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 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 003: Haunted

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. What are the things that haunt you? I was thinking about that on Monday when I saw this story about Rosie, the corpse of a white pointer shark abandoned in a vat of formaldehyde. The images of Rosie are quite bracing; she floats suspended in murk, silent, motionless, appearing no less lethal than she would have in life—her stillness may even amplify that effect. Dom Krapski writes that seeing Rosie surrounded by “crap” spoils the haunting experience, but Gary Moore’s photographs leave me with a different impression. The stuff in the tank intensifies that haunted feeling for me. I can imagine the tank being cleaned out by human hands, but it is not possible for me to do so without me also imagining the shark slowly,… 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

Facebook Is Not the Future of Baseball

Closeup of Facebook reaction icons

The Kansas City Royals are visiting Toronto, and it’s the top of the fifth inning. Danny Duffy’s heavily-pixelated face fills the screen of my 49″ 4K Sony Bravia, but he’s not on the mound tonight. He’s got a headset on, and he’s trading stories back and forth with Scott Braun, Cliff Floyd, and Jeremy Guthrie, sometimes answering questions but mostly just shooting the breeze. I’m a Blue Jays fan, but I’ve never been good at internalizing information about other teams, so I rely pretty heavily on Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler to fill in the blanks for me during a game. What’s this guy usually like at the plate? Is this other guy a strong shortstop, or has he been struggling with injuries? Right now, Danny Duffy is the only one who seems interested in calling the game, commenting on the plays he can see from the dugout. The interview,… Continue Reading

Community Without Dan Harmon

As a fan of Community, it’s been a week of ups and downs. First there were rumours of cancelation, trotted out like the reliable workhorses they proved to be when the show was put on mid-season hiatus. And then we got the reprieve; thirteen more episodes, but getting moved to Fridays starting in June of all months. Whatever, we could live with it. But now this: Dan Harmon is no longer going to be Community‘s showrunner. I never even bothered to learn his actual title. It’s probably Executive Producer; it usually is with these things. The announcement says he will be staying on as a Consulting Producer, which appears to be network code for being paid to stay home and keep his mouth shut. Given how integral Harmon is to Community—even people who acknowledge that he’s a poor manager or otherwise have conflicts with him call him the “soul” of… Continue Reading

Community, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, and Rumours

Here’s the deal, kids. Nobody’s been cancelled yet, except 30 Rock. Here’s what went down: There has been talk on Twitter and blogs and whatnot that 30 Rock was getting a 13 episode season for next year, which would be its last. That was confirmed today by TV By the Numbers, which in case you didn’t know, is probably the most reliable venue for this kind of news. There was speculation (and I can’t remember where I first saw it, but it may actually have been at TVBTN) that Community and some other sitcoms would be returning with similarly shortened orders. No announcement is planned on NBC’s other sitcoms until Monday, though it doesn’t look good for shows like Whitney (which is a guilty pleasure of mine). The link-baiting idiots at something called Opposing Views, a site nobody had heard of until today, are reporting that rumour as fact for… Continue Reading

The Good Wife: Season One

I’m a newcomer to the CBS legal drama The Good Wife, now in its third season. I’ve spent the last day and a half watching the first season from my sick bed. It was a combination of things that made me finally give in, despite the fact that a new network legal drama wasn’t particularly high up on my priorities. People whose opinions I respect say good things about the show, and then I saw some really great things said about it on PBS’s excellent recent documentary, America in Prime Time, so here we are. The premise is simple: Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has to return to the law in order to support her family after her philandering husband, Peter (played by Law & Order veteran Chris Noth), an Illinois state’s attorney, is disbarred and jailed for a sex/corruption scandal. Structurally, the show is divided into two slightly overlapping major… Continue Reading

Looking Ahead to 2012

I don’t do resolutions. Not because it’s a cliché; I sometimes think those are all right. Rather it’s because I just don’t ever stick to them. Things happen, blah blah blah. I could give you excuses, but that’s how things wind up going. So, inspired by Adrienne’s post (and obviously aping her post title) I’m going to say a few words about what I hope the new year has in store. First of all, I’m going to get a new job. This really isn’t optional, since I’ve just been freelancing since August (and I’m definitely going to be doing more of that; I’ve already been doing some freelance editing this year, and I’ve been back from the holidays for less than a week), but at this point anyway, it’s not paying the bills. I’m trying to keep optimistic, but this is honestly going to be simultaneously the hardest and the… Continue Reading

Dear NBC: An Open Letter Regarding the Fate of Community

Dear NBC: I am a book critic by trade, but deep down, I’m also a TV person. I watch an enormous amount of television, and have since I was young. But I don’t watch uncritically. I think TV has taken over from the movies as the place to go for the best in filmed entertainment, but aside from a handful of legacy programs, I have largely migrated from the shows created by over-the-air networks to those produced by cable channels. For a time I had given up on the sitcom entirely. Community changed that. It’s the smartest, funniest, most inspiring half-hour comedy that NBC—or any network—has produced since the demise of NewsRadio, and is single-handedly responsible for restoring my faith in the sitcom as a format where good work can be done, and where innovation can still happen. The writing is stellar, the cast is the tightest ensemble on TV… Continue Reading