Derik Badman's Journal

December 2020

2020-12-01 09:06

Last evening as I was watching a movie before dinner, the heavy rain from the day had finally let up and the back yard was suffused with a yellow light. I tried to capture it in a photo but my camera just could not seem to pickup the color.

The Criterion Channel has a series up of Harold Pinter written films. I read a lot of Pinter in years past but have never seen any of the many movies he wrote (some based on his plays, some screenplays of other's works), though I did have a book of the screenplays that I read. Yesterday I watched The Servant (1963), which interestingly made a great follow-up to Parasite. The plot concerns a man who gets hired as a manservant to a wealthy young batchelor and then insinuates himself into basically controlling his life, including getting his lover hired as the maid. In many ways it is like the beginning of Parasite, but Pinter's screenplay is much subtler. While it is dramatic and filled with tension there is no eruption of violence (excepting the occasional slap to the face). Lives are at stake but not deaths, and for me it made it a more interesting and engaging movie.

2020-12-02 08:51

Back to work today after almost a week off, many days in which I feel like I did little but play video games and do a bunch of minor chores. I did check a few movies off my watch list, but did not get a ton of reading done. I also wrote a review I had pitched to The Comics Journal.

Since HBO has all the Miyazaki films available I had added a few to my watch list, and last night I watched Porco Ross which I have not seen before. It's a between the wars story about seaplane pilots in the Adriatic, starring a pilot who is somehow (never explained) been cursed to look a pig man. It's a strange conceit, that they don't give an origin for, and in the end only ambiguously allude to him being cured of it. Like many Miyazaki films it has a plucky girl heroine, in this case a genius plane engineer. The whole thing is a little goofy, occasionally funny, sometimes melancholy. Beautiful animation, of course, sometimes I just get distracted from following the story to just look at the animation qua animation, thinking about the layering of cels, what is a static image, what is getting animated, and how it is done to convey movement and time passing and the like. I've been rather hit and miss on re/watching anime in the recent past, but I think I'll rewatch a few more of these Studio Ghibli ones (probably Totoro or Nausicaa next).

Took a break from Kathy Acker and Josep Pla to start Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White which somehow got on my to read list awhile back and then I realized we had a copy on the shelves in the dining room. I know I read The Moonstone years ago but have little memory of it. This one is less mystery (so far) and more gothic. Formally, it's a collection of explicitly narrated sections, framed as a record collected by one of the characters of a series of events. At first this seemed rather modern to me, before I recalled how much this idea of the novel as made up of a existing written texts with specific narrators was a hallmark of many early novels (I'm thinking Pamela, Robinson Crusoe, doesn't Don Quixote even have a conceit about it, at least in the second book?). So far it is suffused with drama and tension, with a light gothic element (though any aspect of the supernatural is quickly squashed). Collins is skillful in making you think something bad is going to happen without really knowing what it is going to be. You know the narrators collected the record for some reason, but it is not at all clear what the real event is that triggered it all, unlike in say a murder mystery where it is of course the murder that triggers the narration. Anyway, I am enjoying it, though finding it occasionally too wordy/overwritten, but that is the style.

2020-12-03 08:29

Yesterday's movie was Christian Petzold's Transit. It's from 2018 but features a setting that looks like the present but is reminiscent of World War II era France. There are few obvious signs of modern technology (no cell phones, I don't think we even see any tvs) excepting modern day cars and police, but the background involves fascists invading France from Germany and death camps and people fleeing the country for America. It's an interesting tactic, that at first feels like it might be near future sci-fi, but instead settles into a kind of historical drama with modern day scenery. Looking it up now I see it's based on a novel from 1944, so clearly Petzold decided to shoot the film without the trappings of a historical set/costumes/etc but maintain the background context.

For all this background, it is much more a dramatic character study than a thriller/war/spy type film. It begins almost as such with a letter to deliver and police raids and fleeing secretly in the boxcar of a train, but then settles into the city of Marseilles amongst refugees seeking passage to America. The focus is on a young man who takes another man's identify (the other man is dead, but no one knows it) as a way to get out of the country, but ends up getting attached to different people. Ironically, in the end, he makes a rather selfless sacrifice that ends up saving his life.

The intrusion of a narrator into the film is one choice I found really odd (more odd than the historical/modern setting). The narration is rarely telling us more than we can see or infer, so it kind of acts like the unnecessary caption boxes in so many comics. The film also never really does anything with the narrator (a bartender at a cafe the protagonist is often at). He plays no real role in the story, and even the status of his knowledge is suspect. The protagonist seems to tell the narrator his story, but throughout the film we see the protagonist as a man of very few words who almost never expresses himself, so the level of interiority the narrator makes use of feels inconsistent.

2020-12-04 08:25

I was watching Joanna Hogg's Archipelago, but I think I will not be completing it. People say Rohmer movies are slow, or Ozu movies are slow, but this one was something else. Not slow like in "slow cinema" but slow like it wasn't doing much of anything either narratively or visually. Rohmer's movies don't tend to have a lot of action to them, but there is some central conflict (often internal to the protagonist) at play, a character you can sympathize with, but Archipelago felt aimless and it's characters too buried. A family (mom, grown daughter, grown son) are on vacation with a hired cook. The father is not there, though they talk to him on the phone as if they are expecting him (and wondering why he hasn't shown up). The mother seems sad. The son is headed off to Africa to do some kind of AIDS-based work. The daughter just seems critical of everything (and clearly unhappy about something). But over an hour in and nothing has really gelled into a conflict or drama or plot or anything. And it is just not a visually engaging enough movie to make we want to keep watching it just for to look at it.

Also I think I'm giving up on Collins' The Woman in White. The melodrama and long-winded prose style is just draining on me. Finding the whole mechanism of the plot really frustrating, and Wikipedia solved my desire to find out what happens (I'm rather disappointed to learn how silly the primary mystery seems to be).

I've still got Josep Pla's The Gray Notebook in progress, as it has no continuing story (beyond his life), I don't feel the need to just keep reading it straight through, but I am enjoying dipping in and reading a few days of entries at a time, as it evokes like in his Catalan town at the early part of the 20th century (pre Civil War there).

A few books picked up from the library yesterday to dig into.

2020-12-07 08:12

The weekend is over, time to work again. What did I do? I played more of Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. I read more, getting a few chapters into Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing, which feels like it was mistitled for how much she needs to talk about how she really doesn't mean "doing nothing."

I started Ken Loach's Sorry We Missed You (2020) and didn't get too far. From the get-go I could tell this was going to be a realist depressing movie, as you see the protagonist meeting with a guy about a delivery job and the other guy is like: "We don't hire you, we on board you," "You don't work for us; you work with us." Yeah, that dude is screwed. Even moreso when, before he has even had day 1 on the job, he convinces his wife to sell her car (which she needs for her job) so he can buy a big van for his job because he is really overestimating how much money he will make delivery packages. I'm not sure I can finish, it can't possible end well.

Last night we watched I'm No Angel (1933) with Mae West and Cary Grant (Criterion has series up about both of them, and this is one of the intersections). Never having seen a Mae West movie my interest is now satisfied. Beyond her witty and risqué dialogue, I am a bit at a loss for how she ended up so popular. Though it is impressive that she wrote the movie as well as starring in it.

Watched the first part of Normal People on Hulu this morning. There's a part in it where the two protagonists kiss for the first time (and the first kiss for the girl at least), and you can see on her face all that wonder and awe and nervousness and excitement that comes with such a moment. Somehow it really brought back to me that feeling from so long ago when I was first going out with my first girlfriend, where there is this other person who is kind of a complete mystery but you are suddenly so close up to them and thought kind of slips away in favor of feeling (physical and emotional).

2020-12-10 08:10

As we creep towards the euquinox I feel the darkness and cold dragging on me. Dark when I wake up; dark by the time I finish work. Frost in the morning when I look out onto the yard; still frost on the roof of the garage as I look out my office window. We even had some light snow yesterday. More cold means I am less motivated to take a morning walk. Guess I need to get out my warm coat and just get outside.

I've been reading Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (2019) which sounds like a crappy self-help book but is not: the title catchy but misleading, the subtitle drier but more accurate. It's not really about doing nothing or an investigation about what "doing nothing" really would mean (one could see that as a treatise on everyday life and how much "What did you do this weekend? Nothing." really overwrites a slew of activities we consider unworthy of mention). Her real subject is attention, distraction, focus. I'm finding (not finished yet) it intersects a lot with other topics I've run across recently or in the past. When she talks about our attention and noticing/seeing or not noticing/seeing things in our environment it reminds me of David Milch's commentary I noted the other day about senses and attention; ditto when she talks about stereotyping and seeing what we want to see. Her discussion of relating to other people and objects (especially nature) really fits in with Buddhist philosophy on the illusion of the self. In one section she talks about Spotify and how the more she likes certain types of music the more the app gives her that type of music, until it kind of generates a very limited profile of her likes, creating a kind of feedback loop that gets her stuck with a certain style of music. That seems very relevant to the idea of how we construct a sense of our self and then feel the need to maintain and abide by that self we have constructed. She brings in a good range of references in a way that makes me interested in digging more into some of the thinkers/subjects. Her discussion of David Hockney's photographic work (which I am only vaguely fairly with) makes me want to look up more of them.

There is also a political element to the book that has, as far as I've read, yet to come full circle, but an interesting chapter is devoted to communes and attempts to drop out of society (which she is not advocating for).

2020-12-12 07:56

Finished up How to Do Nothing last night. I'm not sure it ever really gets anywhere in the end. She talks about attention and distraction and tuning out from society and problems with social networks, and there's definitely a political slant to it about ecology, history, and such, and her conclusion has discussion of a bunch of local projects (to her, that's in Oakland) about ecology and history and a dam that got undone to help endangered species, but it's not clear how attention resisting, social networks and the attention economy leads to action and doing things like that. I'm not convinced it does. You can pay attention to a lot of things, but that doesn't lead you to do anything about them. I feel like she skips over a certain moral or ethical discussion that she implies and seems to believe but doesn't actually write about. In a way her title kind of displays that gap in that the book gets called How to Do Nothing and she never really gets away from why that is the particular phrase that is relevant, because if paying attention is doing nothing then that is not taking action.

Buddy's been sick for a few days, throwing up a lot, and it's got me stressed out trying to not give him any food for a little bit which is stressful too cuz he just meows and meows and meows and meows til he gets what he wants. Part of the reason I took a walk this morning was to just get away from him meowing at me for breakfast.

2020-12-14 08:23

Somehow I discovered there was a recent Julio Medem movie on Netflix. A long time ago a friend introduced me to his Lovers of the Arctic Circle, and I've been trying to watch his films since then. Most of them are unavailable, and after his 2001 Sex and Lucia he didn't seem to make any films for a number of years. The Tree of Blood is from 2018, his latest. He seems to be one of those artists who reuses themes and plot elements quite a lot, as between these three movies there are a number of shared aspects: coincidences that blend into concepts of fate predominate as major plot turning points; the death of a child and children with mysterious (or at least hidden) parentage; couples who are separated; storytelling particularly in a shared and alternating context; lots of narrative time jumping around (usually related to the storytelling, there tends to the time of the story and the time of the story being told and then usually breaks in between the times the telling happens); mysterious and unexplained almost supernatural occurences.

This latest one had all those. A particular example of the coincidences is an important scene where some of the protagonists go off the road while driving somewhere, which indirectly triggers a nearby accident of another car with more of the protagonists, and then a third car with more of the protagonists comes upon the latter and then sees the former. It's this convergence of events that then triggers a number of important plot revelations.

One thing that is done really well in The Tree of Blood is the maintenance of the mystery. A number of unexplained situations and events are sustained through a large part of the movie in a way that doesn't feel forced and when they are revealed they kind of snowball with each other. In a way the whole thing is a mystery story, where the two protagonists (a couple), know all the parts collectively, but not individually, and it is only in their collective storytelling that the parts reveal the greater whole.

Still watching Normal People, about halfway through, I'm a little annoyed that the main driver of conflict seems to be the protagonists just not clearly stating... well anything, but particularly their feelings in regards to each other. It's a frustratingly weak plot device that is getting used too often, and it's particularly annoying because I cannot figure out what the one character's (Connell) issue is. There is no insight into why he acts the way he acts. The female protagonist, Marianne, makes a lot more sense, as we see her family situation and it pretty clearly shows why she's not great with expressing feelings and why she's got low self-esteem, especially about someone caring for her. But Connell's mother (the only family of his we see) is really open and caring and supporting of him, so there's no explanation for why he is how he is, and it's such a major aspect of the drama that it feels like a failing of the plot (else, there's some important and completely hidden reveal waiting to happen). I should add I don't mean to imply family is the only reason the character may act like he does, but we aren't given any other insight for him.

2020-12-17 07:58

Started snowing yesterday afternoon and this morning everything is covered in a few inches of mostly undisturbed white. I can see the tracks of animal coming up from the part, through the backyard, and then across the front yard: fox? deer? rabbit? I haven't gotten a close enough look to guess. Probably fox. Not our first snow of the year, we had some flurries the other day, but the first accumulation, which means shovelling is in my nearer future.

It seems early for snow despite it being mid-December. Somewhere during the course of my life, late in the year snow became much rarer. I remember as a kid coming home from my aunt's house in Delaware on Thanksgiving day, and it was real slow going because there was snow everywhere. That didn't seem that unusual then, but now it would seem crazy. I guess that's the effect of climate change, anecdotal though it is.

At least the snow must have been light, as the trees are not covered, which is certainly good for us so we keep our power on.

My reading has been wandering lately, a bit here, a bit there. Read about 100 pages of Memoirs from Beyond the Grave by Chateaubriand. So far it's been about his childhood which hasn't been too fascinating, but I think it will get more interesting as he gets involved in the revolution (the French one) and then travels to America.

Assassin's Creed: Valhalla (which I might be close to finishing) got me interested in Anglo-Saxon England and it's possible use in an rpg, so I got a couple books from the library. The Anglo-Saxon age: a very short introduction by John Blair was very disappointing. It felt like it was a bunch of chapters ripped out of a larger book. It had very little in the way of context or any sort of overview. I read and then skimmed and came away with it not much more knowledgable than I started. Hopefully the other book I got will be more useful.

I'm on the last chapter of Abstract Art: A Global History by Pepe Karmel. It is a mixed bag. Covering a wide range of artists, a lot more than just the usual suspects of white males from France or New York, and a variety of media, still mostly painting, though, he divides the art up into categories based on the kind of thing being abstracted. So there are sections and subsections on landscape and typography and cosmology and the like. It's an interesting tactic that provides a good source of cohesion to the work provided and variations on a theme, though it's not always clear how much of his categories are what the artist was actually doing or inspired by and just what he sees in the work itself. The text often feels more descriptive than analytical though, so only rarely do I feel like I'm seeing the art work with any new eyes.

2020-12-21 08:48

The weekend passed and the snow is still here, thick and crunchy. I watched a couple movies over the weekend, and started more books and played more games.

Zheng Lu Xinyuan's The Cloud in Her Room (2020) was available as part of a new director's festival via Lincoln Center. I had seen good word of it when it debuted at some festivals earlier in the year. Aesthetically it's a beautiful film, in black and white, with a clear attention to composition, movement, contrast, etc. In that respect alone it was an enjoyabe viewing experience. Narratively it was slow and a bit muddy. Throughout the story, as we follow a young woman (22 I think) through a sort of ennui that felt very 80's NYC to me (like Jim Jarmusch's first movie), I was constantly reframing the inner framework I was making of who the characters were and what was going on. It took me awhile to figure out the relations between the protagonist and her family, and then I kept seeing the protagonist in scenes and thinking she was someone else. Like she looks different in different scenes, by almost the very end of the movie, I got this idea that the scenes were actually happening in two timelines. I'm not convinced I'm right about that, but I'm also not sure I'm wrong. Maybe if I watched it again I could confirm or deny that assertion. In the end, I don't think the film really work as a narrative, it felt too tight lipped to extract much feeling from me.

Hong Sang-Soo's Tale of Cinema (2005), probably the earliest of his films I watched, was even less satisfying. It had an odd structure, the first part seemed to be a film within a film, which then switches to a character who just watched the film and believes himself to be the inspiration for the protagonist of the film. It just didn't ever gel for me. I found the protagonists kind of annoying.

[Edit Jan 10 2021: After watching another of Hong's earlier films since, I've decided the later ones I like are better because they give more attention and focus to the female characters. Tale of Cinema and Woman is the Future of Man (which I didn't even finish) were all about the men and kept the woman at a distance. While Claire's Camera, On the Beach At Night Along, Yourself and Yours, The Day After, etc. are all primarily about the woman or at least give her equal standing with the male protagonist.]

Had a few in person meetings with people this week, which is unusually enough now to be noted. Saw my parents on Wednesday. I was in town for a dentist visit so stopped by their house to help out with a few things they needed. Everytime I see them now it starts me worrying about them. They are old; they are living alone (well, they are together, but still); and at this point any little thing could quickly become a big problem. █ █████ ████ ██ █ ██████ ██ ██████ ██ ████████ ████ █████ ████ ████████████ ██ █████ █ █████████ █████ ████ ████ ████ ████ █████ █████ ████ █████ ███ ██ ████ ██████ ██ ████ █ ███ ██ ███████ ██████ ███ ██████

████████ ███ █████ were up on Saturday to deliver some Christmas gifts ██ ███ ███ █, so I walked over and just met them at his house. We stood around talking a bit awkwardly outside at some distance. I'm not sure it felt any more "real" than our weekly video chat happy hours.

████ then came down yesterday (just as our weekly D&D game wrapped up) to deliver us some food goodies. Cookies for Lianne, and cole slaw and macaroni salad from the Roy-Ann (?) diner for me. Which probably sounds insane, but that place makes amazing mayo-based salads, I wish I knew the secret (maybe it's just Miracle Whip or something). I have a weird love of mayo-based salads, but I am also really critical of most of the ones I try. Still trying to perfect my recipes for same, though they've gotten a lot better over the years.

Christmas this week, which will be the first... ever... that I won't be at my parent's house on Christmas day. I imagine it will be the same for Lianne, too. It's going to feel very... unholiday to just be at home by ourselves, not unlike Thanksgiving was I guess. Lianne got a tree for the first time in a number of years (Zoe and the tree were not a good combo; Buddy thankfully just ignores it), and while I am not generally enthused, it is nice to have it all lit up in the front room. Been listening to my Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack a lot too, and that's about as festive as I get.

2020-12-27 10:12

Xmas was pretty uneventful. Though we did video chat with the family.

Finally watched Kelly Reichardt's First Cow yesterday, which I really enjoyed. Another one of her non-generic westerns. She places it in Oregon, so it's all forests and lush greenness as opposed to the classic western plains and deserts. The protagonists are a cook from Maryland and a Chinese man he meets in the woods. They start a baking business (well selling snacks at the local outdoor market) using stolen milk from the only (first) cow in the area. It's a beautifully filmed movie with a slowly building tension that never explodes as much as a more traditional western would (there are no gunfights, and the only gunshots are more warning/alarms). At one point as the two friends are talking about starting up a hotel, the one guys says something like "you have to have money to start, or a miracle, or a crime", and that feels like Reichardt making a point about American history. These guys have only the crime route to take, and it doesn't work out for them.

This morning I watched another Hong Sang-Soo film, Yourself and Yours (from 2016, but only released in English this year), which was a wonderfully ambiguous and a bit surreal romance. A painter gets in a fight with his girlfriend because he's been told people see her out drinking with other men, she denies it. We then see her in a café and a guy walks up to her and calls her the name we know her as from previous scenes. She denies she is that person, then claims to be the other woman's twin. She hangs out with that guy a couple times. Then once again she's in the café and a different guy thinks he knows her from years ago at some publishing company. She denies that, but they end up hanging out. When she and the painter next meet up (after he spends days trying to get in touch with her), she claims to not know him or have the name he calls her. But he's so in love with her, he doesn't care. It's never resolved at all what is going on with the woman: is she crazy, is she just lying, is it just fantasy? There are two clearly imagined (by the painter) scenes in the film which add to the ambiguity.

2020-12-28 08:37

Rewatched Hong Sang-Soo's Claire's Camera yesterday which I had originally watched back in August of 2019. I'm still unclear on how it relates to or references Claire's Knee (beyond the title). I noticed this time through the non-linearity of a few of the scenes. There is at least one scene that has to happen out of order, though it is oddly ignored in a later scene when two of the characters meet again (but don't acknowledge they met). I like these little formal elements in Hong's films, where he plays with time and reality. It's not always clear what purpose they serve, but they add mystery and ambiguity to the goings-on, and tend to make me pay closer attention to the events around them.

I'm currently reading too many books simultaneously. Steven Moore's The Novel: An Alternative History, Beginnings to 1600 is a wide ranging look at the history of the novel before the most commonly recognized "first novels", going back to Ancient Egypt. The book is a lot of summaries and discussion of plots and themes of specific works divided up until time periods and languages (so not exactly chronological). Moore seems particular interested in the religious and the erotic, and the intersection of those too as Christianity becomes more prominent the erotic becomes less. He is virulently anti-religious, constantly inserting asides about the inanity of people actually believing in things like the Bible. I am in agreement with him, but even I feel like he brings it up too often.

He actually discusses parts of the Bible as novels which is really interesting. Turns out biblical scholars have untangled some of the varieties of authors of the early books and there are published works that attempt to put them back together (the "J" author seemed like the most interesting one).

Moore's definition of "novel" is pretty loose, but apt for someone who is known for his interest in (and writing on) the experimental/postmodern/etc forms. He basically boils it down to a long fictional prose narrative, which allows him to discuss a wide range of works of various sorts, some more well known than others (for instance, The Decameron, La Morte d'Arthur, Tale of Genji). I'm not finished with it yet, there are still a number of chapters to read as he moves to Asia (Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese). I've been skimming it a lot depending on how interesting any individual work seems, but it has got me interested in reading a few things. I've not read The Decameron but perhaps will give it a try. And some of the Ancient Greek and Arthurian works might be worth looking up.

Also on the nightstand is John Ruskin: An Idiosyncratic Dictionary Encompassing his Passions, his Delusions and his Prophecies by Michael Glover. I've been interesting in reading more of/about Ruskin and then this came up when I read the author's review of a Turner shows in the New York Review of Books (which I recently subscribed to). I'm reading it a bit at a time, and finding it mildly interesting, but it is not getting me excited to read more on Ruskin, especially given Ruskin's writing style in the quoted passages.

Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration by Jesse Kowalski a recent catalogue for a show at the Rockwell Musuem sounded like it would be a good historical overview of the topic but is proving to be pretty bad. The selected works often are tangentially (if it all) related to fantasy, or are poor examples of the particular artist in question (a really boring Hal Foster page, some modern and really uninteresting superhero covers). There is a large section in the end of Rockwell works which seems only included because of the museum and not any actual fantasy relevance. The text by Kowalski (not quite finished with it) is dreadful: basic, poorly written, often factually incorrect. For instance, while he correctly gives Dave Arneson credit for creating D&D he also incorrectly says Gygax and he co-founded TSR. (On the other hand there are some good early D&D pieces included.) He also identifies the video game Dishonored 2 as taking place in 19th century Europe, completely ignoring the simple/obvious that it is set in a fantasy world with elements of 19th century Europe. (There were other errors, those are the two I came across last night and remembered well enough.) One could get better information from Wikipedia, and indicates a clear lack of expertise or editing. Some of the text mentions topics that are not that important and clearly only merited inclusion because someone had a piece of art available (like a truly boring image of Vampirella). He also really tries to sidestep the idea of religious imagery as fantasy (don't want to offend anyone, I guess), despite including early examples (kind of the opposite tact of Moore). All in all a very disappointing book that so far has not offered anything new as far as analysis, history, or aesthetics.

2020-12-30 07:58

I turned 44 yesterday, after spending the whole year thinking I was still 42. I look in the mirror and see the grey in my hair and beard, but I still don't feel middle aged. I was a responsible, calm kid pretty early on, and I think I never really had to change that much as I got older. And not having kids certainly helps one still feel younger.

It was an uneventful day, mostly playing video games (Cyberpunk 2077 on which more another time), eating (falafel, tempeh reubens, chocolate cream cheese cupcakes), and watching things (rewatched Late Autumn, and more episodes as we rewatch Deadwood and Gilmore Girls).

As always I enjoyed rewatching an Ozu film. Late Autumn is a delightful blend of drama and comedy (though a very low key mode of each). There are always visual elements that jump out at me with each rewatch, as it can be easy to get wrapped up in following the narrative (and reading the subtitles) and miss the compositions of the frame or the interesting cuts between shots and scenes. This one has a great early example where Ozu makes use of the reflection of light off gently moving water. He never shows the water, just the light wavering on the wall, first at the temple where annual funeral rites (that might not be the right word, they are honoring the anniversary of the protagonist's husband's death) then to a restaurant where the various lead characters are meeting afterwards, across a few cuts.

Rewatching Deadwood has also been well worth the time. No matter how many times I watch it (this must be at least a 4th viewing through the series, if not a 5th), there is also something I forgot or didn't notice. This time I feel like I'm noticing the humor a lot more, as it jostles with the violence and muck.

I finished reading/skimming the Steven Moore Novel book, more skimming than not, but still interested in getting the sequel that covers 1600-1800. A bunch of old novels added to my reading lists, that I will later revisit and pare down for ones I really do want to spend the time on (a lot of them seem to be very very long). I think I've given up in the Ruskin book, as my to read pile is very large and I'm just not enthused about that one.

Started Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin, which tells the story of the eponymous character who seems to be the woman Aeneas marries when he gets to Italy in the Aenead. It's not a work I'm well read on, I know I started reading the Virgil long ago, but never got far, somehow I never took to the Latin classics like I did the Greek ones. Le Guin's telling takes an interesting tact of having Lavinia actually converse with the spirit of who I assume is Virgil (referred to as "the poet"), who having written the Aenead and then talking to Lavinia realizes how he gave her short shrift in his work (apparently she never even speaks in his epic).

2020-12-31 08:33

The year is ending and I've fallen out of a lot of my morning habits (walking, sitting), mostly thanks to the weather (cold, rainy) and the darkness, normal winter stuff. Work has been stressful as I feel I'm dealing with a lot of issues that I don't exactly know how to deal with or are potential destructive (large database changes for instance, which if done wrong or timed poorly can cause downtime for customers). My job has always been a process of me learning, but at times I'm just not sure where to go next or how to deal with a problem and as any coder/designer knows sometimes the wishes of the client/customer/boss and the practicalities of actual, efficient implementation do not always meet.

Considering a look back at my 2020 posts to see what kind of favorites from the year I can extract, having at least mentioned, I think, most every movie I watched or book I read (music is even simpler since I can just search on date added in my music app (the excellent Swinsian for Mac)). I've been looking at a lot of best movies of the year list and finding there are a certain number of ones that show on a lot of the lists that I would heartily agree with. Books lists are harder, as there are so many books published and I don't tend to read a ton of new publications. The best comics list at The Comics Journal this year were also pretty foreign to me. I feel like I read very few comics this year, perhaps less than in any previous year I can think of.