January 7th, 2017

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait shares a video showing how tacos are made in space.

  • blogTO shares some classic photos of the TTC in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • The Crux goes into more detail about the mesentery.

  • D-Brief notes how the binary star KIC 9832227 is projected to experience a stellar merger in 2022.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to one paper suggesting that exoplanets and brown dwarfs are as common around A and F stars as around dimmer Sun-like stars, and links to another paper examining the potential of detecting transits of exoplanets orbiting brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an article wondering if China's seizure of a US navy drone could set a precedent for satellite seizures.

  • Language Log links to Yiyun Lee's article about abandoning Chinese for English.

  • The LRB Blog remembers philosopher Derek Parfit.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the recent riots in Mexico, caused by rising gas prices.

  • Strange Maps shares informative maps exploring the Netherlands' internal distinctions.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the Russian language has multiple standards despite Russian official claims, and shares complaints about Kaliningrad's vulnerability.

[URBAN NOTE] "Montreal can count on a double payout, sharing a birthday with Canada"

The Globe and Mail's Robert Everett-Green writes about how the conjunction of two anniversaries, Montréal's 375th and Canada's 150th, is set to give Montrealers a memorable year.

On May 18, 1642, a few dozen religious fanatics from France arrived at an island in the St. Lawrence River, held a celebratory mass and declared themselves home. Their goal was to build the New Jerusalem and convert the heathen.

Ville-Marie could have vanished like most utopian settlements, but it became Montreal. Many current residents may have little idea of the town’s original purpose, but lots of Montrealers have reason to be glad the missionaries didn’t reach their destination, say, a year earlier. If they had, Montreal would have lost a convenient overlap between significant anniversaries for their city and the country.

Canada 150 is also Montreal 375, as anyone who lives here can’t fail to know. In public discourse, the two fêtes are like paired runners in a three-legged race: One can’t appear without the other.

The convenience of this is that everyone in town, including federalists and sovereigntists, can feel festive without having to be specific about why. Also, since national celebrations inevitably bring on capital projects, Montreal can count on a double payout for every commemorative jackpot.

Each of the past two significant birthdays for country and city have yielded significant new building projects. For the 1992 celebrations, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts built a new pavilion, the Pointe-à-Callière museum of archeology and history opened its doors near the Old Port and the Musée d’art contemporain moved to its current site at Place des Arts. The McCord Museum had a major expansion, the historic Bonsecours Market reopened and the Montreal Biodome was installed in the former Olympic velodrome. Nineteen sixty-seven, of course, was the year of Expo, the ne plus ultra of overlapping anniversary projects. Expo helped provide the spark for the construction of the Montreal Metro and much else. Most importantly, for a few weeks in the summer, it made Montreal the undisputed centre of Canada, whatever Ottawa and Toronto might think. It also stoked the fever dreams of then-mayor Jean Drapeau, who imagined putting on some kind of international jamboree every five years, continuing with a failed Olympic bid for 1972 – disastrously realized, from a financial point of view, four year later.

[URBAN NOTE] "Why restaurant veterans are ditching Toronto for Hamilton"

The Globe and Mail's Michele Sponagle writes about reasons why Toronto restaurateurs are abandoning this city for Hamilton, with its lower costs and better traffic. I'm wondering if these reasons willb e echoed more broadly by Torontonians.

Michael Cipollo declared once and for all that he was done with Toronto – its $25-a-day parking, brutal traffic, high prices, miserable people and the money-rules corporate restaurant scene. Although he spent 15 years as executive chef of the Bier Markt (growing it from one location to eight), he didn’t hesitate to sell his house, pack up his family and move to a booming Hamilton where he’s already launched two successful eateries – with at least three more in the works.

“I was tired of restaurants dominated by financial spreadsheets,” he says. “My own values weren’t a fit for the corporate restaurant world any more. So I was wondering, ‘What’s next? Go out on my own?’ The costs of doing that in Toronto are staggering for those who don’t have angel investors dumping millions into a project. So opening up restaurants for little guys makes sense in Hamilton.”

Mr. Cipollo and wife Paula dipped their toe into Hamilton’s culinary scene in October 2015 with Hambrgr. In four weeks, they launched the gourmet, vowel-challenged burger joint downtown on King William Street. It was a leap of faith on multiple counts – a chance to be part of the city’s evolution and to bring life to a lifeless downtown street with only a bingo hall and a couple of restaurants drawing visitors.

[. . .]

But Hambrgr’s hefty creations, made with locally raised beef, and craft-beer offerings drew a crowd. Within four months, he bought the space next door and opened Fsh & Chp. In their first year, sales from his two businesses doubled, confirming what he suspected all along: There are oodles of opportunities in Hamilton to create successful restaurants. Next up, he’s opening a bigger version of Hambrgr in January on Ottawa Street, going from a current total of 41 seats (including patio) to 110 seats over two floors.

“At first, people from Toronto thought I was crazy to open up a place in Hamilton,” he says. “It has just as many cool, hip enjoyable places to go than any neighbourhood in Toronto with a lot less pretension. When I left, I’m sure it was, ‘Ha-ha-ha. He’ll fall flat on his face.’ Now, people are asking when they can get involved.”

[URBAN NOTE] "Why part of TTC’s St. Patrick station is still sealed off after 1975 murder"

The Toronto Star's Ellen Brait tells the sad story of how a 1976 murder led to change on the Toronto subway (though according to the victim's survivors, not enough).

It’s been 42 years but the Peters family still can’t bring themselves to exit the subway at St. Patrick station. In 1975, 16-year-old Mariam Peters, was brutally murdered in the station’s darkened passageways.

Mariam, a Grade 11 student at A. Y. Jackson Secondary School, was leaving St. Patrick station on Nov. 7, 1975 around 8 p.m. to visit her sick grandfather at Mount Sinai Hospital when she was stabbed 16 times. Police found her on the escalator and she died four days later from her injuries.

“I’m a father of four girls. None of my girls, none of my family get off at the St. Patrick station. A lot of it due to the memory,” Jeffrey Peters, who was 13 at the time of his sister’s murder, said. “I have one daughter who went to school just south of the Mount Sinai Hospital. She would get off at a different subway stop and walk many blocks to go to school every day in order to avoid that subway station.”

Following Mariam’s death, the Peters family, especially Mariam’s mother Merle Peters, were vocal in their push for the installation of closed circuit television scanners to watch the deserted parts of the subway stations.

“When I went down to that subway, I was choked. I had a feeling I was trapped in a dungeon,” Merle, who was unavailable for comment for this story told the Star in a 1976 interview, after returning to the spot of her daughter’s attack. “There was nowhere I could get help from. I can see that when Mariam was attacked, she did not have a chance, especially at St. Patrick. In the subway, it was like being cut off from the world.”

[URBAN NOTE] "Demystifying the legendary ghost story at U of T’s University College"

The Toronto Star's Peter Goffin debunks an old University of Toronto ghost story.

At night, when the University of Toronto is bathed deeply in shadow, Richard Fiennes-Clinton will show you the mark on the oak door, left 160 years ago by stonemason Paul Diabolos’s axe.

He’ll tell of another stonemason, Ivan Reznikoff, killed by Diabolos’s next blow.

He’ll show you the grimacing gargoyles Diabolos carved into the College wall, and tell you that Reznikoff’s spirit walked the campus, until his body was discovered in 1890.

But Fiennes-Clinton, owner of Muddy York Walking Tours, will cut some of that spookiness with a disclaimer.

“I do tell people that it’s a legend, it’s probably been embellished over the years,” he says.

[URBAN NOTE] "Is gay village on edge?"

At 24 Hours, Shaun Proulx reports on fear of a new crime wave in Church and Wellesley, perhaps linked to a new marijuana dispensary on Church Street. People who live in the area, what's your take?

This week, in my backyard, which happens to be in the heart of Toronto’s LGBT community, many are understandably outraged following the physical assault of a young gay man on Church Street, sacred ground and assumed safe space for LGBT people for decades.

On social media, where dialogue about the matter is lively, to say the least, blame is being heavily laid on the “sketch” element a recently opened business is said to be attracting, and, therefore, on the business itself.

Cannabis Culture, a recreational marijuana dispensary owned by Marc “Prince of Pot” Emery, opened its doors September 1st, 2016.

It is attracting, according to anecdotes, a shady customer base, some of whom are alleged to have harassed and bullied LGBT people within Cannabis Culture, while others are alleged to have attacked them verbally and physically out on Church Street itself.

[URBAN NOTE] "Toronto's gay archive getting an upgrade"

CBC News' Michael Smee reports on the impending new renovations of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

The world's largest independent lesbian and gay archive — which happens to be right here in Toronto — is about to get a little bit larger.

At its last council meeting before the Christmas break, councillors voted to free up about $50-thousand to renovate the century old building on Isabella Street so that it's accessible.

That means adding ramps, bigger bathroom spaces and a working elevator.

But improvements to the building aside, the collection itself — which includes everything from political buttons to posters, to the shorts worn by Olympic boxer Mark Leduc — is getting bigger all the time.

Aside from the standard archival fare — clippings, photos and periodicals — the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives also includes less traditional artifacts.

"We've got buttons, we've got tee-shirts, we've got banners from organizations," says archive president Dennis Findlay. "We've got peoples' diaries; tiaras, gowns, leather material. The list goes on and on."

[URBAN NOTE] "Meet the Gay Couple Holding Hands in That Groundbreaking NYC Subway Mural"

Unicorn Booty associate editor Alexander Kacala has a nice interview with the real-life gay couples whose image was used in a mural in a station in New York City's new Second Avenue subway.

After taking nearly a century to build, the Second Avenue subway extension in Manhattan opened on Sunday with lots of pomp and circumstance. Three new stations opened at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets. It’s not really a whole new line, just an extension of the Q line, which now runs from the Upper East Side to Coney Island.

The 96th Street Station is especially bougie. One of the things making it extra fabulous is a captivating mural by Vik Muniz. “Over three dozen mosaic portraits depicting everyday New Yorkers waiting for a train adorn the walls of the new line,” Buzzfeed writes.

One of those portraits is of married couple Thor Stockman and Patrick Kellogg.

The couple is particularly proud of their participation in the project because they don’t feel represented in popular culture. “Our friends were happy that this is gay representation on the walls of New York City, but our friends were even happier that this is gay representation that is not incredibly beautiful and skinny,” Kellogg tells The New York Post.

We reached out to Stockman and Kellogg ourselves to find out some answers to our own questions. Here is what they told us about the whole experience of being immortalized on the walls of New York’s subway—including the haters, why they haven’t seen it yet and what they hope is next.
forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] Any recommendations for someone visiting Montréal next weekend?

Any recommendations for someone visiting Montréal next weekend? #toronto #montreal #montréal #travel #tourism

Somewhat embarrassingly, the last time I was in Montréal was in the summer of 2003. What can I say but that, sometimes, it's ridiculously easy to get caught in traps, to be bound up in tight patterns and not have the imagination to look outside these at the wider world. At least I'm doing it now.

Friends, readers, others: What would you recommend to someone going to Montréal? What attraction stands out particularly for you? Are there tricks I might be well-advised to learn in advance? What are your favourite memories of Canada's second city?

Please, discuss.