There, and back again

Welcome back to The Jumpstack, the weekly newsletter where we’re taking a journey: into the lost, the forgotten, where we’re not allowed, and the dark hearts of nerds. Let’s jump in!

Nowhere man

I’m a sucker for a good Canadian mystery, and it seems one has been unfolding before our eyes: the case of Gerry Cotten, a bitcoin trader who died with the passwords to the client fund accounts disappearing with him.

This longread by Nathaniel Rich is one of twists and turns, and people who aren’t what they claim to be, with even the facts of the situation in doubt:

Additional investigations were begun by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the FBI; and at least two other law enforcement agencies that have not been publicly disclosed (though one of them is likely a federal agency in Japan). The most effective and thorough investigation to date, however, has been conducted by anonymous accounts posting on Twitter, Reddit, Pastebin, and Telegram. Their findings, though baroquely technical, could be distilled to a two-word conclusion: Gerry’s alive.

So, if you find yourself wishing the RCMP would dig up Gerry Cotten’s grave already, you’re in good company.

Not here, man

The Odyssey can be seen as a guide of do’s and don’ts for hospitality. This piece by Simon Winchester is one in which Ulysses learns a lesson for guests after they’ve departed.

As he provides us background on the curious island and its inhabitants, Winchester also reflects on his own lack of judgement thirty years ago which led to his banishment, and how his perception on the situation has changed over time:

We have an unceasing capacity to make ourselves nuisances, basically. Students of tourism science can and do construct elaborate theories from physics, of course, invoking such wizards as Heisenberg and the Hawthorne effect and the status of Schrödinger’s cat to explain the complex interactions between our status as tourist-observers and the changes we prompt in the peoples and places we go off to observe. But at its base is the simple fact that in so many instances, we simply behave abroad in manners we would never permit at home: we impose, we interfere, we condescend, we breach codes, we reveal secrets. And by doing so we leave behind much more than footfalls. We leave bruised feelings, bad taste, hurt, long memories.

This isn’t just applicable abroad, but also at home: the same attitudes and behaviours we exhibit here, but we’re less likely to reflect on our day to day interactions than the ones we have on holiday. Perhaps the best way to be a good guest or tourist is to be a good host and neighbour first.

Not here right now

But who are we neighbours with?

This interview with Tara Westover, by Jeffrey Goldberg, is about the American urban/rural divide. But there’s a lot that Canadians can identify with, particularly after our recent federal election.

As opinion pieces about western alienation and Wexit continue to be printed, and we now have a Minister of Middle Class Prosperity, it’s clear there is a division—and that we are unclear on how address it.

Part of the problem may be our capacity to retreat into our communities at the expense of engaging with other groups, and relying on self-affirming tropes until our ideas about others become caricature.

This isn’t an urban or rural issue—it’s actually both of those things:

You can get a better education in a city; you can learn more technical skills, and more about certain types of culture. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to believe that there are many ways a person can be parochial. Now I define parochial as only knowing people who are just like you—who have the same education that you have, the same political views, the same income.

When we no longer engage with people as individuals, but as concepts, our ability to connect and work together is compromised. But before we can actually engage, we require empathy—which means challenging the concepts we’ve invested ourselves in.

Right here, not now

I was mesmerized by this short film on Toronto from 90 years ago:

The city looks short and flat compared to today, and I cackled when the film boasted of skyscrapers as part of Toronto’s fame. Rush hour is only slightly less congested, and the streetcars fly by.

To see Toronto almost a century ago is to feel the ache of wanting to enjoy things you never had the chance to, like the Sunnyside Amusement Park. It leaves me wondering whether people in the 2100s will long for what we have now:

I expect they will laugh at our skyscrapers.

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