Weekly Churn 010: The Devil You Know

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. My friend Adam Greenfield was recently interviewed for the Danish magazine Politiken Byrum and has posted the interview on his website. Adam’s work has heavily shaped my thinking on urbanism generally and “smart cities” specifically. Since I’ve been learning about the Quayside project I’ve been trying, and mostly failing, to put my thoughts on the subject into words, even going so far as to have a whole library of books piled near my desk trying to put something together. The closest I’ve come so far is this earlier post about how the language of the business world can have a negative impact on how we think about governance. Thankfully, Adam’s recent interview is pretty direct, and aligns with my own views very closely. Here in Toronto… 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 008: Halifax

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’m still in Nova Scotia. I’ve been staying at a very modest hotel in Halifax for nearly a week while my dad is in the hospital. I came down to visit my father because he needed an angiogram and I’ve become paranoid about medical stuff. Instead of having a simple out-patient test, they admitted him and he’s been waiting for heart surgery (stents, not open heart) since Wednesday. It’s scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been trying to get some work done from this hotel, but mostly I’ve been freaking out in slow motion, getting very little sleep, eating a lot of crap and watching a lot of television. I’ve also gotten to know Halifax a lot better. There’s a really great independent bookstore here called Bookmark,… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 007: A Quick One

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’m in Nova Scotia right now visiting my father. His health has not been good and he’s having some tests done in Halifax next week. This sort of thing would not have been a source of anxiety for me a year ago—not a significant source of anxiety, anyway. After my mother’s death following routine gall bladder surgery last fall I’ve become extremely paranoid about medical matters, and even little things can make me very upset. To give you an idea of what I mean, the first time my partner got a cold after my mother died I cried for like an hour because I was suddenly terrified that she would die, too. It’s a special kind of helplessness. On top of this anxiety about my father’s… 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 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

On Bookmarks

Various objects used for bookmarks.

Since moving back to Toronto in 2017 I’ve been thinking very carefully about the things that I own and why I own them. I don’t mean in a Marie Kondo sort of way, although space is definitely a driving force, but more in terms of how the things I own help me understand myself. My interest in this way of understanding stems in part from my first reading, as an undergraduate, of Robertson Davies’ What’s Bred in the Bone, the book that introduced me to the concept of “personal mythology.” Our personal mythologies are the stories, symbols, and events that make up our understanding of our lives and selves. Those stories, symbols, and events are often—though not always—real people and objects in our lives, and events that actually happened to us. Our personal myths are what help us making meaning and see structure in our lives. It should be no… Continue Reading

2018: Year in Review

My mother

Normally at the beginning of every year I post a breakdown of all the reading I’d done the previous year. I won’t be doing that this year. I’ll include some recommendations at the end of this post, but I’m having a hard time worrying about how many books I read by certain authors, or books of a certain kind, or whatever categories interest you, or have interested me in the past. Today, I don’t care. 2018 was not a good year. I’ve already written about my cat dying, but my mother also passed away in September, following complications from what is generally routine day surgery. I’ve had great difficulty reading, since then. In the four months since my mother died I’ve read seventeen books, which is roughly the count I normally have for December alone. My concentration is shot, my motivation is shot, and my investment in the world around… Continue Reading