Yeah, so the site is busted! Not for long, I hope.
4 February 2016, terribly early in the morning
Elysium was a bit too on the nose. South African director Neill Blomkamp presents another dystopian science fiction future, where the rich live in a giant space station orbiting crap-sack Earth. Earthlings try and sneak onto the space station Elysium so they can use their fancy hospital pods and basically live less crap lives. Matt Damon plays one such person. He ends up in robotic exo-skeleton, and has to fight crazy jacked-up South African mercenaries. That stuff is all pretty cool. Jodie Foster plays a jerk politician with a bizarre vaguely colonial accent. That was also fun. On the whole though, the film seems a bit weak.
Reviews of Elysium on Rotten Tomatoes.
26 January 2016, late afternoon
I watched the sequel to Kick-Ass over the weekend. (I started watching it at 1:00 AM, while eating some toast and nutella, and just never stopped.) The film carries on where the first one left off, but loses a lot of what made the first one amazing. There are only a handful of action sequences, and none of them really live up to the action sequences in the first film. (As such, there is far less excessive violence.) Each of the stories that ran through the movie felt weak. Matthew Vaughn, the director of the first film was simply the producer of this second one, which might explain why the sequel felt like it missed the mark. I’d skip this movie.
Kick-ass 2 on Netflix.
19 January 2016, late afternoon
I stopped listening to podcasts during my commute and started reading again. I used to read far more often, and had wanted to get back into the habit. My goal was to read 24 books before the year was done, which I almost managed to do. If you count graphic novels—and why shouldn’t you?—I did manage to cross 24, having read the trade paperbacks for: The Manhattan Projects volume 5, Prophet volume 4, Saga volumes 4 & 5, and Hawkeye volume 4. (All of these series are amazing, by the way. Hawkeye just finished it’s run and is the best super hero comic i’ve read in ages.)
- The Road – Cormac McCarthy
- Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
- The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
- Dune – Frank Herbert
- The Stealer of Souls – Michael Moorcock
- Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer
- Authority – Jeff VanderMeer
- Acceptance – Jeff VanderMeer
- The Dying Earth – Jack Vance
- The Eyes of the Overworld – Jack Vance
- Cugel’s Saga – Jack Vance
- Rhialto the Marvellous – Jack Vance
- The Martian – Andy Weir
- Flood of Fire – Amitav Ghosh
- The Burried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
- Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
- The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
- A Maze of Death – Philip K. Dick
- Valis – Philip K. Dick
- The Divine Invasion – Philip K. Dick
- False Readings – Patrick Stuart
The Little Prince was incredible. I have no idea why I waited 35 years to read it. Truly a superlative book. The writing is so great. The story is so lovely. If you also have managed to live your life without reading it you really should.
Both Cormac McCarthy books were hard reads, and felt like mirrors of each other. The Road is about a father and son travelling through a post-apocalyptic world. Blood Meridian takes place in the wild west, and seems to be a story about the sorts of people the protagonists in The Road are constantly fleeing from. They are dark books. The Road in particular is so bleak—especially if you have children.
I made an effort to read more fantasy this year. Jack Vance is really worth reading if you aren’t that big a fan of your typical fantasy novel. The world his Dying Earth novels take place is in bizarre and fantastic in a way that isn’t elves and dwarves and other trappings of Tolkien. The Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel’s Saga are also really funny. His command of the English language is also amazing. The books are so well written.
I enjoyed most everything I read. From the list above the only book I really regret reading was The Crystal Shard, which I clearly should have read when I was 12 years old. It’s cheesy D&D fantasy.
I just finished reading The Grace of Kings. So 2016 is off to a good start.
 Comics and Books
3 January 2016, late afternoon
Shima and I watched Tig late one night over the break. It’s a documentary about Tig Notaro produced by Netflix. Notaro had some amount of fame and success before being catapulted into some new stratosphere of fame and success after she performed a stand up set about her very recent diagnosis with cancer: which came after she broke up with her girlfriend, her mom dying, and her surviving the abdominal disease c-diff. The film looks at that time in her life, and then how she tries to follow up on such a bizarre way to end up famous. It’s a well done documentary if you want to learn about her and her story. I didn’t think there was a larger or more interesting message to it, though.
Watch Tig on Netflix.
The Racism Beat.
Imagine an editor asking a writer to passionately articulate why a drunk driver hitting and killing a boy on a bicycle is wrong and sad. That would never happen, because a drunk driver killing a boy on a bike is a self-evident tragedy. Asking a writer to exert lots of effort to explain why would be a disservice to the dead, as if his right to life were ever in question, as if our moral obligation to not snuff out our fellow citizens via recklessness were something in need of an eloquent plea.
In Liberty Village, here comes the neighbourhood.
“This idea that families only live in homes is a very North American, space-based weirdness.” There are few things better in life than a short commute. Still, as the article notes, a lot of our super-dense neighbourhoods lack basic amenities for families. They are seemingly built to be multi building frat houses.
31 December 2015, late evening
Shima and I finally finished watching Mad Men tonight. It feels like a good show to end a year with. We watched the last seven episodes over the last couple days. A strange ending, but I didn’t expect a normal one, I suppose. The show ends strong. These last few episodes are filled with so much emotion. My favourite scene in the show is probably still from an early season: Don visiting Peggy in the hospital. If you’ve seen the show, you know what i’m talking about. But Mad Men is a show filled with so many moments like that. If you haven’t watched Mad Men you should. The writing is solid. The acting is solid. Every shot looks like a photograph. Mad Men is certainly one of the best televisions shows made.
28 December 2015, late evening
Dredd suffers from not being The Raid, but is a fantastic film in its own right. Both films take place in high rises, with a couple cops versus super corrupt gangsters. Both films are very violent. I had thought Dredd was a Hollywood copy of The Raid, but apparently that’s not the case. Dredd was in production before The Raid started filming. Dredd has a solid cast, and Karl Urban is excellent in the title role. I really enjoyed the film.