Archive for September, 2023


The Pudding has an insightful little visual essay about the ongoing epidemic of loneliness. Socialization was understandably hit hard by the pandemic, but we still haven’t recovered to our previous levels. Lack of socialization can lead to a downward spiral, explained here:

in a cruel twist, loneliness makes us feel more threatened by social interactions – the very thing we need. So we crawl deeper into isolation, creating a cycle of loneliness. Former US surgeon general Vivek Murthy writes: “Over time, this vicious cycle may convince us we don’t matter to anyone and that we’re unworthy of love.”

View the article →

Thanks, Lee!

Is Homework Good for Kids?

Artwork by Doug Rodas

The other day someone asked me if my 10 year-old son enjoyed the fact that his school has a no-homework policy. My answer was ‘no, he doesn’t appreciate it. He’s never had it any other way’. I’m far from believing that the next generation isn’t grateful, but this is honestly the way things should be. My son is less stressed and has a lot more time to spend with his parents and friends, while still being a good student and getting a lot out of school.

Anne Thériault writes for the Walrus:

Kralovec tells me that there is no benefit to homework for elementary school students at all. A meta-analysis published in 2006 by Harris M. Cooper, distinguished professor emeritus at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, looked at all of the homework research that had been done in the United States between 1987 and 2003 and found that homework had “no association with achievement gain” in students from kindergarten through grade five.

Read the whole Article →

Lookout by Martin Puryear

Photo by Amir Hamja

This stunning new sculpture at Storm King uses traditional African brick-laying techniques:

It uses a technique known as Nubian vaulting, developed thousands of years ago in the Upper Nile delta. Mudbricks can be laid at an angle rather than in the typical flat orientation, and the technique requires a fast-setting mortar.

The beautiful structure reminds me of an igloo, which obliges me to link to Doug Wilkinson’s unbelievable 1949 NFB film How to Build an Igloo.

Read More about Lookout →

Spaghetti Monster

Street art by unknown artist.

Dog Does Parkour

Title says it all.

Movie: They Live

This campy 1998 John Carpenter movie starring wrestler (Rowdy) Roddy Piper was a pure delight from start to finish. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet has some themes of media manipulation and people selling out the future of humanity to make a quick buck resonate more than I wished they did.

And the alien makeup, seen above, and only visible in the movie to characters wearing special sunglasses, still looks incredible. This movie is worth tracking down—rental on AppleTV was the only way I managed to find it.

Detroit Tiny Houses

Photos by Sarah Rice for NYT

The New York Times has an interesting piece about tiny houses being used to house people in need in Detroit. The houses are all different, and rented in a rent-to-own model that eventually end up being owned entirely by the occupants:

Gladys Ferguson, who is in her 60s and has severe arthritis, rents Cass’s yellow gabled house for $350 a month. (Seven years of her accumulated rent will eventually finance her outright purchase of the property.) “It’s just a gorgeous little thing,” she said. When she first entered the house for a preview, shortly before she moved in a few years ago, she sneaked away for a nap in the tucked-away bedroom. “That was the most serene thing you’ve ever seen,” she said.

While I don’t think this is the sort of solution that would be ideal in Montréal, which needs its own housing needs addressed through denser apartments, I appreciate that it’s a good solution for a sprawl-ier city like Detroit.

Read the Full Article Here →

The Boy and the Heron Teaser

A teaser for Hayao Miyazaki’s upcoming film, his first since 2013.

Do You Remember Being Born?

The first time I heard about language-based AIs, I was sitting in a beautiful Montréal park, and friend of Elsewhat Sean started talking about what AI could do with language. This was years before GPT got its “chat” prefix and became the sensation it has since become. I remember being baffled by hearing about GPT could take long strings of text and near-instantly rewrite them in a different style, or summarized shorter, or expanded, or just write from scratch. I felt somewhat in awe of the description of this technology, which took a few more years to go mainstream, but the impression he gave was that this was going to have a big impact on society.

Sean was then, and continues to be, way in advance of other artists in his understanding, and use of AI. This novel, years and years in the making, is testament to that. It feels like it could not be timed any better—Right as people are discussing what AI will do to art, here comes a beautiful book about, and partially written by AI.

The book follows a successful poet in her mid-seventies, Marian Ffarmer, as she’s commissioned by a California big-tech company to collaboratively write a piece of poetry with the company’s cutting edge language-based AI, Charlotte. Marian is a beautifully rendered character, and her eccentric, mischievous manner makes her a perfect foil to the polished technocrats at the big California computer company.

This book is excellent, and a very timely contribution to the debate on how AI impacts art. The New York Times gave a glowing review, and I agree. This is a thoughtful work, which simultaneously looks back at the long life of an artist as she navigates a new technology, created in a few short years, which will forever change the craft she’s taken her lifetime to master.

It’s also, importantly, not a work that tries to predict the long arc of where the technology will go, or the possible impacts it might have on society. It’s foremost about the artist, and her act of using tech in creating something which was, until now, quintessentially human.

Buy the Book (Canada) →
Buy the Book (US) →

Commercial to Residential Conversions

99% Invisible has a very timely episode of their podcast about all the ins and outs of converting commercial high-rises into much-needed housing. New York is hardly alone in having simultaneous vacant office buildings while not having enough places for people to live. According to 99% Invisible:

Right now, in Manhattan, 18% of office space is vacant. At the same time, the city of New York has a major housing problem, with more than 100,000 people using the municipal shelter system.

The above-pictured 25 Water St is an example of a recent conversion.

My neighbourhood is filled with empty storefronts which have been vacant for years. I’d love to see Montréal incentivize the owners of these buildings to turn them into apartments.

Listen to the Episode Here →

Photo by Michael Young (Source)