Derik Badman's Journal

September 2019

2019-09-01 08:12

Memory works in odd ways. I was reading a zine about a post-apocalyptic gothic role-playing game, Dirge of Urazya by Jack Shear that arrived in the mail the other day, and one of the adventuring group ideas was travelling entertainers. My memory flashed to a story of a woman in a travelling troupe doing Shakespeare in a post-apocalyptic midwest. I couldn't quite place it, then I thought of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven which I knew I had thought about reading for awhile, but I didn't think I had read it. But after I sat down at my computer and did some searching, it appears that is the novel I was thinking of and I must have read it. I can't really remember much of the plot at all...

2019-09-02 08:25

Spent most of the day yesterday working on the site design and generator. I don't usually write about work or coding, never really got into the habit of thinking about coding as something to write about, partially, I think, because in my old blog it was very topic focused and it was something (comics) I feel I have some expertise in. I've only recently been adjusting to the idea that I have expertise in coding, now that I've been doing it full time for over 9 years. It's weird, but understandable. I came to my job with very little experience, no formal schooling in the area, and then for most of the years was working, if not in isolation, not closely with any other developers. I worked on my app, they worked on theirs, and only occasionally did the two mix. But more recently work has become more formal as we've added more developers, so now I have colleagues I work with more closely, and there are more of us to ask questions and share information, and now I'm a "Senior Developer" and there are other developers who ask me questions or for help with problems, because I do have expertise in various areas (especially, javascript, accessibility, design, and I guess my php isn't as bad as I always think it is).

So among the things I worked on for the site yesterday was putting the layout into CSS Grid. I've not had a chance to try it out yet, mostly because at work I still have to support IE11, which means a lot of modern CSS I never get to use, and a lot of modern javascript I can only use in node (I never got around to doing any transpiling of the code in the app I work on). So this site is (was? depending on when you read this and what has changed) layed out with Grid. My only main issue was getting the grid rows to size the way I wanted. I set up grid-area for the main areas of the site (header, nav, article, footer, and what is now an aside tag, though I'm not sure that's the semantically appropriate tag) and then layed them out how I wanted them, but I keep having issues getting the one row to size to the height of the aside, rather than the article area, which spanned two rows. There was a lot of just trying various values for grid-template-rows in both Chrome and Firefox to see what worked.

One of the nicest things about the grid is how easy it was to adjust the layout for smaller screens, by shifting around the grid areas. Tons easier than any other method to move the nav and aside next to each other and between the header and article. I should share some code.

I also messed a bit with svg to add a little decoration to the header that works with the notebook paper theme I was riffing off of. My app at work uses very few images, mostly just icon fonts, so I have also not had much chance to work with svg. I'm still a little unsure about the resizing and aspect ratio elements, but by putting my svg into its own file and loading it via an img tag, that seemed to work. Nothing fancy, but, I've never really gone for fancy in web design. I do feel like I should finally read my web typography book and see what I can do about making the type as nice as possible.

Finished another James Tiptree Jr. story last night called "With Delicate Mad Hands", one of the longer ones in the collection I am reading. It starts out interesting and rather brutal about a woman who was born with a messed up, upturned nose (such that she is insultingly called "Pig") and who becomes a hyper-competent space worker. Yet she is insulted and abused and finally legally allowed to fly a ship, but denied by her current captain. He rapes her and she kills him and steals their ship. The narrative questions her sanity as she follows this feeling or thought about a distant world with a voice she has heard in the back of her head for years and years. When, flying into the emptiness of space, unsure if she will just die when her air runs out, she finds a planet and then aliens, the story starts to lose momentum. I struggled through too long passages describing the aliens and the planet and... It is a story that really needed some cutting at the end to tighten it up and stay focused on the theme.

2019-09-03 08:29

Managed to get the first week or so of journal entries up yesterday. I implemented a filter on the markdown plugin I'm using that I can use to redact words in my posts. If it finds the strikethrough tag (<s> in html, ~~ in markdown), it replaces all the tags content with the unicode "full block" &#2588 character. That makes it easy for me to see in the original what I wrote, but also make sure it doesn't show when rendered to html.

I'm already, despite no one seeing the site yet, a little trepidatious about the content. Maybe it is stupid to share these daily writings, with so much content that is more about me just writing it down than about me thinking anyone will care to read it. Or maybe it doesn't matter because no one will read it (was anyone reading my old blog anymore? Will any of those people care to read this, a much less focused site?). On the other hand, is it that different than sharing on a social network, other than perhaps that I am not curating myself quite as much as I would on say Instagram or Twitter (really the only two social networks I even occasionally use anymore).

Woke up in the night feeling kind of shitty, was awake for maybe an hour, and it hasn't totally passed yet this morning, a wonderful way to start the week. I do feel good about getting the site up, and we're headed to the beach for the weekend which I am excited about, as I didn't think we were going to make it this year. We usually go this coming week (it's quiet after labor day and all the kids have gone back to school), but with a wedding next weekend we couldn't get away for a whole week.

Found out our next door neighbors, who, between them, in five years, I have exchanged about 3 words with, moved out. Wish I knew someone who wanted to move in next door to us, as the house will be going up for sale soon.

2019-09-04 08:05

█████ came into town yesterday. I've been trying for awhile now to acclimate my brain to using their new name and the proper pronouns, it's like rewiring well-trod paths, and I feel I've gotten better at it, but of course last night I ended up using the wrong pronoun. I'm not sure they noticed since there were a few people talking simultaneously, but it's one of those things I immediately felt bad about.

I saw at least 4 spotted lantern flies yesterday around/on the house. They are kind of hard to miss, being large and partially bright red, but it does feel like an invasion. We don't have a lot of trees at our house, but it's getting to be the time I'll need to pay attention to the ones we do have for the eggs (not clear at this point what one does to kill the eggs if you find them attached to a tree).

At work I've been spending a long time converting the chat app I work on from a single server deployment using a lot of in memory storage, to a load balanced multi-server deployment that cannot completely use in memory storage. We are using Socket.io for handling the websockets with the fallback to xhr polling for those with older browsers (like many of our customers unfortunately), and I've been implementing an adaptor that uses Redis pubsub to handle communication between servers. Because the pubsub calls are asynchronous it's forced me to use a lot more asynchronous functions in the code. So I've been getting a crash course in Promises and async/await functions, which I had previously read about but not used much. Oddly, the hardest part at times was figuring out how to write decent unit tests for those functions. I still have a couple use cases where I just can't seem to get the unit tests to coverage certain situations (particularly the catch blocks). I do really enjoy working in node though, the freedom to not think about browser compatibility allows me to learn a lot of javascript that I have not otherwise been able to implement, such as Classes. I've been working on this issue (the load balancing) for more than a week now, I think I might have literally changed every file in the repository. Client testing is brutal too. Normal chat testing can be a total pain as I tend to have to open multiple tabs for operators and patrons in the chat, as well as a utility I have for monitoring logs. But with multiple servers, not yet load balanced, I also need to think about which connections are going to which servers, so I can make sure the cross-server communication is working. I am going to be so glad to be off all next week.

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███████ at work asked me for advice as a senior developer yesterday, which oddly synced with me thinking the other day (the 2nd) about finally feeling like I know what I'm doing. And now I'm realizing I need to code an easy way to link between entries on the site, so I don't have to try to type in links.

I've also been thinking about other/better ways to handle the tags and archives in the site, as right now, showing all the content for all the entries in a month or tagged with a specific tag can generate lots of text and will require those pages to update every time I add a matching entry. Trying to come up with an effective async way to handle those types of pages that won't require a server backend. I was thinking if the archives were only a basic framework that used routes to load the archives, I could return or store in the page just the references to the posts that fit the archive/tag, then I could load them asynchronously if I had a json representation of each entry (so each entry would have a html and a json version). I could even load as you scroll or something so it was just "load tons at once". Or just a "load more" button that grabs a few at a time.

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2019-09-05 08:11

Trying out this open source note app Joplin in place of Evernote. You can write in Markdown, which is what I am using for my site generator, so I might avoid some of the issues I have with Evernote and it autoformatting when I use some Markdown tags.

I woke up in the middle of the night and was suddenly very nervous about my next code release for work. Setting up this load balanced chat app is a major change to our code base and because of the realtime nature of chat, potentially very disruptive if something goes wrong. We don't do code releases in September (because of the start of the school year since a majority of our customers are educational institutions), so it will also be two months worth of code changes rather than just one. I really don't want to think about it and be stressed, but I also need to think about it so I can prepare for problems or rolling back if something goes very wrong.

I gave up on A Stranger in Olondria after about 50 pages. The writing is just too much, too descriptive for me, and that, the narrator's impressions of everything, seems very much the point of the novel (the plot is so far quite light). I wanted to like it, but it's either just not for me, or it's the wrong time for me to be reading it. On the other hand I finished another 2 James Tiptree Jr. stories from the collection I am reading. I'm still enjoying them, but the longer one felt like it had a lot of setup that didn't pay out in the end. There was all this political and personal strife going on with the crew of this longterm space voyage, with a lot of really interesting setup and concepts, but then the primary climax about this weird alien creature felt like it had very little connection to all that set-up, unless that maybe that was the whole point. That all the human cruft that concerned the characters, in the end, was pointless in the face of something... not human. Hmm, I actually like that, maybe that was the point.

So far this app is pretty smooth as a writing experience goes. Nice and clean, it does some highlighting for Markdown tags, and there is an optional preview pane. I'll have to see how syncing works with my phone and what exporting is like to get to the site generator.

2019-09-06 07:55

Lianne was getting her haircut last night, so I watched Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest one of those slow boring French movies. I had the vague idea I'd seen it long ago, but though the beginning felt vaguely familiar I didn't remember any of it. Either I imagined seeing it, or I only watched a few minutes of it (too boring maybe?). I'm not that familiar with Bresson, but I recently ordered Paul Schrader's book on Ozu, Bresson, and Dreiser, so I thought I'd familiarize myself with him. This particular film was pretty damn slow. It felt old, not like a classic Hollywood old, but like pre-film old. Even the setting looked as if were the 18th or 19th century, only belied by a scene or two with old cars, and 1 scene with a motorcycle. Visually it has the feel of a play, not necessarily because it was shot from a fixed point or because the camera didn't move, but it was almost always one shots and two shots, lots of close-ups of faces, only a few scenes showing landscape or even whole rooms. Everything felt enclosed, punctuated by the occasional walk or ride. Perhaps that is thematically relevant to the protagonists stifled life and slow death suffering, or perhaps that is just Bresson's style, I have to see more to know. The narrative is punctuated (per the title) by visuals of the priest writing in his diary and accompanying narration of the words. These, along with the constant fades (and cross-fades, I guess) between scenes give the plot a fractured feel, time becomes indeterminate.

Narratively, the story is strongly religious (Catholic, of course), which I believe is also symptomatic of Bresson's movies. A dream-like quality also adhers throughout partly due to the fragmented scenes, but also because logic often feels missing from some of the character actions. Everyone seems to think badly of the priest for not totally clear reasons, and it becomes a sort of absurd persecution, which I guess also fits in with his sickness/suffering and Catholicism. In the end, I'm not sure it's a movie I will watch again, but I am curious to watch a few more Bresson films.

I also took another break from James Tiptree Jr to start something new. A few books showed up for me at the library (I also overestimate how long interlibrary loan takes and end up ordering a few books and having them all show up at once), so I started Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan. So far it reads like a 80's cyberpunk novel by Gibson or Sterling, using the same futuristic time period, but, being written recently, more up-to-date/realistic with its tech and political thematics. Part futurism, part thriller, part commentary, part... mystery I guess, it's written in alternating chapters of "Before" and "After" some as yet unclear event. I'm about 80 pages in already (text is a bit large on the page) and really enjoying it.

2019-09-07 08:09

A stressful day yesterday as I tried to power through my code changes so I could leave the massive QAing necessary for changing almost every file in our repo to our QA team for next week while I am away. I seem to have accomplished that, at least, I think the code is now changed to cover everything it needs, and my unit tests are all passing, and what preliminary testing I could in the actual UI seemed to be working. Probably not a good combo that I also went and donated blood in the middle of the afternoon, but I've been trying to do that as often as I can and I can only get there when they set-up within walking distance. Thankfully the Red Cross seems to setup pretty regularly at borough hall. Giving blood probably lowered my blood pressure, but the stress of my late afternoon probably raised it, so maybe it all evened out.

But, now at least, it is vacation time, such as vacation will be. We're going to the beach tonight until Monday night, as ███████ ███ ████ invited us to spend the weekend at their rental. Then we've got a memorial service for Russ Tuesday morning and a Phillies game Thursday night and then █████ ███ ██████ wedding next weekend. In between I hope to get more site work done, read more, and watch some movies. I did a rare thing and ordered some DVDs this week, Rivette's The Nun_ in a new restoration and Ozu's The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice in a new Criterion edition. I've never seen the former (it wasn't easily available anywhere), but I am a fan of Rivette and this one also stars Anna Karina. Been meaning to read the Diderot novel it's based on for awhile, at least since I read that fascinating biography of him early this year, but maybe it's better I wait until I see the movie first. The Ozu is not one I've seen, but I've ended up collecting a bunch of the Ozu releases since I love his work so much.

I have not been faithfully recording all that I read recently, sometimes I just forget by the next morning if I've read something short earlier in the day. For instance, Gloria Rivera's Island of Elin showed up the other day as part of my subscription to the Ley Lines comics series. Each issues is by a different artist inspired by someone else, usually (always?) an artist in another media. Rivera's inspiration is the naturalist John Muir and she crafts a kind of magical realist story on an island about an old man, a talking bird (who likes to take photos), and a woman who draws nature. I need to reread it, as I felt like I was taking the whole comic to try to acclimate myself to the setting/concept.

2019-09-08 21:26

Sat out on the deck at the beach and read the first of the books I brought along for a short beach vacation, Alone by Chaboute. I read a good review of it somewhere recently, and it was up for a prize at Angouleme, and... sometimes I could weep for the state of comics. While Chaboute can draw well, with a sharp high contrast ink line, nice spot blacking, and a sense of layout and pacing, this almost 400 page comic is a travesty of narrative cliche. Somehow there's this guy who lives on a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. He was born there and his parents died and he just stayed there. The father paid some ship captain to keep dropping off supplies every week. The captain is the gruff but kind-hearted sort, his new ship mate is curious about the mysterious lighthouse and the guy that lives there and no one sees. Everyone says he's deformed or something and never goes anywhere. And then, yes, the guy is weird looking in the face, in a classic monster movie hunchback of notredame like way with prominent brow and big buck teeth, and that guy has a pet fish in a bowl and somehow there is electric in a lighthouse on an island barely larger than the lighthouse. And this dude's only entertainment seems to be tossing his dictionary up the in air and then pointing at a work where the book falls open and then he imagines stuff about the word he sees. His imaginings are kind of stupid and not terribly believable considering he's spend his whole life in this lighthouse. He reads the oboe description about a woodwind with keys and pictures a violin with hole and the player turning keys like locks on it, yet... he doesn't know an oboe but he knows what a violin looks like and how someone holds it to their chin... and then later he's imagining a whole orchestra and there is someone playing a bassoon. How in the hell does he know a bassoon but not an oboe. And of course, of course, of course, in scenes his dictionary opens to "loneliness" and "monster" and then of course he looks at himself in the mirror and looks sad. And of course it turns out the new ship's mate was in prison and of course the monster guy let's his fish go because he realizes the fish is imprisoned in his bowl (and surely the fish is almost immediately eaten by a predator). And then of course there is a scene where it looks like the monster guy is going to commit suicide, but... it's not that kind of comic so instead he waits for the ship to show up and they take him on board. End of comic. 400 pages of this tripe. At least it was a quick read, but damn... how did anyone think this was good? How was this up for a prize?

Also just finished Tim Maughan's Infinite Detail which I quite enjoyed, though the central apocalyptic event, a virus that hits the infrastructure of the internet so hard that basically the whole internet is destroyed, is a little too real for comfort. It feels like the kind of thing where security probably isn't ever as good as it should be, and yes, if communications broke down, what, in this global economy, would people actually be able to live on. What can actually be manufactured without parts from all over the place? The novel doesn't actually delve too deeply into that, leaving that rather as a hole in the center of the plot that is alluded to and occasionally made evident by the "After" chapters. In a way it was a little scary reading this book, not in a horror novel way but in a "this feels too close to reality" way. It was a pretty quick read, and throughout, for me, maintained that cyberpunk genre feel, at least, unexpectedly, the ending was not a totally downbeat.

2019-09-09 12:09

Finished up a quick read of Paul Schrader's Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer in its new edition. After watching his First Reformed the other week, I looked him up and remembered he had written this book which prominently mentions Ozu and that there was a new edition. The new introduction was a highlight. It primarily discussed the later evolution of some of the stylistic elements he discussed in the main part of the book, in particular in the form of "slow cinema," a term I was not previously familiar with, though some of directors he mentions are (like Tsai Ming Liang). He discusses a few variations in a tripartite scheme (Schrader really likes dividing things into parts or dualities throughout the book) with a point about the effect of Andrei Tarkovski's work as a kind of borderline between the the old and the new. I've not seen much Tarkovski (just Solaris I think), but I've had Stalker on my list in the Criterion Channel for awhile. Just need to find the time to watch it, as it's rather long. I'll also be looking into a few of the other directors he mentions who are not quite on the extreme side of slow cinema, where it becomes gallery art basically.

Reading Schrader on Ozu was unusual, because I've already read a book recently, Noriko Smiling by Adam Mars-Jones, that takes apart a bunch of Schrader's arguments. I spent the whole time really questioning his assumptions about Ozu in relation to broad discussion of Japenese culture and Zen, and also wondering, in 1972, how much access Schrader actually had to Ozu's films. We are privileged now to be able to watch them, rewatch them, pause, rewind, while Schrader would have had to watch ones in a theater, probably at some kind of archive or musuem (Mars-Jones explicitly talks about the advantages of video watching in his book). Schrader does seem to rely on too reductive a version of Ozu, focusing on his style distilled down to the most easily recognizable parts. In that respect I don't know that the book increased my knowledge or appreciation of Ozu.

The other chapters on Bresson and Dreyer were less relevant to me personally as my experience of either's movie is really limited. Though in looking at the descriptions of Bresson's later movies in IMDB, I am curious to watch a few of them now, especially his Arthurian one. I do appreciate Schrader's discussion of different stylistic devices throughout the book.

My other beach reading the past two days includes Landscape Painting Now: From Pop Abstraction to New Romanticism a well illustrated art book about, as the title says, contemporary landscape painting. The wide range of styles and subjects covered under that description is impressive. I've got a whole host of new artists to look up, though I was also glad to see a few familiar favorites like Mark Tansey (whose recent work I've seen too little of) and Etel Adnan. It's nice to reevaluate the idea of landscape painting as this staid Bob Ross Sunday painter genre, and see the wide variety of styles and themes can be brought to bear on what is, in the end, a very broad arena.

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2019-09-10 15:05

Back from the beach last night after our brief weekend stay. ████ ███████ ██ ████ ██ ██ ████████ ███ █ ███████ ██ ███████ ████ ██████ ██████ ████ ██████ ████ ███ █ █████ ████████ ██ ███ ███ ██████ ██ ███ ██ ███ ███████████ ███ ████ ██ ███████ ██ ███ ███████ █████ ███ █████ ██████████ ███████ ███ █████ ████ ████ ████ █ █████ ███ █████ ███ ██████ ██ ██ ██████ ██ ███ ██ ██ ██ ████ ████ ███████ ██████ █ ██████ ██ ████ ████ ███████ ██████ █████ █████ ███ ████████ ███ █████ ██████ ██ ███ ███ █████████ ██ ████ ████████ ██ █████ ███ ██ ███████ █ ████████

One of my other beach reads was The Structure is Rotten Comrade by Viken Berberian and Yann Kebbi. Read a decent review of this and the art attracted my attention. It's all drawn in colored pencils with a certain scribbly, cartoony, naive style. Foreground and background overlap each other as lines cross over and sketch out elements in various colors. Lots of panel-less pages and full page spreads. It's a bright, dynamic comic with lots to look at, and it moves along at a quick pace. On first read, the story does very little for me. A young architect is working for his father (also an architect) in Armenia as they demolish the old city to build a new city. The architect (younger one) tell some students about his background and then there a revolution erupts and the leader is deposed and the architect flees to Paris where his mother lives.

The whole plot seems to sit on the surface, brushing up against ideas and names and events, but... the protagonist is pretty much just an arrogant asshole, the ideas about architecture are all shallow, and the revolution seems to happen swiftly and easily. Everything feels like its covered in an ironic haze, a bit of a joke. And, like a review I read commented, the treatment of the very few female characters is not close to... positive... dimensional... The author is a novelist, not a regular comics writers, so it's sort of unexpected that this comics fails on a story/plot level (at least for a comic like this where I doubt the write was also handling any kind of layout/sequencing).

Blue umbrella at the beach

Orange umbrella at the beach

2019-09-11 08:29

Started Ozu's Early Spring at the beach and finished it up yesterday. At first I didn't remember if I had seen it already, but a few of the scenes had stuck in my mind when I got to them. This is actually an unusual one for the later Ozu (I've watched almost none of the pre-war/50s Ozu so I can't comment on that) in that it has a young male protagonist and a tiny bit of sexuality in evidence. It also spends a lot more time outside the family boundaries. The protagonist's family, outside of his wife, is never seen or mentioned at all, but we do see a whole group of co-workers and friends that serve prominent parts. The young male has a flirtation and then a one night stand with one of the women in the group of friends. The scene where they are in a restaurant in a private room and she slides closer to him and they kiss is perhaps the only romantic kiss I can remember seeing in an Ozu movie (though my memory could be bad here), and then the next scene where they are clearly getting dressed in the morning is the only direct implication of sex in an Ozu movie that I can remember either.

I suspect these elements are perhaps more a cross-over from his earlier films than any kind of outlier, but it is unusual to have one of his films not primarily dealing with a parent-child relationship. For a man who never had children and lived with his mother for most of his life (until she died), it is interesting to note how much the later movies are all about parents and daughters and never, as far as I recall/have seen, about sons.

This one also was slightly unusual (again, maybe because of it's time in his oeuvre) for having numerous outdoor scenes with lots of people moving about, and for a couple scenes (two or three) where the camera dollies forward down a hallway. They show the hallway leading to the door of the office where the protagonist works, and act as a scene transition, but the way the camera dollies forward is unexpected in Ozu and also felt oddly a little menacing, like a strange invasion from a suspense thriller in the heart of this domestic drama.

In Schrader's book he talks a bit about the actors/acting in Ozu and how they don't really emote a lot, but that feels like another one of his misreadings (or me misreading him). You get a lot of emotion out of the acting, but it is mostly very restrained. But this one in particular, has at least one character (the woman the protagonist has an affair with) quite forthrightly crying and emoting. And even later during the restrained reconcilitation of the husband and wife, you can read a lot out of their faces and tiny movements. And thus again I reiterator to myself how much I enjoy Ozu's films.

Also started a new video game yesterday called Greedfall. As I said to ███ in a text, it's not a AAA game, more like calling a tow truck for yourself... Coming out of Assassin's Creed Odyssey which was AAA and spectacular visually and very smooth in gameplay, this game is a step down in both, but I'm also intrigued in what it is trying to do, setting up a world and various factions you must interact with. I read an interview with the game's main... director? producer? not totally sure what you call it, and she (yes, a woman even!) was talking about the influence of Dragon Age on the game, which is what really sold me on trying it out. I'm hoping it pays off in the end, but I did play a few hours yesterday and enjoy myself and I still really only in the prologue.

I've been setting up more days of posts in the site today and thinking a lot about what I am sharing and how. I've set up this system for redacting content so I can: a. not have it on the website b. still have it on my original markdown files. I think the division is coming down to things I share about myself versus things that are really about other people. But I find that now that I am actually sharing the entries, it's hard not to think about that as I write: what will I have to redact, how do I change what I don't redact so I feel ok sharing it.

2019-09-12 13:42

Another day off, working on the site and my new video game. I'm making progress on checking off the todos in my code, though I'm still not sure the best way to handle tags. I think I need to go the same route as categories and have the tags go into the markup so I can parse out that content for the tag archives, that way if you click on the "Dungeon Mastering" tag, you just get the content from each post that is tagged that way, rather than just getting all the content of all the posts that have that tag. I probably also need a way to browse the broader categories, so people can more easily just browse all my posts about comics.

2019-09-13 09:46

Spent some more time coding on the website, adding a nav/action toggle for smaller screens, so those areas don't take up so much space, and various other refinements to the code. I'm slowly getting everything in place for how I want it I think. Also worked out a way to tag paragraphs rather than whole entries so that the tag archives will only show the specific tagged content rather then the whole entry.

And I've been spending probably too much time on Greedfall on my playstation. It's Dragon Age influence is pretty clear in how it handles party members and a less open world that is made up of large zones to wander around in. Some of the UI is not totally clear, but play has been pretty smooth. The most annoying thing so far is how conversations are handled, particular with party members. The game tracks a metric of your relationship with party members and various factions. Actions you take positively or negatively effect the relationship. Much of the time this is fairly clear: help an npc or faction with a mission, the relationship improves, but sometimes just picking a conversation option will negatively effect the relationship and every time that's happened I've found it completely unclear or unexpected. It feels like there's no way to even gauge how the npcs will react. Another weird thing was a plot point that happened, when I progressed on one of the main missions that caused me to lose a bunch of side missions and one of my party members. The order I should do missions and if there is any time restrictions on them isn't clear (an issue Dragon's Dogma had too).

Otherwise, I am finding the story interesting and the world building is detailed enough to be engaging. The 18th century-esque colonial setting is also effectively done, and the conflict between the colonizers and the natives is so far handled in a suitably complex manner, with a good story twist fairly early on that adds mixed motivation for the main character in how to deal with it.

Went with ████ ███ █████ to the Phillies game last night. Driving down at rush hour for Thursday night game was something I was anxious about for basically the whole week. Every time I vow never to do that again, and then somehow I end up doing it again. At least the game itself was exciting, and the Phillies won. We had seats in the "Hall of Fame Club" area which are more expensive but it was really nice: seats are bigger, the restricted access area behind the seats had various food vendors conventiently located, ditto on much nicer bathrooms. Not sure how much more Lianne paid for the tickets, but it certainly felt worth it. The view from the first base side was excellent.

2019-09-14 12:58

More time coding on the site. I might actually get all my todos crossed off soon.

Also more playing of Greedfall which is a decent game with a few shortcomings, some clearly because it is a lower budget game with high aspirations, partly just because of conventions of this type of game.

The game is narratively and partially mechanically based around choices. Your character is a diplomate dealing with a variety of factions that have varying levels of conflict with each other, so the story often puts you into a place where you have to choose sides or try to create some kind of compromise. This creates a sense that the choices matter, but like all games like this, it's hard to know if they really do, unless you play the games multiple times (trying variations). Many times, when playing games like Dragon Age or The Witcher I'll go to an online wiki about the game to lookup alternate paths, to see if the decisions I made really were making a difference or, if like a bad rpg module, you always end up with the same result. Greedfall is so new there is no suh source yet, so I'm quite curious about this.

I did discover one of the pivot points around a specific NPC the other day when I advanced through a main mission without completing a side mission. I ended up reloading a previous save and trying a different order to the missions, and that did, to a small extent make some different in the narrative.

The longer I play the game, the more I notice some of the limitations caused by a smaller studio budget. All the cities in the game have certain locations that are almost exactly the same (governor's mansion, barracks, tavern). There is also a sameness to wilderness encounters, where the majority of creatures you run into fall into about three species (with some ranked variations), unless you are in some kind of boss fight. These encounters end up a being a sort of busy work of the game, where you have to succeed in fights to continue the story, but the fights themselves are not particularly engaging on their own.

For me there is always this push and pull between wanting a challenge but not wanting to have to also be restarting from a previous save because my character died in combat. I quickly ended up setting this game on easy mode. For me these sorts of video rpgs are more interesting for the exploration of a narrative (and a narrative world) than they are about strategy and challenge. While I have in the past enjoyed playing strategy games in person, like tabletop miniatures games, the fun there is in playing against a live opponent. It seems less interesting when the opponent is a rather simple combat AI.

And now it's time to head off to the wedding.

2019-09-15 12:04

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Still coding, still playing Greedfall as my week of vacation comes to an end. I was thinking to myself about the nice absence of lots of fetch quests, when of course I ended up taking on this quest that involved a lot of running back and forth to get an object and then talk to a person somewhere, none of which involved going anywhere new or facing any sort of challenge, so in the end it was just a lot of stupid busy work.

Like many of these sorts of games it also suffers from the constant inventory/equipment management both to keep encumbrance below max (so you can run) and to keep upgrading so you can face the challenges of the game. You keep having to swap around equipment or upgrade it, and so even if you find something you like visually, you can't end up using it for long without falling behind. One thing Assassin's Creed Odyssey ended up doing well was when they added a way to change the look your armor/clothes to match any set you had previously discovered. That way you could keep upgrading in different ways, but you could also choose what your character looked like. Greedfall does have the extra element of faction clothing, so that you can put on the armor/clothes of a faction as a disguise and then be able to more freely walk around specific areas. Of course that does then end up meaning you have to carry a bunch of extra armor around for when you need it.

Narratively, I am enjoying the slowly unfolding mysteries and the handling of the colonizer/native dynamic, though I'm finding it hard to be sympathetic at all to the colonizers, which may be a failing of the game (it makes a lot of the choices easy) or maybe just an indication of my sympathies. I also think they have, so far as I've gotten, missed an opportunity in regard to the protagonist. And some spoilers here... You learn that your character is actually a native, born on a ship back to what they have thought is their home. I don't feel like the cut scenes and dialog are adequately representing what should be a fairly major questioning of the character's position in regards to the colonizer/native dynamic. Perhaps that is partially a limitation of the order one does quests and the game just not accounting in various side quests for changes wrought by the main quest discoveries. Curious to see how it plays out further along the main quest lines.

2019-09-16 08:03

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Back to work today after a fairly busy week off. I'm sure the glow of vacation relaxation, such as it was, will be worn off by this afternoon when I realize all the work I have to do and how behind I inevitably am on our main project. Alas, what can I do other than my best.

Started Gene Wolfe's The Book of the Short Sun over the weekend in a nice collected book club edition I found online. This one, contrary to Long Sun, is definitely a sequel to its predecessor. The narrator was a minor character in Long Sun (and narratively, the author of the in world book that is The Book of the Long Sun) and there are numerous other characters and references to characters and events from the previous series. My understanding is that this one then ties back around somehow to New Sun, and I'm quite curious to see how that happens. So far, this one, also starts off with a man going off on a voyage, with much less preamble to the voyage. It's also written as a partially retrospective autobiographical text by the protagonists. He is both writing about his past, which is so far the greater part of the narration, but also referencing his present (as yet mostly obscure) situation. That he is also referencing events from Long Sun or the time of that narration and events in between that series and the start of this one, provides quite the conflagration of timelines. This is definitely not a book where one should start reading Wolfe's work.

It was SPX weekend in the comics world this weekend. As usual in coincides with our usual (of late) vacation week so I've only ended up there once a bunch of years back. I did enjoy my time that year, though I'm probably a lot out of the loop by this point if I managed to go again. Seems like a big part of those types of events are the informal social activities and conversations that happen. But I always try to keep an eye out for anything interesting people found in the exhibit hall.

2019-09-17 17:43

A completely unexciting day working and not working.

Night walking 1

Night walking 2

2019-09-18 21:41

Just got back from a showing at The Thin Man at the theater. I love watching Myrna Loy in that movie: the classy styles, the cute faces, the witty banter. She and William Powell have a great dynamic and on screen chemistry, I guess that's why they made like 5 sequels. It's weird, no matter how many times I see that movie, while I can remember the big twist climax, I can never actually remember the identity of the murderer. It's like that solution is almost an after thought. Nothing in the plot can really lead you to the conclusion, and even Nick, the detective, seems to only get to it at the same moment the movie shows it to us.

I was struck by some of noirish shadows, but mostly the film eschews the noir look. One scene that does take place mostly in the dark, as Nick uses a flashlight to investigate a dark room, is shot in a really unengaging way, without the dynamic shadows and dramatic lighting you get in a good noir. Oddly one scene that most looks like that is a non-dramatic scene of Nick and Nora in their hotel room late at night, lit only (primarily) by a lamp in between their beds. Nora is leaning back and the light casts most of her face in shadow. It leads up to a bit of drama but is primarily a scene played for comedy. (I tried to find a screenshot of that scene but failed.)

2019-09-19 08:24

Read Kurt Ankeny's In Pieces: Someplace Which I Call Home last night. I picked it up after his week of The Cartoonist's Diary at The Comics Journal, which were lovely painted strips. This book is all pencil and ink, but still autobiographical. The backcover calls it a "graphic novel", using that term in that marketing sense that has shorn it of any meaning other than "a comic, mostly likely with a spine". In this case, it means a series of vignettes and drawn from life images about Ankeny and his life in Ipswich, MA. The vignettes are mostly observational, often related to what he sees outside his studio window(s) or while out walking. They occasional move into the poetic register, but also the humourous or melancholy. These are comics of observation both narratively and visually. The large single page drawings of spots around the town that are interspersed with the comics are all drawn from life, but the comics themselves also have that realist mode that indicates they are based on observation.

The panels are often airy, well composed. Mostly what I think is pencil line (darkened a bit for printing?) with denser areas filled in or left a bit textured. It is only in paging back through it now that I really notice that almost all the pages are layed out in three rows with 3, 1, and 2 panels respectively, an unusual layout that does provide it's own rhythm: set-up, long shot/pause, slower ending. Some of the pages are more successfully than others, and I think the necessity of physical space means that it's not always clear when the vignettes are single page or multi-page. That would have been solved with more white pages or more of the single page drawings, but also would have ballooned the page count quite a bit. I find that issue rather frequently with single page comics in books: they don't always have the room to breathe, you page from one to the next and sometimes you're already on the next page before you realize the last page was meant to be it's own self-contained experience. All in all, I enjoyed the book, and I'm looking forward to reading more from Ankeny.

A valuable part of this journal project has, I think, been the daily aspect for me. Giving myself permission to write about anything, as long as I do it at least once a day, has been valuable for me, and has kept me going on this for over two months now. It's also, I think helped me be bring out thoughts about things I read or watch that I wouldn't have written about before because it often wouldn't have seemed enough for a "post" on my old blog (yet, more than I would just post on social media).

And I'm also trying to be better about adding photos here, which would be a lot easier if stupid Instagram lead me more easily save my content. So here's a little photocomic from my morning walk, that I am trying to display in responsive way using CSS grid.

Morning walk yellow 1 Morning walk yellow 2 Morning walk yellow 3 Morning walk yellow 4 Morning walk yellow 5 Morning walk yellow 6 Morning walk yellow 7 Morning walk yellow 8 Morning walk yellow 9

2019-09-21 08:19

Yesterday was the first day I didn't write anything since I started this project over two months ago. Not bad for consistency. I woke up multiple times not feeling well and ended up taking a sick day. It was only midway through the day that I remembered it was also the climate strike day organized to protest against inaction. I ended up feeling ok by midday, but never got around to writing anything, as I was watching a few movies that had been waiting for my attention.

I first watched Jacques Rivette's The Nun in a new restoration. I'm not sure how I originally got into Rivette, probably the least known and mentioned of the major French New Wave/Cahiers directors. It must have been with La Belle Noiseuse, which I think I saw in art school (for a class? or maybe just from browsing at the video store in the "Foreign" section). I've been wanting to see The Nun for a long time but there haven't been easily available editions. Dating back to 1966, it stars Anna Karina as the eponymous nun, based on the novel by Denis Diderot (which I was waiting to read until after I watched the movie). Much of the talk around the movie circles around it getting banned for release by the French government. A short documentary on the dvd edition primarily focuses on that (and sadly was made too late to get Rivette's participation), including an interview with Anna Karina, much older now but still with those big, bright eyes.

The movie, like a few of Rivette's others often has the look of a play: flat spaces, inobstrusive camera work, few close-ups, enclosed sets, characters walking into and out of the frame. That might be more prominent in this one, as it turns out Rivette directed a play adaptation of The Nun a few years previous to the movie (also starring Karina). As the whole movie is thematically about feeling emprisoned and constrained, the closed settings are powerfully effective. Distracting from that is how lovely they are, in particular the first cloister has these beautiful blue/green walls that match the nuns habits. They almost overwhelm the image. I want to color match them for a room in my house.

Karina is excellent in the film, going from restrained to at times almost crazed. She does, at the point where the nuns are punishing her severely, have a sort of cliched "crazy woman" style: walking along a hallway close to the wall her head bent to the side, hair bedraggled, as she almost drags herself along the wall, and a few "hysterical" type outbursts. I wonder where that particular mode started (in earlier films? in plays?), I'm not sure I'm describing it well, but it is something I've seen quite a lot.

One real interesting part of the movie, in light of both Diderot's thought and the movie's banning, is how little the movie is critical of religion or Christianity in general. The abuses and tragedies stem much more from broader society, specific individuals, and specific sub-institutions. Even a scene where there is a trial about the nun where she wants to claim her vows were forced and her abbess is trying to claim she is possessed, shows the church leaders (men of course) in a much more sympathetic light than one might expect. They ascertain her lack of possession and the wrongness of the abuse she faces, even though, it seems, they have little power to do much about it.

The lesbian content in the movie is also, I think, fairly sympathetically done for a 1966 movie based on a 18th century novel. Of course the priest confessor evokes Satan when the nun describes how her the abbess, who is sexually interested in her, is acting, but that is an attitude of the church, and I don't think the film itself takes on that attitude. Rather, the abbess is also seen through a less of tragedy and emprisonment despite her being the head of the cloister. The naive nun, just doesn't even have a framework to understand the abbess's feelings or desires, though the viewer can very early on see what is happening.

At 140 minutes it's a long film (though not really for Rivette), but I never felt the sense of it being dragged out. Perhaps I'll watch it again soon to see how the commentary track is.

My second viewing of the day was Canyon Passage, a 40's western (in Technicolor) directed by Jacques Tourneur (and now I'm realizing it was a Jacques double feature). Tourneur is a favorite of mine almost solely from Out of the Past one of my favorite noirs. I saw this western of his many years ago on TCM (or maybe even AMC when they used to be the classic movie channel), and remembered it fondly as one of the westerns on my short lists of "Westerns I like". I finally picked this up in a very cheap DVD edition that includes 3 other westerns, as it was not available for streaming anywhere. It does not disappoint I think, and, while cleanly fitting into the genre, is nicely different in many ways. For starters, unlike the often open plains and deserts of so many westerns this one takes place in the pacific northwest often amongst forests, providing a much more enclosed space to even the outdoor scenes. The primary town even varies from that classic western town that has a bunch of buildings on a flat straight street, as the town is much less geometrically organized and even is situated on a hill to add some topography to the setting.

There's also nary a cowboy or sherrif in site, though we do get some natives (on which more later), a sick gambler, a rough tough bad guy, a chorus of miners, and various homesteaders. The protagonist (played by Dana Andrews) is the owner of a shipping business, and the primary conflict with the bad guy revolves around something we don't even see happen narratively before the movie starts. But of course, like most westerns, there are themes of the individual versus society (in particular how the town deals with bad elements, there is no lawman in this movie or apparently anywhere in the area) and society vs the wild (in the form of the bad guy, who people describe as animal-like and who also happenes to live outside of town in the woods, as well as the natives).

The treatment of the natives is perhaps even a bit above average for one of these old westerns, as their motivations are not obscured and written off as some kind of inevitability. They don't resent the settlers using the land, but do resent them making buildings and claiming the land as their own. And the big fight that inevitable occurs between the settlers and the natives is set off by the bad guy murdering two native girls (though the clear inference is there is sexual assault too). Though of course the natives as such are never individualized and appear and act with all the stereotypes one can expect.

The movie also has an odd ending that is both depressing and... positive. The progatonist finds some... happiness in the surrounding events of loss and death (and his own financial ruin).

2019-09-22 17:32

Finished Greedfall yesterday. In the end, an enjoyable game, but not one that was particularly innovative or unique. While it plays up the idea of factions and diplomacy, it seemed too easy to actually get along with everyone. Someone how I managed to stay on everyone's good side, except for one time towards where I made a choice that I knew would make one of the factions angry but seemed like the right choice. Had I not done that I probably would have managed to gather all five factions for the big fight at the end (though I am not clear what difference it actually makes in gameplay). I appreciated that there were always ways to handle most quests with different methods: fighting, sneaking, talking. But I also feel like those options were never very hard to pick. Unless I were just like "bah, I'm going to fight everyone" I don't see how there it was really that hard a choice. The end of the game offered some narration showing all the various companions and factions along with some line or two of denouement. It's a strike against the writing that for each companion they work in something about going back to visit their friend (i.e. your character) in a way that was just too simplistic and pandering. I'm actually curious what you would have to do to get a bad ending in the game, besides just willfully making bad decisions. One thing Dragon Age (and Mass Effect too actually) did well was having decision points where it was hard to choose between options, where you wanted to take all the options but couldn't. I don't feel this game every managed to get me in that type of tough quandary.

Somehow I ended up trying out the trial version of Code Vein today. It's like an anime Dark Souls and trying very hard to be like the latter. While there are added elements, the core mechanics are basically direct lifting from Dark Souls (with it's equivalent of souls and bonfires and the same death/resurrection mechanic). That said, for at least the trial part, I did not find the game as... onerous to play. While I died a few times, I also did get through the first boss fight without too much trouble. The game is not, to that point, as dark and suspenseful as Dark Souls. It helps that for much of the trial at least, you have an NPC companion running around with you, which helps with distracting opponents (especially the boss) and makes the settings seem less lonely and quiet. The mechanics are a bit involved as is the back story, but I think I'll pick up the full version when it comes out (this week or next I think). Seems like it will offer some of the same fun of Dark Souls but hopefully without quite the same high level of difficulty/frustration. One way that seems to be mitigated is that it offers a way to dynamically switch classes, which should help with issues I've had in Dark Souls where because of whatever type of character I decided to play certain bosses would be ridiculously hard.

And I just finished a viewing of Ozu's The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice which is the latest Criterion release. It's a mid-career Ozu, so still black and white, and not as austere as his later works. This one also focuses more on a marriage than a parent/child relationship. In that sense it's probably a better companion to Early Spring. Compared to the later movies, you can see a variety of directorial choices that Ozu seemed to have mostly given up. There are more outdoor and crowd scenes, more camera movement too. One really unusual scene has the wife riding a train as she (temporarily) leaves her husband. She is shown sitting on the train and the audio is someone announcing stops and times. When the announcement stops, the sound of the train running over the tracks shifts from background noise to foregound noise and becames almost an aural assault as the shot cuts to a view out the back of the train, looking through the window as the train passes through bridge, with all the beams moving into the distance in a harsh one-point perspective. After a period of this, the film cuts to the husband's office, as the camera dollies forward toward his desk. It's a really fascinating and unusual scene, especially for Ozu who does not usually make sound such a prominent feature (that I have noticed at least).

2019-09-23 08:13

Reread That Miyoko Asagayo Feeling last night. It's a new collection of Shinichi Abe manga from Blackhook Press. The manga all date from the early to mid 70's. I have a French edition of Abe's work Un Gentil Garcon and all but one of these stories are in that translation. Like many of the manga marketed as "gekiga" in English translation, Abe published in the magazine Garo, and like many of those artists his work is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical.

Stylistically, many of these stories rely on photo reference (per tha back matter), which gives them a really interesting look. Dense panels with a lot of lines, texture, and blacks, especially in the earliest stories. In some of the other stories we see him drawing with less reference in a looser cartoony style. I find I like the photo referenced style a lot more, and it's what really draws me to these comics. It can be stiff, but it also feels like it fits the content better and makes the stories stand out from a lot of other similar manga. Photo referencing is often done really bad, but I feel like Abe somehow goes beyond the norm.

One tactic Abe takes in a few of the stories is to write from his girlfriend/wife's perspective. In some of the stories she is the narrator, and in others there is a least a shift to her perspective at different points. I can't help but wonder about what she thought of this (they did stay together for a very long time), and how much the stories are him projecting thoughts and feelings onto her and how much they are him... not so much transcribing, but... bringing her actual feelings to the story. The profusion of images of her naked and images of their sex life (explicit for a comic of this sort, but not exactly porn-y) add to my questions, clearly she participated in the taking of the photos for reference, but one can't help but wonder about her thoughts about it all.

The longest story in the collection, "Love", is one of those in the looser cartoony style, but it has a lot of dynamic brush work, lines going everywhere. It partially takes place in the lead up and during a typhoon, and the line work is like the wind and rain rushing about in all directions, in a way that is really effective.

In the end, I find Abe's work a lot more visually dynamic and narratively interesting than some of his contemporaries, like Tatsumi. One wonders why, amongst all the other manga translated, we hadn't yet seen work by Abe in English.

I'm finding that sometimes I wrote so much for a day, that I have other things I leave out. I decided to write about one book or movie or game and then totally neglect something else from the day: the other book I read, something interesting I saw, thoughts or feelings I had. And I wonder how much that relates to knowing that I am (potentially) writing for some form of (very very small) audience.

Tags:

2019-09-24 13:25

It's cleaning day so I just got back from leaving the house so I'm not here to bother the woman. I always feel so bourgeoise when I mention the cleaning, but we have good jobs and no kids, so giving someone else some (pretty good paying) work so we can have a little more free time seems like not so bad a thing. It is a little odd, since I work from home, I basically just leave the house when she shows up and take as long a lunch as I can. It's also a little odd, because my mom used clean houses for people when I was a kid. I remember occasionally going along with her when I was sick and too young to stay home by myself. I'd sit on strangers' couches and watch tv while she worked.

I'm experimenting with TVP (texture vegetable protein) for cooking this week. Made sloppy joes with them based on this recipe that turned out decent enough. The tvp seems as effective as buying the fake meat "crumble" that is considerably more expensive. Just got ingredients to try a mushroom tvp stroganoff too. The recipe asks for "vegan worcestershire" and lo and behold they had some at the food co-op. I don't know what really to do in general with worcesterhire as I've mostly avoided it because of the anchovies. I remember as a kid we would have some in the house and I guess the only brand available at the time was one where the glass bottle was wrapped in paper. That always made it seem special and a little odd.

Read Kevin Huizenga's The River at Night over the past two nights. Kind of a reread since it is a collection of the Ganges issues that I've read, and I don't think it has any added material (haven't confirmed that). It's been so many years over the course of that series that I've read the first ones numerous times (as each new issue came, I'd reread the previous), but I've not read the later (especially the last one) probably more than once. So reading the volume started out very familiar and then slowly became less and less so. By the end I felt and impatience and frutration with the book. The ending starts to become increasingly abstract and... confused. In a way it is completely on point, as the narrative is about the character Glenn being unable to get to sleep one night and the sense of impatience and frustration feels true. But in another way, it's not the best thing to feel as one reads. I'm not sure how purposeful it is. The end sections become fragmented, occasionally abstract, obscure, but in a way they do seem like a dream-like drift into sleep, which is perhaps what Huizenga was going for. So I think he was successfully, but also... by the end I just wanted the book to end. I'll have to reread it.

2019-09-25 16:38

Started work early to do a code release and have been working since...

The new issue of The Comics Journal showed up today. I remember last time one showed up (quite awhile ago now) I was baffled that I somehow still had a subscription. And that happened again today. I can find no way to confirm I have a subscription or for how long. If I do it seems to predate 2015. I should just tell them to cancel it if there are more issue to come, like last issue this one doesn't look like it will be of much interest to me, especially since, once again, about 100 or the 200 pages are dedicated to a single interview.

2019-09-26 08:32

Eric texted last night commenting that he was reading the site and catching up to the present. That brought a few things to mind. One, that he might be my first reader (hi Eric) (he also said he didn't care if I used his name). Two, that I still need to figure out some kind of lightweight, inobtrusive commenting system/method. There are fancy things like WebMentions I can setup, though they don't have a wide-ranging use, and there are complicated comment systems like Disqus that will add a lot of JS and probably tracking, but I'd rather keep it as simple as possible as I am not expecting much in the way of comments. Maybe just an email form. I don't know that I want to publish comments, but I'd at least like to receive them if anyone, unexpectedly, has them.

Three, I'm still mulling over this writing and audience and voice. I started out writing for myself and then just planning on publishing as is, but as soon as I put the site online I started thinking about someone reading what I wrote and I think that has changed subtly my thinking as I write. I can continue to straddle the line, or I can take a hard stance and focus on either just writing for myself or thinking about audience more clearly. Just simple things like, if I write something about a comic, book, or movie, do I include info like publisher, year, links, etc. I am still not sure.

Made the tvp mushroom stroganoff for dinner last night at ███ ███ ███████. It was pretty easy and pretty good. Made it with a side of kale (garlic, salt, small tomatoes, and some sherry vinegar) that was a great accompanient (especially to add some color to the plate). We decided it might be even better with caramelized onions and mushrooms getting a little more roasted, so I'll try that and see how it goes next time. Since the cool weather is finally returning, I'm returning to some more hearty/warm dishes. Tonight a lentil potato spinach stew we really like that has a wonderful lemoniness to it (from lemon juice and zest) and is topped with crumbled feta when served.

Since I've been watching more movies lately, I started reading David Bordwell's Narration in the Fiction Film the other night. I've had it on my shelf for years, but I don't think I ever actually read it. My copy is used and some person (probably an undergrad film student) heavily underlined in the first few chapters and included little comments (a lot of "Yes"), which really frustrates my own attempts to decide what is important. So far it's a mix of the familiar (lots of narratology a la Russian Formalists and Genette) and more film focused content that I am less experienced with. His discussion of ways the spectactor watches a movie and creates hypotheses that are constantly tested is quite interesting, and I know I explicitly do this a lot when watching. I make guesses based on genre or director or other knowledge as to what is or will happen in a narrative, and then adjust those guesses as I get more information. There's a nice long discussion on Rear Window that makes me want to rewatch.

2019-09-27 08:15

The other day ███ said some band that came on was one of his favorite bands ever, and then I started thinking about who my favorite bands ever where. One of them would without doubt be J Church. I think I first heard them way back in... 10th grade I guess. When my brother went off to college he brought back (or sent me) some tapes of punk bands he'd copied from friends there, and one of them had J Church's Quetzalcoatl on it. From then on I started buying their 7"s and CDs and whatever I could find (my music player says I could listen to 13:31:40 of their music without repeating). I only got to see them play once at the old Stalag 13 in West Philly on their Arbor Vitae tour. Listening to that album still vivedly feels like my freshman year of college when it came out and I listened to it obsessively.

At some point I started following Lance Hahn, the songwriter, guitarist, singer, and only constant member of the band, via his old e-zine/email list, where I learned about his heart problems and his apartment burning down but also his reviews of films and books. He died back in 2007, younger than I am now. Sometimes I still google his name or the band to see if anything has come up, rereleases or the book on the UK's anarcho-punk scene he had been working on for years. Somehow yesterday I stumbled upon this obituary/appreciation at Pop Matter I hadn't seen before which does a good job in summarizing the band and Lance's history. One thing the author doesn't mention is how Lance would always put reading list/book recommendations in the CD/album booklets. I always loved that, it's how I first learned about the Situationists and anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and Jean Baudrillard. The only thing I regret in digitizing and getting rid of all my CDs is that I didn't keep those J Church booklets.

2019-09-28 07:41

When I went out for my morning walk to the bakery yesterday all these tiny spiderwebs had been created in the grass, on the ivy, on bushes and hedges, all the way down my street. Some of them had a hole at the center, some were like flat platforms bridging the greenery. I don't see any thing on them; I don't know what made them. I've gotta assume they are some kind of small spiders, but so many of them, working so quickly in the same night.

After writing that I went outside to walk to █████ and took a look in the front yard. I could only barely see a few webs where before they were plentiful and obvious. Around the corner, in a row of bushes, the webs were more prominent (ones I've noticed previous days). I glanced inside a few and saw a larger than expected spider hiding inside the hole at the center of the webs. I snapped some photos. Later ███ suggested I look up "funnel spiders", which lead me to the American grass spider which are sometimes called funnel spiders because of their webs (not to be confused with an Australian funnel spider which is deadly to humans). Their webs are not sticky so they rely on their speed to catch prey that come to the web.

Apparently they were so obvious yesterday because of the mist/fog overnight, moisture gets caught on the webs making them more easily seen. The webs themselves probably did not all just appear that night, but were just better hidden.

Grass spider webs 1 Grass spider webs 2 Grass spider webs 3 Grass spider webs 4 Grass spider webs 5 Grass spider webs 6 Grass spider webs 7

2019-09-29 20:08

The weekend almost done, and I spent much of it playing video games. I finished up watching Ozu's Floating Weeds and most of Altman's The Long Goodbye. But at this point, I just don't feel like putting the effort into saying anything, and even this brief paragraph is more just a "don't miss a day" thing than any real effort. Maybe I should just delete it and start fresh in the morning.

2019-09-30 07:39

Watched Ozu's Floating Weeds over a couple sessions. Breaking up a movie into multiple sittings is not ideal, but I've seen it before, and it's not exactly one where I'll forget important plot elements. I feel like I say it for all the Ozu movies I've watched recently, but this one also feels a bit unusual for the late Ozu. I'm wondering if my conception is just based too much on a few of the films I've watched multiple times that are very family, parent-child, indoor home/work, themed like An Autumn Afternoon, Late Autumn, Late Spring, End of Summer, Early Summer... basically almost all the ones with seasons. (Interesting that he never made a winter movie, though also I know some of these are not exact translations of the original Japanese.)

Floating Weeds starts with an travelling acting troupe coming to a seaside town. In way the troupe serves as the family in the movie, but also, we quickly learn the troupe leader has an son in the town, who thinks he is an "Uncle". It's not exactly clear what the relationship is between the actor and the son's mother. They are amiable, it's indicated he sends money for the son, but it also doesn't seem they see each other often or are lovers. But that serves as a second family in a way, and so we get a clash between the two when the actor's lover (an actress) finds out about the other family and asks a younger actress to seduce the son. Drama ensues, including a few rather angry fights than you normally see in late Ozu.

This is a late color one, and as expected, the color is beautiful, as is the way the shots have been set up with spots of color dotted across the composition from shot to shot. Ozu came to color really late in his career (only 6 by my count of his... 55 according to imdb... are in color), but he immediately seems to have taken to it in his work. Lots of outdoor scenes in this one too, with bright skies and the ocean. It looks like I wrote about Floating Weeds the first time I watched it back in 2008 and there are a number of samples there to see... And looking at that post I realize how little new I have to say about the film.

Also started watching Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, an adaption of the Chandler novel (which I reread kind of recently). I know I've seen it before, but didn't remember it very well. I actually paused it with 30 minutes to go last night to make dinner and now I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. The film is not particularly interesting once the novelty of the 70's setting and unusual casting of Marlowe wear off. Sterling Hayden (who I've seen in a number of noirs like The Asphalt Jungle) really plays it up as a Hemingway-esque drunk writer. The script really misses, I think, by removing all the early parts about Marlowe and Terry Lennox's relationship. Lennox just appears in the film with no reference to who he is or how Marlowe knows him, so it takes away the viewer's sense of the relationship and the knowledge of Marlowe we get from how he sticks his neck out for this other guy. (And I think then makes the ending more poignant.)

Played a lot of Code Vein over the weekend after it showed up late Friday. It's almost blatant stealing from Dark Souls is quite successful, as are the many elements added to the game that make it both easier and more narratively satisfying. For one thing, when you die, there is no "Humanity" type loss, so while you lose some progress, it's not a similar winnowing away of your ability to survive (or get help). Also you pretty much always have an NPC companion with you to help out, which, for me, is crucial for boss fights. But the companion is optional, so someone who wants a challenge could go it alone.

The game also makes much greater use of NPCs, cut scenes, and a comprehensible story. You have a sense of why you are doing things and what the goal is. And, via a series of "memories" you view via items found in the world, you also learn more about the world, the background, and the other characters. So far I am quite enjoying it. I had a lot of trouble with the second boss fight, but I think that was partially because I hadn't totally understood how a few elements of the game worked (that "passive" abilities had to be... equipped). And like many of these games, I end up constantly wanting to know what's next, to keep exploring and see what happens.