Makers by Cory Doctorow

It’s about time I started reading some of the work by Cory Doctorow, the prolific near-future prognosticator who famously co-started Boing Boing. He’s written a heap of books written about the future just-around-the-corner, and he backs it up with insights gleaned from his deep connections to internet and nerd culture.

Makers moves between connected characters: Suzanne the tech journalist;¬† Perry and Lester, mad inventors squatting in a junkyard in Florida; Landon and Tjan, business-people trying to spin Perry and Lester’s ideas into profitable enterprise. Along the way they struggle with the law, find love, and transform the world economy.

It sounds like it’s written for me, but I didn’t feel much chemistry here. While there were aspects to Makers that I really enjoyed, on the whole I found the book took a lot of effort to pick up – particularly during the second half, which is mired in legal battles that even the characters themselves find boring. There’s some small-world issues that make the story feel a little implausible – this single pair of inventors’ creations keep meeting enormous success, yet they’re universally unrecognized despite being worshipped as the faces of the New Work economy on the most popular blog in the world. Weirdly – although he spells out radical changes in the short term, the more he spins out into the future the more difficulty he seems to have getting away from the present.

Things I liked? Doctorow’s mining a rich vein of influences in his descriptions of the imminent future. Network clustered Tickle-me-elmo swarms. Goth Disneyworld. The radical metabolic Fatkins diet. There’s a lot of gold nuggets strewn throughout the text, but you’ve got to work for them. I particularly dig some of the notions he puts forward about squatter communities, hacking hardware and emergent storytelling. Maybe worth a read – but if you ask me about it I can just summarize all the good bits for you. ūüôā


A Slough of Reviews

I’ve been on airplanes a lot lately, getting caught up on my movies-to-watch list. ūüôā

The Maze Runner –¬†Garbage¬†: I was excited for this one since mazes are such a rich subject in fiction, there were so many places for this film to go.¬†The premise is really cool – kids keep appearing (by elevator) at the gates to a huge maze with no memory of¬†their purpose, and there’s a kind of lord-of-the-flies maze-cult society that emerges.¬†I hate giving a bad rating because there were lots of things I really liked about this film, but the big twist reveal at the¬†end was so, so¬†incredibly bad that I felt it ruined the whole thing.

Guardians of the GalaxySuper Fun : If you haven’t already seen it, I thought this was the best spectacle film of the summer. The writing is snappy and fun, the action sequences are well thought out and hilarious, and the visual effects are bombastic. There’s a bit of material in here that I’d be hesitant to show to a young kid, but it’s pretty intelligent humour and there’s some real heart in the film.¬†Hollywood take note: this is the first example of a comic book film I can think of where the origin story of all of the characters doesn’t take up the first hour – we’re willing to take a talking tree, bipedal raccoon, warrior princess and beserker at face value (and even care for them). Please please stop retelling the origin of Spider-Man.

The Italian (L’Italien) –¬†So good : This is a very clever French fish-out-of-water situation comedy about an Algerian muslim man who, in an effort to avoid discrimination, pretends to be an Italian while living in France. The¬†ruse gets tricky to maintain when his father, from his hospital bed, begs him to observe Ramadan. For a film that has something serious to say about racism, this is way more fun than it ought to be. ūüôā The writing is hilarious, and the situations he gets into are totally absurd. Loved this one. Really good.

The Imitation GameReally great : This Hollywood adaptation of Alan Turing’s contributions to decrypting the Nazi ‘enigma’ codes was surprisingly watchable. Even as an¬†secret code¬†enthusiast I was expecting the material to be a little dry, but Alan Turing was such a compellingly eccentric character that there was lots of human story to tell. The film had a more than a few hollywoodisms – this shouldn’t be considered a bio-pic so much as a dramatization of events that really happened. But it was well put together, especially neat to see the replica¬†Cryptographic Bombe machine running.


We took an extended holiday in early January and hopped a plane to Las Vegas to take in some sun, shopping and spectacle! The strip is amazing! You can spend a week just drinking in all of the over-the-top sights – dancing fountains, roller coasters, volcanoes, ferris wheels, wax museums, pinball arcades, chunks of other cities reproduced in the desert in the middle of nowhere.

I’m so inspired by the technology behind all of the spectacle – it’s given me that push to figure out the little missing bits I’ve got to work out to do some spectacles of my own.


We stayed at the Paris! Las Vegas hotel – which was, in my opinion, a super lucky pick. The hotel was lovely, but more importantly it was situated almost right smack dab in the center of the strip, between Planet Hollywood, The Bellagio, and Bally’s, so we were in walking distance (and boy did we walk!) to just about everything. There’s a replica half-scale Eiffel tower out front, as well as an Arc de triomphe – it’s almost like being in the real Paris! ūüėČ The rooms were nice and clean though, and the service was pretty good. I’d definitely consider staying again!



I’m excited about Disney’s Tomorrowland movie! Though we’ve only seen the tiniest snippets, and it seems absurd to make a film around a theme park attraction (Ahem, Pirates of the Caribbean) I’ll go see it if only to support the first optimistic view of the future we’ve seen on film in a loooong time.

Even Star Trek, the last holdout of do-gooder diplomacy in space, in recent iterations seems to have gone fairly dystopian to compete with the endless stream of bleak grey post-apocalyptic visions we’re subjected to in theatres now. Don’t get me wrong – I fully support arena-based death-sports for teenagers, I’d just like to mix it up a little bit with some blue skies and happy little trees now and then. ūüôā Tomorrowland looks (possibly!) like a breath of fresh air, and something to look forward to.


Sweet Cupcakes!

cupcakeNatasha and I made an unexpected stop at V’s Cupcake Shop while cruising around Manotick on my day off, and I wanted to share that not only were the cupcakes truly¬†decadent (this is me with a honey buttercream cupcake that was scrumptious) but the d√©cor was really cute too. If you’re in town to visit the butcher, plan to make a stop next door, and bring along a friend who likes chocolate!

Alma Duncan – Circle Packing

I discovered a cool artist at the Ottawa Art Gallery! Her name was Alma Duncan, and she was a gifted creator who mastered many artistic disciplines. Mixed among the nature images and portraits, I almost missed the personal significance of her “dot drawings” until I walked right up to them – then my eyes widened, and I realized I’d seen this before. Among her many subjects, Alma was fascinated by circle packing, freehand, with a pen. The results are gorgeous – I think they’re incredible. This is just a tiny, blurry excerpt from a series of quite large pieces – they have such a beautiful flow and rhythm I can’t take my eyes off them.

I wish I’d gotten a chance to know her, but she passed away in 2004. I bet she would have found some of my experiments intriguing.