January 23rd, 2017


[PHOTO] Eleven photos from the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Montréal's Musée des beaux-arts has much to see apart from the temporary exhibitions like Focus : Perfection. To avoid become overly swamped, we concentrated on the Canadian gallery, its four levels filled with works--paintings, sculptures--from different eras in Québec and Canadian history.

"Untitled (Two Caribou)", from Nunavut, is indicative of the high caliber of the works in the Inuit display.

Untitled (Two Caribou)

There were plenty of markers of Québec history, like the 1811 statue of the Virgin Mary attributed to Joseph Pepin.

The Virgin Mary, 1811, attributed to Joseph Pepin

François Malépart de Beaucourt's 1786 Portrait d'une femme haïtienne is eye-catching, for its subject matter and the tissue of human relations--between people, across oceans--that it hints at.

Portrait d'une femme haïtienne, François Malépart de Beaucourt

The landscapes of Marc-Aurèle Fortin, whether of rural Gaspésie or of Montréal, are luminous. I need to know more about this painter.

Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Paysage de Gaspésie: Anse-aux-Gascons

Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Commencement d'orage sur Hochelaga

Ozias Leduc's L'heure mauve is also striking.

Ozias Leduc, L'heure mauve

There were also works of the Group of Seven, like the assemblage of six smaller paintings by different artists I saw or Lawren Harris' larger Log Cabin.

Six paintings of the Group of Seven

Lawren S. Harris, Log Cabin

Two early 20th century Montréal-based artists, Marian Scott with her Stairway and Henry Rowland Eveleigh with his The Fortune Teller, also caught my interest.

Marian Scott, Stairway

Henry Rowland Eveleigh, The Fortune Teller

Finally, at the end, I was interested to see another painting by Rita Letendre, Kochak. I had seen a couple of her canvas in the Art Gallery of Ontario

Rita Letendre, Kochak

[PHOTO] Arch Lofts, 243 Perth Avenue at Wallace

Sitting at 243 Perth Avenue at Wallace in the heart of the Junction Triangle are the Arch Lofts, a project aimed at converting a former church building into condos. This is the second project on that site, the Union Lofts project which began falling apart/u> amid contractor issues, as described in November 2016 by Tess Kalinowski in the Toronto Star. The Arch Lofts are slated to become open to buyers in mid-2017.

Arch Lofts (1)

Arch Lofts (2)

Arch Lofts (3)

Arch Lofts (4)

Arch Lofts (5)

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Centauri Dreams shares a proposal for the relatively rapid industrialization of space in a few short years using smart robots with 3d printign technology.

  • To what extent, as Crooked Timber speculates, the Arthurian myth complex science fictional?

  • Dangerous Minds shares a lovely middle-finger-raised candle.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the interactions between atmospheres and rotation for super-Earths and Venus-like worlds.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Wikileaks' call for Trump's tax returns.

  • Language Hat shares some words peculiar to Irish English.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the words of Trump are meaningless.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cown considers some scenarios where nuclear weapons may end up being used.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at births and deaths in Russia between 2000 and 2015.

  • Savage Minds considers, inspired by the recent Michel Foucault read-in protest to Trump, the relationships between Foucault's thinking and racism.

  • Window on Eurasia calls for a post-imperial Russian national identity, argues that Trump's assault on globalization will badly hurt a Russia dependent on foreign trade and investment, and wonders what Putin's Russia can actually offer Trump's United States.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell offers a unique strategy for journalists interested at penetrating Trump's shell: trick them into over-answering.

[LINK] "Diplomat says China would assume world leadership if needed"

This Reuters report is potentially very significant. Does this mark the beginning of the Pax Sinica?

China does not want world leadership but could be forced to assume that role if others step back from that position, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday, after U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to put "America first" in his first speech.

Zhang Jun, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's international economics department, made the comments during a briefing with foreign journalists to discuss President Xi Jinping's visit to Switzerland last week.

Topping the bill at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Xi portrayed China as the leader of a globalised world where only international cooperation could solve the big problems.

Speaking days before Trump assumed the presidency, Xi also urged countries to resist isolationism, signalling Beijing's desire to play a bigger role on the global stage.

Elaborating on that theme, Zhang said China had no intention of seeking global leadership.

"If anyone were to say China is playing a leadership role in the world I would say it's not China rushing to the front but rather the front runners have stepped back leaving the place to China," Zhang said.

"If China is required to play that leadership role then China will assume its responsibilities," he added.</blockqutoe>

[LINK] "Trudeau confirms Canada exploring free trade agreement with China"

The Toronto Star shares Mike Blanchfield's report about how the Canadian government wants to negotiate a free trade agreement with China. Especially now, given the uncertainty in our relationship with the United States, I'm strongly for this. Diversifying our options is almost always a good thing.

Canada and China are launching exploratory talks towards a free-trade agreement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday during a visit that saw the Chinese premier publicly defend his country’s use of the death penalty.

The ever-present clash of economic interests and human rights was on full display, as it always is in Sino-Canadian relations. But Li Keqiang displayed an easy familiarity with his host — one celebrated over a beer the night before at the prime minister’s Harrington Lake retreat — as the two leaders pushed forward their economic agenda.

Both leaders also acknowledged the thornier issues in their relationship, including ongoing political opposition in Canada to a potential extradition deal with China, which practices capital punishment and has a dubious human rights record.

As well, there is the spectre of China’s “Operation Fox Hunt” — its international pursuit and harassment of so-called economic fugitives and other dissidents.

Standing next to Trudeau in the foyer of the House of Commons, Li denied his country sends foreign agents abroad.

But he calmly addressed head-on the issue of capital punishment in his country, providing an elegant contrast to the tongue-lashing his foreign minister gave a reporter who asked him about human rights earlier this year in Ottawa.

[LINK] "Trump pulls U.S. out of TPP, will renegotiate NAFTA 'at the appropriate time'"

CBC News' Pete Evans reports on this deeply symbolic move by President Trump, marking the end of an effort to build a US-centered trade network in the Pacific and the beginning of a new threat to North American integration.

The new U.S. president made good on one of his campaign promises Monday, formally withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal, and signalling his intention to renegotiate NAFTA "at the appropriate time."

Calling the move "great news for American workers," Donald Trump signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of TPP, a pan-oceanic trade pact signed by his predecessor but never ratified.

The 12-nation trade deal had been a target of his wrath on the campaign trail. "We are going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that have taken everybody out of our country and taking companies out of our country," Trump said after signing the order.

Prominent Republican — and frequent Trump critic — Senator John McCain of Arizona was quick to criticize the decision, releasing a statement calling it a "serious mistake."

"This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets and protect American invention and innovation," McCain said. "It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road."

[LINK] "Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump Are Going to Be Hilariously, Dangerously Mismatched Neighbor

Vice's Drew Brown has a convincing article at once amusing and scary predicting how badly Canadian-American relations could go, given the very different personas of the Canadian and American leaders.

Even if the formal machinery of international North American politics holds more-or-less together, the biggest shift in Canada/US relations once Trump is inaugurated will likely be at the symbolic level. Not only can we probably expect an awkward personal relationship between Trump and Trudeau, but both countries have staked out pretty different turf for their national identities.

It will be fun to see Trudeau's Canada facing off against Trump's America. The Liberals are in charge of the Canada 150 celebrations this year, and their branding of this country is famously tied to the Great White North being a magical multicultural land where immigrants with advanced degrees can thrive as menial laborers while Laurentian whites nod sagely to one another during Vinyl Café listening parties. Canadian charm will probably go into overdrive sometime around late June.

On the flipside, it's been barely two months since the US election and it's already having a profound impact on our political discourse (hello, Kellie Leitch!). It'll be interesting to see what happens as the Conservative leadership race wraps up and sets the tone for the next two years of federal politics, in much the same way that tracking the progress of Ebola was interesting for people working at the Center for Disease Control.

At a more elemental level, there is the basic clash of personalities. It's tailor-made for a low-budget TV comedy. Trudeau is the soft-spoken, metrosexual male feminist who cares about your feelings and will do the dishes for you and possibly also give you a foot bath if you indulge that weird sexual thing he's into that you find vaguely uncomfortable in its strangeness but not particularly threatening in any way, it's just not your thing but he's really into it so it's a bit of a give and take situation and otherwise honestly he's a pretty good catch all things considered. This is a metaphor for ethics scandals, I guess.

Donald Trump is a big loud oaf who only cares about making deals and bragging about sex crimes and tweeting rude reviews of the burrito stand across the street. What will these two wacky roommates get up to next?!

[LINK] "Berlin business leaders unimpressed with UK's message"

BBC's Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin about how two Brexiteers' address to a conference of German business leaders, intended to secure decidedly United Kingdom-friendly terms, managed instead to fail. The profound misunderstanding of German intentions and German interests is almost painful to read about.

The distinguished audience members were too polite to heckle. But the eye rolling, frowns and audible tutting made it quite clear how the Brexiteers' message was going down with German business leaders.
Owen Paterson, a former minister and Conservative MP, and John Longworth, co-chair of Leave Means Leave, came to Berlin on Saturday with a clear mission - to persuade German business leaders to lobby Chancellor Angela Merkel to give Britain a good trade deal.

They should have been on safe territory.

The two men are confident, witty speakers with impressive business and free-trade credentials.

Mr Longworth is a former head of the British Chamber of Commerce. Mr Paterson's years spent trading in Germany meant he could open his address with a few remarks in German - which drew an appreciative round of applause - and a well-judged joke about multilingual trade.

But it turned out they had entered the lion's den.

The laughter from the audience quickly turned to sniggers as they heard the UK described as "a beacon of open, free trade around the world".

Westminster's decision to leave the world's largest free trade area does not look like that to Germany.
When Europe was blamed for spending cuts and a lack of British health care provision, there were audible mutters of irritation from the audience.

[LINK] "Lloyds of London are leaving London"

New Europe's Andy King reports on how iconic British insurance firm Lloyd's of London, in an effort to ensure that it can offer continuity of services to its European Union clients post-Brexit, has begun to shift jobs out of London to EU destinations. Ireland and Malta are apparently fronrunners.

After three centuries, the Lloyds of London will no longer be “of London.” The company is moving its headquarters, its CEO Inga Beale confirmed on Friday.

Talking to Bloomberg TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Beale confirmed that following Prime Minister May’s announcement last Tuesday, Lloyds was going ahead with its contingency plan.

Many insurance companies will be moving a big part of their operations, since passporting rights and licensing are key to the sectors’ business in Europe. Lloyds stands to lose as much as 11% of its premiums that come from Europe or little under 1bn Euros.

Lloyd’s was founded three centuries ago in London and is moving ahead because a licensing process could take more than a year. What Lloyd’s want to avoid is what the industry calls “cliff’s edge trap,” in which the service provider cannot move soon enough to ensure continuity of service.

[URBAN NOTE] "When Your Art Is in Trump Tower"

Canadian Art's Rosie Prata talks with artists in Toronto and Vancouver whose works are now located in those cities' Trump Towers. How do they react to having their art on display in these buildings?

Much has been made of Trump’s taste, or lack thereof. Though he has existed in the public imagination for nearly four decades, evidence of his interests or tastes in regards to art are scarce. We know he knows the word, at least, because the book attributed to him, Trump: The Art of the Deal (1987), uses “art” in its title. (But then again, maybe that was a contribution from Tony Schwartz.)

At Trump’s three-storey penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, a gaudy marble-and-gold rococo travesty lit by candelabras, there’s no art on view, except for a reproduction of Renoir’s La Loge in Melania’s office, and various depictions of Greek gods. “Part of the beauty of me,” Trump once explained, “is that I am very rich.”

One would expect to see a similar display of garishness at the properties that bear his name, but for the two in Canada—the aforementioned Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto and Trump Tower in Vancouver—it turns out that such expectations are wrong. Many of the artworks come from artists whose own political views are in opposition to all that Trump stands for.

Though Trump is a shareholder in some of the buildings that bear his name, including those in New York, Las Vegas and Chicago, he has limited involvement in many Trump properties, and very little decision-making power in regards to what art is housed in the franchises embellished with his name. The buildings themselves have been sites of protest, and the Vancouver Women’s March event on January 21 includes a stop at the Trump building on West Georgia Street.

A 500,000-piece mosaic themed on multiculturalism, created by Stephen Andrews, a gay artist who has lived openly with HIV for decades, adorns the covered driveway leading into Toronto’s Trump Tower. Andrews is an artist whose politics are sure to offend the delicate sensibilities of Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, who believes in the efficacy of electro-conversion therapy for LGTBQ+ people.

There’s also the Michael Snow–designed Lightline, a streak of light reaching to the Tower’s 65-story peak. When it was installed in 2012, the Toronto Star called it “a mix of bold flashing colours with a weird thing on top,” noting that “the skyscraper light appears to be the manifestation of Donald Trump himself.” Later that same year, Toronto Life reported that the artwork was malfunctioning, but conceded that at least it wasn’t “demanding its money back,” as its investors were, “or smashing on the street below,” as the building’s antenna and glass panels had. A 2013 profile of Snow noted that “Trump and Snow actually have a lot in common: unshakable ego, wilful disregard for public opinion and a knack for stoking controversy.” It’s a comparison that Snow would now likely contest.

[URBAN NOTE] "How to organize your first day in a new city when you are traveling"

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen offers excellent advice for travellers on how to explore new cities. These strategies are not unlike ones I've applied in the past, for whatever it's worth. Save the big adventures for later, when you have a sense of the city and can appreciate what you are seeing all the better.

The first thing I do is make sure blog is ready for the day to come (though that is usually pre-arranged if I am traveling).

The second thing I do is decide whether the country is worth wasting a meal on breakfast. I might just skip it. If not, the next thing I will do is get breakfast. I evaluate breakfast options by walking and by sight, not by using the internet, as I find that old-fashioned method better training for all that life brings us.

Then I try to walk through at least two neighborhoods, to get a general sense of the city. More importantly, I can then later take some time over lunch without feeling I haven’t seen anything yet. These neighborhoods should be connected to the main drag in some way but not the main drag itself. The main drag is often boring, though essential, and it is more likely to get a fuller treatment on day two, with only a quick peek on day one.