As the Crow Flies

Roger Deakin
Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees

‘Suppose you couldn’t see a single tree. How would you find water?’ I asked Latz and Albrecht. ‘You would have to kill a wallaby or something, rub the meat with plenty of salt and stake it out. You can always find salt in the desert. Then you hide up and watch. Sooner or later a crow comes down and gorges itself on the salted meat. The salt makes it thirsty, so it flies off to the nearest waterhole. Crows always fly in a straight line. You follow, keeping to that line. Eventually you’ll find water.’

Latz is Peter Latz, the author of Bushfires and Bush Tucker: Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia.

And so for day 2543

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F R A N C O I S [fʁɑ̃swa]

A visit to the coffee shop. I know they will get my order correct and I dread how they will mangle my name. We are not in Montréal where “François” would be quite common. I usually pronounce and spell (sometimes too quickly being mindful of the queue). Recently this tactic lead to the name coming out printed like a Hebrew prophet [Hosea?] — “osua” — made all the more plausible by the name of the till operator — Ari. Despite the mangled name, an eye-catching collision of sounds and letters, I did get what I ordered — a double espresso.

ephemera - name on a bill - osua - for francois

Interestingly “osua” leads to a Finnish verb which ironically means to hit a target.

And so for day 2542

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« Du beurre ! Donnez-moi du beurre ! Toujours du beurre ! »

The succession of the aphorisms here is like the judicious staging of the various courses of a fine meal. They satisfy by their simplicity.

A good apprentice cook must be as polite without he dishwasher as with the chef.

Success is the sum of a lot of small things correctly done.

In all professions without doubt, but certainly in cooking, one is a student all his life.

One must be able to withstand a disagreeable remark. Strong spirits hold no grudges.

Fernand Point
Ma Gastronomie
Translated by Frank Kulla and Patricia Shannon Kulla

And so for day 2541

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Mixed Use Has a History

20th century

BlogTO in a brief history of the gay village tells the story of the steps

One iconic hangout was The Second Cup, which opened south of Church and Wellesley in 1984. The “Steps” at the front of the cafe, which became a 24-hour operation in 1992, was a hangout for gay youth and people of all ages. It was not uncommon to find crowds congregating at the Steps in the early morning hours.

21st century

Nathan Phillips Square – steps with people sitting on them – also serve as a stage.

Stage and Steps - Nathan Phillips Square - Toronto

Steps Recaptured

And so for day 2540

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Streets – Pathways in Flux

The Toronto Public Library at the Bloor/Gladstone Branch hosted an event organized by
University of Toronto, School of Cities.

Where We Gather: Streets of Toronto featured a panel of speakers moderated by Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor and Interim Director, School of Cities, University of Toronto.

Marianne Hatzopoulou, Associate Professor Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Air Quality, University of Toronto spoke about air quality in the GTA. She provided a snapshot of the results from her team’s work on modelling of road transport emissions and urban air quality.

Jon Johnson, Assistant Professor, Woodsworth College, University of Toronto, spoke about the history of Indigenous presence on the lands that shaped the city and the continuing relevance of Indigenous ways of occupying place. There was lively interest in the work of First Story Toronto.

Elyse Parker, Director, Policy and Innovation, Transportation Services, City of Toronto, spoke about the Complete Streets Guidelines and how the City aims to design streets to be safe for all users: people who walk, bicycle, take transit or drive, and people of varying ages and levels of ability.

The various presentations led me to reflect upon my years in the city since the mid 1980s. I thought about road reconstruction and how in the past a street would be closed off and the workers would rush to finish the project. Now road reconstruction is approached in a phased fashion. The street remains open albeit to limited traffic but pedestrians, cyclists and motorist still make use of the roadway through its revitalization. This of course takes more time and entails more planning. This phased approach strikes me as being a temporal instantiation of the complete street philosophy.

And so for day 2539

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Seeds Cast from a Train

This is set up by remarks by Jonathan Lethem about the anti-intellectualism of American culture: “even American arts culture has a very violent anti-intellectual streak in it.” Lethem’s remarks help us as viewers understand the poignant finale to

The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany directed by Fred Barney Taylor (Maestro Media, 2007)

at 1:14:11

Delany in conversation on a train… a rather emotive moment about the conducting of a seminar where students a reluctant to ask questions and the creating of conditions where every student would have the self-worth to ask questions … “you have to teach people that they are important enough to say what they have to say”

Reminds one of seminar’s root in seed.

And so for day 2538

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uncorrupted pleasure

It was Nigel Slater who put me on to Nigella Lawson.

And How to Eat was acquired and it sat on the shelf until one day I turned its pages to see what the author might have to say about mayonnaise.

When I was in my teens, I loved Henry James. I read him with uncorrupted pleasure. Then, when I was eighteen or so, and had just started The Golden Bowl, someone — older, cleverer, whose opinions were offered gravely — asked me whether I didn’t find James very difficult, as she always did. Until then, I had no ideas that I might, and I didn’t. From that moment, I couldn’t read him but self-consciously; from then on, I did find him difficult. I do not wish to insult by the comparison, but I had a similar, Jamesian mayonnaise experience. My mother used to make mayonnaise weekly, twice weekly; we children would help. I had no idea it was meant to be difficult, or that it was thought to be such a nerve-racking ordeal. Then someone asked how I managed to be so breezy about it, how I stopped it from curdling. From then on, I scarcely made a mayonnaise which didn’t split. It’s not surprising: when confidence is undermined or ruptured, it can be difficult to do the simplest things, or to take any enjoyment in trying.

And she goes on to give excellent instructions on how to mend a broken mayonnaise.

I do like the comparison with reading and the implicit analogy between repairing one’s lost confidence and rescuing a split mayonnaise.

I will have no difficulty in plunging into How to Eat and savouring its other parts. I have a hunch it will boost my confidence, culinary and otherwise.

And so for day 2537

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Beyond Comparing Field of Grain to the Sea

Jan Zwicky
“The Spires of Martinville”
Four Square Garden
(Pasdeloup Press, Department of Fine Arts, University of Waterloo, Ontario)

In the summer’s air, light-dappled, wading through
young poplars by the barley’s green fur rippling
before the wind, I cannot find my way, […]

I like how the incongruence of the barley’s green fur leads one to get lost in the metaphor. The tactile and the visual battle for attention. And rest assured that we recover the ground in our incomprehension:

[…] to know
that one should comprehend, yet no more
— perhaps this is the thing itself, its measure
neither in pain, the silence, nor the loss,
but in the unrelinquishing — heart’s memory
with a patience more merciless than the sea’s.

Barley fur lodged in memory — the thing itself — no forgetting.

And so for day 2536

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Doing the Math

The abacus handling. The moral calculus.

The arithmetic serves the argument.

Jonathan Safran Foer writes about food politics.

Some argue that plant-based eating is elitist. They are either misinformed, or knowingly taking the favourite emergency exit of privileged, performatively thoughtful people who don’t want to change what they eat. It is true that a healthy traditional diet is more expensive than an unhealthy one – about $550 (£440) more expensive over the course of a year. And everyone should, as a right, have access to affordable healthy food. But a healthy vegetarian diet is, on average, about $750 (£600) less expensive per year than a healthy meat-based diet. In other words, it is about $200 (£160) cheaper per year to eat a healthy vegetarian diet than an unhealthy traditional diet. Not to mention the money saved by preventing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer – all associated with the consumption of animal products. Nine per cent of Americans making less than $30,000 per year identify as vegetarian, whereas only 4% of those making more than $75,000 are. People of colour are disproportionately vegetarian. It is not elitist to suggest that a cheaper, healthier, more environmentally sustainable diet is better. But what does strike me as elitist? When someone uses the existence of people without access to healthy food as an excuse not to change, rather than as a motivation to help those people.

You may forget the numbers. You will remember the stark options: healthy plant-based diet or unhealthy meat-based diet.

And so for day 2535

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The commercial meets the aesthetic meets the political

William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Elements of Style, 3rd edition (1988)
People vs Public

The people is a political term, not to be confused with the public. From the people comes political support or opposition; from the public comes artistic appreciation or commercial patronage.

When public turns to people… watch out.

Notice how the parallelism fails on a semantic basis. First the pair of alternatives: support or opposition (conjoined by a disjunctive “or”). Then, appreciation or patronage. The structure of alternatives is succeeded by a set of neighbouring terms. Incommensurability is baked in.

In essence, this formation intimates there can be publics (members of a set) but only one people (one source of contrasting positions). And publics as perhaps distinguished from the public are political: sourcing Cary R. Covington; James M. Lindsay; Eric R.A.N. Smith; Peverill Squire (2008), Dynamics of Democracy 5th edition.

But the singular “public” was political before the 3rd edition of Elements. We find:

John Dewey defined (Dewey 1927) public as a group of people who, in facing a similar problem, recognize it and organize themselves to address it. Dewey’s definition of a public is thus situational: people organized about a situation. Built upon this situational definition of a public is the situational theory of publics by James E. Grunig (Grunig 1983), which talks of nonpublics (who have no problem), latent publics (who have a problem), aware publics (who recognize that they have a problem), and active publics (who do something about their problem).

And neither public nor people are a readership.

And so for day 2534

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