It’s been a while since I posted about the Book Queue, but these books won’t read themselves, and I’ve found that posting about them publicly does tend to motivate me to actually read the books I have (rather than getting distracted by new shiny objects and the like). So let’s get to it:
Starter Villain, by John Scalzi – The last few Scalzi books have felt like he’s treading water, but his style is snappy and fun and not every book needs to be some sort of world-changing epic (which, to be fair, has never been Scalzi’s metier). This story about a guy inheriting his uncle’s supervillain business seems much more inclined to be comedic than anything else, which is fine by me. Probably would have gotten to this earlier if he didn’t release it during the Halloween season…
System Collapse, by Martha Wells – The latest Murderbot story has finally arrived, and that’s all I really needed to know. No idea bout the plot, but the Murderbot series has been consistently great (I obviously have not read this one yet, but I recommend you start with the initial novellas, they’re short and well done and you can come up to speed quickly…)
Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon – I apparently purchased this many moons ago, put it on a shelf somewhere, and promptly forgot I had it. I was doing some reorganizing recently and stumbled upon it and realized I should probably read the darn thing. Not sure what to expect as this could range anywhere from impenetrable literature to page-turning genre fare. I guess there’s only one way to find out.
A Half-Built Garden, by Ruthanna Emrys – Not sure how this got in the queue in the first place, other than that the premise sounds interesting and I’ve been somewhat neglectful of recent SF of late. Sounds like a first contact story that could be interesting enough.
The Blighted Stars, by Megan E. O’Keefe – Another recent SF book with a decent enough premise, and I don’t remember where I heard of it first, but it sounds good…
The Icarus Plot, by Timothy Zahn – About 25 years ago or so, Zahn wrote a book called The Icarus Hunt, a very enjoyable space opera in the vein of Star Wars (I mean, really quite inspired by Star Wars, like at this point they probably could put the Star Wars logo on it and while you might wonder why there’s no member-berries or, like, Jedi in it, you’d probably enjoy it). Anywho, Zahn has finally written a sorta stealth sequel to that book. As I understand it, it’s not particularly reliant on the events of the first book, it’s just set in the same universe (it’s not even particularly being marketed as a sequel, which sorta makes sense because this one has a different publisher than the first). Anyway, Zahn has long been a reliable genre page-turner, and I’m glad he seems to be finished with his Star Wars Thrawn novels for now…
Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon – Vintage SF Month is quickly approaching, and this one is rising to the top of the list for now. It appears to be a sorta history of the future, spanning billions of years, sounds like fun.
Obviously lots more on the queue, and all of the above are SF or SF-adjacent, so perhaps I’ll leave the other fiction book queue and non-fiction book queue for other posts.
The usual link dump of interesting stuffs from the depths of ye olde internets:
Project 4K77 – Fans attempting to rescue the original Star Wars movie by doing a 4K scan of an original 1977 35mm Technicolor release print. We all know about the special edition changes and edits like Han shooting first and whatnot, but one thing that becomes glaringly obvious is that recent official releases have also darkened the screen considerably. This sort of digital color correction is a recent trend in cinematography and seems to be bleeding over into home video releases of older stuff as well. I cannot wait for this to end – they make everything look like muted, murky sludge.
Steven Seagal’s “Strut” – Seagal released an album in 2004 in which he sings in a fake Jamaican accent. His first line in the song “Strut” is “me wan da poonani.”
The LLMentalist Effect – Are AI language models demonstrations of actual intelligence, or are they just replicating the mechanisms of the psychic’s con?
Coin Boys – Teacher complains of students’ new thing. Good for them.
The newest thing here is a flock of self-proclaimed “coin boys” who carry a quarter on hand at all times and constantly flip it. They have their entire personality revolve around coins, coin flips, and chance. When we went around doing an ice breaker, 4 or 5 of the kids said some variation of “I live by the coin and die by the coin” as their fact.
Just about an hour ago, when I assigned the first assignment of the school year, one of the coin boys was bold enough to say “heads I do it, tails I don’t.” I told him if he flipped the coin he would be getting a call home on the first week of HS. He flipped it anyway and it came up heads (thank god for that at least).
But then the other coin boy in that class flipped his coin and it came up tails. He said the coin has spoken and he’s not doing it.
An Interview With Wanksy – An English guy starting putting graffiti around potholes so that the city council would clear them up faster. He calls himself “wanksy” because his graffiti looks like a penis.
John Neal – A 19th century author most famous for coining the phrase “son-of-a-bitch”, which he did in an 1823 novel called Seventy-Six (about the American Revolution). Naturally, the novel was criticized at the time for its profanity.
Just a series of quick hits and tasting notes on my media diet (and sometimes, uh, regular diet) of late:
The Mandalorian – I really enjoyed the first couple of seasons of The Mandalorian, but the further it went, the more franchise baggage it accumulated. One of the bigger problems the show faced in season 3 was that you had to watch The Book of Boba Fett series to know what was going on (the Fett series was… not great, but one episode was almost entirely a Mandalorian episode and changed a bunch of things that happened in the season 2 finale – it was a decent episode, but it didn’t belong in another series.)
Then you have to take into account that this season was mostly not about Mando, but rather the various Mandalorian factions and lore. This sort of stuff works better in the background, and in the process, the things we liked about the series (independent, mostly standalone stories with Star Wars flavor) started to fade a bit. This growth of side characters is sometimes fine, but like Ted Lasso, I felt like something was missing when the focus moved away from the titular character. They’re still taking some chances (the one episode with the former Empire officer was interesting enough) but there’s a lack of cohesiveness, and guest stars don’t really help with that. I’m still interested in this show and will probably check out the Ahsoka show (if only to see Thrawn onscreen), but I’m falling off the Disney+ train of late…
FUBAR – Perfectly cromulent spy thriller show starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that fits with the typical Netflix show mold. In other words, I completely forgot that I watched it. It’s certainly nothing special, but I have a soft spot for Arnold and the show has a decent enough blend of action and comedy. The supporting cast all works too, including Monica Barbaro (from Top Gun: Maverick) and surprisingly, Travis Van Winkle (who I remember as being great in Friday the 13th). It’s derivative, the dramatic bits probably don’t hit as hard as they should, and it’s not going to light the world on fire, but it’s enjoyable enough and I’m actually curious to see what happens next.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – For reasons basically amounting to stubbornness and spite, I have avoided subscribing to Paramount+ (or any of its previous incarnations like CBS All Access or whatever). As such, I have not really been keeping up with new Trek series… and from what I can tell, I haven’t missed much. That being said, I’ve been missing the “science thing of the week” style episodic show, and a friend told me that this is what Strange New Worlds was like… and then it showed up on Amazon Prime Video, so I gave it a shot. Only a couple episodes in, but I like it! There’s a lot of potential here, and I will continue to explore (pun intended!) The only thing that gives me pause is that it’s another series that’s a prequel, which, gah, why do we keep doing this?
The Flash – Pretty typical DC effort to cash in on a few obvious trends like Multiverses and legacy characters, which is to say, some interesting ideas weighed down by franchise baggage and abysmal overreliance on bad CGI. Like, did these scenes finish rendering? Are the babies supposed to look like soulless, dead-eyed plastic monsters? It doesn’t help that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse came out two weeks ago and features an almost identical story, but in a much more cohesive manner. Ezra Miller is fine, though it’s a double performance and one of the characters was pretty annoying. It’s nice to see Keaton getting a paycheck, but that’s about it. There’s some cameos and bits and pieces that work here or there (though it does include one that’s in pretty bad taste). It’s diverting enough, but it looks awful and it’s weird that they are still putting out these movies when they’re about to reboot the whole DC universe. I suspect there’s a bit of superhero fatigue at the box office these days, but I also think that’s mostly because the quality hasn’t been there lately. All that said, James Gunn has made a bunch of unlikely stuff work, so I’m definitely curious. Anyway, the Flash is mostly just an also-ran rehash of the recent spate of multiverse movies, which are also getting pretty played out.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – Alright, I guess I should talk about this one too. It builds on the first movie (which was exceptional and well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it) in nearly every way. It’s visually spectacular, continuing the trend of visual motifs and animation styles centered around a specific instance of Spider-Man that started in the first film, then seamlessly blending them together as multiple characters interact. This was present in the first movie, but taken to an extreme here. At times, perhaps too extreme and overwhelming, but mostly this is just fulfilled ambition here.
The only really major problem here is that it basically just stops with a “To Be Continued”, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I was not expecting that (and it was the second movie to pull this sorta thing in a few weeks – the other being Fast X) and it means you leave the theater on a down note (as opposed to the high note of the first film). That being said, this is maybe the best superhero movie of the last few years? Or, er, the best first half of a movie, because this is definitely just half of a movie. Definitely curious to see if they can stick the landing, as they haven’t quite painted themselves into a corner, but there are plenty of traps they could fall into in the third movie.
Extraction II – These two movies are in the running for best Netflix blockbusters… which is not saying much, but this sequel is a solid actioner with a budget that lets them do some impressive stuff. In particular, there are some well executed long takes filled with action that are very well done (continuing the trend from the first movie). I know there’s a faction of people who don’t like this sort of stitched together long take, but I generally find this thing worth pursuing. Action trends come in waves, and and I like this a lot more than, say, the shaky cam/quick cuts thing that was going on in the oughts and early teens. Anywho, the plot is basically just an excuse for the action and pretty forgettable, but the action is great and Chris Hemsworth does this sort of thing well. I don’t know that there’ll be a third movie, but I want to see Hemsworth do this sort of action thing again. Maybe someday they’ll put it in movie theaters. What an idea!
Brooklyn 45 – Five WWII vets get together immediately after the war, and a troubled friend thinks it will be a good idea to hold a seance so that he can talk to his dead wife. Spoiler alert: it was not a good idea. It’s a nice little single location thriller punctuated by 1940s needle drops, excellent performances, ghostly hands, Germans, and emotional confessions galore. I don’t know that the ending fully holds together well enough, but I respect the grind. As an aside, it was very strange to see the guy who does the Peter Rosenthal reviews for the Onion in this, doing, like, regular dramatic acting. But he was good! Still no Rosenthal review of this yet though.
Nostromo by Joseph Conrad – Set in a fictional South American country, this novel tells the story of a silver mine that gets thrust into disarray during one of the periodic revolutions that plague the country. It’s pretty funny that this highly respected literary novel reminds me the most of… The Lord of the Rings. I mean, sure, it’s a deeply political novel with keen insights into the nature of mankind, but setting it in a fictional country means that Conrad spends a huge amount of time fleshing it out with history and culture, especially as seen through a handful of characters. Sometimes it felt like reading a realistic, non-fantasy version of The Simarillion. Plus, you get a titular character who has several different names (Nostromo, Giovanni, Capataz de Cargadores, etc…), just like the LotR characters (i.e. Strider/Aragorn, etc…) And the treasure from the silver mine? Everyone seeks it out, and it corrupts even those described as incorruptible. Sound familiar? No? I’m just a huge nerd? Yeah, that checks out. Carry on. (I took more notes and may expand this to another post with a more serious dive into the novel, but will leave it at this for now…)
No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield – Murder mystery following a dead town pariah, her missing husband, a famous social media influencer type, and a detective piecing things together. Perfectly cromulent thriller built on a twist you can probably see coming, it loses its way a few times, but works reasonably well. Not highly recommended, but you could do worse (damning with faint praise? Maybe.)
Critical Mass by Daniel Suarez – A sequel to Delta-v, this one picks up where the first novel left off, but spends a fair amount of time grounded as the political ramifications of the first novel are dealt with. So it’s not quite as breezy, but things get moving a little more as the story progresses and our protagonists get back into space. I like Delta-v and Suarez in general, so I enjoyed this just fine, though it’s not his most memorable story. Will keep on the lookout for more Suarez though, as he occupies an interesting space between Techno-Thriller and Science Fiction.
The House at the End of the World by Dean Koontz – I have a soft spot for Koontz, who got me into reading for fun when I was a youngin. It helped that he was operating at his prime in the late 80s/early 90s and that’s when I started reading his stuff. I’ve periodically tried to dip back into his long catalog of stuff or his newer work, but I always found it lacking a certain spark. It could very well be that Koontz’s tendency to recycle plots and story elements simply got too repetitive for me, but sometimes that can be ok. Still, this newish book is maybe his best since… the 90s? I don’t mean to imply that it’s great or that it doesn’t hit some of his many overused tropes, but it’s a better executed version than I’ve seen in a long time. It helps that the villain is actually kinda interesting and unlike a lot of his more recent work. If you’re a Koontz fan, this might scratch an itch.
The Finer Things
Over at the beer blog, we’re tackling Italian Style Pils, some recent Bourbon purchases, a little non-Alcoholic beer, and a rather odd offering from Fantôme (but then, I repeat myself). I also had an opportunity to visit Asheville, NC recently (which, if you don’t know, is a huge beer city).
That about does it for this round of tasting notes. Moar to come!
King’s appearance in an auditorium on the K-State campus had several hundred people in it, and it took place on a foggy night. When he took the stage, King noted that it was spooky weather, like one of his novels. Then he started speculating that it was the kind of night that a homicidal escapee from a mental asylum might be running around in. The crowd laughed. King continued that the maniac was probably out in the parking lot, checking cars to see if any were unlocked. The crowd loved it. Stephen King was telling us a creepy story on a foggy October night. How cool was that? King kept talking, adding details about the maniac and the knife he picked up somewhere. The crowd grew a bit uneasy but was still chuckling.
Then Uncle Steve started in on asking us if we were sure, REALLY sure, that we had locked our cars. You thought you did, but do you actually remember doing it? By then, the crowd had fallen silent. By the time King described the maniac finding an unlocked car, everyone was on the edge of their seat. Say what you will about the man, he took a brightly lit auditorium full of laughing cheering people and creeped the living shit out of everyone in it in about two minutes. And when I left, I checked my backseat before getting it, and I wasn’t the only one in the parking lot who did.
The usual interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:
Box Office Game – Have you ever listened to the Blank Check with Griffin and David podcast and been frustrated when they play the box office game because you know the answer and they’re struggling? Prepare to be humbled. One game posted a day, very wordle-like…
Framed – Ah yes, the Wordle derivatives continue to appear, this is a fun one based on movie screenshots.
Jomboy Will Smith Slap Breakdown – I’m posting this not so much for the content (it’s a solid enough breakdown of events) but because I find it interesting just how quickly he got this video up. The Slap happened and this video was up less than an hour later. The only other thing I have to say about this is that I’m a little annoyed that “The Slap” will now be associated with Will Smith and Chris Rock rather than the cutting NBC drama about a guy who slapped a kid at a suburban cookout, an event that rocked a community and caused apocalyptic fallout. Also, come on, “The Pursuit of Slappiness” was right there for the taking.
Brickbat: Candygram – Guy installs a giant novelty shark crashing into his roof as some sort of political statement. Neighbors and community government asks him to take it down, but he doesn’t… so they switch tactics and have it declared a “protected landmark” and now it would be illegal for him to take it down.
Bizarro World – Fun little story about a reporter who accidentally discovers that his wife is the word’s greatest Tetris player.
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Oscars. Declining ratings, the impossibility of finding a host that will please anyone (let alone someone who won’t spark outrage and controversy), and oh yeah, a worldwide pandemic that made getting large groups of people together in an enclosed space a bad idea. As much as we all complain about the Oscars, one of the few things it had going for it was the pageantry. That’s never been my favorite part of it, but people like to see their favorite stars get dressed up and do glamorous things on the red carpet and so on.
For a second there, I thought that Steven Soderberg would manage last year’s ceremony well. It started with a great, long tracking shot following Regina King as she made her way to the stage to present the first award. It was a cinematic way to start the proceedings, but alas, the host-less nature and continued weird choices throughout the ceremony quickly bogged the whole thing down. Not to mention that the pandemic year produced odd shortlists. It’s usually fun snarking about the awards on Twitter, but it felt a little like shooting fish in a barrel last year, and I think everyone knew it.
Will things return to “normal” this year? The producers continue to make some bizarre choices, including leaving some pretty hefty categories out of the broadcast (notably film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, and sound), not to mention shuffling the lifetime achievement awards out of the main ceremony. Look, I get that the producers have a difficult job and they have to balance the artistic against the popular, but, like, Samuel L. Jackson got a lifetime achievement award. He’s gotta be one of the most popular actors in the history of cinema and one of the great success stories of the industry. As presenter Denzel Washington (um, also a pretty popular dude) noted:
“152 movie titles,” Denzel Washington said, beginning to rattle off Samuel L. Jackson’s accomplishments in a tribute to the actor. “I got IMDB Pro. $27 billion in box office.”
Jackson reflected on a 50-year career that began with roles with names like “gang member number two,” “bum” and “Black guy.” He thanked his agent, manager, lawyer and publicist for “making sure I lived in the comfort zone of knowing what the next two jobs would be.”
Jackson and Washington embraced (multiple times), and Washington was clearly overjoyed that Jackson had finally gotten some recognition from the Oscars (he’d previously only been nominated once, for Pulp Fiction). It was a very moving moment that would have been fantastic on the main broadcast. Again, I don’t want to underappreciate how difficult it is to produce something like the Oscars, but this particular Lifetime Achievement Award seems like a no brainer.
Alright, enough complaining, it’s time for the annual reminder that the Oscars broadcast is the biggest source of income for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is actually a very useful organization. As Steven Soderberg noted a few years ago, what the Academy does for film archiving and preservation alone should be praised, and it’s all paid for by the broadcast. So while most complaints about the ceremony are valid and we all have our own strategy for shortening the ceremony (mine has always been remove the shorts categories and the musical performances), actually putting on the show is difficult and it does have a lot of benefits for the industry and cinema as a whole. Anyway, let’s look at the categories and make some predictions:
2022 Oscars Predictions
Best Picture – CODA. The buzz was that The Power of the Dog would take this and I suppose there’s still an off chance of that, but support fell off a cliff after some awards season missteps, and I suspect voters will still be able to recognize it elsewhere. The notion that Best Picture and Best Director are coupled has pretty much disappeared since they instituted the longer list of Best Picture nominees, so I think CODA will take it this year. There’s maybe an off chance that Belfast will win, and an even more off chance that West Side Story will win. I’ve seen 9 of the nominees, and 3 of those did make my Top 10, which is actually a decent showing. Of course, there’s an approximately 0% chance that any of those 3 will win. I think CODA is a fine movie, but it is so cliched and predictable that I find it hard to call it the best of the year. It’s your standard inspirational artist coming of age story about following your dreams etc… and it’s a pretty well done version of that, but you’ve seen this movie before. Maybe not with a deaf family, but there’s been a surprising amount of much better, much more subtle looks at the deaf community in the past couple of years. Look no further than last year’s Sound of Metal (also nominated for best picture, but nowhere near a contender) or even this year’s Drive My Car (which has a deaf side character). Anyway, I think CODA is going to win. My choice amongst the nominees would have been Nightmare Alley or Dune, but again, no chances there.
Best Director – Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. She’s long been a favorite for director and her film for picture, but some recent controversy involving some ill advised comparisons has maybe dulled the shine a bit. I think she’s still a favorite as director though. I suppose it’s possible that Kenneth Branagh will pull an upset, or maybe even Steven Spielberg (though I suspect we take him for granted these days – I would probably vote for him this year though, even if I don’t love West Side Story).
Best Actress – Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Penelope Cruz had some early buzz but seems to be falling behind the popular Chastain.
Best Actor – Will Smith in King Richard. Pretty much a sure thing.
Best Supporting Actress – Ariana DeBose in West Side Story. This is probably the only place voters think they can show some love to WSS, and to be fair, she is great in that movie. Maybe Kirsten Dunst could sneak in, but I’m doubting it.
Best Supporting Actor – Troy Kostur in CODA. He’s got buzz and the only competition comes from two nominees from The Power of the Dog, which historically means the vote gets split and someone else wins.
Best Original Screenplay – Belfast. I suspect voters will want to award this movie, but that it won’t be in Best Picture or Director, so it’ll be here. There’s a strong possibility that it won’t win though, as Licorice Pizza has a similar situation going on and Andersen could easily take this.
Best Adapted Screenplay – CODA. Though again, The Power of the Dog could sneak in. It’s really going to be a battle between those two movies this year.
Best International Film – Drive My Car. I mean, it’s the only one of these that is also on the Best Picture ballot…
Best Song – No Time to Die. I don’t know, I like Bond, I suspect it’ll do well here.
And that’ll about cover it. If, for some odd reason, you want to plumb the depths of the Kaedrin archives for old Oscars commentary (if you go far back enough, you can even read what used to be called “liveblogging” of the event, you know, back before Twitter was a big deal and blogs were still a thing), all my previous entries are here:    | [2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004] (I didn’t post in 2020 because I was lazy and ran out of time before posting my top 10, and I didn’t post last year because I had much more important films on my mind on the day of the ceremony). If you feel like watching along, I’ll be on Twitter @mciocco (and when the musical performances start, I’ll be posting alcohol @kaedrinbeer). I won’t post that often, but feel free to say hi…
Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we watched the Citizen Kane of Astrology movies. This time, we’ve got a tale of forbidden love between people named Obama and Osama. Ultimately, it’s a tale of two internet-based movie databases.
Because streaming services are terrible at curation and discoverability, I peruse a number of other websites and tools to see what’s new and interesting. Because I’m a weirdo, it’s often the more obscure selections that catch my eye, like this one that I discovered on JustWatch (new on Amazon Prime, because of course it’s Prime material):
The subject of the film is exceptionally intriguing. It revolves around a man named Barrack Obama and a man named Osama bin Laden. To win the hand of the middle aged man, the hero, bin Laden needs to cross a few obstacles on his way as he is a Muslim and the man of his dreams is a Christian. The movie “When Obama loved Osama” and remember: Osama bin Stylin on all yall n*gs
Apologies for some minor censorship at the end there (honestly not sure what to make of that), but what the fuck is going on with this movie description? Was it written by a six-year-old who doesn’t quite speak English and was only told the title of the movie? As it turns out, the description on Amazon Prime itself isn’t nearly as weird (or as tantalizing, sadly):
Two youngsters, Maggi Obama and Aman Osama, who come from different communal backgrounds are in love with each other. Will their love overcome the religious differences and will they be united?
I mean, that sounds outright boring compared to the bananapants movie described by the six-year-old. What’s going on here? It turns out that there are two major internet movie databases. Everyone knows IMDB (Internet Movie Database), which is also owned by Amazon and unsurprisingly powers Amazon Prime (and thus it has the more prosaic description). But there’s also TMDB (The Movie Database), which has the more insane description and powers lots of websites, including JustWatch and Letterboxd.
Anyway, I didn’t end up watching the movie. It turns out that this is probably not actually a weird movie of the week, but I figured I’d capture the process of figuring out that it’s not. For posterity. Or something.
Although the Moon is airless, recent findings indicate the presence of hematite, a form of rust that only occurs with oxygen and water. This has scientists baffled.
The Moon is also constantly exposed to a steam of hydrogen from the solar wind. Hydrogen is a reducing agent that ‘donates’ its electrons to the materials it is exposed to.
Rusting occurs due to a loss of electrons, so if hypothetically oxygen and water were present on the moon, the hydrogen would cancel out the rusting process.
“It’s very puzzling,” says planetary scientist Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.” “The Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in.”
SHOCK it to me – Final Girl is back and returning to Shocktober roots by going interactive. Check it out and send her your top 20 horror films. She’s done this a few times in the past, and it’s always been a fun Halloweentime activity…
I realize that some of these link to Twitter. I’m sorry, I’m trying to avoid it too. But these particular posts are still fun and you don’t have to browse the rest of the site. Be strong. Alright, so we’ve had a lot of Link Dump posts of late, but we’re entering Halloween season, so you’re about to be inundated with horror movies and other nominally ghastly signifiers of the season. Brace yourself.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years (two decades!) since I started Kaedrin Weblog. I’ve already covered the history behind the site often enough, so I won’t bore you with repetition. I’ll bore you with something new and hopefully even more boring.
The first few years of the blog were filled with design changes, upgrades and the like, and I suppose I “found my voice” at some point, whatever that means. I eventually settled into a pretty comfortable 1-2 posts a week cadence and subject matter has shaken out a lot of random stuff. I’m mostly posting about books and movies these days, with the occasional foray into other topics.
Blogs themselves have gone through the whole lifecycle of technology, from a new and trendy form of self-expression and empowerment for the normals, to something that became almost universal and monetized and co-opted by professionals, to a steady decline. Looking back, I suspect the death of Google Reader was the biggest nail in the coffin. People don’t talk about it often these days, but Google’s ill-advised adventure in Social Media really hastened the demise of blogs and associated technologies like RSS. Not that blogs weren’t already in decline by then, but this was a big blow, and I think the internet landscape is worse off because of it.
Of course, blogs aren’t entirely dead, but this has never been a particularly popular blog. I like knowing some folks read it, but I like getting the practice in writing and it allows me to explore various things in a somewhat organized fashion. At this point, I’ve been writing this blog for almost half of my life (we’ll cross that threshold next year), so it’s become almost automatic.
One thing I noticed when transferring the blog to WordPress is that I have this Best Entries category that I haven’t added anything to in about a decade. I figure it’s time to recognize some of my favorite entries in that timeframe, so here’s a few entries worth checking out:
Consider the branzino. The Spider-Man scene originally called for Peter to be unnerved by the fish’s eye staring back up at him — something that’s not possible with the real-life dish, where the eyes melt in the oven. White found himself having to painstakingly remove one eye from each raw fish, then place it back in a roasted socket. The scene also needed one of Gwen’s little brothers to expertly debone the fish for Peter, a task that had to be as easy as possible for the child actor. White took a pair of scissors and made a few tiny, imperceptible cuts that allowed the kid to pull the bone out as if he were a Michelin-starred chef. He did this for every fish, for every take, alongside cooking the entrees for everyone else’s plate, as well. Sadly, neither moment made the final cut.
The Day the World Didn’t End – You may have heard of the story about the Soviet officer who got a missile launch warning but basically saved the world by not acting on it; this is a more detailed account of that story, with context usually missing from the story.
How To Make the Perfect Burger – Pretty much the platonic ideal of a How To Basic video. Perfect amount of innocuous content before it gets… weird. Wait for it. (I hope you like pickles.)
Over the next four years, the law professor would be drawn into a “campaign of fraud, extortion, and false accusations,” as one of his lawyers would later say in legal proceedings. At one point, Hay’s family would be left suddenly homeless. At another, owing to what his lawyer has described as the “weaponiz[ation] of the university’s Title IX machinery against Hay,” he would find himself indefinitely suspended from his job. He would accrue over $300,000 in legal bills with no end to the litigation in sight. “Maria-Pia and Mischa want money,” Hay told me last summer, “but only for the sake of squeezing it out of people — it’s the exertion of power.”