Things I have enjoyed of late

A lot of these are on YouTube, so if you are not a fan of YouTube, you should skip those. But it’s a hard world out there, and videos are some of the things that help divert me from ruminating on matters I can’t control.

  • For instance, Tico and his Man are a beautiful example of what can emerge from surrendering to inspiration and letting an enigmatic artist follow his unknowable muse, especially if that artist is a parrot.
  • I also feel a great freedom in having given up on Connections and replaced it in my mornings with friendlier puzzles. Cine2Nerdle has possibly the worst Wordle-derived name anyone has yet produced, but it does exactly what I wanted from Connections in terms of interface and hinting, and it’s about movies! (Don’t even talk to me about Cinematrix, I can’t stand it.)
  • The NYT web games team can still do good work, though. Strands has actual hints that can be earned through play (not that they’re often necessary—its challenge level varies, but tips toward the easier side). But the first few minutes of looking at a new day’s grid, waiting for my pattern-recognition neurons to wake up, are a consistent if brief instruction in patience.
  • But back to videos. I found Brad the Tech Time Traveller’s channel algorithmically—I think his literally-bricked hard drive documentary was what first caught my attention. I love to wind down in the evening by watching him work, and he also has a blog which ably demonstrates his time-travel credentials by skillful use of a <marquee> tag.
  • I’ve played a number of games set in the milieu of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but I’ve never actually read the original novel. I could just try that—the work is very much in the public domain—but these days I find it easier to digest fiction via audio. So when I want to occupy one hemisphere of my brain with Minecraft, I occupy the other with the podcast that motivated me to make this post in the first place. John Zhu originally started his Romance of the Three Kingdoms Podcast a decade ago, going through the book chapter by chapter in a kind of ongoing summation abetted by his own commentary and context. I find his work so charming and affable, and generous with explanations for a naive audience member like myself. Zhu has gone on to cover other works of similar import under the umbrella of The Chinese Lore Podcast. I’m almost a quarter of the way through the 174 (!) episodes of the original, so I’m very glad there will be more to listen to when I get through all of those.
  • Oh, also I still play Minecraft (and of course I still watch Joe). I got back into the game when my nieces and nephews became interested, and then they got kind of bored of trying to coordinate with me long-distance. I kept playing anyway. I can’t play it with joysticks at all, which rules out my Switch, and my laptop is a little unwieldy for games, so I’ve been playing the Bedrock version of the game on my tablet with a bluetooth mouse. I miss being able to mod the Java version but I don’t miss having to sit at a desk to play it. I have a nice little world going now, featuring such wonders as a villager who sells mending books and also a square chunk hole that I dug one block at a time from a mountaintop to the bottom of the world. It’s just a solo local file, but if you are a friend who would like to play in it, email me and I will click the button that makes it a server.
  • This is becoming more about video games than I expected. I can’t play Minecraft on our elliptical, so to occupy that version of my brain, I use a secondhand tiny piracy machine to play a randomized version of Final Fantasy III (6) called Worlds Collide. It’s promoted mostly as a racing game—the community holds regular tournaments where competitors all start with the same seed and try to be the first to beat the final boss. I have played through probably twenty times now and I must accept that I will never, ever be fast enough to compete in even the introductory qualifiers. But the scope of the game and my own teenage familiarity with it are juuust right to make it a fun puzzle with many possible solutions every time.
  • Let’s go back to the part where I’m bad at reading books! It took me an undisclosed amount of time to finish Roaming, because at first its illustrations of youthful personality interplay were too acute. But I barreled through the back half and loved it, as I do everything by either of the Tamaki cousins. I was spurred on in no small part by the chance to participate in my first ever Zoom-based book club meeting, a privilege of my subscription to Sophie’s wonderful newsletter. It was a treat! Sophie always has excellent book recommendations, and has since motivated me to get my heart broken by a whole different graphic novel.
  • And speaking of paid subscription privileges, ACHEWOOD IS BACK, BABY.
    It's just a robot butt joke.
  • I made the above visual goof in a few minutes on my phone with Mematic, which is kind of a silly app to pay for given how much image-editing software I already own. But I like how easily it allows me to make little jokes to show my friends in small amounts of time.

    Two panels from Scott Pilgrim featuring Todd Ingram saying "you know how you only use ten percent of your brain? well, that's because the other 90 percent is filled up with WILLIAM GIBSON AND JOHN LE CARRE QUOTES"

    it's the "Travis Kelce yelling" meme with a very long block of text implying that I am ranting about how RSS is still very much in use.

    These are just headlines where I have taken the words "with AI" and replaced them with "with an unpaid intern."

  • I loved getting to see Lucy’s collections of studio dances!
  • I continue to enjoy, above all else, being married to Kat.

    Brendan and Kat at the beach!

  • There’s just one more YouTube link left in this blog post. But I promise I saved it for last for good reason.

I used to type things into my little blog imagining that somehow, in some small way, they would run like rivulets down into the great tide of attention and draw some stranger’s gaze toward something they might not otherwise have seen.

I don’t really believe that anymore! And maybe that’s why I have not felt moved to post anything here for a while. But I really liked my old friend PH Lee’s story “Richard Nixon and the Princess of the Crows,” and maybe you, reader, will too.

Figure traced in light

I’m so sad to learn that Dr. David Bordwell died at the end of February. Kristin Thompson’s posts to the blog they both maintained had made it clear that his health was in decline, but without knowing the specifics I admit to holding out some hope for his recovery. I didn’t know Bordwell personally myself, and was a relative latecomer to his work; both he and Thompson have been held in high regard by scholars and lovers of film for decades. But even in these few years since coming to it, their work has come to mean a lot to me.

By all accounts Bordwell was as generous with his time, attention, and goodwill as he was with his writing and knowledge. I consider the aforementioned blog the gold standard for this medium, and whenever one of his books went out of print he’d just upload a copy to his site and offer it up for free. He didn’t write to critique or pass judgment on his subject matter. Instead, he clarified, contextualized, reverse-engineered, and recommended, all out of love for the work and in pursuit of sharing it with others.

I could read Bordwell’s writing forever, and it’s a sorrowful thing to know that I won’t see him post anything new again. But there are thousands of pages in his back catalog I can still look forward to reading and learning from. I think I’ll feel grateful that he left that work to this world for the rest of my life.

“88. Recite affirmations in front of a mirror each morning. A few possibilities: ‘I am a honed killing machine.’ ‘My street fighting ability is feared by all.’ ‘My adult son respects me.'”

Linked Onlist

Oh right! Another thing that has been slowly changing about the actual HTML markup of xorph dot com slash nfd is the “My Town” and “My Neighborhood” menus that appear at the bottom of any given archive page. The latter is a good old-fashioned friend blogroll; the former is the roll of links for friends who have nice internet sites that are not blogs. If you, like me, are avoiding tasks at the moment, you could do a lot worse than picking one of them to click on! You can even use this special magic link to do the picking for you.

Linked Nonlist

I have to imagine that both of you, my readers, consume my blog by way of a feed subscription. So you likely have no idea that I have a secret rule about what kinds of posts I allow myself to make and when. But I am the one who actually looks at the front page of this thing, so I have developed aesthetic preferences about it! Back in my micropost social media days, I got very used to the format of a-small-quote-excerpt-and-a-link, and I have carried that over to this blog. But the theming here renders those differently than regular posts—in a way that I like!—and I prefer to look at them interspersed between regular non-quote posts, not back-to-back.

Am I just writing this so I can get another of the quote-and-link posts out of my backlog? I guess we’ll never know.

“The diamonds seem to be pure geometry, the clubs simple machines (the king of clubs has a rather amusing nut-cracker), the hearts are (maybe) generative geometry, and the spades comparative geometry.”