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The Changelog – April 2023
They say that to err is human, but to persist is diabolical. If that’s the case, then I must be the devil himself.
April has been grossly underwhelming; I had little motivation, energy, and found myself in a persistent state of low-level anxiety.
Unfortunately, this has dramatically impacted my ability to mentally organize my things. For example, I usually follow a seasonal schedule where I reevaluate the previous three months at the end of each quarter to see what worked and what didn’t, and plan for the next quarter. It’s kinda like having a “new year” every 12 weeks.
Well, I put the task for my quarter review on April 1st. It is still there. 😕
But complaining won’t help. It’s not the purpose of this monthly article anyway. Sometimes, all we can do is accept things as they are and try to do better next time.
Moreover, It wasn’t a total disaster! I had a lovely Easter with my family, consistently hit the gym, made small but consistent progress in (probably too many) activities, and read more than expected.
If you look well enough, there is always something to celebrate and be grateful for. Even in not-so-great months.
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Not a lot to say this month. As I said, I have everything on hold.
In April, I read 3 books. For once, I continued the Star Trek: Vanguard series.
Last month I told you I wanted to start a sci-fi series in a familiar universe because I didn’t have the headspace to learn a new fictional universe from scratch. Since the new season of Star Trek: Picard really pumped me up, I decided to look at some recommended Star Trek book series. And, oh, boy. I was hooked. After the first chapter (which I discussed last month), I jumped straight into the following two books in the series: Summon the Thunder and Reap the Whirlwind.
In Summon the Thunder, we get to know the next two writers of the series: Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. After reading some GoodReads reviews, I was worried. Many lamented a dip in the quality of the writing and, in general, a much worse book. However, I have to say, the reviews were unnecessarily harsh. Sure, the first book (Harbinger) is clearly superior, but this holds up very well.
But it is not perfect. In fact, although the book offers some new clues about the mystery of Taurus Reach, the story itself is somewhat lacking. For example, there are no self-sustaining plot arcs aside from the mission of Quinn and Pennington, who are undoubtedly the strongest characters in the series.
On the other hand, the third book, Reap the Whirlwind, is absolutely fantastic. David Mack returned to the typewriter and produced 445 pages of pure thrill and frantic actions. It starts off slowly, but I swear to God, I had real trouble putting the book down (I may or may not have read a couple of chapters during a long, boring work meeting 🙄).
The book also solves many questions and plot points created in the previous book. Therefore, it would be a good place for me to take a break. But I will continue with the fourth book for sure. Yes. It is not great literature. It is definitely pulp science fiction. But, I have to confess, I adore the genre.
In the non-fiction department, I had the chance to read How to Calm Your Mind by Chris Bailey. As I said before, I like Chris, and I found the concept of a book on his post-burnout experience promising. Unfortunately, though, it fell short. It is an exemplary case of the “this could have been a blog post” syndrome from which many productivity books (in a very loose sense of the word productivity) suffer.
If you are interested in a much better book that tackles the problem of breaking the guilt-inducing cycle caused by the “I always have to accomplish something” mentality, I highly recommend Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.
(Interestingly, I did not enjoy “Four Thousand Weeks” on my first read. However, it planted seeds in my mind, and I found myself returning to it time and time again in the years following. This is a clear indication of a great book.)
Speaking of Star Trek, April marked the month of the Picard series finale. A couple of months ago, I expressed my concerns about the season, given that Picard’s previous seasons had the tendency to fall into problematic writing quickly.
I am glad I was proved wrong. Terry Matalas flexed his knowledge of the Star Trek canon and produced a really trekky series, striking a good balance between a blatant fan-service and solid storytelling. It is not a case that, on the various communities I lurk (such as /r/startrek), Matalas became a kind of messiah bound to guide Star Trek into wave two of the modern Trek era.
But all this aside, this was a great season and a great gift to Star Trek fans. The pacing –the main issue with the previous seasons – was almost impeccable. The only problem was in the last two episodes; probably, an additional episode would have allowed for more time to better unravel the frantic plot of those final two episodes.
My favorite episode would probably be episode 4. It was quintessentially trek (nothing says “Star Trek” more than space jellyfish), and it reminded me of why I love the show. It filled me with memories of my younger self watching The Next Generation on the VHS tapes my uncle recorded from TV. 😃
I have only two issues, which will be addressed in the Spoilery Section at the very end of the article.
Another series I watched this month was Shrinking, the Apple TV+ series starring Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, and Harrison Ford.
It was a pleasant experience and deserved all the good critical acclaim it got. However, I found it difficult to emotionally grasp, much like the sweet-and-sour tamarind sauce I get at Indian restaurants. While I like it, I find it challenging to define.
And this is expected. After all, it is a comedy full of hilarious and amusing moments, but it is also a show dominated by dark feelings: grief for death or illness, mental health, traumas, lack of human connection, and more. Mental health is the true protagonist of the show, and, in fact, every character struggles with one or more heavy emotional baggage. Not only the patients of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center but also (and, I’d say, especially) the therapists and their acquaintances.
I am not sure whether the show was always able to tackle such heavy topics with the required level of care and importance. However, the fact that the creators could make an objectively entertaining and upbeat show embedded in such a dark and weighty setting is a great accomplishment in itself.
It hasn’t been a great month for music, at least not for me. I scored fewer than 1000 tracks for the first time and only listened to 31 new albums (although I’m still proud of my 1-new-album-per-day average!).
As a result, I don’t have many strong musical suggestions. However, I do have a couple to share!
The first one is The Worm by HMLTD, a British post-punk band formed in 2015. Yet, this album is not post-punk. Rather, it is more of a rock opera album, with some very small incursions into progressive rock. Still, the album’s absurd concept, which describes a cursed worm devastating England (a clear political allegory), makes it worth it. And it is good music too.
The second recommendation came back just at the end of the month. Maybe it is a somewhat obvious one (given the critical appraisals), but I really enjoyed Jessie Ware’s previous album, and after listening to her latest album a few times, I am enjoying it as well. Her albums create a lighthearted, happy, rooftop party disco vibe. I find them amusing, and they never fail to put me in a good mood.
And, finally, as usual, here is my playlist of this month’s top tracks.
I am not playing much. I am still playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey in bursts (this game is just so needlessly long; only my compulsive completionist nature forces me to continue playing it).
I also tried Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty for a bit. I am not really convinced yet. It looks like both an old-gen game and a new-gen game, but I plan to spend more time on it before making a final judgment.
Next month, though, it will be Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom time. I was not so hyped about a game since Elden Ring.
Other Interesting Things
- I am not joking when I say my reading list is blocked on March 29th. Oh, well…
As April comes to a close, I can hardly believe that next month marks the first anniversary of The Changelog. Time has flown by, hasn’t it?
I won’t bother making any predictions for next month, as I’ve proven to be quite terrible at that in the past.
However, next month is my birthday month (a usually depressing month), and I have already booked a small weekend in Ferrara for that date. So better make May count!
Now, I think I need to finally tackle the 2023-Q1 review that I’ve been putting off for the last 30 days.
See you in June!
Spoilery Section Below
Leaving some space between the conclusion and the spoilers!
- (A) I have only two minor issues with the story. First one: Jack going to the Borg Queen. My brother in Christ, a lot of people died to stop the Changelings from taking you to her. We spent seven episodes on that. And then you go there by your own will because…? Granted, you were borderline manipulated and not in complete control of your faculties… but still. Second: the Borg reveal would have been much stronger if the showrunners didn’t waste so many “Borg” references in the last two seasons.
Previous: [[202303 The ChangeLog – March 2023]] Next: [[202305 The ChangeLog – May 2023]]
- [[} 20230420 How to Calm Your Mind – Chris Bailey|How to Calm Your Mind]]
- [[} 20230416 Star Trek Vanguard – Summon the Thunder – Dayton Ward|Star Trek: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder]]
- [[} Star Trek Vanguard – Reap the Whirlwind – David Mack|Star Trek: Vanguard: Reap the Whirlwind]]
- [[Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018)|Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey]]