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The Changelog – April 2024

If I could summarize April 2024 it would be: 'it was nice, but it could have been better.'

The author waiting for May. (screenshot from The Conversation movie)

If I could summarize April 2024 it would be: “it was nice, but it could have been better.”

April was nice, but not exceptional. I worked with less energy than I should have, but overall it was not a disaster. I wrote more than expected and less than I wished. I played/read/watched less music/books/movies than in previous months, but more than in my worst months. I don’t feel unsatisfied, but not excessively satisfied either.

I find myself in this strange middle ground. Do not get me wrong: stability is not exciting, but it is often nicer than the alternatives. So it’s fine. But the feeling of being swamped is not improving my mood.

And speaking of my mood, I really don’t like the evolution of it.

Not everything has a clear pattern, but my mood tracker is trying to tell me something.
Figure 1. Not everything has a clear pattern, but my mood tracker is trying to tell me something.

With May, the worst month of the year, upon me, I don’t see how I could change the momentum. Oh, well. I’ll take a deep breath and move on.

Housekeeping

Just two small updates.

I published another stupid song and published an article explaining why I have no intention of blocking algorithms from scraping my website (but I respect whoever decide to do otherwise, of course).

Reading

Faster Than Light by Robert J. Nemiroff (2023)

It is a nice book describing the paradoxes of FTL traveling such as explaining why shadows or laser pointers can move faster than light (even though, obviously, they cannot send information faster than light). It was a really interesting read, and I liked that the book is written as a sequence of questions aimed at uncovering our wrong assumptions on how ‘faster than light’ movement works. However, every question has a ‘dad joke’ answer that may get annoying in the long run. I get that the author wanted to lighten up a heavy topic for the general public, but science is already pretty interesting as it is.

How to Be a Leader by Jeffrey Beneker (2019)

Plutarch was and is a real deal. Another beautiful entry of the amazing Princeton’s series “Classical Wisdom for Modern Readers.” In this volume the author explores the topic of Politics with a selection from Plutarch’s “To the Uneducated Leader”, “Precepts of Statecraft” and “Should an Old Man Engage in Politics?” (this last one is particularly interesting for us in 2024).

I think everything Plutarch says here is still useful for modern-day politics. Somehow, we’ve stopped thinking and caring about good leaders. We’ve decided it’s okay to have amoral assholes in power.

The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow (2023)

“If you want a book with a surprisingly weird amount of ‘people eating,’ boring government activity, flat, stereotypical, and pollyannaish characters, and a lot of annoying preaching, that’s the book for you.

It is the first fiction book by Doctorow that I’ve read, and it wasn’t a nice experience. I don’t like the “let’s hide a non-fiction book inside a fiction one” approach. Or, at least, you have to be really good to do that without being too in-your-face. This was not good enough.”

Watchlist

Fallout (2024)

The Fallout videogame series is a weird one; it hits a perfect spot between dark humor, existential dread, and brutal violence. The biggest fear I had for the TV series was that they might miss that spot. They could have pushed too much on the humor side or too much on the gritty brutality of post-apocalypse. They could have taken themselves too seriously or not seriously enough.

Instead, they nailed it. The feeling of the series matches perfectly with the feeling of the game. The dumb characters mix with serious situations in a very unexpected blend.

While I have many reservations about the plot itself, Fallout has passed the threshold of being “totally worth it.” We will see where it goes from now on.

Shogun (2024)

Speaking of difficult media transpositions, Shogun was another pretty hard task to pull off. James Clavell’s book is deeply political and slow-burning. How do you put such a slow, character-based book into an 8-episode series?

The result was, in fact, quite slow. I’m sure many people came into the show expecting action and war, and they ended up disappointed. But I really loved it. It’s a very faithful adaptation of the book, and it did a tremendous job with the settings, costumes, and historical accuracy (excluding the historical mistakes present in the book itself). I loved every single actor. It was such an emotional journey.

Just remember: “Shogun” is not just a story about war, Blackthorne, or Toranaga. It’s the story of Mariko and a tale about following the wind.

Your name. (2016)

Remaining in Japan, Your Name is the third most successful Japanese movie of all time. And yet, because it wasn’t my genre, I never heard about it. And what a shame!

Your Name is a romantic fantasy comedy based on the trope of a city boy and a country girl randomly switching bodies. But if the idea is not particularly original, the movie definitely is. I suggest you watch it knowing nothing about it to really enjoy it.

I definitely did. This wins my personal “best movie of April 2024” award.

All the other

  • Interstellar (2014) πŸš€β°πŸ§‘β€πŸŒΎ – Definitely a great movie that could have been 20 minutes shorter.
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) πŸ’πŸ”ͺπŸ›’οΈ – I really loved it. This was 3 hours and a half, but there is no scene I would have changed. So sad, though.
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – The most rated movie on IMDB and many others websites. And for a good reason.
  • Greed (1924) πŸ’΅πŸœοΈ – A 4-hours-long silent movie (cut from the lost original 8-hour long version) that is a marvelous example of American Naturalism.
  • MΓΊsica (2024) πŸŽΆπŸ•Ί – A romcom with a story inspired to the director’s life. It has a very pleasant execution and it is worth watching.
  • The Conversation (1974) πŸŽ€πŸ“ΉπŸ”ͺ – Another great movie I never saw. It grew on me a lot. Another fantastic experience.
  • Blow-Up (1966) πŸ“ΈπŸŽΎ – This Antonioni’s movie directly inspired “The Conversation.” It is a bit weirder, but the parallels are very clear (especially with the theme of paranoia and distorted perception).
  • Iron-Man (2008) – I decided to rot my brain watching all the MCU movies. At least this one was good.
  • Iron-Man 2 (2010) – This one was a mistake.
  • Thor (2011) – Oh boy. It is gonna be a long road.

Music

I have to say, April was a good month for music. And the winner, for me, is an artist who published 32 songs in a 2-hour-long never-ending album.

Yes, that’s right.

Cindy Lee is the female alter ego of the Kansas-born composer Patrick Flegel. Born in 1985, Flegel published a series of albums classified as Hypnagogic Pop. The last one, Diamond Jubilee, received almost unanimous praise from critics and the public (at least, from the public who look for non-mainstream music).

The best way to describe it, though, is vibe pop. It is hard to pinpoint a single song because they tend to merge and blend together, yet they provide a clear path when traveling through the entire album. The idea is to replicate the feeling of analog radios; listening to the album feels like traveling in a car, on the back seat, half-sleeping, dozing on and off, overhearing the radio while your parents are driving. I know it sounds weird, but it is the best way I have to describe it.

Note: The album rejects the streaming model, so you can only find it on YouTube or you can download it for free on the publisher’s website (you can find all the info in the YouTube description).

Gaming

Spider-Man: Miles Morales entered the PS5 library, so I had to try it. It is an action beat-em-up game. It is quite short (that is good), easy and fun. In the end, it took me a week to almost 100% complete it, and it was a satisfying experience.

I also started a bunch of PokΓ©mon randomizer runs. If you want to join, here it is the application you need. (Tell me if you want a more detailed guide on it.)

Conclusions

I know it’s an overreaction, but I’m pretty scared of May. I only have good things planned for it, still… In any case, there is only one thing to do to know for sure: living through it.

See you next month. One way or another.

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