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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly photoblogs about her trip to Berlin.

  • Dead Things reports on a recent study that unraveled the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.

  • James Nicoll notes that his niece and nephew will each be performing theatre in Toronto.

  • Language Hat has an interesting link to interviews of coders as if they were translators.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Chinese video game competitions and Chinese tours to Soviet revolutionary sites.

  • Steve Munro shares photos of the old Kitchener trolleybus.

  • Roads and Kingdoms shares the story of the Ramadan drummer of Coney Island.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay arguing that photographers should get their subjects' consent and receive renumeration.

  • Torontoist shares photos of the Trans March.

  • Towleroad
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I spent yesterday evening down with a friend taking in Pride Toronto down at Church and Wellesley, wandering up and down the streets dense with people and vendors and venturing over into
Barbara Hall Park and the AIDS Memorial. It was a lovely evening, made all the more so by a late evening sky coloured in rainbow pastels.

Walking down Church

Toward the Wellesley stage

The new Glad Day Bookshop sign

Towards Maple Leaf Gardens

By the roses

Behind the DJ

Roses in pink and red


Rainbow lights and sky

Pastels above

Seven flags over the 519

As evening falls

South on Church

West on Wellesley
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  • AIDS Action Now veteran Tim McCaskell argues in NOW Toronto that the new gay activism reflects the growing diversity of the community, riven by race and income.

  • Steven W. Thrasher argues from a radical position against the presence of police and militarism generally in American Pride marches.

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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.
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The Globe and Mail's Ingrid Peritz describes controversy in Montréal over the cost of celebrating the 375th anniversary of the city's founding. I'm for the idea: Why not celebrate an anniversary of some note? Everyone loves a party.

Montrealers do not need much of an excuse to party, but some are wondering why they are supposed to celebrate when their city turns 375 this year.

The birthday falls awkwardly between a semiseptcentennial (350 years) and a quadricentennial (400 years). The anniversary does not even have a formal name.

Then there’s the cost of the presents, including $39.5-million to illuminate the majestic Jacques Cartier Bridge. At least this gift is scheduled to arrive on time. Others are not expected until Montreal turns 376 or 377.

To boosters, however, staging a full year of celebrations – and spending millions doing it – is a way to lift the city’s spirits.

“It’s true, 375 isn’t a significant number,” admits Alain Gignac, general manager of the Society for the Celebration of Montreal’s 375th Anniversary. “But why not celebrate? We were starting to get used to a kind of gloominess. … We thought, why not mark the moment, give Montreal a little energy and pride, and a sense of belonging to Montrealers so that they can get into the party.”
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CBC News' Taylor Simmons notes that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa.

Zakiya Tafari remembers celebrating his first Kwanzaa over 20 years ago.

"I was introduced to it at a very young age and just found it to be really empowering," he said.

"There are some guiding principles that really help individuals know who we are as individual black people, what are some of the great things that our ancestry came from and what we need to be doing to move that message forward."

He sees that continuation in his 12-year-old daughter. This year, she bought a new dashiki, a colourful African garment, to wear during their Kwanzaa celebration.

"It's really cool to see a kid who grew-up in a different generation from me, who's very much a modern kid ... but she still respects some of her African ancestry and is proud to embrace it."

The centrepiece of Kwanzaa, according to Tafari, is spending time with each other.
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The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani notes the expected huge throngs of shoppers even now crowding Yorkdale.

Toronto shoppers arrived early, armed with game plans and strategies to snag the best Boxing Day deals at the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

Visitors at Yorkdale were up 50 per cent more on Boxing Day morning compared to last year, said general manager Claire Santamaria. She expects about 120,000 people will visit the mall by the end of the day. A normal Saturday sees about 75,000.

“Boxing Day is our busiest shopping day of the year and it also has our longest hours,” said Santamaria. “The increase in traffic is really pushed by the fact that we have extra shopping hours in the day.”

At the Eaton Centre, where some stores opened as early as 7 a.m., crowds didn’t pick up until later in the morning.

“I think that the pre-Christmas sales in the week leading up were almost the same — there’s maybe an additional 10 per cent off,” said Lisa Madokoro, 30, who bought a dress she’d been eyeing at Club Monaco that was half price.
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Among other things, I think I may venture out to Pacific Mall. Why not? It's been years since I've been.

What about you? What do you have planned for tomorrow?
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The Toronto Star shares Shawn Micallef's timely article about humble overlooked Christmas trees. This does matter, perhaps particularly tonight, when my Instagram feed is still fresh with photos of the great showy trees of the Eaton Centre and City Hall. Less showy things also matter.

The hardest-working Christmas tree in Toronto is in Cumberland Terrace at Yonge and Bloor Sts. It stands resolute in a back hallway of this near-forgotten 1970s mall, tucked in behind the shiny Bloor shops, a place slated for demolition and redevelopment.

Each year somebody pulls out the stubby artificial tree from storage and sets it up with care on the disco-era brown tiles, decorating it with white and gold ornaments. As holiday trees go it’s understated, without a star or angel, just an electric cord running out of the top. There’s a certain nobility to it among surroundings that are no longer in style (though for those of us who hold a candle for these sorts of accidentally retro places, the tree is an added bonus).

I like to think it’s a memorial tree for the Potter’s Field that used to be here, Yorkville’s non-sectarian cemetery for the poor. Though closed in 1855, after which the 6,685 bodies were moved to the Toronto Necropolis and Mount Pleasant Cemetery, this was their first resting spot and these unnamed, dispossessed early Torontonians deserve a nice tree of their own.

All over the city trees like this, sometimes humble, sometimes spectacularly grand, decorate the most everyday, ordinary, unremarkable and usually ignored places. All are gestures of joy and light, secular or sacred, depending on who’s doing the viewing. Building lobbies, corridors and concourses get the treatment too; the Scrooges won’t notice but the holiday decorations are the one time of year when often anonymous architectural spaces get a lot of attention.

The building lobbies of office towers have the most elaborate decoration schemes, the handiwork of interior design teams who do this kind of thing for a living. More interesting perhaps are the ones that are obviously done by non-professionals, those found in apartment building lobbies and businesses without big decor budgets. The ornaments may not have the sentimental value found on domestic trees, but these still have a quirky human touch the big corporate decorations don’t.
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  • blogTO notes that the Toronto real estate market is now the most unaffordable of any in Canada.

  • The Big Picture shares photos of melting Antarctica.

  • Crooked Timber considers the economic benefits of open borders, and the costs.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of posters from Paris in 1968.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the problems of legal education in California.

  • The New APPS Blog thinks poorly of South Carolina's Republicans.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders if China will do better than the United States at dealing with air pollution.

  • The NYRB Daily considers the collection of Neapolitan Christmas crèches.

  • Palun looks at seasonal affective disorder in northern Estonia.

  • Peter Watts wishes his readers happy holidays.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the distribution of the populations of the US, Canada and Europe by latitude.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy compares concerns over Muslim immigration to opposition to Turkish membership in the EU.

  • Window on Eurasia argues populism will not lead to structural change and suggests Putin's policies are a consequence of his fatigue.

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  • blogTO notes that after the Berlin attack, the Toronto Christmas Market has upped its security.

  • D-Brief looks at how roads divide ecosystems.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that WD 1536+520 apparently has solar levels of rock-forming elements.

  • Language Log examines central European metaphors for indecipherable languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is diffident on the question of whether Sanders could have won versus Trump.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the recent depreciation of Canada's natural resources.

  • The Planetary Society Blog talks about a recent essay collection noting the strides made in planetary science over the past quarter-century.

  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands shares photos from her trip to Hawai'i.

  • Seriously Science notes Santa's risk of personal injury.

  • Torontoist looks at a University of Toronto professor's challenges to a law on gender identity.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi likes what Disney has done, and is doing, to Star Wars.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russians might want fascism but lack a leader and argues Western defeatism versus Russia is as ill-judged now as it was in 1979.

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blogTO reports on how midtown Toronto's Inglewood Drive has gotten a reputation in the past few years as home of dozens of inflatable Santas.

There are plenty of festive streets in Toronto decked out with Christmas lights and holiday displays, but there's one in particular that stands out above the rest: Inglewood Dr., or as it's known at this time of the year, Kringlewood.

It all started in 2013 when Amy Westin put up a 14 foot inflatable Santa on her lawn, which inspired her neighbour to follow suit. It was mostly a joke, but somehow the ostentatious lawn ornament caught on with the rest of the street and a host of other home owners tried to get their hands on the giant Santas.

In fact, they purchased so many that Canadian Tire ran out of stock. Some deft PR on the part of the company resulted not just in the replinishment of the stock, but a delivery of 23 more Santas to the street. A few days later a holiday street party was held and donations were collected for the food bank. With that, the tradition was born.
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  • Bad Astronomy reports on the astounding scientific illiteracy of Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci.

  • blogTO compiles a list of the best tobagganing hills in Toronto.

  • Citizen Science Salon looks at what we can do in the redwood forests.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes a gap in the disk of TW Hydrae.

  • Imageo notes that 2016 is the warmest year in the records.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that a pride parade protected by police went off in Montenegro.

  • Language Hat shares the story of Lazer Lederhendler, a son of Holocaust survivors in Montréal who became one of the leading translators into English of Québec literature.

  • Language Log looks at the distant origins of Japanese terms for "dog."

  • Marginal Revolution notes the rising popularity of Vladimir Putin on the American right.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the links between Russia and the "Calexit" movement.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy celebrates Saturnalia.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russia's use of genetics to disentangle the Tatar peoples and argues that the definition of Russians and Ukrainians as fraternal is dangerous to the latter.

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I plan on having a quiet time of it, spending time with friends and doing various local activities. There won't be much excitement, more simple fun.

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CBC News' Greg Ross and Laura Fraser cover this light news item from North York.

A pack of furry, pint-sized grinches have stolen the Christmas spirit from Mel Lastman Square.

The trees and the skaters are still there, but they're no longer bathed in the glow of the season — something Coun. John Filion blames on some particularly crafty squirrels.

The squirrels have been chewing through the wires holding up lights that normally decorate the North York park's trees, he says.

"I believe it totally has to do with one or more squirrels who perhaps don't like Christmas.

It first started two years ago. At first just a few strands went dark, but it soon turned into a virtual blackout. Last season, the city brought in a cherry picker to replace the extinguished lights.

But Filion says it proved no match for the wee scrooges.

"Less than two days, and they were not working."
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CBC News' Dianne Buckner looks at how a Toronto company is behind the latest Christmas gift craze.

Quick. Can you name the Canadian toy company that's growing faster than Mattel, Hasbro and Lego?

No need to worry if you can't. But ask any child between three and nine years old and they probably can.

Toronto-based Spin Master is the maker of this year's impossible-to-find Christmas toy, "Hatchimals," a furry little robot that hatches from an egg and responds to its owner's cues.

"We have an advance concept team, and they had the idea that wouldn't it be amazing if you could actually do an unboxing like you see on YouTube, but in real life?" explains co-founder and co-CEO Ronnen Harary. "And what would be more magical than a character that actually comes out of an egg and comes to life?"

As it turns out, the product and its popularity can be linked to YouTube. Amateur reviews of the toy uploaded to the video-sharing website boosted demand worldwide, says Harary. Now parents from London, England, to Fayetteville, Ga., to Corner Brook, N.L., are scouring stores, desperate to find one.
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  • Apostrophen's 'Natha Smith talks about his tradition of the stuffed Christmas stocking.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling talks about the decline of the Pebble wearables.

  • blogTO lists some of the hot new bookstores in Toronto.
  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about some of her family's traditions.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at the ancient history of rice cultivation in the Indus Valley Civilization.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the willingness of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation to recognize same-sex marriages.

  • Language Log shares a photo of an unusual multi-script ad from East Asia.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the Russian involvement in the American election and its import.

  • Marginal Revolution links to a book about the transition in China's financial sector.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on efforts to revive the moribund and very complex Caucasian of Ubykh.


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