eurasia reports on protests in Russia and argues Belarus is on the verge of something.

    [META] Some blogroll additions

    Two links are being added.

    • To the news section, I’m adding the Canadian news website National Observer, which has interesting longer articles analyzing Canadian events. Of their recent articles, I would recommend Lorimer Shenher’s “LGBTQ officers need to pick the right target”, which argues that LGBTQ police officers should step back and consider the import of the police, as an organization, to many queer people.
    • To the blog section, I’m adding Strange Company, a great blog that assembles links of interesting and odd things around the world, in the past and present, and takes the occasional longer look at particular events. This link, examining the history of one Reverend Griffiths who was something of a ghostbuster in 19th century Wales, is a good example of the latter category of post.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    March 6, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    [OBSCURA] “The Story Behind That ‘Future That Liberals Want’ Photo”

    In a great Wired article, Charley Locke describes how a photo taken on the New York City subway system by Instagram user subwaycreatures ended up going hilariously viral.

    Samuel Themer never planned to be a symbol of everything that’s right or wrong with America. He just wanted to go to work. But when he hopped on the subway to head into Manhattan on February 19, the Queens resident was in full drag—he performs as Gilda Wabbit. He also ended up sitting next to a woman in a niqab, a fact he initially didn’t even notice. “I was just sitting on the train, existing,” he says. “It didn’t seem out of the ordinary that a woman in full modesty garb would sit next to me.”

    Someone on that W car with them, though, thought otherwise. Boubah Barry, a Guinean immigrant and real estate student, wanted to document what he saw as a testament to tolerance, so he took a photo of the pair and posted it to Instagram. “It’s diversity,” says Barry, who says he doesn’t identify as liberal or conservative but does oppose President Trump’s refugee ban. “They sit next to each other, and no one cares.”

    But someone did care. After the post was shared by Instagram account subwaycreatures, the photo drifted across the internet until /pol/ News Network attached it to a tweet on Wednesday with the message “This is the future that liberals want.”

    /pol/ News Network, which also recently declared Get Out to be anti-white propaganda, probably intended the post to be a warning about the impending liberal dystopia. But as soon as actual liberals saw it, they flipped the message on its head—and began touting the message as exactly the future they wanted. They filled /pol/ News Network’s mentions with messages endorsing the photo and adding their own visions of a bright future. By Thursday, it was a full-blown meme. Soon images of a future filled with interspecies companionship, gay space communism, and Garfield flooded onto social media.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    March 6, 2017 at 8:00 am