A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘psychogeography

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait looks at the dusty spiral of galaxy M81, here.
  • Crooked Timber reacts positively to the Astra Taylor short film What Is Democracy?
  • D-Brief notes that, in the South Atlantic, one humpback whale population has grown from 440 individuals to 25 thousand, nearly completing its recovery from whaling-era lows.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at The Iguanas, first band of Iggy Pop.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at consideration in South Korea at building an aircraft carrier.
  • Todd Schoepflin at the Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the division of labour within his family.
  • Far Outliers looks at 17th century clashes between England and Barbary Pirates.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how antibiotics are getting everywhere, contaminating food chains worldwide.
  • Victor Mair at Language Log looks at the evidence not only for an ancient Greek presence in Central Asia, but for these Greeks’ contact with China.
  • Dan Nexon at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the attempt by Trump to get Ukraine to spy on his enemies was driven by what Russia and Hungary alleged about corruption in Ukraine.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the transnational criminal network of the Hernandez brothers in Honduras, a source of a refugee diaspora.
  • Marginal Revolution shares an argument suggesting that marriage is useful for, among other things, encouraging integration between genders.
  • Sean Marshall looks at how the death of the Shoppers World in Brampton heralds a new urbanist push in that city.
  • At the NYR Daily, Helen Joyce talks of her therapeutic experiences with psychedelic drugs.
  • Drew Rowsome reviews the Toronto play The Particulars.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel considers if inflation came before, or after, the Big Bang.
  • John Scalzi at Whatever has a short discussion about Marvel films that concludes they are perfectly valid.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that central Ukraine has emerged as a political force in post-1914 Ukraine.
  • Arnold Zwicky considers the Indian pickle.

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: housing & ODSP, Crystal Papineau, Y&E Brooke Lynn Hites, loneliness

  • Justin Haynes writes at NOW Toronto about the exceptional difficulty of finding affordable housing in Toronto for people on ODSP.
  • CBC Toronto reports on the life of Crystal Papineau, a homeless woman who died in a tragic accident in Bloorcourt.
  • Transit Toronto notes that Yonge and Eglinton is going to be disrupted for the next two months by Eglinton Crosstown construction.
  • Toronto Life looks at Brooke Lynn Hites, the first Canadian contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
  • Samantha Edwards writes at NOW Toronto about the concern that our city’s boom in condo construction might also lead to loneliness. What is to be done?

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: Montréal, New York City, Dunblane, Wuppertal, Cape Town

  • CBC Montreal looks at how the city of Montréal deals with snow disposal in winter.
  • NOW Toronto reviews The World Before Your Feet, a documentary examining the life of one Matt Green, who aims to walk all the thousands of kilometres of streets of New York City.
  • VICE reports on how the mass shooting of Dunblane still affects survivors and townspeople even two decades later.
  • CityLab looks at the unique Schwebebahn mass transit system in the Ruhr town of Wuppertal, and what it says about transit culture in Germany.
  • CityLab takes a look at Cape Town, where a foodie culture is not reflected in ready access of all to food, and how some people are trying to fix this.

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: Daniel Rotsztain, Coffee Time, museums, King Street, Medieval Times

  • Metro Toronto reports on the efforts of Daniel Rotsztain to explore Toronto through overnight Airbnb stays in different neighbourhoods.
  • blogTO reports that the famous (infamous?) Coffee Time at Dupont and Lansdowne has closed down! More tomorrow, I think.
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art on Sterling Road, in the Junction, is scheduled for a May 26 opening. NOW Toronto reports.
  • Apparently some people are protesting the King Street transit project by playing street hockey in front of the streetcars. blogTO reports.
  • Global News notes that Medieval Times, the Toronto theme restaurant, is going to have a ruling queen this year instead of a king.

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: small cities, repurposed shopping malls, rent, design, networks

  • Paul Krugman notes the exceptional fragility of small cities, depending on small industries which can easily go under, over at The New York Times.
  • This feature examining how shopping mall space in American cities has been reused for new purposes is interesting, over at The Atlantic.
  • How can the poor be helped most effectively in dealing with rising rent costs? Bloomberg considers.
  • Atlas Obscura considers the many small design features that can be used to make cities feel a little more inhospitable.
  • Shawn Micallef points out how Toronto, like all cities, is really formed of innumerable individual networks, overlapping and sometimes only rarely intersecting, over at the Toronto Star.

[URBAN NOTE] “Building community through the use of public space in the sharing economy”

Sarah Yellin at Spacing Toronto writes about an issue with the sharing economy that I literally had not imagined.

What happens when fare collectors start to become wise to over-turnstile Bunz trade activity occurring at Ossington subway station? The station’s central location made it a popular site for trades but eventually, it became too busy, with instances of trades began getting mixed up; for example, the wrong pair of shoes being traded for the wrong gift card, owned by the wrong Bunz! That’s the joke cracked by Eli Klein, one of the key forces behind the ubiquitous phenomenon that is Bunz Trading Zone, when describing what sparked the idea to create designated “trading zones” in public spaces around the city.

Through data gathered by the app, it is estimated that Bunz users are completing up to 700 trades per day, which means a minimum of 1400 people meeting in public spaces to trade and interact. It became clear that designated public spaces in accessible locations needed to be formalized within the Bunz network, and generated an opportunity for the Bunz community to interact with the local business community in order to foster the platform’s development and improve the quality of community interactions. Klein sees the trading zones as not only important to improving the safety of trades, but as vital to building the community network and fostering interaction between Bunz. He envisions the spaces as encouraging a prolonged interaction between Bunz, maybe over a cup of coffee, in the hopes of strengthening social ties between strangers. He believes that the right environment can generate this, and redefine the context of the relationship between traders.

The popularization of platforms such as Bunz has enabled the rise of an alternative consumerist economy, based on trade, exchange, and interpersonal relationships, rather than traditional capitalist means of acquiring goods and services. Taking this concept to the extreme is Toronto’s Really Really Free Market, which operates once a month out of Campbell Avenue Park. While the concept of the Really Really Free Market did not originate in Toronto, the local chapter has been running for over four years. Powered by volunteers with an aim of creating a “community-space for sharing,” the market rejects not only the traditional buy-sell model but bartering and trading, creating a currency-free space with no boundaries to entry.

As explained by the event’s organizers, the market’s target demographic is people who can normally afford to buy goods but instead, providing them with an alternative mechanism for acquisition, all while reducing carbon emissions and contributing to the circular economy. This being said, the market encourages participation from all members of the community, regardless of socio-economic status. Since the project’s inception, the market has received a tremendous amount of public support, attracting visitors from all around the city. Participation in the market’s events has created friendships between those who partake regularly, forming a community network.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 15, 2017 at 6:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Reflections on the art of flânerie”

Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflects on his experience of being a flâneur, and the problems of said.

Introduced to the concept by a friend, there was a time when I was a most dedicated flaneur. Then I drifted away a little, although I introduced a remarkable number of people to the concept.

I think one of the reasons for my decline in flaneuring is that I started walking for exercise. This may be healthy, but it tends to defeats the point, the discoveries that can come from random idling.

I find that when walking for exercise I have in mind distance and time, two things in direct conflict with the art of flânerie. What’s worse, I tend to get very bored and thus stop walking! Even the desire to achieve a minimum number of paces (10,000 per day appears to have become an almost universal target) provides insufficient incentive.

The irony, of course, is that I actually walked more as a flaneur than as an exerciser because I was simply more interested, was inclined to keep moving.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 6, 2017 at 5:00 pm

[LINK] “To Improve Your Sense of Direction, Lose the Technology”

Via the Map Room Blog I came across an article in The New York Times offering advice to people with problems in territories unknown to them. . Speaking as someone who generally does not have troubles with orienting himself, these and the other pieces of advice offered make sense to me: Having an idea as to where are you going, both beforehand in initial planning and at the time when you’re doing whatever you’re doing, helps a lot.

Create a mental map

Review a map of your proposed route before heading out, and perhaps even trace it with your finger, Dr. Brendan Kelley, a neurologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said in an email. It will help provide context for the route. Once you arrive, review the map and the route you traveled to reinforce the memory of how you got there.

By reviewing a map before your travel, you can take note of “handrails” — landmarks such as bodies of water, stores and streets — that will visually guide you, Ben G. Oliver, the director of outdoor education at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., said in an interview.

Be mindful of place

Stop and enjoy the scenery. Set your phone to vibrate every 15 minutes to remind you to note where you are, Richard S. Citrin, an organizational psychologist from Pittsburgh, said in an email.

Take notes and comment about what you see. That will help orient you and strengthen connections in your brain about where you are and have been.

Try not to get stressed, because that makes it more likely you will become disoriented and confused. “When our automatic responses take over, we usually wind up lost emotionally and sometimes physically,” he said.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 19, 2017 at 5:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Who Has the Right to Walk?”

Cody Delistraty’s blog post takes a look at the way women has been excluded from the city as random walkers, how the word “flâneur” is gendered masculine in more ways than the obvious one, and how a new generation of women are challenging this.

For centuries, the word ‘flâneur’ has burrowed itself into the historical conversation of what it means to intimately know a city, to walk in it, to fully experience it, to be independent within it. The term, meaning a man who saunters around observing society, can be traced back to at least 17th-century France. It was first explained in detail in an 1872 edition of Larousse’s Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle in which the dictionary’s authors define it taxonomically: “flâneurs of the boulevards, of the parks, of the cafés.” In his 1837 novel César Birotteau, Honoré de Balzac called it “gastronomy of the eye.” Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve said that to flâne is “the very opposite of doing nothing,” insofar as it is an intellectual pursuit. Some trace the word back even further back, to 1587, with the Scandinavian noun ‘flana’, meaning “a person who wanders.” And it was Walter Benjamin, drawing on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, who first used the term in a scholarly context, writing about it in the 1920s and further honing its definition: a flâneur, for Benjamin, was at once an inherently literary character, a man of leisure, and a symbol of the modern, urban experience.

Flâneur became a historically valuable term. For at least two centuries, the word adopted a variety of meanings and contexts, but eventually it became a catchall byword for a modern, educated person. To be a flâneur was to encapsulate the progress and the civility of the Western world. The best-known flâneurs are also some of modern history’s most important writers, scholars, aristocrats, poets, and thinkers: from Thomas de Quincey to André Breton to Edgar Allen Poe to Charles Baudelaire to Will Self.

Google ‘flâneuse’, the feminine form of the word, and one only finds photographs and descriptions of a type of chaise longue. Women are excluded from the term. While this is a linguistic exclusion, it is also very much a historical one. To be excluded from the word is to be ostracised from the history of intellectualism, modernisation, even civilisation.

And yet it shouldn’t be so. Virginia Woolf was walking and learning and thinking; so too were the writers Jean Rhys and George Sand and the intrepid reporter Martha Gelhorn; likewise contemporary women like writer-artist Sophie Calle, artist Laura Oldfield Ford, and film director Agnès Varda. There have been dozens of important female saunterers, but centuries in the making, the word flâneur has failed to find room for them. Their contributions to the progression of modernity have largely been forgotten or rendered less important than those of their male counterparts.

Lauren Elkin, a critic, novelist, and author of the recent Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, believes that the solution to women being omitted from the history of walking is not to try to retroactively integrate them into the definition of flâneur. Instead, she has sought to redefine “flâneuse,” not as a type of chaise longue, but as a female flâneur. In doing so, Elkin has allowed herself—and historians—to reflect on the history of women walking and to properly revise it.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 13, 2016 at 2:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Pedestrian-blaming, 1930s style”

Torontoist’s David Wencer describes how, in the 1930s, shifting conceptions of public space on the roads led to a shift in the view of pedestrians, who were now seen as largely responsible for their own safety.

The Christmas of 1936 was a black one for Toronto. On December 26, newspapers reported on the holiday slaughter: three people killed, at least six people injured by hit-and-run drivers, and more than one hundred separate traffic collisions. In the years that followed, politicians, police officials, and concerned citizens promoted annual December public safety campaigns in the hopes of making Toronto’s streets safer over the holidays.

Books dedicated to the history of the automobile in Canada often describe Canadians’ “love affair” with the automobile in the early 20th century. Toronto newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s, however, reveal that the new vehicles were not universally embraced. Articles express widespread public anxiety about the growing number of traffic collisions on city streets and highways; many Toronto newspapers featured regular photo arrays of smashed vehicles in and around the city.

In his 2008 book Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, Peter D. Norton notes that American cities were similarly preoccupied with traffic deaths at this time. “Even in the United States there is little evidence in cities in the 1920s of a ‘love affair’ with the automobile,” Norton writes. “With the sudden arrival of the automobile came a new kind of mass death. Most of the dead were city people. Most the car’s urban victims were pedestrians, and most of the pedestrian victims were children and youths. Early observers rarely blamed the pedestrians who strolled into the roadway wherever they chose, or the parents who let their children play in the street. Instead, most city people blamed the automobile.”

By the 1930s, Norton writes, American perceptions of street use were changing, thanks in large part to dedicated lobbying by motor interests. City streets were no longer considered public space where pedestrians and pre-motor vehicles enjoyed the clear right of way. Automobiles, previously seen as a dangerous interloper on city streets, were increasingly seen as the primary road users, and pedestrians, for the first time, were expected to take some share of responsibility for their own street safety.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm