Nightmare Rectangle Round-up: Municipal Finance, Black Widows, Migrants, and More

Header: This image from Lisa Jackson’s Biidaaban depicts a decaying Toronto City Hall surrounded by forest, on the edge of a flooded Nathan Phillips Square.

Trying a bit of a new thing. I occasionally do linkdumps via Twitter threads, but I felt like doing something more permanent. Title inspired by this ever-relevant @TechnicallyRon tweet:

Continue reading Nightmare Rectangle Round-up: Municipal Finance, Black Widows, Migrants, and More

Park aside

A spring afternoon in Trinity-Bellwoods, at a picnic table with a small bottle of Coke and fries with pepper mayo from Chippy’s. Perfect weather, and the time of day when the sun is so golden it hurts.

Just finished reading Cary Fagan’s City Hall & Mrs. God (Mercury Press, 1990), a vivid tour through Toronto’s richest and poorest echelons as they race further away from each other. Pre-amalgamation. A lot has changed, a lot hasn’t. There are many familiar names.

A trio of chirping robins descends on me, sensing uneaten fries. In the shade of the trees the tightrope walkers are practising.

I ought to be writing things. Most immediately, an ebook on internet privacy, but also just stuff in general, like that essay on urbanism and liberation theology I’ve been meaning to prod into shape. Right now everything is building up to the AMC. After that I can catch my breath.

A sombre What I’m Reading

Pat Capponi, Upstairs in the Crazy House (1992)

A memoir of the author’s post-institutionalized life in one of Parkdale’s infamous boarding houses, with flashbacks to her abusive childhood and the roots of her depression. She chronicles poverty, fleas, abandonment, addiction, and the determination to assert one’s humanity in the face of a system bent on denying it.

Capponi has since become a prominent mental health and housing advocate here in Toronto, making the city a little more humane. Once, after a spell of suicidality, I was able to stay in the Gerstein Centre which she had a hand in establishing. It helped restore the dignity that the P. E. S. U. strips away from you; I’ll always be grateful.

Stevie Cameron, On the Farm (2010)

The book on the Pickton case. Seriously, there’s nothing I’ve read about in the news from the ongoing inquiry that isn’t in On the Farm.

Cameron focuses on the lives and personalities of the missing women throughout, an emphatic unspoken assertion that they were not “disposable”, they were not worthless, they were talented and vivacious and loving and loved women—their relatives fought for years to get the Vancouver police to take the disappearances seriously. In some cases the VPD flat-out lied to the families to get them to go away; and upper brass refused to let top profiler Kim Rossmo help investigate. To the VPD, women who were poor and addicted and prostitutes and (it’s impossible to deny this had an influence) Native weren’t worth finding.

(Slutwalk is happening right now; stayed in and wrote this up instead. Is SW relevant to impoverished mentally ill women? To addicted Native women in sex work? I suspect not but I’d love to be proven wrong.)

The triumphant return of What I’m Reading

James Blish, Black Easter (1968) and The Day After Judgement (1971)

So it’s a Cold War Earth pretty much like our own once was, except magic (in the grimoire tradition) is totally real and this one guy hires a sorcerer to loose a whole bunch of demons into the world for one night, just to see what happens. (I’m getting the sense that believable motivations are not James Blish’s strong point.) Naturally, it backfires and brings about the end of the world. In the second book, this guy and his buddies take a road trip to Hell, and shit gets cosmic. This may have already become one of my favourite books. More substantial post later, hopefully.

Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games (1988)

Yes! I finally started reading the Culture novels! In this one, our gamer hero (a totally cis straight guy, an anomaly in the Culture) goes to a barbaric brutal empire to play the Ultimate Game. It feels like a good entry point into the series, as the Empire of Azad is relatively Earthlike and so Gurgeh’s outsider viewpoint allows for indirect exposition about the Culture. However, I’m looking forward to reading novels that take place wholly in the Culture to see how Banks does compelling stories in a post-scarcity, post-all-those-plot-generating-bad-things society.

Brent Hayward, The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter (2011)

It’s science fiction in a fantasy mode full of unsympathetic characters and machine intelligences and stuff! It’s like Gormenghast crossed with a classic generation ship story! Theoretically I should have loved this, and while I think Hayward did some truly masterful world-building, flitting through a dizzying variety of viewpoints and cultures while creating a very distinct cohesive feel, said world, for me, wasn’t all that fun to spend time in. It’s so unrelentingly dirty and grotesque and downtrodden that I feel like I should take a shower afterwards and read something fluffy and shiny. Perhaps his debut Filaria will be more to my taste.

It would make a pretty kick-ass videogame, though.

so i herd u liek mudkips: Notes on James Blish’s A Case of Conscience

Pondering priest, big dinosaur holding a test tube or something.
Never mind the dinosaur holding a test tube, I'm still trying to figure out this bit from Finnegan's Wake.

A Case of Conscience is a weird little book from the 50’s. It’s aged badly. It holds together well in the sense that when I began imagining what would have to be changed for the story to make sense, I had to give it up because the end product would have been unrecognizable.

If you’d like a synopsis, see Wikipedia; for an insightful review of A Case of Conscience I refer you to Jo Walton’s review. If you’d like to read my disjointed, pop-culture-saturated ramblings, click through.

Continue reading so i herd u liek mudkips: Notes on James Blish’s A Case of Conscience