.
Mastodon Icon GitHub Icon LinkedIn Icon RSS Icon

The Changelog – March 2024

Writing, reading, watching movies, and making music: at a very slow pace. And that's fine.

March flew by in a blink. For good reasons: I had some interesting work projects I focused on, and I spent the rest of the time reading, watching movies, and making music. While there were things I wanted to write (I have three rough blog posts drafts), it was a nice pace.

With spring, I always become very sleepy and tired, so I am fine with not cramming all my free time with extra tasks. I burned through the new year’s enthusiasm, and I need to catch my breath before the usually more stressful April and May (and June).

Anyhow, time to get started that I am sending this on Easter and I have family business to attend.

Housekeeping

Not much to talk about this month. As I mentioned, I have three blog post drafts in a very early stage. The issue isn’t writing them; rather, there’s a “procrastination moat” between the draft and all the tedious editing tasks (such as proofreading, selecting images, formatting, adding links, and so on). Perhaps I should compel myself to publish the unpolished version if the draft is too old. Not because I desire to publish unpolished work, but because I don’t want to: this should scare me enough to leap over the moat! :D

Reading

Six books seems a lot, but they were all fairly short (the longest, with 400 pages, was Star Trek: Vanguard: Declassified). Nevertheless, a satisfying amount.

  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is a collection of essays about writing that Bradbury wrote over the decades of his career. There are some gold nuggets in there, but often Bradbury may sound like a madman (I think geniuses sounds like that most of the time).
  • Star Trek: Vanguard: Declassified by various authors is a collection of short stories set in the Vanguard canon. They are mostly prequels, but the last one finally moves the story forward. I have problems with prequels in the middle of a saga. The main issue is that I know what the characters will do later, so it is really hard to take seriously the “suspense” and “mystery” they try to build up in the prequels.
  • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport. It follows the typical American approach to non-fiction, featuring numerous anecdotes intended to illustrate the author’s points. However, these anecdotes often feel cherry-picked. For instance, claiming that betting on oneself and taking professional risks is beneficial by writing “look at all those successful people who did that!” is unfair because it is an obvious survivor bias. Anyhow, remove the uninteresting anecdotes and there is some inspirational story and good information. But probably if you follow Cal Newport podcast you already have all of that. And more.
  • Deep Freewriting by Stephen Lloyd Webber. It is a weird book that is both highly outrageous and remarkably interesting. It describes “freewriting” as a writing technique in which you slowly write without ever looking back. Trust me, it may feel weird or unoriginal, but it is more useful than that. Of course, I would appreciate more practical examples from a book such as this.
  • On Having No Head by the Zen master Douglas E. Harding. It is considered a landmark book in non-dual zen practice. It is a very complicated book that requires a good background on the topic.
  • How to Tell a Story by Philip Freeman is the translation of Aristotle’s Poetics. It is a great book, and it is surprising to see how much advice from modern writing books you can find in a booklet dating thousands of years ago.

Watchlist

This month, exactly like last month, I watched 13 movies (and, yes, I am watching Shogun like everybody else). I’ll follow the same format: I’ll pick the top 3 of the month and then list everything else.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) & Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Miles Morales as Spiderman swinging in the city.

This is one of the movies for which I am very late to the party. People told me that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a revolutionary piece of animation for years, but at the time, I was deep into my superhero overdose rejection.

But I finally did it and I can confirm all the enthusiastic reviews: not only is it arguably the best Spider-Man movie, period, but it single-handedly renewed mass-market blockbuster animation standards after a billion of Disney/Pixar lookalikes. Works such as Arcane, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem clearly walked on the same path traced by it. And as a result, we have (once again) a lot of creativity in the animation world.

Both Into the Spider-Verse and Across the Spider-Verse are two clear slam dunks. I gave them 5 stars on Letterboxd without hesitation, and I am now waiting obsessively for the next chapter.

(Yes: while the first one is self-conclusive, Across the Spider-Verse closes with a damn cliffhanger.)

Double Indemnity (1944)

A screenshot from Double Indemnity. Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson talking privately in the back of a grocery store.

I watched this movie for my X4 Movie Challenge and I discovered one of the screenwriters was Raymond Chandler! (wW talked about him in January 2024 when I read his book The Big Sleep).

And, in fact, this is a masterpiece of noir describing a damned love and the dark, dangerous life of a… insurance agent. It is an essential example of the essentialism of old movies. No useless prolonged action scenes. No gratuitous violence. No scene designed to highlight the director’s cleverness. No extra characters. No boring postmodernist twists. No crud. Just story.

On the weak side, the flashback expedient may remove a bit of suspense from the story (you know what happened from minute one, but you don’t know how), yet it works. It’s a solid movie.

(Of course, you have to be able to endure Fred MacMurray suavely saying “baby” sixty times in an hour. A really challenging task. Fortunately, Edward G. Robinson makes everything better. What a great character he plays!)

All the rest!

  • Dune (2021) 🏜️🪱 - I liked it a lot (even if it, rightly, skips over all the nerdy stuff I love about Dune the book). I’ll give a better judgment when I’ll finally watch the second part.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974) 🚂🕵️‍♂️🔪 – Why 70s movies are always weird? Why everybody is so weird in this movie? Thanks God for Ingrid Bergman.
  • American Fiction (2023) 📚 – I liked it, but there is something that didn’t click with me (probably some of the post-modern annoyances everybody seems forced to do nowadays).
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982) 🗡️🐍🔥 – CONAN. WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE? (Great movie.)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) ⛷️🧒🔫 – A bit clunky and stiff, but Peter Lorre is fantastic.
  • Damsel (2024) 🐲🔥👸 – An average fairy tale that turns into “Die Hard in a cave.” It was fair entertainment.
  • Poor Things (2023) – Meh. Disappointing.
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (2023) 🧘‍♂️🎰🃏 – A beautiful short movie for a beautiful Roal Dahl short story.
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) 🧛🧄🙍‍♂️ – Probably still the best adaptation of “I Am Legend.” Moreover, to see the post-Apocalypse in Roma EUR is a treat for me.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) 🐢🥷🪰 – Targeted at an audience younger than me, still a solid, enjoyable “reboot” of a series I loved as a kid.

Music

Pretty standard music month. The best albums I enjoyed are the recently released Himlabacken Vol. 2 by the Swedish progressive rock band Moon Safari and a really old-school sounding heavy metal The Curse of the Crystal Viper by, you guessed it, the Polish group Crystal Viper.

Top 25 albums for the month of March 2024. Including Himlabacken Vol. 2, The Circus and the Nightwhale, Blind Guardian, ICE-T, and more.

Gaming

I bought Balatro, like apparently all the internet. How could I describe it? It is a rougelike poker game. Or a collectible poker card game. It is very hard to explain, but it is pretty easy to understand once you play one or two runs.

It is a very good game. Is it mind-blowing, as they all say? I still don’t see it. However, it is 100% worth the price.

Conclusions

While I enjoy these two days of brainless festivities, I hope you had a happy weekend as well. April will be the last planless month for a while. I better enjoy it.

See you next month.

comments powered by Disqus