Just updated my online D&D 5e Character Sheet app for the various changes I've been working on. I have even had someone else put in a pull request on Github this week. I didn't realize anyone was paying attention. It should be a lot more usable now, and easier to organize information. Glad to get that resolved since we'll be starting a new campaign next week, with Ian taking over as DM. He started running it for me and another friend earlier last year, but we didn't get too far. I'm going to use the same character though. I guess I'll just pretend for a little while that I didn't already play through some of the events.
We also had an online meeting to make characters for Eric's next one-shot off his "tasting menu" of RPGs. This time we're trying Colonial Gothic 3rd ed., which is like Call of Cthulhu in colonial America but with d12s. I'm not convinced the rules are going to add anything that we can't already get from just using D&D or CoC and putting it in a historical setting. Though it is surprising how little support D&D in historical settings gets. TSR put out a few books for 2nd edition back in the 90s, but they weren't actually that good for helping someone run a game. They were more like history light with a bit of mechanics thrown in. I made up a pacifist Quaker doctor for this game. We'll see how I can do completely avoiding combat (not sure how combat heavy this game is). I don't even have a weapon on my equipment list, but I took a bunch of soft skills to help in conflict.
Work up at 3am this morning feeling shitty, and it has not totally abated as the day has gone on. Hopefully not an omen of the new year. Going to go drink gin and watch... probably more of The Expanse, as I've been working my way through the new 4th season. It's really good so far. It's a show that I kind of forget about, and am not too excited about a new season until I actually start watching it. They really manage to keep the plot interesting and to work with a surprising number of new and old characters. Often the disparate storylines feel completely separate until something late in the season pulls it all together.
I did read the first book the series is based on and was completely underwhelmed. A case where the adaptation is much better than the original.
Started work again too early and then didn't ever really stop. So much for a new start to a new year. On the other hand, I've not played any video games in quite a few days, and I have gotten a lot of things done of my character sheet project.
Started Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, one of the Nobel Prize winners of last year. Not sure yet how I feel about it. Also started the new volume 5 of The Complete Crepax which features some letters Crepax engaged with Louise Brooks, whom he modeled the look of his character Valentina on.
I gave up on Flights last night. It wasn't really drawing me in, and I've learned to just move on when that happens, too many other books to read or reread. It was all these little short sections mostly about travel. There seemed to be a consistent narrator behind most of them but not all of them. Some were like short stories or microfictions, some were a little more essayistic. Many were either autobiographical or written to sound like it. I'm not that into reading about travel qua travel and nothing else was really grabbing me in it, so that'll go back to the library.
Not sure what I'll pick up next to read. I'm sure there's something on my shelf or one of the piles laying around that I could dig into. Maybe I'll read this edition of Walden I got a little while back. It's annotated, and I've read that it is very good, got recommended in the back of the Waldenx40 book I read.
It's dark and wet this morning, though not very cold. The weather forecast seems to indicate the lack of lots of cold will continue. Guess that's what Januaries are like now here. Not that I am too bothered if it means less chance of snow.
Filed a bunch more issues for my online character sheet. I've been enjoying adding things to that project: it's nice and uncomplicated to have an idea for improvement and just do it. It does't take forever, and I don't have to change a bunch of styles or really worry about what other people will think about it. I am the main audience and since I actually use it, it's easier to find ways to improve the user experience and the user interface for actual use. I was really trying to keep it static and just one html file served, but I think the only way I can do good reliable backup/restore data storage is if I add a small server side component so I can integrate with APIs for external services. I don't think I'm going to go the way of a database, but I guess I could, something lightweight maybe would give me a chance to try out some new things I've been wanting to try like GraphQL. This could be a simple project to try. We'll see.
I've spend a large part of the weekend (late morning through late afternoon) mostly work on my character sheet app. Lots of UI changes and accessibility changes to try to make it work better for me. I'm learning some new things code-wise and having fun with it, even though it is also very much like how I spend my weekdays working. I should have a whole new set of features released by the time this entry gets posted.
Started on The Witcher series on Netflix. Two episodes in, I quite like it, and am impressed with how they are handling the adaptation. They are showing multiple timelines simultaneous, which is pretty interesting. I've heard that viewers have complained about being confused by that, though the first episode offered some dialogue for those paying attention to clue us in that Geralt's and Ciri's plots were happening at different times.
They are also adding elements to the story, in particular, episode 2 starts giving us backstory on Yennifer as a girl. That's not in the books, though I know some of it is mentioned, and the show is using it to work in various character, location, and setting introductions, in an effective way.
The fight scenes are well done so far. In episode 1 there is a brutal fight between Geralt and some thugs. It is violent and there are cut off limbs and the like but it all happens really fast (as it would in a fight) without the camera lingering on the blood or the mutilations. It makes the action brutal but doesn't make it seem glorified.
We went and saw Greta Gerwig's Little Women yesterday at the theater. I've never read the book so I can't speak to it as an adaptation, but I do believe it deserves all the acclaim it's been getting. It was beautifully filmed, the script seemed interestingly done - at least as far as I know she messed around with the timeline rather than making it linear, and all the actresses were pretty amazing. In shifting between different times Gerwig was super effective at matches on action and match cuts so that you could tell time had changed even if you were seeing the same location or people. There are probably no cases where the switch in time was confusing or disorienting, at least as far as knowing that the time had changed not necessarily whether it was previous or later than the last scene.
One really effective use of the multiple timelines was when Meg the youngest sister is sick and dying. It happens twice. In the earlier time, she does recover. We see Jo fall asleep next to her in bed and when Jo wakes up, Meg is no longer in the bed. It is empty. Jo trepidatiously goes down the stairs and turns the corner to the kitchen, and then you know Meg has survived that time because we see her at the table eating breakfast. Jo is joyous. Later, we see the same scene replay almost identically. Jo wakes up; Meg's bed is empty; Jo walks down the stairs; she turns looks into the dining room; but this time, it's just her mother alone crying. That repetition and call back was really effective and moving.
Through episode 3 of The Witcher and I keep being impressed with it. The writers are doing a so far excellent job in adapting and modifying the original source material into something that tracks Geralt, Yennifer, and Ciri simultanously, but also cleverly mixes the timelines and what stories they are showing to resonate with each other.
It's getting compared with Game of Thrones a lot, but so far I think The Witcher is much more of a fantasy show, and a much more interesting show. GoT was so much about tons of characters being moved along by a slowly (so slowly) moving plot. It took forever to learn about the different characters and the world and it was much more about political maneuvering than a fantasy world. The Witcher on the other hand, by focusing on a few main characters let's one learn about them faster. It also is already much more fantastical in nature, which is likely, a reason it won't ever be as popular as GoT.
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Finally started making a little progress on some comics reviews, which may mean less journal writing in the near future. I have comics to reread, notes to take, paragraphs to write, images to scan, all of which will take up some of my non-working time.
We watched 2 episodes of His Darkest Materials on HBO last night. I've never read the books (I associated them, perhaps unfairly, with Harry Potter, which I have also avoided), so it is all new to me. I'm enjoying it so far, though it is not... amazing. The protagonist, Lyra, is engaging and the actor is doing good work. Ruth Wilson is awesome as a character who so far I do not have a handle on, but is clearly struggling internally with something (it's to Wilson's skill I think how much this is evident in her expressions and actions without her having to explicitly say anything). The effects of the characters' daemons (some kind of animal representation of one's soul?) is well done too and looks pretty seamless.
Where the show falls down a bit is the context of the fantasy world. At one point Lyra opens the door of her new keeper's (Ruth Wilson's Mrs. Coulter) private office and sees her monkey daemon in there. Lyra looks shocked and afraid, though it is not clear why. She turns and Coulter turns around the corner down a long hallway. It is only in their following conversation that we learn the daemons are not supposed to be that far away from the person. By not explaining that world context to us sooner, the show completely deflates any feeling we have about Lyra's shock when she opens that door. We have no explanation for why she is shocked, and by the time we do the effect is gone.
It's almost like the showrunners wanted to avoid doing any info dumps (though they do put in a few lines of text right at the beginning to spell out some very basics), but then failed to naturally work the context in at the right time. Two episodes in and I'm still unclear about what the "Magisterium" actually is (I think a theocratic government), or who exactly the Gyptians are (I think a Romani stand-in). Also, in that regards, a plot thread involving the Gyptians searching for some lost children is oddly used, as it gets a decent amount of screentime, but we never really get much sense of any of the characters. There's a mom who does clichéd dramatic grieving mom things. There's a brother who... wants to help, but is told he's too young. There is a gruff guy who is somehow in charge. It's telling I remember none of their names. Maybe their plot line is not an ongoing part of the story, but it feels like its more important by dint of screentime than it does by the depth of attention given to the characters involved.
These days when it's dark in the morning and I'm dressing, I am always surprised to see this light on the ceiling above me. Then I look up and realize it's the light from my alarm reflected in the reflective surface of the ceiling light.
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Still enjoying the Witcher the way they are manipulating some of the timelines and plot threads of the stories allows for a wonderful mix of surprise at new scenes and new uses of characters but also delighted seeing familiar scenes played out on the screen.
Still rereading Walden in the annotated edition it's very slow going. Something about that book it's filled with interesting sentences and thoughts paragraphs but for some reason reads so so slow.
Decided on some new plans yesterday for ways to manage my day, try not to work too much, and get some non-work things done. For one, I'm going to start tracking the actual number of hours of working, so I don't go crazy over what I'm actually being paid to do. Also going to more clearly schedule time in the morning for sitting and writing or working on projects so that I do those everyday before I start work. We'll see how that goes, but I think I tend to work better when I have a schedule and repetition. Otherwise, I just end up doing my job work which oddly I don't really need as much structure for. I guess my mind has made its priorities.
In illustration, the use of your materials follows logically from your conception of the picture. In fine art, your conception of a picture follows intuitively from the use of your materials. (Franklin Einspruch, reviewing an N.C. Wyeth exhibition)
Read this just now, and as many things do, it made me think about comics of different sorts. How many comics artists work from the materials? Many get very skilled with their materials, but not many create the work because of the materials. Many times, the materials end up being the most prominent part of a work (think any work Sienkiewicz did with Miller), but they are following from a script. I feel like many of the 4 panel works I made were created from the use of materials. I was interested in found text or photographs or what I could do with making images in Javacsript, and then the comics were made out of those investigations. But eventually, I felt like I ran out of ideas of new ways to use those materials, so I stopped making them.
Started reading Junji Ito's No Longer Human which I got sent to review for The Comics Journal. I've never read any of his manga before as he tends to do horror. This one is horror too, but it's more of an existential horror, based on a novel of the same name. We'll see how it goes, and hopefully I will have opinions enough on it to write a review.
We have our game today, with Ian taking over DMing the 5e D&D adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. I'm excited to take a break from DMing and play some, and to put all my online character sheet updates to use. I'll probably right up a recap tomorrow.
Still working my way through The Witcher season 1, 6 episodes in now. I'm noticing more and more how the show writers are altering the original story plots. Some of the changes are clearly to allow for the overlapping of timelines (so they don't have to wait until season 2 to show Ciri as anything but a little girl) and to fill in backstory (most of the Yennifer content so far). Other changes seem to be more about ramping up drama. And some, I'm not totally clear on their purpose or what they add to anything in comparison to the originals. The characters like to talk about destiny a lot, which is overdone, it almost makes the case for the opposite. If someone keeps urging you onto follow your destiny and do this and that, then it feels less like destiny and more like manipulation and choices. One of the major points in the early stories, when Geralt first meets Ciri as a child is that he isn't looking for her and, as I recall, doesn't even know who she is when he first meets her.
They also seem to be adding some kind of religious aspect to the Nilfgaardians, which I don't at all recall from the stories. I feel like that tempers the work some. Instead of just an invading nation of people, they are... religious fanatics or something? That seems more conventionally fantasy than just having all the war and death and chaos caused by an invading, expansionist kingdom.
Watched Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story last night, and, like Little Women it lived up to all the hype. I can't say I have a lot to say about it, except that it was very well done and engaging to watch. It feels rare to have watched 2 movies in a row that got a lot of end of year praise and that didn't disappoint. Though I just heard that Greta Gerwig was apparently snubbed for best director in the Oscar nominations, though both movies are up for picture, screenplay, and various acting awards.
Finished up The Witcher season 1, sadly, I think the last episode of the season was the worst one. It might not be a coincidence that it is the one that seemed to most be original show material. It depicted (and heavily changed) an event only summarized in the stories, and in doing so added a lot of stuff that seemed unnecessary, irrelevant, or just pointless. It seems like the writers want to build up Yennifer's character more, and also provide extra... narrative investment for a few side characters, but in the end it feels like they stray too far from the main characters and end up getting a little too dispersed with the narrative focus. They also went with a lot more effects and big fights and such than really needed, all of which seemed a little too Game of Thrones-y to me. I still really enjoyed the series and am looking forward to a second season, but I do wonder if knowing the original made me enjoy it less for seeing the differences and thinking that many of the differences were unnecessary or tonally inconsistent. It did also make me want to reread the books again, or play the game some more.
Was feeling crappy today, so gave up on work early to sit on the couch this afternoon and watch tv. Ended up finishing up The End of the Fucking World season 2 which was a darkly funny pleasure. It doesn't seem like it needs another season, nor would I be excited for one, the ending felt like an ending.
Then watched Under the Skin which I've been wanting to watch since it was on some best of lists for 2014. It's a hard film to easily describe. Science fiction but mysterious, plain, slow... lots of long takes and unmoving camera shots. Aliens (clearly, though one must just infer that) with no explanation or backstory. The filming and the sound were beautiful and occasionally disturbing. Scarlett Johansson plays this alien woman and is really amazing in it, completely different than she was in Marriage Story. Seems like one of those movies that I'd need to watch again to better understand it. Not something I would recommend to a lot of people.
We started _Waterdeep: Dragon Heist_ on Saturday with Ian DMing. As is traditional, the party started in a tavern, The Yawning Portal, one famous in Waterdeep mostly, I guess, because it has a big hole like a well in the middle of it that leads down to a dungeon beneath the city, the Undermountain. We were all there sitting around a big table to watching a celebratory send-off for a party of brave adventurers going down into the portal.
We all introduce our characters since this was the first session.
Mine is Ludo Travers, a quarter-orc rogue from the city itself he likes the finer things in life and is in love with an equestrian named Annaliese. He's uncomfortable about being kind of ugly cuz he's partial orc.
We also had Marfaen Grimm, a human woman, who had some kind of tragic child story and is now somehow cursed by spirits. That's Eric playing some kind of non-standard class called a Malefactor.
Bimpnottin "Nottie" Sniggleboom (a.k.a. Pimpbutton Snuggleboom) is a gnome who loves children, blowing things up, and working in a toy store. She is also a bard who plays the ocarina. She was very enthusiastic.
The half-elf monk, Fawzi Greynore, had come to the city searching for the fulfillment she could not get at the monastery where she had been living and studying.
And finally, a halfling druid, Ellai Rickzer, who was also from the city and had lots of siblings.
After introductions we watched the party go down into the portal. Not long after, a commotion started nearby as a bald headed dude with eyes tattooed on his head started a fist fight with a half-orc woman. He was backed up by four other guys. Ludo recognized his contact Yagra, so he leapt in to assist, stabbing the bald man once.
A fight began. Ludo ended up stabbing one of the other brawlers, critically hitting, and killing him. Nottie cast a spell, some kind of thunderwave, that shot forward hurting both Ludo (ouch!) and some of the other brawlers, knocking at least one over, and killing another (or maybe the same one). Others in the party held back and observed. After another round a loud animal-like noise erupted out of the pit in the middle of the room and a large troll crawled out, holding a detached human arm wearing the same clothes as one of the adventurers that just went down the hole. Attached to the troll were a few stirges along for the ride.
This new arrival caused true chaos to erupt as much of the clientele fled the scene. This also caused more of the party to become engaged in the combat. The druid cast entangle which sprang up weedy growth around the troll and a few of the brawlers helpfully holding them in place for a time, giving everyone else the advantage of location and movement.
I forget all the order of what happened but one of the stirges killed one of the brawlers, and the remaining one ran away. The unlucky party member ran outside to get the attention of the city watch, who merely observed until the troll was dead, then arrested Yagra and her bald-headed opponent, who was pretty badly hurt by that point. Durnan, the proprietor of the tavern and a former adventurer, leapt from behind the bar with a greatsword and engaged the troll, doing significant damage to it, aided by a number of party members, mostly using missile weapons like thrown daggers. The final blow was struck by the gnome critically hitting with a thrown dagger, getting the troll in the eye and taking him down.
So we ended up killing two guys pretty quickly despite having a conversation before play about how doing that in the city was a bad idea because you'd get arrested. Thankfully the troll's arrival seems to have wiped away that issue, as we could just blame the troll and stirges.
Durnan thanked us for the assist, and back in our seats we were approached by a flamboyant man named Volo. Most everyone knows Volo because is famous for writing travel guides (over the years the publishers of D&D have published a few books with titles that begin "Volo's Guide to..."). He hired us to find his missing friend Floon. Volo and Floon had been drinking (and gambling) at The Skewered Dragon the other night and since then Floon has not been seen. Volo provided little in the way of leads or clues, but he's paid us 10gp each up front with 100gp each when the job is done, and it never hurts to help a famous guy who writes books.
It's release week so of course my scheduling plans fell apart almost immediately. Too many days needing to start early to get code out or fix bugs. Too many bugs which means more stress because we shouldn't be making these mistakes so much, though they are not all my fault. I still somehow feel responsible, even though I don't want to. There's not another option.
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I've been watching Castle of Cagliostro on Netflix it's one of the early Miyazaki animes. I haven't seen it in a really long time. It's pretty amusing and nice to see animation that's still the old hand drawn style. Oddly what I'm finding most interesting as I watch is the difference between the audio dub and the subtitles. I pretty much always watch things with the closed captioning on because of my crappy hearing, and in this case I guess the captioning is the subtitles, and they are clearly very very different from the dub.
It's not just slight changes and phrasing it's places where there is dialogue and no subtitles or subtitles and no dialogue, and also sections that have rather different meanings. Some are subtler than others, but they show kind of a different view of the events. For instance, the princess of the small country in the movie in the subtitles was sent away to a convent but in the dub she was sent away to school. That is not just a difference of word choice. That's the best example that I can remember at this point but it's a lot of things like that which are kind of interesting.
In the end it's entertaining but not amazing. It's been a while since I watched any other Miyazaki movies to know how I feel about them now. The one I remember liking best is Totoro which I am amazed to see my speech to text can spell right. Maybe I should watch that again if it's on any of these services.
I kind of have this weird obsession with adding things to lists and then checking things off the list or removing them. So wish lists like on Amazon or queues like on Netflix become an issue. Either I just want to remove things to get them off the list, or I need to watch/buy/read them to get them off the list, so depending on the mood I'm in at the point when I am weeding the list, I have to do one or the other. In this case it was a combination of the two going through my Netflix queue which is how I ended up watching this movie over the past couple days in dribs and drabs. Actually don't have many other things in the Netflix queue but have a ton of things in my Criterion Channel one.
Another day mostly flew by working. Then happy hour and dinner and socializing, and the day is over. Just noticed a little chickadee flitting around the tree in the frontyard. I feel like I haven't seen any of them in awhile. The bird population in the yard seems to mostly be house sparrows right now. Did see a bright cardinal huddled up on the ground outside the kitchen window yesterday. Maybe I just haven't been looking out at the feeder enough lately, I used to walk by and check more often on my way between rooms.
I have a three day weekend just starting and I'm hoping to accomplish something on some of my projects. I've still got a review to write about Junji Ito's No Longer Human which should probably take priority, since I get sent a review copy of it (and will get paid). I've been taking notes on a review of some other recent manga I read, though that was more an idea I had that I offered. And then there are more changes to my D&D character sheet app. I was trying to work out some views for it (as in model/view/controller), but after reading yesterday that with the new Edge release all evergreen modern browsers now support native Web Components, I really want to try writing some for the app instead. There are a bunch of parts of the sheet that I think would benefit from a Web Component approach, and it would be a good education for me. I've read about them at different times in the past, but with our legacy support at work I never got to try them out. I'll probably watch a movie or two also, see what will be leaving the Criterion Channel this month in case there is something I really want to watch. They have a series of 70s sci-fi movies for this month only, that I am sort of tempted by, but also sort of expect I might not like any of them and just be wasting my time.
Lots of time working on my character sheet app this weekend. Wrote a bunch of web components and feel a lot more familiar with how they work at a basic level. Did I make the app simpler? I'm not sure. Maybe I just made it more complicated. But I learned something along the way and it is at least more modular now.
Also in a big burst of energy wrote up my review of the No Longer Human manga, which ended up focusing a lot on the adaptation, since I ended up reading the orginal novel too.
Wired had a list of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes to watch in preparation/as background for the new Picard series that starts this week, so I ended up watching a bunch of them on my second monitor while I worked on my app over the weekend. I watch TNG when it first started (I remember watching the premier), but gave up on it before it ended (more, I think, because I was doing other things socially instead of watching it, whatever night it was on). I've seen various episodes in the meantime, but have never watched it all the way through like I have the other series.
These episodes were all, naturally, Picard-centric ones from across the seasons, a few I had seen and remember, some I have not or did not. My impression is that the later episodes got a little more into what I like about some of the other series, like continuing storylines, character progression, and a sense of time and history, rather than just episodic planet/situation of the week. Maybe I should watch the later seasons.
We were driving to dinner last night so we listened to some of the start of the impeachment trial on NPR. It was very frustrating to listen to the arguments and hear the voting, of course a long party lines. Obviously, the Democrats have it easier as they can vote both ethically and politically simultaneously. The Republicans would have to choose ethics and law against the politics, and we know most politicians won't do that. I can't help but wonder how it would go if the president were Democrat, I mean, if it were a president who were a Democrat getting impeached. I wasn't paying that close attention to the Clinton impeachment when it happened I was pretty young but my ongoing understanding is that the legal basis for that was a lot shakier and the attention it got was much more focused on an affair rather than anything that had to do with the country or his duty as a president. I should probably read up a bit to see how comparable it really is.
I don't even know what to say, but it's frustrating and can be angering and I wonder if many of these people, the politicians I mean, don't care about the ethical matter because they are so used to taking advantage of their station and power and taking money from lobbyists and all the things that go with that. That probably makes what the president did seem not that bad especially if they can see politically why they don't want to go against him.
Watched the anime Miss Hokusai (2015) in bits and pieces over the past few days on Netflix. It's an episodic story, so it actually wasn't too bothersome to stop it between scenes and come back to the next scene later in the day or the next day. Based on a manga, which I have not read but am curious to see, by Hinako Sigiura, it is a historical fiction about O-Ei, daughter of the famous artist Hokusai, herself an artist. She lives with him and another (male) student in Edo. The movie is a variety of episodes from her perspective as she interacts with different people, makes art, and cares for her younger blind sister. It's a quiet anime, interspersed with nature and simple interactions, but also punctuated by mythological fantasies that all seem to be drawn from work by Hokusai (at least the ones that I recognized). The animation is nice though it is occasionally marred by the use of computer 3d imagery to show movement through the landscape (through the streets, under a bridge) that are just a little too stiff and digital to work with the softer animation used for the characters. It always threw me out of the moment when those scenes occurred. I have no concept about the historical reality of the protagonist (though she did exist) nor how the movie relates to the manga.
I enjoyed it, especially scenes between O-Ei and the younger blind sister, where O-Ei describes their surroundings to her, or they discuss the input of her other senses (the sounds and smells, the feel of snow).
Starting to get lighter in the morning today, something in the air, it's really clear out, sharp. It's quite nice, still pretty cold. Blue sky tinted with purple clouds in the west, yellow where the sun is rising in the east.
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Got about two chapters into Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters before deciding it was not for me. The plot setup seemed like a Ozu movie (large family, daughters and marriage), but the writing was doing nothing for me. That can go back to the library.
Watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard last night and I'm interested. It so far feels different than other Trek shows. It's not, as of yet, at least, focused around a ship (or station) and a crew. It is also pretty wrapped up in events previous to the start of the show, some of which I'm not clear how they ended up in the timeline. Something about androids attacking... Mars or something. I don't think that happened in any of the shows or movies. Curious to see where it goes. It was a bit surprising to see how old Patrick Stewart is now after having so recently watched those episodes from 20 years ago.
Late tonight, I'm watching Bergman's Summer with Monika on the Criterion Channel. I don't have a great sense of his work I've watched a few, but have kind of forgotten them. I don't know, but just watching this now, he's one of those directors where the shots and the compositions are just so beautiful that sometimes it almost doesn't matter what the movie is about. You know that he really cared about the imagery and how things were set up and where everything was. Kind of like Ozu who you also get that same feeling, that everything is very composed and planned.
Busy day yesterday. ALA Midwinter was happening in Philly, so I went took the train down to spend some very rare time with work colleagues.
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Spent all afternoon at the company booth in the exhibit, chatting with newly met and longtime colleagues. Booth was pretty slow, but I appreciated getting the time to socialize. It really does make a difference meeting someone in real life rather than just via Slack interactions. Especially, in this case, people that I don't ever even have meetings with.
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It was a lot of socializing for me, that I normally don't do, but I think I acquitted myself well. Not too many akward silences, not just talking about work, hopefully not saying anything stupid.
Just saw the red-tailed hawk fly across my window view and land in a tall tree across the street. It's always a thrill to see him (her?, I don't know how to tell) flying, or perched.
Found out via a mostly unrelated search that Tokyopop has been putting out an English edition of Kozue Amano's Aria, the Aria: The Masterpiece edition. They are already four volumes out, which gets the manga as far as they published last time they tried to release it. Apparently the popularity of the anime boosted its profile enough. I guess I'm not following the right sources to have missed for so long that they were releasing these. I, of course, ordered all 4 right away. They seem fairly well done. They maintain the color pages (which the older English editions did not), and are packing 2 regular volumes into one, including the volumes from when it was called Aqua. There is no back material or even the little side stories and humorous commentaries from Amano included though which is a bit of a disappointment. No real extra content at all. Just the manga pages, a table of contents, and a copyright page. Pretty no frills, but at a larger size than before. Happy to be reading the series again, as it's always been a favorite, simple, charming, a bit melancholy at times. Hopefully they will actually get through the whole series (7 volumes in this edition) this time. I've only read the later volumes in old scanlations.
Been trying to sit (shikantaza) in the morning more. I sit and my thoughts turn to something I have to do, and the feeling that I need to get up and do that thing wells up in me. Then I dismiss that feeling, that thought... then a bit later another thing I feel I need to do comes up and again, the desire to get up and do it. Sometimes it's work stuff, or something to write down (like this current thought I'm writing), or today it was just the need to pick a bit of fuzz off the new curtains hanging on the closet in my office that used to be ugly folding doors. Eventually, I give in to the desire to get up. It's like my brain is creating todo lists constantly.
Though, not really, as yesterday afternoon I kind of ended up in a nothing to do place. Did a release of my character sheet app and wasn't ready to start on any more features. I didn't feel like watching a movie (though I still have Summer with Monika unfinished). I didn't have any video game to play (unless I restarted something old). Didn't really have any projects. I ended up just doing some reading, which sometimes I forget is a good way to spend part of the afternoon (I tend to do most of my reading these days in the evening before bed).
The new King Cat showed up, always a pleasant occurrence. It's like an old friend sending you a letter. I read that, and what can I say about it, Porcellino is always pretty consistent, a new issue is enjoyable and sometimes moving, but rarely unexpected.
Reread Frank Santoro's Pittsburgh which was definitely one of the best comics of last year. His way of working is almost the antithesis of the classic method of making comics. Don't erase the underdrawing (when there is one), don't cover up mistakes, don't hide the fixes (taped on panels, taped on drawing fixes), don't fill in the colors, don't ink, don't use consistent tools or palette, don't be precise and slick. It's wonderful to look at and read.
Negative space clouds
Pink is changing to yellow
Right before my eyes
There's a little early morning walk haiku.
I'm walking along a row of tall bushes and a car behind me, across the street, pulling out of its driveway with its lights on, makes a shadow, my shadow, but it moves such a way against the bottom part of the bushes that it looked like an animal was coming out of the bushes. Freaked me out for a second.
I've been reading Donald Ritchie's The Inner Sea. It's basically a travelogue (created from journals) about his time traveling the inner sea in Japan, an area in between three of the four main islands of Japan, where there's a bunch of smaller islands. It's sometime in the late 60's I think, the book was published in 1971 for the first time. These islands are still not super modernized people still very country, I guess. They have older traditions; they often seem to not know what happens or what even the next island over is like when it's a not very long boat ride away.
I watched the movie adaptation documentary of it on the Criterion Channel a while back, which was pretty interesting. A lot of visuals of the islands with his narration over. So I decided to read the full book, but, in the end, I'm not sure so much it was a better experience. Richie can be pretty annoying seems to not really like a lot of people.
My review of No longer Human went up at The Comics Journal yesterday. Already got some comments criticizing me. Apparently if I understood or researched Japanese culture a little bit I would have felt differently about the book, I guess. It's a frustratingly specious argument for multiple reasons. One of which is I have a pretty decent knowledge of Japanese culture. I've read a lot of lit, I know a bunch of art, movies, hell just yesterday I was reading a travelogue about part of Japan and received another manga in the mail. Seems like a weak excuse to try to excuse awfulness to women via the old "it's a different culture thing." Anyway we'll see if I get any other comments be nice to hear someone with a decent argument for or against what I said.
It's hard to get criticism of something you did, but it's worse when the criticism is so stupid.
Forgot to mention, I did finish Bergman's Summer with Monika. It was an interesting movie. The ending felt off to me. It's about these two older teens who hate their jobs and are unhappy in their family life so they take the boy's father's boat and run off, basically spending the summer camping on the coast. It's never explained how they keep having enough gas for their boat, but I overlook that bit. Of course she ends up pregnant. They go back to the city, she has the baby, and then she kind of does that thing where she doesn't care about the baby and she's mad at him all the time and sleeps with someone else and he's just all working hard and trying to be good and then they break up. I'm not really sure what the message is and it didn't feel particularly relevant or moving to me, but I did enjoy the compositions. There were a lot of good ones. One great shot is following the boy as he's walking to the right and on the right side of the screen the girl comes into frame standing on a rock silhouetted against the sky posed, one leg crooked raised a little bit on a rock, and just for a second and she's not moving and then she runs off to the other side of the screen.
There's one weird part of the movie where this other guy camping nearby to the young couple goes into their boat and starts throwing stuff into the water and then breaks a window and makes a fire from a bunch of their stuff on the boat. He and the young man then fight and he runs off. It's strange, this outburst of violence and unexplained craziness in the middle of the movie. It's not at all clear why the guy is doing that. First you think he's just going to steal their belongings or the boat, but then he's just kind of causing chaos. It's almost like he's not really acting as a real person, he's just a metaphorical symbol of their imminent declining relationship.
There are utility workers appearing around town. They seem to be maybe shoring up the telephone poles. They drill a couple holes around the base of the pole going down. They seem to insert some kind of epoxy (maybe), cylindrical kind of clear, and then they put in these big screws, black, long, in the holes. They went all the way up my street the other day now they're on the street I walk to the library on. Guess that's some kind of new thing to do. In some sense it seems like putting more holes into these old poles will make them less stable as far as the wood goes. I don't know, I guess they know what they're doing.
I don't think I mentioned it before, I ended up ordering a Nintendo Switch the other day, so I could play the Zelda Breath of the Wild game. I've been playing it a little bit slowly over the past few days, trying to figure it out, how it works and not totally sure how I feel about it yet. It's still in the early section where you're learning how the game works. One thing I find certainly frustrating is that the Switch'a generic controls for okay/yes and backwards are the exact opposite placement of the buttons on the PS4, so I keep going back when I mean to okay something, and okay something when I mean to go back. I'll get used to it eventually, but it's been pretty frustrating. The game is nicely open world even the small section you are stuck in at the beginning as you learn the game is pretty big and varied. You can just run and climb and swim all over it. You don't seem to have any of those places where it just blocks you like in a lot of games where you can't climb so they just put up stuff you can't pass. In this one, as long as you can maintain your stamina level for climbing you can just climb up things. It's pretty neat. There's also a cooking system that I'm still experimenting with to make food and potions that have different powers. Something I don't particularly like is the way weapons run down and break fast. Feels like you fight a couple monsters with one weapon and it explodes into pieces, so you're constantly having to pick up new weapons and manage your weapon inventory which is a pain. I hate doing a lot of inventory management in games always seems like an unnecessary burden.
I sure do go on with this when I'm voice to texting the drafts. I guess this is a better way for me to work. I do always have to go back and clean it up and fix spelling and add punctuation clarify things (though not as much as I could). But it really is a good way to just get get my thoughts on to "paper" that I don't forget about them, neglect to revisit them later.
I read a book about foxes I got from the library, The Hidden World of the Fox by Adele Brand. I read it all last night, but I ended up skimming a lot of it. Sometimes I read a text and the writing style is such that I just find it difficult to read. Not difficult like reading Finnegans Wake. It's difficult, like, hard to keep reading it because it's kind of annoying, or there's something about the style that just doesn't work for me. That was the case with this book. It was just not working for me, so I read a few chapters and then just got frustrated and started skimming and reading paragraphs here and there. Did I learn much about foxes? I learned a little. Naybe a few things about whether they are nocturnal or not (they are not really that they can be) and whether they carry rabies or not (they can but they rarely would pass it to people as they don't tend to get involved with people). Also apparently they tend to ignore cats, and cats tend to ignore them, which is nice to know. Nothing I saw on how they feel about raccoons.