November 15th, 2010

[OBSCURA] Daniel Gueorguiev, "Stranger In The Fog [Explored]"

Scanning the Flickr newsgroups to see others' pictures of Toronto's very unusual recurring fog, I came across this nighttime photo, and this story. Thanks to the author for letting me repost both here. There's something about the idea of dense fog as enabler of social connections that gets me.

Over the past two days, we had very thick fog here in Toronto, unlike anything I could remember (which could probably be due to the fact that I never paid attention to such things before, but that is another point). At around 6:30pm yesterday, I was faced with a decision. Stay home, plop onto the couch and spend the night watching whatever trash TV was on at the time. Or I could drive down to the lake, where I expected the fog to be thicker and try to capture some of the mystique and sometimes eeriness of this phenomenon. I think you know which choice I made. Thankfully, I was rewarded in several ways.

I was able to capture this shot, which I had envisioned in my head prior to getting there. I had been inspired by this, but wanted my own twist to it. I set up my tripod and waited. As if out of nowhere, he appeared. The fog concealed him until the last minute, but then he came into view. I managed to snap up a couple of shots and chose this one.

As he was passing me, he asked “How much for a picture?” I said “How much? It’s free.” He couldn’t believe me, but after a couple of confused exchanges on both our parts, he posed for me. As you can tell, the light wasn’t the greatest, but I managed to snap a few shots. You can see them in the comments. I asked what his email was so I could send him the photos, but he couldn’t remember. However, he mentioned that one of the guys he had met just a few minutes ago gave him a card. They had also taken his photo and he intended to contact them. I instructed him to just ask them about Daniel (unfortunately, it didn’t even occur to me to ask for his name) and that they would connect us. Which, of course is an excellent segue...

A few minutes prior to that, I was shooting at the Humber bridge. I noticed two figures moving at the other side and as I got closer, I realized they were photographers too. We spent a few minutes chatting and then we parted ways. You can check out their streams here and here. They are truly fantastic!

Finally, as I was heading back, I took a little break along the way and noticed another photographer approaching me. He turned out to be another Flicker-er: dirk*, who also has a fantastic stream. As I proceeded to tell him my Flickr name, he said he knew of me and that he works with one of my contacts: Book’em. You know there’s a cliché coming up, but you know what? It really is a small world.

So there’s the story of how I spent the latter part of my Friday. Doing what I enjoy, meeting friendly strangers and connecting with fellow photographers. It was quite the evening.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • At Acts of Minor Treason, Andrew Barton speculates that mass transit in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey may depend on the conversion of existing rail links.

  • BAGNewsNotes observes the friendly, almost seductive, style of photography used to show the new Republic majority speaker on the cover of Time, and wonders how much bias is evidence.

  • The underpass letting Toronto's Dufferin Street head directly under the rail track at Queen's Street, rather than jogging over, will be done in days.

  • Geocurrents suggests that the worldwide distribution of baseball-playing nations owes much more to cultural diffusion than a similar map of cricket worldwide (you can see the British Empire), with rugby excluding the non-settler colonies but including Argentina, france, and Italy.

  • Halfway Down the Danube's Douglas Muir remarks on the unexceptional unique characteristics of Zambian English and lets us know that 1960s Zambia wanted nuyclear weapons to deter South Africa.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money points out that hyperterrorism worked in the 1980s without causing global human rights law to crash, why now?

  • Landscape and Urbanism exposes the story of how Taiwanese researchers have managed to produce bioluminescent trees via gold powder.

  • Not Rocket Science describes the mechanics of just how cats drink without lapping like dogs.

  • Rukavina lets us know that Prince Edward Island's schools are becoming increasingly multicultural. Good.

  • Understanding Society's Daniel Little wonders if one reason 19th century China didn't pick up on Western technology was because Chinese observers couldn't see the technology at work, literally couldn't draw it.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the Russian government is looking to associate itself with more mainstream political parties in the Baltic States, with Russian irredentism and Communism having lost traction.

[LINK] "Does easy access to Starbucks latte really make you vote Liberal?"

In continuing the whole discussion, started by Canada's Conservatives, claiming that the opposition Liberals (and new Democrats, of course) were effete Starbucks-drinkers at odds with a Tim Horton's-drinking Canada, the Globe and Mail's Éric Grenier ends it altogether as a supposed marker.

fact, there is very little difference between a typical Liberal or Conservative-held riding. With an average of 5.4 locations per riding, the New Democrats have the highest Starbucks density of the four major parties. The Conservatives have the next highest density, with an average of 3.9 locations in each of their ridings. That’s only fractionally more than the Liberals, with an average density of 3.8 Starbucks coffee shops per riding.

The Bloc Québécois has an average of only 0.2 Starbucks locations per riding, but this is more indicative of the Seattle-based franchise’s lack of penetration in the Quebec market. However, most of the shops in the province are located in ridings held by Liberals, Conservatives or New Democrats.

Quebec ranks fifth among 10 provinces for most Starbucks locations with 46. British Columbia has the most in Canada, with 372 locations and one in each of its 36 ridings. Ontario is second with 332 locations. The province with the third highest number of Starbucks outlets, however, may come as a surprise.

It’s Alberta, with 224 locations spread across 27 of the province’s 28 ridings. There are more Starbucks locations in Alberta than there are in the rest of the country combined, excluding British Columbia and Ontario. The three ridings in Canada with the most Starbucks locations are Vancouver Centre (held by Liberal MP Hedy Fry), Trinity-Spadina (represented by the NDP’s Olivia Chow), and Calgary Centre, which first elected Conservative Lee Richardson to the House of Commons in 2004.

[. . .]

This disparity between the public’s perception and reality was previously hinted at in a poll conducted by Harris-Decima in 2009. It found that while 49 per cent of Canadians preferred coffee from Tim Hortons, only 12 per cent liked the coffee from Starbucks best. Where Canadians get their coffee does not seem to act as an indication of their voting intentions, as the Tim Hortons/Starbucks split was almost identical for all three national parties: 53 per cent to 10 per cent among Conservative supporters, 49 per cent to 13 per cent for Liberals, and 54 per cent to 11 per cent for New Democratic voters.

Of the leaders of the three major parties, actually, it's Stephen Harper's riding in Calgary that has the greatest number of Starbucks.

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On how loving cities means you like city-dwellers

Just the other day, the blog Landscape + Urbanism linked to a May 2010 interview with Andrés Duany, an architect and urban planner of note, apparently one of the founders of the New Urbanism design movement. Jesus. he comes across as a crank.

Last week, Brookings Institution released a report on the state of metropolitan America. Have you had a chance to read it? Apparently more and more young people are fleeing suburbia these days.

There's this generation who grew up in the suburbs, for whom the suburbs have no magic. The mall has no magic. They're the ones that have discovered the city. Problem is, they're also destroying the city. The teenagers and young people in Miami come in from the suburbs to the few town centers we have, and they come in like locusts. They make traffic congestion all night; they come in and take up the parking. They ruin the retail and they ruin the restaurants, because they have different habits then older folks. I have seen it. They're basically eating up the first-rate urbanism. They have this techno music, and the food cheapens, and they run in packs, great social packs, and they take over a place and ruin it and go somewhere else.

I've known for 10 years about this destructive monoculture that's condensed in the suburbs. These people would normally be buying real estate by now. And we designed for them. We kept saying, "Aha, these kids, between 24 and 35, will be buying real estate." Guess what? They aren't. Because they can't afford it. But they're still using the cities--they're renting and so forth. The Gen-Xers also discovered the cities; they're buying in a proper way. The Millennials are the ones we're talking about. And they love cities desperately. And they're loving them to death.

People who come from the suburbs, without the investment in the current configuration of the city--itself, as New Urbanists like Duany would acknowledge, highly contingent on any number of actions by people within the city--are loving cities to death?

It gets better.

What's it like to return to Havana--to an urban landscape untouched by the destructiveness of global capital?

I think it's more than just capital. There are two kinds of destruction: there's the loss of the city, the high rises, which is what happened in Mexico City and Buenos Aires and Bogota. But then there's the other destruction, which is the migration of the rural people to the city. And that was controlled in Cuba. They just said, "You don't have your card, you don't have your permit, you are not coming in."

Duany doesn't want a city. He wants gated neighbourhoods for people of his kind; he doesn't want anyone not of his particular background (we can infer fairly), anyone who might have different perspectives on cities or different patterns of use, to be present; he, irony of ironies, lacks faith in the ability of the city to be successful, dynamic.

The Landscape + Urbanism blogger makes his own commentary on Duany's statements, particularly to the first (the pro-pass law second doesn't deserve comment).

Hampered by an economic situation that was none of their making, they see opportunity in cities, but have little of the money (or perhaps desire) to make things happen in a traditional sense. That's why they are the cutting edge in art (although rarely selling), the guerrilla gardeners, the urbane musicians (often playing in the streets or in a club for free), the community designers (doing more with labor in lieu of money) and the remainder of a rag-tag, creative class (not Richard Florida's version, but the real creative class) that makes cities vibrant and interesting.

Simply, they represent the undercurrent of urban life that gives cities a flavor unlike a homogeneous and expensive quasi-suburb - which they have perhaps grown up in but fled, never to return. Perhaps they will evolve a differing urbanism that is more youth-oriented and affordable, allowing this 'lower-class' to have some space without ruining the 'first-rate' urbanism due to their differing habits and economic strata?

The thing is, isn't that process of reinvention something eternally recurring?

[H&F] "Baseball and History: Narratives, Part One"

At Histor and Futility, the Oberamtmann likens history writing to baseball: the details are so important.

While generally covering a much shorter time span than a history book, a baseball narrative – the history of one game – only takes up a newspaper column’s worth of space. Like in history, most of it is not written down. You will not read about every pitch. Even if you consider Gameday or PitchF/X to contain its own narrative, it does not tell you the exact positioning of every player on the field. Most pitches in baseball history were not recorded with that much accuracy anyway. Oh, sure, you might know the infield was in for a batter, or the outfield was in no-doubles defense. But you do not really know where every defensive player was, because every defensive player has a different positioning that he is comfortable with. Torii Hunter and BJ Upton have different definitions for “straightaway.” It is also different based on the number of outs, the count, the pitcher, the batter, and a host of other factors. You might know the temperature, humidity, and so forth but you do not know every gust of wind in every little piece of the ballpark. And you never know when it will matter.

Both types of narratives narratives generally include what the author considers important. “Extraneous” details are left out. If Derek Jeter hits an opposite-field single for a hit, that is his normal style of play. If Ortiz gets a game-winning single because it beat the shift by going the other way, then that will be included in the column. If a peasant girl decides she has an urgent message for the king and is desperate to tell him, the historian likely leaves that out or only includes it as a heartwarming story. Unless that girl is Joan of Arc.