Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

Author: Jonathan Crowe Page 1 of 19

Jonathan Crowe blogs about maps at The Map Room and reviews science fiction for AE. His sf fanzine, Ecdysis, was a two-time Aurora Award finalist.

Movie Night of the Cooters

George R. R. Martin paused his journey into the sun to report that Howard Waldrop’s classic story “Night of the Cooters”—in which the Martians of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds invade a small town in Texas whose sheriff has a passing resemblance to Slim Pickensis being made into a short film, with Vincent d’Onofrio directing and starring. Shot on green screen, with effects to follow during a lengthy post-production; I suspect we ought not to expect great things from this. But the fact that any Waldrop story is being filmed in any fashion—that’s noteworthy.

Snakes on a Plane, 15 Years Later

Today is the 15th anniversary of the release of that snakesploitation film masterpiece, Snakes on a Plane. Only it was about as far away from a masterpiece as you could get. On io9, Sean Lussier looks back at the hype, the disappointment and the motherfucking snakes. “The actual ‘snakes on a plane’ part of the movie is great, but the idea itself is so absurd and so small, it takes way too long to set up, and no time at all to fix, leaving a movie with a boring beginning, amazing middle, and disappointing ending.” As I noted at the time, you could tell where the over-the-top bits—the MF-bombs, the nudity, the gross-out scenes—were spliced into what was otherwise a flat and forgettable film.

Transcollines Updates Its Schedules

I noticed when Transcollines revamped the Pontiac bus service that it was making a play for passengers attending school or college; they’ve now updated their online and printed schedules to make that pitch more explicit, with schools and colleges highlighted on each line schedule. Additionally we get detailed maps showing the lines’ exact routes, and bus stops in the city, so it’s much clearer where to wait for the bus. Which is useful for Line 910, the route to/from here, because I couldn’t be certain from the original map where the bus went (especially in the city) or where you should catch it.

Two Maclean’s Pieces

On the eve of another federal election, where we’ll be asked to choose between the feckless, the disingenuous and the mendacious, here are two thoughtful pieces from Maclean’s that offer more light than heat.

Paul Wells looks at Justin Trudeau’s mixed record on the world stage, which was dominated by COVID-19, quarrels with China, and dealing with Trump and NAFTA. “It’s been a brutal half-decade, and the Trudeau government handled much of it with a grim focus that produced good results.”

Jen Gerson questions why Canadian political parties are so quick to ditch their leaders after just one election. “Parties are treating their leaders like pump-and-dump penny stocks. Dear Leader is expected to perform, and to deliver results, with their success measured by whatever metric their membership values; power, influence, material resources, electoral advances, or simple moral chattel. Assessing a leader’s performance by these metrics, on these timelines, is as bloodless and shortsighted as reciting an earnings-before-taxes balance on a quarterly dividend statement.”

Tyrannosaurs Were Multiniche Predators

Albertosaurus diorama
Albertosaurus diorama, Royal Tyrell Museum, 27 Dec 2008.

Riley Black, writing for Smithsonian magazine, reports on new findings that tyrannosaurs dominated their ecosystems because juveniles and adolescents operated in different ecological niches. “The differences between adult and adolescent tyrannosaurs were so great that the animals almost lived like different species, pushing out mid-sized carnivores in a prehistoric takeover.” So instead of smaller carnivorous dinosaurs hunting smaller prey, you had younger tyrannosaurs.

Some Excitement at a Former Address

It’s weird seeing your old apartment building in the news, even weirder when it does so repeatedly. In the nearly two decades since we lived at 200 Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes, it has had all kinds of coverage due to its increasingly decrepit condition. The 15-storey apartment block was bought by new owners last November; said new owners have been trying to get the current tenants to move out in order to renovate the building. Some tenants have been pushing back against what they see as a renoviction, and won their initial challenge at the tribunal. The owners are trying again, making four-figure offers to the holdout tenants; hearings at the Tribunal administratif du logement are being held this month. [Most links in French.]

Goodreads Is a Cesspool

Time sheds light on the toxic cesspool that Goodreads has become: “Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of ‘review bombing’ their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.” Social spaces need moderation, in which Goodreads is woefully deficient. Platforms become vectors for bad behaviour not because they’re popular, but because they’re vulnerable.1 Combine that with authors feeling that they have no choice but to have a Goodreads presence (or a social media presence in general), and this is what you get.

Rabbit Island

My third review for Strange Horizons, which looks at Elvira Navarro’s short story collection Rabbit Island (Two Lines Press, 2021) is now online. “In eleven relatively short stories—the book is only 164 pages long—Rabbit Island draws on the fantastic to offer a bleak look at contemporary Spain; its arrival in English translation comes at a point where it is unexpectedly pertinent.”

Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books | Bookshop

‘Art as a Mirror, Never as a Doorway’

Lincoln Michel’s response to the Isabel Fall controversy (previously) has a sharp point about the tendency toward what he calls puritan readings of art. “Art needs criticism to thrive, and there is certainly plenty of hateful, racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted (or just badly made) art out there quite deserving of our scorn. But there is a difference between criticism and harassment. There is a difference between attacking bigotry and in demanding that art be unambiguous is its moral messaging. There is a difference between art—beautiful, strange, complex, and messy art—and Goofus and Gallant comic strips.”

TimeMachineEditor

TimeMachineEditor is a small Mac app that enables you to schedule Time Machine backups at intervals of your choosing. This solves a very particular problem: your choices with Time Machine are hourly backups or initiating them manually, and hourly can be a problem when Time Machine backups take the better part of an hour to complete. Because of this I’ve been backing up at the end of each evening, which actually works well for me, but it’s good to know that an automated option still exists.

Cat Pictures Made Pleasing

Cat pictures may well be nigh-ubiquitous on these here interwebs (see also: my various photo feeds) but there’s an art to it, one that Serbian photographer Zoran Milutinovic has made his specialty. He shares some tips on effective cat photography in this blog post for 500px, most of which boil down to waiting for cats to do their cat things, and not trying to force or rush them. Which, well, yes.

The ‘Make-Believe Positivity’ of Self-Help Books

Ed Zitron calls the self-help book industry a “delusional scam”: “[T]hese books are written for and geared toward a very specific audience of privileged individuals who have their life decisions affirmed and their failures explained away. The specific assumption they make is that everybody comes from the same sort of background—that they communicate in the same way, that they grow up the same way, and that, much like the world of advice articles and hustle culture, your failure to succeed is only a result of you not working hard enough.”

Some Weekend Reading

The rekindling of Fireside magazine (Andrew Liptak, Transfer Orbit): “Now, Fireside is looking to right the ship. After the controversy broke, Brian White, the magazine’s original founder and former Editor-in-Chief, stepped in as the publication’s Interim Editorial Director to save the publication, and is now implementing some new changes to try and steer the magazine back to sustainability.”

Queer readings of The Lord of the Rings are not accidents (Molly Ostertag, Polygon): “Revisiting the book in the last year, as someone who has been out for many years and who is deeply engaged in making and consuming queer stories, I was amazed to find a same-sex love story at the heart of the narrative.” Frodo and Sam: obvious in hindsight—and, here’s the thing, it was not necessarily not deliberate on Tolkien’s part.

How Twitter can ruin a life (Emily VanDerWerff, Vox): “In January 2020, not long after her short story ‘I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter’ was published in the online science fiction magazine Clarkesworld, Fall asked her editor to take the story down, and then checked into a psychiatric ward for thoughts of self-harm and suicide.” I’m not sure Twitter is to blame here, rather than an online sf community that’s gotten comfortable with punching down for great justice. On the other hand:

Did Twitter break YA? (Nicole Brinkley, Misshelved): Young-adult writers have turned to Twitter to connect with their audience; this has not turned out well. “Relying on Twitter to shape a culture like YA publishing inevitably leads to a moment where the most vulnerable participants in that industry will break. Either they become part of the rage machine, or the rage machine turns on them.”

We’re a Little Behind on Vaccination

The good news in the Pontiac is that there hasn’t been a single new case reported here since the 18th. The less good news is that our vaccination rates could be a bit better. The Outaouais in general lags behind Quebec: only 66.3 percent have received at least one dose as of yesterday. Compare that to 71 percent of the entire Quebec population, or 80 percent of those 12 and up (who can actually get vaccinated right now).

Here in the Pontiac, only five municipalities have vaccination rates greater than the regional rate of 66.3 percent: Île-du-Grand-Calumet, Bristol, Thorne, Clarendon and Otter Lake range from 72.1 percent to 69.4 percent. Two small municipalities—Chichester and Waltham—have rates under 50 percent. The larger municipalities are in the high fifties and low sixties: Fort-Coulonge is 59.5 percent, Shawville is at 61.6 percent, and Mansfield-et-Pontefract is at 66 percent. Pontiac-the-Municipality, which if you remember is not part of the Pontiac MRC, is at 60.9 percent. Gatineau, for comparison, is at 64.1 percent.

The Art of Swedish Typewriter Maintenance

I have recently become obsessed with Facit typewriters. Made in Sweden, with the most unusual carriage rail and tab mechanisms, they’re impressive machines that are an absolute joy to type on, but they’re not necessarily the easiest to work on. I’ve acquired two Facit portables so far and each has one or two issues that we’re a bit scared to tackle because of the Facit reputation for being difficult to repair. At least neither suffers from the dreaded “frozen Facit” issue (where the typewriter’s original lubricant has hardened and seized up the escapement), but there’s a fix for that, which Nick describes here and Tony has put to use: repeated applications of solvent to dissolve the old lubricant. As for other issues, Ted Munk has posted a PDF copy of a Facit repair manual, which is helpful but doesn’t cover older models or every exigency. Charles has posted tutorials on how to remove a Facit portable’s carriage—which we’d all been warned not to do—and how to remove its platen. All of which help, but more is needed.

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