January 3rd, 2017

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of showing up for major events.

  • Crooked Timber looks at e-publishing for academia.

  • Dead Things notes that the evolution of the human brain and human teeth were not linked.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to two papers about ocean worlds and greenhouse effects.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the hopeful seasteaders of French Polynesia.

  • Towleroad looks at the life of a trans man in the mid-20th century.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a Catalonian linguists' argument that linguistic diversity helps minority languages.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the gay cowboy scene.

[URBAN NOTE] "Entire 19th-century Quebec village up for sale"

CBC News notes that Canadiana Village, a community north of Montréal designed to look like a pioneer settlement from the 19th century for television, is up for sale.

Why settle for buying a home when you can buy an entire village?

Canadiana Village, about an hour north of Montreal near Rawdon, Que., has been on the market since the fall. The nearly 60 hectares of land and 45 buildings are going for $2.8 million.

The village is designed to resemble a pioneer settlement from the 19th century, and includes a church, a general store, a mill, a cemetery, a saloon and 22 houses.

However, most of the buildings are just for show.

In its heyday, Canadiana Village welcomed close to 30,000 tourists per year and was a popular destination for school field trips. It's on sale for $2.8 million.
Located near Rawdon, Que., the village has been on the market since the fall.
One of the properties overlooks a small lake.

[URBAN NOTE] "Celine Dion is an unlikely savior of Montreal’s classic Jewish deli"

Via Towleroad, I came across Alina Simone's delightful feature describing how Céline Dion helped save Montréal's famed deli Schwartz's.

[H]ow did the French-Canadian pop diva become the custodian of Montreal’s premier Jewish culinary institution? That’s the question I’ve come to ask Frank Silva, Schwartz’s general manager, who was brought into the business by his father back in 1982.

Schwartz’s was founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish Romanian immigrant who started off as a delivery guy for other local delis. Silva says one day Schwartz realized “what he was delivering was inferior to what he knew from back home. So he figured he could do something better.”

Unfortunately, the Depression was just getting under way. Schwartz had to do whatever he could to stay in business, which meant making his Jewish deli a lot less Jewish.

“He started saying, forget about being kosher, we've got to start to make some money,” Silva says. He adds that they’re no longer certified kosher, but they keep it “kosher style.”

Schwartz was the first and last owner to work behind the counter at the deli. After his death, ownership passed to a partner, and then on to another one and another one, until four years ago when late restaurateur Paul Nakis heard Schwartz’s was for sale. That’s when Celine Dion came into the picture.

[URBAN NOTE] "The Shell Oil Tower is a lost 1950s masterpiece"

At the end of last year, Spacing Toronto's Chris Bateman described the too-short life of Exhibition Place's Shell Oil Tower.

A little over 30 years ago this winter, one of Toronto’s earliest Modern buildings was pulled to the ground. When the Shell Oil Tower at Exhibition Place was completed in 1955, Toronto didn’t have any steel-and-glass downtown office towers.

The most-prominent building in the city was Commerce Court, a 24-year-old limestone-clad bank building decorated with sculpted heads representing courage, observation, foresight, and enterprise. Its reign as the Commonwealth’s tallest structure prolonged by the Great Depression and the Second World War.

The Shell tower was conceived as an advertisement for Dutch petroleum giant, Shell Oil. The company invited four architects to submit designs for an “cheerful” observation tower, but didn’t stipulate the materials, decoration, or motifs.

The blueprint submitted by architect and associate University of Toronto professor George Robb envisioned a rectangular, nine-storey column of steel and glass topped by a viewing platform and large analogue clock. A staircase spiralled up the outside and another descended within. Robb’s design was luminous and completely transparent thanks to its walls of glass.

“Exhibition architecture poses the architect a number of special problems,” wrote Canadian Architect magazine in its first issue in November 1955. “His building has to be gay, even flamboyant; it also has to withstand the concentrated assaults of crowds for short periods, and then be shut up for months on end.”

[URBAN NOTE] "What will the City of Toronto’s 2017 budget cost us?"

The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro explains for readers what has changed in the coming year's budget, and how.

For those who own their own home in Toronto, big or small, the proposed budget keeps your property taxes low, as Mayor John Tory promised.

But analysis of that plan released late last year says this budget unfairly burdens the city’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable residents — those who rely on transit, city-run recreation programs and social services.

The city’s most senior public servant, city manager Peter Wallace, has repeatedly outlined that the city’s current problem is its revenue, not its spending, and that with relatively low taxes the city is struggling to pay for the services in place today, let alone the billions of dollars needed for unfunded projects.

Even though the preliminary operating budget proposed by staff does not include any new money for increased services, a $91-million budget gap remains.

The budget has been presented to council with a series of choices and stated risks — what to fund, what to cut and new strategies to close the gap. The process to make those decisions resumed last week, and the budget will be finalized in February.

[URBAN NOTE] "I'm a Tourist in Lagos. You Have a Problem With That?"

I quite liked the energy of Tyler Cowen's Bloomberg View column describing why he went to Lagos, Nigeria's largest city and commercial capital, for a visit.

People seemed surprised to see me and I did not encounter many other evident tourists. The Nigerian clerk at my (upscale) hotel expressed shock that a white person had arrived. Perhaps she thought I was a sex tourist, as she continued in full enthusiasm: “The room is solo? Don’t worry, Nigerian women just love men like you!” I believe she meant this as local hospitality, though under another reading it is a veiled critique. The truth, I admit, is indeed pretty strange. I like to go around and look at gross domestic product, and that simple fact explains much of my unusual behavior abroad.

Nigeria is now the country with the highest GDP in Africa, having surpassed South Africa, and it ranks globally at number 26. If Lagos state were a country, it would have the fifth largest GDP on the continent.

As an economist, I feel a moral pull, not to mention a personal curiosity, to see goods and services being produced. That means visiting Lagos’s renowned computer market and fabrics market as well as its fast-food shops, shopping malls, street food and ice cream parlors. I sought out its bridges, canals and electric generators, though not the oil areas -- there are too many kidnappings there.

Making large-scale structures and trading goods and services are among the most human and noble of activities, so is it actually so strange to visit them, as one might enter a cathedral or make a pilgrimage to Gettysburg? For all the talk about human interactions being the key to a wonderful trip, those interactions usually require some sort of scaffolding and structure to one’s daily activities, and on that score a quest for GDP can help out. I’ve yet to go on a safari.

[LINK] On a failed attempt by African migrants to escape Morocco for Spain

The National Post carried Joseph Wilson's Associated Press article reporting on a failed effort by well over a thousand Africans to storm the fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

More than 50 Moroccan and Spanish border guards were injured repelling around 1,100 African migrants who attempted to storm a border fence and enter Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta, Spanish authorities said Sunday.

A regional government spokesman told The Associated Press that 50 Moroccan and five Spanish border guards were injured early on Sunday when the large group of migrants tried to enter Spain.

The spokesman said two migrants managed to reach Spanish soil. Both were injured in scaling the six-metere-high border fence and were taken to a hospital by Spanish police. He spoke anonymously in line with government policy.

A further 100 migrants climbed the fence, but Spanish agents sent them directly back to Morocco.

[. . .]

Hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco try to enter Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave, each year in hope of getting to Europe.

Most migrants who try to cross are intercepted on the spot and returned to Morocco. Those that make it over the fences are eventually repatriated or let go.

[ISL] "Reporting from Inside a Refugee Detention Centre"

The Inter Press Service's Andy Hazel describes how Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, detailed by the Australian government on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, is striving to report on the conditions of his detention.

Despite being locked up in an Australian detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has continued reporting – gaining bylines and media attention around the world.

Journalism is the reason Boochani was forced to flee his home country of Iran, and – like the other 900 men detained indefinitely on Manus Island – seek refuge in Australia.

“When the Australian government exiled me to Manus Island I found out that they are basing their policy on secrecy and dishonesty,” Boochani told IPS.

“In my first days here I started to work to send out the voice of people in Manus. Why did I start? Because the Australian government’s policy of indefinite detention is against my principles and values, and against global human values.”

Boochani worked as a freelance writer in Iran and founded the magazine Werya, devoted to exploring Kurdish politics, culture and history. In February 2013 the offices of Werya were raided by the paramilitary agency the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also known as Sepah, classified by the US government as a terrorist organisation.

Boochani was in a different city when 11 of his colleagues were arrested. The story he wrote about the raid on the website Iranian Reporters quickly went global and put him in the government’s sights and he fled.

[LINK] "Fearing Trump, a U.S. campus calls for sanctuary"

The Toronto Star shares Maria Jimenez's report from New York's Cornell University, describing how many students are dealing with the threat a Trump presidency poses to their continued residence in the US, even. Tragic.

In a time of fear and uncertainty, college campuses and cities across the U.S. are vowing to fight back if president-elect Donald Trump tries to deport students and law-abiding community members who lack legal status.

At Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., more than 2,000 students and professors signed a petition asking the university to join other institutions and declare itself a sanctuary, or safe haven, for undocumented students.

“I am frightened,” said one literature student, who asked not to be identified for fear she could be deported. “But I am also encouraged to see people mobilizing and organizing and preparing for Trump to carry out his threat to deport millions of illegals.”

As many as 740,000 children and teenagers — including this woman in her 20s — were given temporary amnesty four years ago when President Barack Obama passed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Now these “DREAMers” — named after an earlier version of the act which was not passed — fear they, or their parents, will be targeted if they come out of the shadows.

[AH] What would it take for the Buffalo Bills to move to Toronto?

When I visited the Microsoft Store in the Eaton Centre at the beginning of December, I was interested to see that among the covers for the Surface Pro 4 that this store carried were some carrying the logo of the AFL's Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo Bills for the Toronto market #toronto #eatoncentre #microsoftstore #surface #buffalobills

Clearly, this store's inventory came from someone who knew Toronto's history with this team.

The intermittent efforts of urbanists and regionalists to make Toronto part of a cross-border megalopolis, one stretching west along the shoreline of Lake Ontario from Toronto up the Niagara River to Buffalo, have really not worked out. There's not enough binding the Golden Horseshore together, never mind roping the American side of the Niagara River into a community divided by relatively impermeable borders. The only readily visible sign that such a community exists lies in the relative popularity of the Buffalo Bills in the Greater Toronto Area.

As early as 2007, there were seriously concerns that the Buffalo Bills might be moved to Toronto in its owners' search for a larger and richer market. For a few years, the Buffalo Bills even held home games in Toronto's Rogers Centre. In 2014, these came to an end, as the people concerned decided the games just were not worth it.

Even if the owners had wanted to move, Toronto, I think, would have been a difficult market. Mine is just not a good sports city from the perspective of high-performing teams or popular teams, whether you look at Toronto FC or the Argonauts or the Maple Leafs. Perhaps the Raptors might be an exception? There would have been controversy surrounding the move at the Buffalo end, as well as at the Canadian end--an AFL intrusion into Canadian football territory would have been controversial.

Could it have happened? What would it have taken for this to occur?