Derik Badman's Journal

June 2020

2020-06-03 08:46

Chaotic week at work with performance issues and spikes and (thankfully brief) downtimes. I am stressed and on edge. Learning via mistakes can be good, but it can also be stressful and dangerous to business.

Saw a chipmunk in a driveway on my morning walk. I so rarely see them, though I know they are around. I guess they don't tend to run around in places where I can easily see them, unlike say squirrels.

Watch the Kristen Stewart lead Seberg biopic the other day. While she was excellent in it as Jean Seberg and basically seemed to be the point of it, the movie was otherwise a pretty big letdown. There's a really interesting story to be told (especially now) about how a movie star was basically destroyed by the FBI just because she donated money and a bit of her public profile to black power groups, but this movie is not it. From some brief research it appears a good bit of the movie was fictionalized (for instance it is apparently quite disputed that she had an affair with one of the men whose programs she was giving money to, but that clearly makes for a more dramatic and racy movie). It focuses on a very short period of time in her life and it doesn't adequately even consider why she got involved. What made a white money star who was living in France start supporting these groups. It also doesn't address her subsequent suicide, which seems to have been a good part related to what the FBI did. In fact, at the end of the film, it just show some few bits of text on the screen that say she died, but don't even indicate it was suicide.

More problematic is the "sympathetic" FBI agent, that I must assume was created for the movie. He's like the good cop character with a pretty wife (the underused Margaret Qualley) who is becoming a doctor. He bugs Seberg and basically helps destroy her life, but he also kind of falls in love with her, so he feels bad about it. He doesn't apparently feel bad about bugging other people or sneaking into their houses or anything, only this one pretty movie star. His "good cop" role is played off his partner's "bad cop" who is shown much more enthused about destroying a person's life not to mention shown yelling violently as his teenage daughter over dinner.

Also problematic is the end scene where the good cop tries to give Seberg her FBI file and she doesn't take it. It's impossible to believe that the women who sued Newsweek for printing a scandalous story about who her baby's father supposedly was (based on FBI lies), wouldn't take that file and use it somehow.

I finished the first half (one of two novels) of Jeroun: The Collected Omnibus by Zachary Jernigan, and I'm not sure I'll read the second half. Somewhere I saw raves for this series that made me think I'd like it, but when I picked it up last night to start on the second half/novel I just wasn't enthused. I think neither the writing nor the characters nor the general plot are just that exciting to me. The writing suffers from a lot of infodump world building, most of the characters are fairly annoying, and there's just so much special terms and fantasy world cruft. Jernigan is perhaps a lot more interested in world building than I am. And I also felt as I read, that too much was being explained. Everything was being explained.

2020-06-04 09:52

A big fast moving thunderstorm rolled through early yesterday afternoon. The power went out, then it came back on. At least some things came on. During the day there are less signs to know. The clock worked, the light on the printer came on. My computer would not turn on, and I was convinced it had been fried. But it turns out we have power just not much of it. Lights are dim, the fridge is kind of working, but not really well. Somehow the internet and router came back this morning. I'm outside on the porch again, unable to work. I kept saying I was going to take a day off and some new problem kept coming up at work to stop me. Now the situation has been forced, though not exactly in the way I would like. Lots of generators running as I took my walk this morning, though now all sound is overwhelmed by some kind of tree shredder machine. I was surprised how many branches were scattered about on my walk. Our yard somehow remained unaffected, but clearly the winds were strong.

I woke up yesterday morning with that "walking on broken glass" song stuck in my head, and it reminded me of a dream I had where I did walk on broken glass. I vividly remember pulling shards of glass out of my bloody feet, and cuts on my hands from doing so, then walking around trying to find a nurse (it was a long series of dreams where I was at some kind of college). That seems like a stress dream to me.

So here I am with what may be a day off. I finished up the latest Jacobin issue that arrived (probably last week), focused on the pandemic. I'm only two issues into my subscription and I'm still undecided about the magazine as a whole. The previous issue was not that great, very focused on the idea of Bernie Sanders winning the nomination, and by the time I read it, that was already outdated and many of the articles seemed more wishful thinking. This one on the pandemic is much more focused and interesting, with articles specifically about viruses and vaccines and the drug industry, as well as the economy and the potential changes that could come from all this as so many strutural problems with the economic and government system become so obvious in this type of crisis.

I started rereading Wolfe's Book of the New Sun last night, this time with my Lexicon Urthus at hand to look up the occasionaly obscure word or reference. Even just two chapters in, it's so obvious how much great Wolfe is compared to so many other writers, and having read the book(s) before, you can see how he foreshadows and makes references to places the book will go. It is well constructed, mysterious, and engaging. Will probably read a few more chapters today. Not sure I can watch any movies, as I'm not sure my laptop will charge (Lianne had issues charging her phone with the reduced power).

2020-06-07 10:33

The doves on the porch are trying to build another new nest. They seem to be to a certain extent acclimated to my presence. They fly up and sit and stare at a me a bit from the railing or the rafters, and go about their business. Sadly they are really bad at the business of making nests. They put up a few twigs and then the twigs all fall down and they start over. Now the one seems to be grooming the other one's neck. Still kind of amazed up close how lovely the blue is around their eyes. And I can't figure why they have to make noise when they are flying.

Spent yesterday doing very little beyond sitting on the couch watching movies and tv. I watched Olivier Assayas' Non-Fiction which was a quintessential stereotyped French film: a bunch of bourgeoise couples talking a lot about politics and literature and having affairs. But in that respect it was quite interesting. A lot of the talk was about the future of publishing books and auto-fiction, which I found interesting. The arguments were such that it was hard to figure where Assayas actually agrees with any of it, which I think is a strength of the movie. It wasn't as good as The Clouds of Sils Maria though, partially, perhaps, because the novelist character (who writes thinly veiled auto-fiction, was pretty insufferable throughout and at no point could I figure why either his wife or lover put up with him.

Also rewatched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence over the past two days. One issue with the plot really bothered me this time though. The town is being bullied by one mean bandit (Liberty Valence) and his two toadies. The sheriff is incompetent, and it ends up coming down to a shootout between the bandit and Jimmy Stewart's lawyer character. All the townsfolk seem to be against the bandit, they know he's murdered, robbed, and beat up people, yet none of them (except the tough guy John Wayne character) do anything about it. If the whole town just came out with their shotguns or rifles or what-have-you to back up the lawyer, it would have been no problem at all. In one of the other westerns I really like that is basically what happens, though I can't right now remember which. Of course if that happened, it would ruin the whole rest of the plot.

Still making my way through and really enjoying The Book of the New Sun, just reading a few chapters at a time. As it is another fantasy series I have not read yet, but that I've heard tons of good things about for years, I ordered a copy of the first Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake.

2020-06-10 08:23

Woke up at 5:20 this morning, I think I'm going to sleep too early at night. Though it was nice to get out walking and there were less people and cars about. Also I managed to watch a whole (not very long) movie over breakfast/coffee and it's still not even 8:30.

I watched Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper, the fifth of his movies I've watched in the past few weeks, and the third movie with Kristen Stewart (two of which were Assayas'). This one was a little more of mixed genre than the others, which have mostly been realistic quiet dramas. This one has a bit of a supernatural horror/suspense thing going on over top of the more realist drama. According to the reviews a lot of people seemed to not like this one, I think because if you expect a normal horror/suspense movie you are not going to get it, on the other hand if you are expecting something like The Clouds of Sils Maria, you get something with ghosts or spirits.

It starts off with a kind of haunted house motif, a young woman going to spend the night by herself in an empty house, and then just a glimmer of light behind her at one point that you can write off easily. But as it goes on the house becomes less important and the supernatural becomes less ignorable, and then there's a crime element that makes use of the supernatural. But it's not the supernatural as, diagetically, real, rather it's via a faked supernatural element used by one of the characters. That's a fairly interesting aspect of the whole thing, the way the supernatural is both real and fake. It's not like a Scooby Doo mystery where in the end it was just some person tricking people, but on the other hand, the worst stuff that happens in the movie is not because of the supernatural. And not unlike many ghost stories, it is also a good bit about mourning, both literally and metaphorically.

Last night we watched Otto Preminger's Daisy Kenyon with Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda. It too felt a little genre bending, in that ended up being a rather straight up "woman's picture"/drama but had at times this noir-ish look and feel (there were certainly times in it I was expecting that someone was going to murder someone else). But it oddly, ended up in rather happy ending. There's a love triangle and weirdly everyone is mostly calm and rational and the woman gets to make her decision, and the guy that seems to be an asshole isn't the one she picks.

Finished up the Mausritter adventure on Sunday, after three sessions. I like the simple rules, not sure the particular genre/setting is super exciting long term, but we'll see how everyone else feels. For now I think we are going to play some more cyberpunk run by Eric this time using his variation on the Mirrorshades rules, which is rules light but not as light as Mausritter/Into the Odd, and Eric made it less light by adding extra classes and extra rules elements.

2020-06-13 16:09

Saturday afternoon of another week at home. After 13 weeks of not going into another building, I finally went somewhere yesterday to give blood (which seems like a good reason to go somewhere). It was even the first time I was anywhere I felt I needed to where a mask (since otherwise I've only been at home or walking outside in mostly empty areas).

Eric was running an adventure he wrote for Mothership this afternoon, which is kind of sci-fi/horror, so I decided to finally watch Alien this morning. I've seen the sequel long ago but never the first one. I ended up giving up just past the halfway mark. At first I found it interesting and suspenseful, with its 70s sci-fi look (so many lights and buttons and switches) and slow burn suspense. But there comes a point in the story where the characters start acting so stupid. In one scene the facehugger alien has disappeared off the first guy that has run into them. Three other characters go into the medbay to try to figure out where the creature went but... they don't turn on the lights. No apparent reason, just... clearly the creators wanted it to be dark and spooky. Later, they are looking for the alien that burst out of the one guys chest and... they split up. Even after the captain specifically said to stay together and in communication, the one guy wanders off to find the cat and doesn't stay in communication and doesn't seem concerned when he finds the aliens's sloughed off skin and then, of course, gets killed. Stupid. Lazy writing in my opinion. If you can't build suspense without writing characters that are idiots then that's bad writing.

2020-06-14 10:47

I rewatched Celine Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire this morning (it's currently on Hulu), and it was totally worth the second viewing. While there were less surprises in plot this time, I was more able to pay attention to the camera and the faces and the foreshadowing and the larger ways the plot and theme connected together.

I noticed more this time how much the start of the film is like a gothic novel. A woman, Marianne, a painter, we learn, arrives on a deserted beach and is left to walk to a dark house. The servant who answers the door doesn't greet her, just let's her in and leads her by the light of a single candle to a large room with cloth draped over numerous objects. Later Marianne wanders down to the kitchen in the dark looking for food. It's all a bit mysterious at first, dark and foreboding. When we learn that the eldest daughter died on the cliffs, possibly a suicide, it fits in with that genre. But then the plot starts shifting to romance, a forbidden one, but the gothic elements do not totally disappear. Marianne has a few visions of Heloise, the woman she is painting, standing in a white ghostly robe.

Sciamma uses a lot of slow reveals to play with expectation. Marianne is going to paint Heloise in a green dress, but Heloise was resistent to the portrait, so Marianne is expected to do it secretly. In one cut we see the bottom hem of the green dress, with shoes sticking out from beneath it walking... is Heloise wearing the dress? The camera moves up and we see the servant girl is just walking carrying the dress in front of her. A later scene finds the three woman in the kitchen in front the cooking hearth, behind a large table, we see only the lower half of the servant girl, her feet hanging limply in the air... it's a classic shot of a hanging by suicide, yet, after a moment, the feet move and place themselves back in the stool behind them (she is hanging from something as part of an attempt to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy, I'm not totally clear on the logic).

I really appreciated this time how much work Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel's faces do throughout the movie to carry emotion and communication. Especially early on, so much goes unsaid in words, but is conveyed by their facial expressions, and that's doubly important because of how much the plot revolves around looking and seeing.

In one lovely little shot, there is a cut to a field of tall grass, devoid of people, until all at once all three protagonists, pop up into view. They are out searching for a plant of some kind (again related to the unwanted pregnancy). It's a delightful little jolt. Another beautiful shot has all three silhouetted against the night sky, walking along a ridge in their voluminous cloaks and coats. It's mysterious and silent, as they head to a gathering of woman around a bonfire.

(I wrote about my first viewing in the theatre way back on March 1 2020).

2020-06-19 16:49

Not much going on this week: work, cook, watch tv, read. Been reading a bit here and there in a few things, primarily continuing my way through The Book of the New Sun (I'm about halfway though the second volume).

After months of not playing anything, I gave in and downloaded a video game to play. I was waiting for The Last of Us 2 to come out (today) so I replayed Dishonored which I first played way back in 2016. Just finished it up this afternoon. I'm not a fan of its first person viewpoint (I never am), but it is a fun game and it (unlike say Assassin's Creed, which I've complained about before) actually lets you get through the missions without killing everything in site. It rewards you for being stealthy and finding alternate means to stop your enemies. This time through I managed to find the non-violent alternative for all the missions. The world building in the game is pretty interesting too (ditto for its sequels).

Still working my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation though I am down to the last three episodes now.

This is feeling like a pointless entry.

2020-06-20 12:44

Sometimes as I'm reading a book, I'm thinking things like "what is going on" "I don't understand how this all fits together" "Is there a point to this" "Am I supposed to be getting some hidden meaning" and then I get to the end and I just feel like it was a good book, without really even understanding exactly what the book was about or what the author intended. I feel that way about Borja Gonzalez's comic A Gift for a Ghost which I just finished a first read of. I say "first" because I know I'll have to read it again soon, because I feel like it will have new layers a second time through. The art is minimal and beautiful with great use of flat colors sometimes very toned down and sometimes extremely saturated. The characters have no faces, almost always drawn from a distance, yet they are expressive and readable. There are numerous panels that just slow down the narrative, an image of the sky or a plant or a poster on a wall, and I love that. It's not a story in a rush or one that is explaining too much.

Also just read Lizzy Stewart's Walking Distance which I am less sure about. It's kind of a personal essay with images about Stewart's self-image and her walking around London. The drawings shift a bit between simple comic-y images and watercolors that seem to be from life or at least based on observation. Yet, in how much she specifically talks about London, the images don't feel really specific and grounded in London. She talks about how she knows the streets and different ways to get around and sites of the city, yet I don't feel that ever really gets conveyed in the drawings. It all just seems a little too generic visually.

Having finished the tv series I watched one of the Star Trek TNG movies: Star Trek: Insurrection. The Star Trek movies always seem like movies written by tv writers who are a little too enthused by extra time and money and effects. The action scenes are always too long, the space battles too detailed, the explosions too big. The plots often feel like they walk away from what makes the episodes good: theme, characters, relationships, especially all those B and C plots. It's all the A plot. (Later I rewatched Star Trek: Nemesis which also suffered from the same problems.)

Started The Last of Us Part 2 this morning and am already predicting there will be no happy ending in this game. It's pretty brutal narratively, even for a zombie apocalypse game, partially, I think, because it starts in a good place, not pre-apocalypse (since its a sequel), but at a sort of mostly happy status quo, and then it punches you in the face and runs off cackling.

Been seeing the fox kits out in the yard a lot the past few days. There are still 4 of them. This morning two of them were playing with each other in the rain garden. Last night one of them was chomping on an apple Lianne threw out there for them.

2020-06-25 08:29

Finished The Last of Us Part 2 last night. It is an impressive game, brutal in so many ways, though not in the way the Souls games are brutal. It's not about play difficulty. The game offers an impressive array of options for difficulty and accessibility. The studio clearly made accessibility a priority, the first thing you see when you load the game, before you even see the studio logo is a few accessibility options, and when you get into the game the options become even more numerous. I ended up playing with a lot of them turned on, because I really wasn't looking for a skill challenge, I was looking for the narrative.

The game is like a movie with some interactive parts. Unlike say, Bioware games, there are no points where you really control or change the outcome of the story. You play puzzles and tactics in combat/stealth situations, but none of that effects dialogue or outcomes. In this case, the studio put that to good use by writing an excellent story. Most of the time I didn't care I couldn't control outcomes because I was just wrapped up in what was happening and wanting to know where it was going. The times I did want to control what was happening were where, I think, part of the point was having to sit and be complicit, in a way, with the actions of the protagonists.

While the mechanics of the game are (as best as I recall) pretty much unchanged from the first game, the game makes a bunch of interesting choices outside of the mechanics that really integrate with the theme and story.

[And here I will warn about tons of spoilers, which I don't usually do, but this game really does deserve to be played without knowing where its going.]

You start off the game playing Ellie, one of the protagonists from the previous game, but pretty quickly you switch to this other unfamiliar woman, Abby. Her story starts out pretty vague, but quickly intersects with Joel (the other protagonist from the first game). It switches back to Ellie and you see Abby kill Joel. It's pretty brutal and shocking. The game jumps ahead a short period, and you return to Ellie, headed off from her home with her girlfriend to Seattle to track down the group of people that killed Joel (in particular Abby). At first you think the early part of playing Abby was just a way to increase the shock of the murder.

In Seattle, Ellie starts killing the other people that were with Abby in the beginning. They are part of some kind of militia group (who is fighting a kind of territory/gang war with this religious group) and it's easy to see them as enemies. The militia attack you, you fight back, you track down the specific people. They get killed. (Other stuff happens with Ellie and her friends, including a bunch of flashbacks.) Then... one morning Ellie wakes up, and finds Abby holding a gun over one of her friends and Abby shoots another friend dead (it happens so quickly). Abby is pointing the gun at Ellie your protagonist... You expect... something... maybe a boss fight, maybe some kind of resolution... then...

You're playing Abby again a few days earlier. And suddenly as it continues, you realize, it's not another one-off thing, Abby is the other protagonist. And at first it's weird cause she killed the guy you played in the first game, but then you start to warm to her. You see all those friends Ellie killed as... Abby's friends, as people, struggling with what they did and what they do (well most of them). You play fetch with a dog you previously killed as Ellie.

And there are more flashbacks where you learn that Abby's dad is this doctor that Joel (you, the gameplayer) killed at the end of the first game. And there are all these parallels and connections and suddenly you realize, how it's just violence perpetuating violence. But in a way... in the beginning... Abby and her friends kill Joel but they leave Ellie and Joel's brother alive. They leave. But Ellie... she followed them and started killing them all. They are basically following the same path, revenge, but Ellie takes it to even greater extremes. And weirdly your protagonist of two games, becomes a villain.

So you end up playing Abby helping some kids that are part of her opponent religious cult, and you play her finding her friends' dead bodies, or seeing her friends killed (in a tough scene where you are hiding from a vicious sniper who is the friendly brother of Joel).

Eventually the game gets back around to the confrontation, Abby pointing a gun at Ellie, Ellie admitting the reason Joel killed Abby's dad was Ellie. And suddenly you are in a boss fight, but you're Abby fighting Ellie. And you win. And you let Ellie and her girlfriend live. Abby walks out.

Cut to a farmhouse, Ellie and her girlfriend are living on a farm with a baby (the girlfriend finds out she's pregnant earlier in the game). It seems as idyllic as post zombie apocalypse can get. It's a little coda, somehow against all odds this game has a happy ending, though clearly we see Ellie has ptsd after all she's gone through.

Then Joel's brother shows up (the first point you realize he is alive and that Abby didn't kill him) and he's heard a rumor where Abby is and you realize he hasn't given up, but still I held out some hope that it was still the end. A final "let it go". Then... Ellie is leaving. And you are her again hunting down Abby and the game continues for another couple scenes. And Ellie and Abby fight again, both horribly wounded. Abby doesn't want to fight, Ellie forces it, and you are her, so this time you are fighting Abby.

And this is one place where I was tempted to just... not fight. To let Abby win. But... what would be the point, when you die the game would start you back at the beginning of the scene/fight/location as usual. ( A nagging suspicion maybe this last fight they'd let you do that to get an alternate ending, but somehow I doubt it.) And when you win Ellie almost drowns Abby (they are fighting in the surf) and then let's her go. She sits there in the ocean in the fog alone.

Final scene, this time for real, Ellie returns to the farmhouse and it is all cleaned out except for her stuff in one room. She leaves.

That's a ton of plot description, but even that much feels like it misses elements that made the game so effective. The game consistently makes the violence vicious and brutal and keeps turning around on you and not letting you forget that all those human enemies are people. And having you play basically mirrored antagonists was a brilliant decision. It's uncomfortable and sad and painful at times, but it's also really effective.

Even in the last scene when Ellie is trying to find Abby and fighting these gang members who captured Abby, when you kill them the others in the group shout out their names. They each have names and you hear a lot of them. It's surprising and unexpected and it makes you feel how much Ellie, is basically just a mass murderer.

Probably the least effective or interesting part of the game is all the zombie fights. They provide an important background for why society has fragmented so much and why there are these desperate warring factions and such, but unlike in the first one where the zombie's and the potential cure for the zombie plague were a major driver of the plot, this one has no real connection anymore to the zombie's, they are just there as another obstacle, and playwise I found them the least interesting parts of the game.

Still, wow, a powerful game. I basically spent a huge portion of my free time playing it over the past 6 days because I just kept needing to know what was going to happen next. But also... I don't think I could ever play it again. Without the plot surprises, the narrative would be much less effective I think, and the gameplay itself is not exciting enough to want to redo (plenty of other games I could play if I want a third person stealth shooter type game).

I also wonder where they can go from here. Can the studio follow this up with a game with violence without being total hypocrits? Can they find a way to make a violence free game? Seems like very few of the big games are not about killing stuff.

2020-06-27 09:24

We watched Josephine Decker's Shirley last night, and I enjoyed a lot more than her previous Madeline's Madeline see March 30 2020. This one had the same sense of unusuality and expressiveness, but also was more understandable narratively, and while not a totally straightforward story, it felt like it progressed and resolved. The first thing I noticed about it was how much the camera moves, it almost never stops, not in a super shaky way, but almost like someone constantly moving around the characters looking at them. There is one interesting scene that cuts between closeups of the two female leads and each cut seems to get the camera a little closer to the actor and also move around enough so it looked they they were moving closer to each other.

The color of the lighting was also notable and impressive, often naturalistic, and often very yellow which expressively felt appropriate as kind of jaundiced light on the situation. The light also seemed to help a bit with the differences between the reality of the story and the reality of the novel being written by Shirley (Elisabeth Moss, who is excellent as always), which at times inserts itself into the film. At one point, late in the movie, Shirley is walking in the woods following the other lead (it's sad I can't remember her name), but also thinking about the protagonist of her novel. We see Shirley's head from behind at the right side of the frame, the path and trees and woman ahead, then the camera moves so Shirley's head shifts across the frame to the left side and simultaneously the background ahead of her shifts to show the other woman in a different light. It was really cool but not too flashy.

The music in the film was also really well handled, often as much sound effect as music, working really well along with the narrative and actors and the feelings, much more integrated than a conventional score.

Having said nothing about the story (it's about the writer Shirley Jackson and the young wife who comes to live with her, when the young husband professor starts working for Jackson's husband), it's a movie worth watching and maybe rewatching.

I've also been rewatching Star Trek: Discovery, having made it through TNG and a few of the related movies (which are... just not that good). I'm finding rewatching, knowing the major plot twists adds a level of understanding to a variety of scenes that you read/understand differently a first time through than a second time through. The writers did an excellent job of providing multiple explanations for certain surprises in a way that made the surprises, truly surprising, but also, on rewatching, makes you realize it was all well planned and plotted.

Started a new (old) video game yesterday too, Ashen (on the PS4). Mechanically it's very much a Dark Souls clone. Almost everything about the mechanics is nearly identical. It's a similarly dark fantasy, but feels much less oppressive and is certainly less difficult than the Souls games. For one thing, you always have a companion character with you (which apparently can be another remote player if you are hooked up for that, I'm just playing with a computer NPC). This certainly provides an easing of the difficulty. Above and beyond that, the game, despite having no difficulty settings, is clearly not made to be as punishing. So far I've gotten through a few missions and 1 boss fight, and I only died once (and that was from drowning because I didn't understand how swimming worked).

The game is also a lot more open as far as landscape goes. There are caves that are more dungeon-like, but outside you are not stuck in the limited pathways of a Souls game. This allows for more freedom of movement (including climbing and jumping) though it also means enemies can suddenly appear just about anywhere if you aren't careful. So far, I'm enjoying it.

I was going through old stuff in my Evernote yesterday (I'm transitioning mostly away from Evernote, this journal is all written in Joplin) and found a bunch of things I had totally forgotten about inclusing a 30k word "collage" I made of comics criticism I'd written. I'm not totally clear on why I did it, I think there was a potential for some kind of publication that either fell through or I let the opportunity drop or something. At first I was completely baffled by it, not at first realizing it was all pre-written material (of my own) assembled together. I couldn't believe I had written 30k words of something and 7 years later totally forgotten about it, but, on the other hand, that's how my mind works a lot. I tend to forget a lot, too much.

But now I'm wondering if I should do something with that piece. It seems pretty interesting when I skimmed parts of it. It could be a zine or just something I post on my site.

2020-06-28 09:47

I finished up the second part of The Book of the New Sun the other night. I continue, on my second read through, to be supremely impressed with the work as a whole. One thing Wolfe is so good at it, is not over explaining everything. Unlike Tolkien and a host of those that followed, Wolfe doesn't give us a full history of the world; he doesn't described the background for everything; and he shows us things via the narrating character. For instance, in one scene, Severian (the narrator) talks about seeing "flyers" moving back and forth high above in the night sky. These "flyers" have been mentioned before up to this point, but never described, never explained. They are some kind of ship or plane, some kind of advanced technology, but they are distant and mysterious from the people on the ground. Ditto, the way Severian discovers that his one travelling companion is some kind of cyborg or android. It's not all layed out, those words are not used, rather there is text about a metal hand, about other parts of him, and a picture is formed over time that let's you make conclusions.

I've been occasionally consulting the Lexicon Urthus for definitions of obscure words. Wolfe seems to not make up any words for his world, he just uses obscure real words that fit his needs. It has a similar effect to an author who makes up a lot of terminology, but it allows Wolfe to leave a lot of the words unexplained. For instance Severian references "cacogens", and in context you can gather they are some kind of humanoid... monsters or aliens... and you can actually look up the word and see what it really means to add to your understanding. The Lexicon makes this a little easier since it is just words from the novel, and also has a nice plot summary, chapter-by-chapter (usually just one sentence a chapter), which in its simple recitation of plot points can occasionally help with some of the subtler aspects of the plot.

As I'm rewatching Star Trek: Discovery realizing how much it looks like one of the movies because of its effects and, I assume, larger than the old shows budget, but narratively it feels more purposeful and restrained in the things that annoy me in the movies. In using the effects and action and such it doesn't ever stray away from being about the characters, their interactions, and their growth.