Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Given my slight obsession with maps here is Map of Christmas Dinner Across the World:


Click Image to Enlarge

For some holiday enlightenment I suggest checking out this fascinating article on the economic history of Christmas from Marginal Revolution. Here is the first paragraph:

While “Christmas” is new, the notion of a consumption splurge after the fall harvest, followed by a lean late winter-early spring season (Lent/Ramadan) before the spring harvest is deeply rooted in pre-modern agricultural reality. When you have an abundance of perishable goods it makes sense to consume them before they go bad, and then to string out the more limited supply of durable foodstuffs when fresh foodstuffs are scarce. In the same way, summer vacation is rooted in the need to free up children for agricultural labor at times of peak demand. As noted above, spring weddings supply a consumption boost after the Spring Harvest and also are timed to minimize the likelihood of critical parts of a first pregnancy taking place during the lean late winter-early spring (although these days it has more to do with the end of the school year).

– See more at:



The pattern of my dialect

I had fun answering the questions to this dialect quiz. Not surprising as an Ontarian my dialect is similar to New York and to a lesser extent the northern parts of the midwest. What is surprising is the similarity to South Florida. I suppose enough people have migrate from the Northeast to Florida to move the dialect down there.

Take the quiz to make your own map on the New York Times website.

Dialect Map

Dialect Map 2

Geography of Toronto’s World War One Dead

Screenshot of “Grief’s geography: Interactive map of Toronto’s First World War dead”

Today is Remembrance Day. In a country where veterans of the great wars are quietly disappearing, the last Canadian World War One veteran passed away in 2010, and the average age of World War Two veterans is 87, it is becoming more important to establish tangible ways to connect with the memories of their sacrifices.

One such new connection is Global’s Interactive map of Toronto’s First World War dead. The map is a powerful reminder of the scale of loss and how it touched almost every one of Toronto’s streets at that time. For example, I found four men on my block, William Potter, George Halliday, Edward Evans, and William Hart, who lost their lives during the war. Two of whom died within three days of each other in October 1917, most likely during the Second Battle of Passchendale.

The map is a fitting new memorial that helps preserve the memories of those who lost their lives during a horrible conflict, which helped shape our modern world for better and worse.

A New World in Pictures

As a complement to my post about the A New World here is a gallery that shows some of the Uus Maailm neighbourhood featured in the film. I’ve been to the neighbouring neighbourhood of Kalamaja (Fish House) which has a similar character to Uus Maalim and thoroughly enjoyed it. It shares the same mix of charming independence era wooden homes and sturdy and modernist soviet apartment blocks.

The photos are by Sander and are taken from the Skyscraper City Forum. Enjoy!

A New World

New World Street Party

Last week I had the opportunity to see the film A New World at the Estonian Documentary Film Festival, EstDocs. The film is an extraordinary window into a modern activist movement.

Filming for five years, director Jaan Tootsen is able to provide incredible depth and unparalleled access into the lives of a group of activists who live in the Uus Maailm* (New World) neighbourhood in Tallinn, Estonia.

The arc of the film is well developed, following the New World group from its start to nearly its end. The film is primarily focused around the groups leader Erko, who makes a fascinating protagonist. He is funny, wild, and full of great ideas. His hope, vision, and later, frustrations drive the story.

When the film begins in 2006, the group is energized and radical. They organize a protest during the ribbon cutting of a new road, paint DIY crosswalks, occupy parking spots, and clash with authorities. But, as Erko and the group begin to turn their visions into reality, their house,  a ramshackle old wooden building with a leaky roof, evolves into an unlikely community house, the Uus Maailm Seltsi Maja.

As the story develops the group becomes more and more focused on operating the house. They conflict with neighbours who constantly call the police, the landlord who is trying to sell the property, and the government which supplies a growing pile of paperwork. As a result, the group begins devoting considerably less time to protesting, and more time managing relations with neighbours, applying for grants and permits, and organizing fundraisers to pay the rent.

The results of the group’s efforts are mixed. They are very successful in creating a sense of community and gain a great deal of recognition. Even the President of the Republic, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, drops by for a tour. Yet, they fail to sustain the house financially and themselves emotionally. The wear of working intensely with the same people really begins to show. At the same time, the group’s growing frustration with the reality of operating the house begins to clash with the its initial radical aims. By the end of the film it was clear the group had run out of steam.

The New World group accomplished a lot. It redefined what a community group could do in Estonia. It established a community library, organized communal meals, events, parties and street festivals, and distributed a free local paper. However, its greatest accomplishment was to inspire a generation of Estonians to take ownership of their communities.

Anyone with an interest in community building, activism, and urbanism should see this film.

*The name of the neighbourhood Uus Maailm, or New World, is over a century old. It’s a moniker said to have come from a bar in the neighbourhood called “America.”