Weekly Churn 016: The Music That We Make

I haven’t had a chance to do much reading in the last week. I’m still on Sarah Tolmie’s excellent new novel, The Little Animals. Part of me thinks that I’m procrastinating, trying to make it last. Her books are satisfying in a way that’s difficult to articulate. I’d compare her work to Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, because I think it offers the same kind of satisfaction, but her work doesn’t actually have much in common with his beyond that satisfaction, so I worry such a comparison could be misleading. As I’ve said on Twitter, The Little Animals, like both Two Travelers and The Stone Boatmen, is a kind, gentle, and generous book. But there is no naïveté here, no empty fan service, no carelessness. Tolmie’s books always unfold with the sense of inevitability that accompanies superior craft; her books are as they are because that is the best… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 015: Natch

After more than two weeks, I’ve finally finished digitizing my music collection. All my CDs are sorted into boxes to donate to charity, with one box set aside for me to keep. My In Praise of Borders set lists have all been rebuilt, to the extent that they could be given the holes in my records. There wound up being 29 volumes; 26 original set lists and three discs worth of material that I know for sure I played but aren’t featured on any of the surviving lists. The final song of the final volume is “Natch,” by Cornershop and featuring Bubbley Kaur. The opening bars of “Natch” were part of my favourite station ID spot when I was a DJ at CKLU. It was put together by Natalie B., everyone’s favourite host, and I played it every show, if I could. There are two “next steps” for my music:… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 013: Moving Forward While Looking Back

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. This post is a week late, for a variety of reasons. I’d say it won’t happen again, but I’d likely be lying. Mark Doten’s work was recommended to me by Canadian author Andrew Sullivan. He’d actually recommended The Infernal, but I couldn’t find any copies of that. Trump Sky Alpha had just come out, so I decided to start there instead. Holy shit, what a ride. In brief: the world has ended, more or less, in the fire of nuclear war at the hands of Donald Trump and God only knows who else. A year after the event, with the world in ruins and the survivors picking up the pieces, Rachel, a former journalist who now spends her days matching faces of bodies to photographs of… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 011: Fuck Utopia

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. This week got away from me, so it’s being posted on the Monday instead. Sandra Newman recently wrote in The Guardian about how the literary genre of the utopia has been largely abandoned in favour of its shadow genre, the dystopia. For some reason she believes this shift to be in part the result of the Soviet Union under Stalin being the only real-world utopian project people have had to examine, and in part the result of cynicism and nihilism run amok, a surrendering to conservative criticisms of liberal and left-wing idealism. She also believes that this shift causes such a surrender, enacting a vicious cycle in which we come to believe that any hope for a better world is lost, or that change for the… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 009: Catching Up

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. On a personal note, my father is doing better. He had his surgery, and while the outcome is not entirely what we’d hoped, he’s doing better and should have improved quality of life in the long run. It was a stressful time, and I’m glad I was able to be there for him. A few years ago I would not have been able to, and given how stressed I still am five days after getting home, I can only imagine how difficult that would have been. I’ve gotten back to reading. I’m just shy of 200 pages into The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, by Shoshana Zuboff. It’s a fantastic book, although I’m not sure… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 006: Blank Pages

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. I’ve spent a lot of time staring at blank pages this week. Or not blank so much as unyielding. For a while now, and by “a while” I mean a few years, I’ve been working on a story called “A Fire in the Snow,” or maybe just “Fire in the Snow.” It’s the first project I’ve worked on that integrates some of the experiences I had working in northern Saskatchewan. At it’s core it’s just a scary-monster-in-the-woods story with Lovecraftian overtones, but it’s also about how men bond at work when that work is dangerous and isolated, and in a very small way it touches on the damage that settlers have done to First Nations communities—something that I think is important to address in stories about… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 005: Public Policy and Innovation

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. If you follow me on social media you might have heard some of this before. There’s this company called “Alphabet” that Google created, a kind of umbrella corporation to house all of its different experiments and subsidiaries without overtly drawing a line between those entities and Google’s worsening international reputation. Or at least I think that’s what it’s for; maybe it’s a tax thing, I don’t know. Anyway, one of those Google sister companies is called Sidewalk Labs. They are in the smart city business, and are looking to develop “Quayside,” which is part of Toronto’s eastern waterfront. There are a lot of problems with Sidewalk coming to town; some are related to consultation and democratic practice, some are related to trust and reputation issues. There… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 004: The Worst Is Yet to Come

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. Today is my mother’s birthday; she would have been sixty four this year. Computers are dumb, no matter how much we like to pretend otherwise, and some of the conveniences that programmers and device manufacturers have added to them have unintended consequences when we are faced with what is both catastrophic and inevitable. At fifteen minutes after midnight my iPhone suggested that I call my mother and wish her a happy birthday. The computer doesn’t know she’s dead, but the people who made it somehow didn’t anticipate this very human development, nor, apparently, that I’d be unwilling to remove her entry from my address book, or at least unwilling to do so after only six months. The relentless stupidity of technologists in the face of how… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 002: Comics

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. This week I thought a lot about comic books. I swear most Weekly Churn posts aren’t going to be as long as this one. I’ve been a comics nerd for as long as I can remember. I don’t know what my first books were; likely some Garfield collections. I have a distinct memory of asking my father for one at Harley’s grocery store and him telling me that I could get colouring books cheaper somewhere else. I was an Archie fiend for years, first glomming on to Dan DeCarlo’s depictions of Betty and Veronica, and then slowly acknowledging that Harry Lucey’s work was superior, although there have been a number of other fine artists to work on Archie over the years. I can’t say I’ve ever… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 001: Television and Tattoos

Yonge Dundas Square

Ahoy! Welcome to the Weekly Churn, a regular series of posts about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. This is sort of my response to the whole newsletter phenomenon, but mostly it’s about getting me back into a headspace where writing is a habit rather than an event. So here goes. The big news for this week is that Tim Maughan’s book Infinite Detail finally dropped. I’ve been a fan of Tim’s work for quite some time—somebody recommended Paintwork, his self-published collection of short fiction, and I was hooked right from page one. It took Infinite Detail almost a year longer to come out than expected, but it’s well worth the wait. I’ve been re-reading Bragi Ólafsson’s work as prep for my review of Narrator, his latest book to be translated into English, but I was so excited about Tim’s novel that I set… Continue Reading