Sunday Selection 2019-12-01

It’s that time of the year when it gets dark at 4pm where I live. Since it’s cloudy and dreary a lot I am tempted to spend a lot of time in bed curled under the cover. But at the same time, I actually like the snow and the cold and there are Things that must get done.

I spent a couple weeks in Greece at the end of October and into November, mostly away from computers, off my phone and not using the Internet much except for using Google Maps and occasionally checking email. It was good. And I’ve been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to replicate that feeling of effective disconnection, using the Internet only when necessary for purposes, rather than being used always for its (and by “it” I mean the various profit-maximizing corporations trying to lay claim to and monetize ever increasing portions of my experience and attention).

Today’s Sunday Selection is brought to you mostly by those thoughts.

Stab a Book, the Book Won’t Die

Craig Mod is one of my favorite writers, as he thinks deeply about a lot of things I am interested in: books, publishing, their relation to technology, and how to keep our heads screwed on straight in the face of the attention economy. This post is mostly about the first two things, but touches on the others. I also highly recommend signing up for his newsletters: Roden Explorers and Ridgeline.

Kahlil Gibran on Silence, Solitude, and the Courage to Know Yourself

Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings is another highly recommended reading (though her curatorial style of writing can be a little hard to follow). In any case, I am starting to think that an important step on the way to opting out of the attention economy is becoming comfortable with silence and solitude (the latter of which is particularly hard, as solitude borders so closely on loneliness). And as much as I like living in a Golden Age of Television (and readily available other videos, podcasts and music) it’s perhaps not surprising that being continually surrounded by noise (and always networked) is ultimately not good for the human mind or spirit.

Martin Scorsese: I said Marvel Movies aren’t Cinema. Let me explain.

I love stories about heroes. I love comic books, graphics novels, TV shows, movies, all of it. I went to New York Comicon once (didn’t dress up) and absolutely loved it. And though I will probably continue going to see the Marvel movies for the foreseeable future, the sameness is starting to get to me. Infinity War not withstanding, at the end of the day you know that everything will be (more or less) alright.

Aside: I watched Aquaman on the plane back. It was bad, so bad. Jason Momoa deserved better.

Sunday Selection 2019-09-15

Hope everyone is enjoying a good weekend. By the time you read this, I will probably be attending the Commonwealth Pen Show. Fountain pens (and related stationery) have been the only halfway serious hobby I have been able to maintain in a while, but it can also be a mostly solitary. I’ve enjoyed being a part of some related online groups, I take the chance to meet my fellow pen people whenever I can. While I am off doing that, you can enjoy the results of my various ramblings around the web.

Why I Have a Website and You Should Too

I’ve had some kind of website or blog for over a decade now. The identity that you could with little effort, and no gatekeepers, put your words out on a global network for anyone to read and see has always seemed incredible to me. Over the last few years, I’ve been seduced by the siren song of social networks (as have many of us). I’ve also realized that they have been a double-edged sword that has cut us deeply in more ways than one. I’ve since started experimenting with smaller alternative networks like Mastodon and micro.blog. While they are interesting experiments (and I hope they succeed, for some definition of success) there is really no substitute to having your own website, under your own control.

We’ve Reached Peak Wellness. Most of It Is Nonsense.

In many ways, learning how to become a fully-functioning adult is about how to properly take care of yourself (and eventually those around you). This is something that I’ve been learning mostly the hard way since I left college (where it was possible and socially acceptable) to not take very good care of yourself. I’ve gradually found a combination of regular meals, exercise, meditation, socializing and ample amounts of Netflix and books, that seem to be both necessary and sufficient in keeping my balanced and stable, physically and mentally. And the overlap with what gets sold as “wellness” is also thin at best. This article is also richly linked to references to other articles and studies, as all online writing should be.

How Does A Person Lose Track of their Diary

Continuing the theme of notebooks and journals from last night, this is a delightful read about a writer’s fascination with diaries, both her own and others’. Personally, I’m not entirely sure I find other people’s diaries quite so fascinating, but I have been reading more biographies lately. I think there is something very attractive (and just a little embarrassing) about learning about how other people live their lives, especially in an age where there seems to be no right and stable path on how to go about life.

Penny Dreadful

I told you Netflix as crucial to maintaining my sanity, didn’t I? I’ve been rewatching this short series over the last few weeks. It’s beautiful and terrible and exhilarating and depressing all at once and I love every moment of it. It also makes me want to read Milton’s Paradise Lost, but mainly so that I can pull out random lines from it and look all fancy at parties.

Sunday Selection 2019-09-08

I was looking back to see when the last time I made one of these posts, and I saw that it was almost 6 months ago. How time flies. In the meanwhile, both spring and summer seem to have whizzed, and the mercury is definitely heading in the downward direction in this part of the world. For me, these last few seasons have been largely a time of rest, recovery and re-alignment. I’ve been getting a lot of therapy (physical and mental), changing up my exercise routine, experimenting with new recipes, and letting go of some old goals, and charting courses for new ones.

Anyway, you didn’t come here for my vague and disjointed ramblings of my life, you came for a sprinkling of interesting things around the web. So here goes:

On Keeping a Notebook: A Reading List

Admittedly, I’m cheating with this first one. I’ve been using pen and paper more over the last year, having re-discovered the joys of writing with modern fountain pens. I keep multiple notebooks now (a journal, a literal pocket notebook, a research notebook and a meeting notebook, among others). So of course when I this dropped into my inbox a couple weeks ago I couldn’t resist going through them all.

Toni Morrison Transformed the Texture of English

Part of the afore-mentioned charting courses for new goals has been a renewed desire to read and write more and carefully (carrying my Kindle Voyage with me on the subway has been a great help in this regard). Toni Morrison is one such writer that I want to read all of one today, Ursula K LeGuin being the other.

We should all be reading more Ursula LeGuin

Talking of which, multiple people have recommended Ursula LeGuin to me, and this article reinforces that idea. I have always believed that fictional writing should explore ways we can live in our life. I would not be where I am in life, and the sort of person that I am, were it not for liberal amounts of science fiction in my formative years. It seems that LeGuin’s writing would provide good fodder for future imaginings of my life, and in different ways from what I’m used to.

Altered Carbon

And while we’re on the topic of fiction and re-imagining lives, Altered Carbon is one of the best science fiction shows I have seen in recent years. On the surface, it is reminiscent of Blade Runner-style science fiction noir, but it is also an exploration of what happens to society when immortality is practical and commonplace. Season 1 is on Netflix and Season 2 is in the works.

I run a small fashion shop, Figura, where I design, sew and sell women’s clothes. It’s my way of balancing the concept design with a more hands-on kind of job. My favorite part is definitely the patterning. I do it on paper in a very old-school way. Patterning seems to be one of the most “stable” technologies ever – I can literally sew a dress by 19th century’s pattern and it will work just fine, while my partner complains about JavaScript framework changes weekly.

I was reading the Uses This interview of Elena Zaharova when I came across this paragraph. It reminded of a pet project I would like to do one day (but probably will never get around to): designing and building a networked computer system to run and be usable (which includes being programmable) for 100 years, with minimal maintenance.

Rutger Hauer Rewrote His Iconic ‘Blade Runner’ Monologue, Added ‘Tears in Rain’ Himself

I watch a lot of movies (and television), probably more than I should. One of my favorite pieces of movie on-screen monologue is replicant Roy Batty’s monologue in Blade Runner. Other favorites include Hattori Hanzo’s monologue in Kill Bill, and some of V’s monologues from V for Vendetta. Yesterday, actor Rutger Hauer, who plays Batty, passed away. I learned that he actually wrote most of his excellent monologue himself, including the devastating last line:

“I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.”

Rest in peace.