Montreal Murals

Artwork by Kari Izumiya, photo credit unknown

Montréal has seen many, many pieces of public art pop up in the last few years, thanks in part to the Mural festival. These artworks are accessible, free to the public, and take art out of the institutional (dare I say elitist) art galleries. The city has started to curate a photo gallery of these murals, which number over 300(!). Worth a scroll to see some great pieces.

Visit the Gallery →

Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Maria Popova’s excellent Marginalian blog shared some excerpts from John Koenig’s 2021 book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, for which the author created new words to describe types of malaise for which don’t have current English words for. For example:

AGNOSTHESIA
n. the state of not knowing how you really feel about something, which forces you to sift through clues hidden in your own behavior, as if you were some other person — noticing a twist of acid in your voice, an obscene amount of effort you put into something trifling, or an inexplicable weight on your shoulders that makes it difficult to get out of bed.

Read More Here →

Via Rafa

Your Undivided Attention on Social Media and Youth

As someone who is quite solidly anti-social media (this blog is the closest I come to taking part in social media), this episode of the Your Undivided Attention podcast is a sobering listen. It’s an interview with writer Jonathan Haidt, where they particularly focus on the mental health crisis among Gen Z, the first generation who have grown up completely in the social media era. Notably, Zoomers have much higher rates of anxiety and depression.

It starts with a sobering detailing of a slow educational crisis starting with Ben Z (generally considered to be kids born from the mid/late 90’s into the early 2010’s):

…humans had a play-based childhood for millions of years because that’s what mammals do. All mammals play. They have to play to wire up their brains. But that play-based childhood began to fade out in the 1980s in the United States and it was gone by 2010, and that’s because right around 2010 is when the phone based childhood sweeps in…

…scores in math and reading and those were all fairly steady, and then all of a sudden, after 2012, they drop. So that’s international. Around the world, our young people are… not learning as much as they would have a few years before.

Find The Episode Here →

Yuri-G

A classic banger from Polly Jean Harvey, for the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin going into space for the first time.

Taking 'Green' Out of the 'Green Screen'

Until the age of about 14 I was certain I wanted to do movie special effects when I got old enough. Plans changed, but I still enjoy watching how special effects are done. In this case, a small studio resurrected a decades-old technique for making a “green screen” effect using sodium vapour lighting and prisms. Neat!

Review of Every Living Thing

Friend of Elsewhat Jason Roberts has a new book, out yesterday, called Every Living Thing. His last book, A Sense of the World was beautiful and amazingly well researched, making this an instant buy (from your local independent book store, not Amazon).

The book follows the paths of two scientists endeavouring to come up with a taxonomy system to classify, well, every living thing. From the New York Time’s review:

Roberts’s exploration centers on the competing work of Linnaeus and another scientific pioneer, the French mathematician and naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Of the two, Linnaeus is far better known today. Of course, Roberts notes, the Frenchman did not pursue fame as ardently as did his Swedish rival. Linnaeus cultivated admiration to a near-religious degree; he liked to describe even obscure students like Rolander as “apostles.” Buffon, in his time even more famous as a brilliant mathematician, scholar and theorist, preferred debate over adulation, dismissing public praise as “a vain and deceitful phantom.”

Their different approaches to stardom may partly explain why we remember one better than we do the other. But perhaps their most important difference — one that forms the central question of Roberts’s book — can be found in their sharply opposing ideas on how to best impose order on the planet’s tangle of species.

Read the New York Times’ Review →

Putting The Eclipse Into Words

In preparation for my first ever total eclipse on Monday, I’ve repeatedly come across attempts to put the otherworldly experience of seeing a total eclipse firsthand into words. In Rivka Galchen’s Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse in The Atlantic, a cultural guide of sorts about eclipses, one of her interviewees says:

Describing an eclipse to someone who hasn’t seen one is like trying to describe the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” to someone who has never heard music…You can describe notes, frequencies of vibration, but we all know that’s missing the whole thing.

I have seen a partial eclipse, but from all accounts that pales in comparison to the full show. XKCD summed up the difference between being in the path of totality or not in graph form:

But the best summary of the difference comes from Annie Dillard’s wonderful classic article Total Eclipse in The Atlantic. It dates from 1982, but feels as though it could timelessly apply to any total eclipse. It’s certainly worth a full read.

It comes with a reminder of how big a deal it is to be within the path of totality:

Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.

Almost Got It

My dog is a cartoon character.

Fire Escape Light

How French is English?

This video, cheekily titled ‘Is English just badly pronounced French?‘ (spoiler: it’s not) goes into depth into all the ways that French has impacted English. Particularly mind-blowing is the fact that ‘warranty’ and ‘guarantee’ originated from different pronunciations of the same French word.