057: The word for world is forest


Verbatim

There’s this pall that settles over a city as the realisation settles in that – just as the communities preyed upon have been pleading for a long time – a serial killer has been stalking its streets. That’s us here in Toronto right now, where the emerging details of Bruce McArthur’s string of gruesome murders in our gay village over nobody-yet-knows-how-many-years are increasingly horrific and unfathomable. For Hazlitt, Anthony Oliveira gracefully, and forcefully, wrestles with the shock of it all, with the city’s queer community’s long history of tension with police, and with life, beyond the parades, still very much on the margins.

“We looked for him in the heat, in the rain, and in the snow,” Shelley Kinsman says. Attend enough press conferences and you learn the strange synesthetic habit of a sudden burst of photos when the subject says something useful—as though the image captured could be made at all congruent to what striking thing was said. A sound like a group of bats taking flight as cameras go off: heat, rain, snow—that was everyone’s favourite pull-quote. A family in suffering, scouring for their prodigal brother lost in the big city.

I have yet to find an article that quoted what Kinsman said next: “We found homeless men living in tents. We met a transgender person afraid of living in a shelter as she had been assaulted and robbed. She lived under a bridge. We bought her lunch. We saw a young man sleeping under a bridge surrounded by bottles. In the forest we found needles and more. We never found Andrew.”


Things

We’ve touched on the tractor hackers before – farmers who’ve had to learn how to circumvent DRM on their new vehicles just to do the kind of basic maintenance that’s always been necessary out in the field. This short new Motherboard documentary is a great introduction to the world of Nebraska farmers who’ve become unlikely pirates fighting for the “right to repair”.

Stewart Resnick, the biggest farmer in America, probably doesn’t spend too much time tinkering with his John Deere. The scale of his holdings across the American west are immense. But as this epic California Sunday report from Mark Arax tells it, the growth of his empire is matched only by its increasing demands on a diminishing water table, and a reckoning is coming.

That said, it’s not like societies stretching their irrigated agricultural systems beyond the limits will ever just, you know, go too far and collapse, only to disappear from history into overgrown jungle, their remnants emerging millennia later to the bafflement of historians and scientists busy learning all these things all over again, is it? Of course that would never happen.

How have the egalitarian ideals of the user-centric, open web survived the rise of monopolistic tech giants? It’s because they still need our data to train AI. But not for long, says Evgeny Morozov. Then, as the tide of fake news rises, they’ll play the saviour and sell our data back to us in the form of Smart news filters, or leave us to drown in shitposts and auto-generated Peppa Pig videos, the exhaust of their learning machines.

As our crises escalate—from distraction to misinformation, hate, and corruption—the hypothetical value of a data-driven counterbalancing force rises more sharply than that of a pumped altcoin. And, like the crypto ICO scams it disavows, Facebook would rather fan the flames and let it ride than cash out. To do so, Facebook has not only co-opted the broad notion of the public forum, Zuckerberg has also hijacked the specific rallying cry of one of his most outspoken critics.

Alright, this all got apocalyptic, didn’t it? Can we escape to space then? Hmm. In conclusion, it’s incredibly difficult to land on the Moon.” Who knew?

God bless the Toronto Public Library, and also all the libraries as smart as them, including hopefully whichever is close to you. As the TPL announces its integrating Kanopy’s 30,000-strong movie catalog for free digital streaming (including, soon enough, the entire monumental archive of Fred Wiseman’s documentaries), alongside Hoopla, the Criterion collection and all the various actually good free ebook and magazine lending services it offers, we just wanted to say: guys, libraries are great!

A closer look at Adam Smith, the supposed granddaddy of free-market economics, suggests he wasn’t quite. Get ye educated.

How many of your Twitter followers are real?

We’ve been struggling for words worth saying about the incomparable Ursula K. Le Guin, who died last week. There are few writers who’ve meant more to us, or should mean more to the world, than she. So, look, in this issue filled with environmental and technological apocalypta, we’ll just leave you with these two wonderful conversations from various stages of her career, with John Freeman at Lit Hub, and with Michael Silverblatt back in the early nineties on the still wonderful Bookworm. Also, here’s a writing lesson and a warning. And we’ll never tire of this classic razzing of Michael Chabon and those who refuse to take genre seriously.


The reason there was no Basically at the top this week wasn’t because nothing happened in this calm world of ours, but because Anna was busy launching a new thing! You can check it out at at 4.20 or any other time, or even read about it at The Hollywood Reporter. Buckslip fam is a proud fam.

Meantime, we finally got around to getting ourselves on the ’gram and on Twitter. We’re told this is important for our personal brands, so do please feel free to follow and tweak our engagement metrics.