2020, Books

The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values (2020) by Brian Christian

The Alignment Problem is just an excellent book about the state of AI philosophy and ethics at the beginning of the 2020s. Because it’s more about ethical and philosophical problems, than technological ones, it’s much more in my wheelhouse. But I think that these questions are extremely important. And Christian just does an excellent job …

2001

The Swimming Hour by Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire (2001)

I know very little about Andrew Bird. I actually thought he was a jazz musician, confusing him with, um, another Andrew. (Andrew Hill, apparently, which seems ridiculous.) Anyway, eventually I did figure out he was an “indie rock” musician but knew nothing else. Nothing about his principal instrument, nothing about the Squirrel Nut Zippers, nothing.

1996, Music

To the Faithful Departed (1996) by The Cranberries

I know this is not “the big one” but I was actually surprised how many of the singles from this record which I remembered, dare I say almost fondly. (I guess this means I’m getting old enough to just be happy to hear the music of my teens, even when I didn’t like it at …

2021, Hockey, Personal, Sports, The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

A Toronto Maple Leaf Has Won a Major NHL Award

Auston Matthews has won the Rocket Richard Trophy. It is the first time since the trophy’s creation that a Leaf has won the Richard Trophy. It is the first time since 1947 that a Maple Leaf has led the NHL in goal scoring. That is 74 years. Nearly a three quarters of a century. Matthews …

1996, Music

Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite (1996)

So full disclosure: I barely remembered Maxwell’s existence when this anniversary came up. I knew the name but I couldn’t even tell you what kind of R&B he was associated with. I now understand that what he’s doing on this record was distinct from the dominant form of R&B at the time but, all these …

2021, Movies

Taming the Garden (2021, Salomé Jashi)

You know that scene in Fitzcarraldo when Herzog drags a boat over a mountain the rainforest to show the hubris and folly of man? Well, combine that theme with Mega Movers and a really great eye and you have some idea of this amazing documentary about a man buying up the great trees of Georgia …

2021, Movies

Dirty Tricks (2021, Daniel Sivan)

This is an entertaining and fairly even-handed documentary about a bridge cheating scandal back in 2015. It’s a fascinating story reminiscent of that recent poker scandal where the player claimed to be using his intuition and those who accused him claimed he couldn’t be so lucky.

1991, Music

Cooleyhighharmony (1991) by Boyz II Men

I began to mature as a music fan in a world where Boyz II Men were ubiquitous. It felt like you couldn’t avoid them because, unlike so many other artists on the music video channels I watched, they were also played in malls, in doctor’s offices, everywhere.

2021, Movies

El Silencio del Topo (2021, Anaïs Taracena)

This is an artfully made documentary about a journalist-turned-government-press-secretary, which reveals a lot of about a terrible time in Guatemala’s history that I just knew nothing about. It’s a little short on context despite the fact that it clearly assumes a lack of knowledge about Guatemalan history, but it is still a fascinating attempt to …

1991, Music

And Now the Legacy Begins (1991) by Dream Warriors

I have no memory of Definition, probably because I was not even 8 when it ended its run. But I certainly felt the reverberations because the moment “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style” came on, I knew it. I’m not sure I had ever connected it and the theme to Austin Powers before, as …

1991, Music

Blue Lines (1991) by Massive Attack

Is this the first ever trip hop album? My limited research suggests that yes, it absolutely is. There may have been some “Bristol sound” singles that presaged this record but nobody seems to have produced an LP. So, whatever you think of this album, and whatever you think of the term “trip hop,” there’s this …

1991, Music

Mama Said (1991) by Lenny Kravitz

I get why people like Lenny Kravitz. I think there was probably a time in my life when I could have quite liked Lenny Kravitz. (And maybe, for a while, I sort of did.) And maybe, had I not become the music history obsessive that I am, I would like him to this day. But …

2021, Movies

Dead Man’s Switch: a crypto mystery (2021, Sheona McDonald)

This is a hyper-stylized documentary about Quadriga, at one point Canada’s most popular cryptocurrency exchange. Somehow I completely missed this story as it happened, which is a little weird because I do pay some attention to tech stories and especially scams.

2021, Movies

Jobs for All (2021, Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck)

This is a short film which is basically a satire of the idea of “full employment” as a solution to our problems, as opposed to UBI or welfare. It’s not actually a documentary, as it is very much a satire and an advocacy film.

1981, Music

Don’t say No (1981) by Billy Squier

I’m pretty sure the first time I heard “The Stroke” was in an arena. I had no idea what it was and I couldn’t figure out why half the audience (at least) seemed to know the song. Too recent to be “classic rock” when I was growing up and too “rock” (I guess) for those …

1981, Music

Street Songs (1981) by Rick James

What I know about Rick James can basically be summed up in two things: “Super Freak” and Chappelle Show. And I really know “U Can’t Touch This” much better than Super Freak. Oh, I know a third thing: he was once in a band with Neil Young. (That’s actually true.) So I had no idea …

2004, Books, Fiction

All That Matters (2004) by Wayson Choy

This is an excellent and affecting portrait of growing up Chinese in Vancouver in the 1920s, through the Great Depression and into World War II. It’s one of those books I didn’t know I wanted to read until I read it, having only picked it up because I was aware he won the Order of …

2013, Movies

The Last Pogo Jumps Again (2013, Colin Brunton, Kire Paputts)

This is an exhaustive documentary about the Toronto punk scene in the late 1970s. It is nearly 3 and a half hours long -supposedly cut down form 5 hours – which means that it is probably only for people interested in the scene or in the history of Toronto. But if you’re interested in punk …

2001, Music

Musicforthemorningafter (2001) by Pete Yorn

It sure is a good thing I didn’t know anything about Pete Yorn and didn’t read any of the reviews about this album before I started listening to it. Because reading some of the breathless critical acclaim this received would have just about guaranteed that I wouldn’t have liked it. Fortunately, I listened first.