This is a great telling of the history of Jonovision, the show that thousands of Canadian millennials watched after school on public television while waiting for The Simpsons to come on. I was one of those kids, and I had special affection for Jonovision host Jonothan Torrens because he was the half-brother of a friend of mine. As the article explains, that’s part of what made Jonovision cool: it felt approachable, like something your friend’s friend might make.

I hadn’t fully appreciated Jonovision’s cultural impact until reading the article. This weird teen talk show can be credited with launching Sum-41 and Degrassi: The Next Generation (and, thereby, Drake).

The people of Vienna enjoy easy access to high-quality, affordable rental apartments. How did Austria figure it out?

In New York Times Magazine, Francesca Mari explains that it comes down to basic economics. Most Western countries subsidize housing by giving money directly to renters and homeowners, which only increases demand for housing, driving up prices and profits. In America, buying a house is more lucrative than working. Meanwhile, a third of Americans live in inadequate housing.

In Vienna, the government subsidizes the construction of “limited-profit housing,” which ensures that low-cost housing is available to almost anyone. That keeps prices low in the private housing market, too.

Why is housing in America so bad? Mari says it goes back to early American anti-Communism. After the Great Depression, Roosevelt needed to rebuild American housing, but he didn’t want to follow the socialist model of Austria. Instead, his government created huge subsidies for homeowners, including guaranteeing long-term mortgage loans for first-time buyers, which banks would otherwise never touch. This government money provided the fuel for the suburban housing boom after WWII. It also radically reshaped America’s demographic landscape, deepening segregation and inequality.

Over on Substack, my mom has published a call for everyone to embrace litter collection as the new cool trend in active living.

I retrofitted a perfectly good grocery buggy someone had abandoned and now use it for days when I want to take on an entire section of street. Do you live here?, an apartment dweller yells down from his balcony. No, I say, But I’m not picky, Garbage is garbage.

Litter’s not always the product of carelessness; it’s not necessarily the work of a deranged sociopath. Sometimes it’s bagged garbage that’s gotten loose, the victim of a hit and run or a strong wind, contents spilled and spreading. Someone has to deal with it. It won’t pick itself up, my mother would say.

A Google search for “what’s the word for picking up litter” informs me that it’s already starting to happen: Merriam Webster calls it “placking”, derived from the Swedish plogging (picking up litter while jogging) itself a portmanteau of plocka upp (Swedish for picking up) and jogging.

In December, I wrote about how artificial intelligence is automation, not magic. A new report says that ChatGPT labelers — workers who train the AI — are paid $15/hour. ChatGPT is an amazing technology, and that’s because of the laborers who have built it for a little more than minimum wage.

The CBC reports that the Manitoba Department of Justice has told incarcerated Indigenous women that they are no longer allowed to sell beadwork. In Canada, Indigenous women are twelve times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous women. In the prairies, they make up more than 50% of the female prison population. In 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women published a study on Indigenous women in federal prisons, which called for more cultural programming in prison that considers Indigenous women’s cultural and economic situations, to support their “ability to heal and rehabilitate.” For many Indigenous women, access to their culture “is the only “way to ground themselves and stay connected physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.” Said one witness in the report, “We have to stop thinking about [Indigenous women in prison] as bundles of risk or as behaviours to manage” — which feels like a good characterization of the justice minister’s rationale for eliminating the program: “it was causing concerns and security issues.”

While the DoJ decision demonstrates the reckless cruelty of the prison system, Mi’kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater has argued that reforms like the ones in the House of Commons report aren’t enough. “The overincarceration of Indigenous peoples in federal, provincial and territorial prisons in Canada today is nothing short of genocide… We must confront racism against Indigenous peoples head on and prevent incarceration in the first place.” We have to question a system that puts entire populations at at the mercy of negligent, reckless legislators.

One of the loneliest opinions I have is that Wes Anderson fell off after he stopped writing with Owen Wilson

@bornferal on Twitter

This is a glass-shattering moment for me.

© Sam Littlefair, 2023