Friday, November 17, 2017

Writing and rewriting

I am in the middle of a fair number of edit jobs.  Today I finished tightening up Double Sabbatical and entered it into a 10-minute play competition here in Toronto.  That's fairly exciting, and I am particularly gratified that I am a few days early.  I should hear back by mid-to-late December if it is accepted into the festival.  That would be awesome.  I think it's actually a solid piece and it lines up well with the festival theme, so fingers crossed.

I have four notes that I need to address on my 3Fest piece (the one I started) and I should be able to get to them by Saturday or Sunday.  I believe these will go up on the 26th, so that's very exciting.  I will admit that I am starting to scale back my involvement with Toronto Cold Reads, but I'm sure there will always be a bit of a connection there.

I have another interesting opportunity, but I really don't want to jinx it by saying too much too soon.  But in the meantime, I need to push through to get a first draft of (and a better ending for) "Final Exam."  I might be able to spend a fair bit of time on this on Sunday, especially as I am skipping Toronto Cold Reads.

The last couple of times I was at Cold Reads, however, I wrote out five or so pages of the last scene of "Straying South."  I am kind of on a roll here.  I think I should be able to finish that scene and loop back and fill in a couple more of the missing ones.  My goal is to wrap this up by the end of November.

However, I may still get distracted by writing out two pieces for Sing-for-Your-Supper.  One is a straight-up parody of plays that have played Toronto recently (including Albee's The Goat and Annie Baker's John).  The other is more of a homage to Beckett's Waiting for Godot.  Those also have to be turned in towards the end of November.  Anyway, it is exciting, even if a bit of a strain to have so many things on the go at once.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Firefox has gone too far

I've generally been unhappy with how often I have to update Flash or perhaps it is the underlying Java.  Anyway, there are just a few websites that make it all but impossible to stream music except through FlashPlayer, including Hoopla and the BBC Radio sites.  Since they won't move with the times, I really don't have any option either.

I knew I was living on borrowed time with the various Firefox updates, but I really don't care for the changes that were introduced with version 58 today (or perhaps yesterday).  The legacy ePub Reader finally conked out completely (and I can't stand the new verson).  There are a few other things as well that trouble me about this upgrade.  So I have decided to roll back to an older version and disable the automatic updates.  I suppose there will come a day that I decide I just must upgrade and deal with all the other extensions that no longer work, but that day is not today...

Monday, November 13, 2017

McMichael Sunday

We're back from our trip to the McMichael.  It was fun, though I do wish I had felt better the past two Sundays and had been able to take the art bus, since I could have used the time to read instead of driving.  It would have been vastly less stressful and considerably cheaper, though I suppose there is some utility in not just forgetting how to drive around Toronto.  Anyway, I'll definitely keep an eye out to see if the art bus runs next summer and early fall.

We made fairly good time, leaving at 10:30 and arriving about 11:20.  There was one hairy moment trying to make the move from the 401 to the 400 N where people wouldn't let me get over, but I managed more or less at the last minute to cut across.  (Also, I couldn't believe that the ZipCar didn't have a CD player at all, which made the ride less enjoyable.)

I had hoped that some trees would still have their autumn leafs out, but the cold snap Friday and Saturday pretty much took care of all them.  I guess there is a certain austere beauty to winter (and you can even see a dusting of snow in some photos), but again two weekends ago would have been nicer for sure.




Inside looking out

One thing that was a little disconcerting was how much of the Group of Seven was not on display.  The main entrance normally is a mix of the Group of Seven artists, but this time it was only Tom Thomson and Joyce Weiland.  While she apparently was inspired by him, the pairing doesn't make a lot of sense and her largely conceptual art truly suffers in comparison to Thomson's.  Here for instance is her piece The Arctic Belongs to Itself.


In contrast, here are a couple of Thomson's smaller pieces.



Also, the space given to this exhibit meant that most of the actual Group of Seven paintings were off in storage.  I haven't seen my favourite Varley painting of the night ferry from Vancouver in about 2 years.  (Actually most of their masterworks are no longer on display, which is frustrating.)

The next exhibit, Cutting Ice, had some charm but just didn't feel like there was a lot of craft behind the pieces (mostly by Annie Pootoogook).  They did focus a bit on the routine and were generally domestic scenes.

Annie Pootoogook, Dr. Phil, 2006

Annie Pootoogook, Morning Routine, 2003

They aren't the same (as they are simpler and reflect a less cluttered world), but I had just a bit of a flashback to this Kurelek piece about a bachelor (at the AGO).


The next two rooms had guitars inspired by the Group of Seven.  I have to admit, I was somewhat regretting the trip out, but then we went into the Alex Janvier exhibit.  Apparently this was originally at the National Gallery, but it has transferred to the McMichael (maybe losing just a few of the paintings) and it will run through Jan. 21.

I was really gripped by these pieces, as it is such an interesting combination of abstract form and First Nations imagery.  In the end, it was definitely worth the trip to see this exhibit, and I would encourage people to check it out.

This piece is Janvier's homage to Daphne Odjig.



This one was really interesting in person, as there is a reasonably accomplished abstract expressionist painting but then it is covered with thin lines out of the op art toolbox, and the focus keeps shifting.  I don't ever recall seeing a painting work in precisely this way, and it was kind of an exciting discovery.



These were among our favourites, but there were many excellent paintings on view.  I checked out the catalog, but it was just a bit too pricey ($40).  Given that quite a few seem to have been printed up, I'll keep my eyes open at BMV and Book City.  I should be able to pick one up in the next few months for $25 or less, but in the meantime, I can check one out of the library to study these paintings a bit better.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cleaned-up reading list

I was finding my main reading list just a bit too chaotic. I also depressed myself by calculating that I may well still be working on the list into 2021, so I decided to straighten it up and do just a bit of rearranging, even though in some cases the original logic of pairing books has been lost.  (Though given that many were not read in these pairings, it is probably not necessary to highlight them, though you can turn to the earlier list if interested.)  I still will be working off of this list (or one very like it) for the foreseeable future, and I'm sure soon enough I will be reading books out of sequence.  I still am ending most years with a massive novel (this year it will be The Way We Live Now), and I think I will try to work in one or two Dickens's novels each year, since I have actually read so few of them.  At least in the short term, I seem to have radically slowed down on the non-fiction front, but I'll probably squeeze a few in from time to time.

Lahiri The Unaccustomed Earth
Austen Sense and Sensibility
Trollope The Way We Live Now
Bove A Singular Man
Mordecai Richler The Street 
Austen Pride and Prejudice
Narayan An Astrologer's Day/Lawley Road (stories)
Gaskell North and South
Nancy Mitford Love in a Cold Climate/The Blessing (decide about Don't Tell Alfred)
Reve The Evenings
Zweig The Post Office Girl (& Journey into the Past?)
Nina Berberova The Tattered Cloak - TPL
Bennett The Old Wives' Tale
Jane Bowles Two Serious Ladies
Spark Memento Mori
Singer Enemies
Malamud The Assistant
Mitford The Pursuit of Love
Munro Friend of My Youth
Faulkner Flags in the Dust & The Unvanquished
P. Roth  - The Breast, The Professor of Desire, The Dying Animal
Bullins The Hungered One
Gaskell Wives and Daughters
Melville The Confidence Man
Mann Felix Krull ??
Kafka Amerika (the new translation)
Max Apple The Propheteers
Pablo Vierci The Imposters
Katherine Porter Ship of Fools
Khushwant Singh Train To Pakistan
Tayeb Salih Season of Migration to the North
al-Khamissi Taxi
Mahfouz Midaq Alley
Jez Butterworth Mojo
Hardy Far from the Madding Crowd
Faulkner A Fable
Paul Auster Moon Palace    
Gregor von Rezzori Death of My Brother Abel
DeLillo White Noise (I shouldn't jump so far out of order, but I think I shall anyway)
Updike The Rabbit Novels (and Rabbit Remembered from Licks of Love) 
Jez Butterworth Parlour Song
Krzhizhanovsky The Letter Killers Club
David Lodge The British Museum is Falling Down
(a bit of interspersion with these shorter works and the Rabbit novels)
Homer Iliad & Odyssey
Virgil The Aeneid
Ovid Metamorphoses
Montaigne (& Shakespeare's Montaigne - NYRB)
Musil The Man Without Qualities (try to arrange to read Dec. 2018)
Achebe Arrow of God 
Powers Morte d'Urban
Stone A Hall of Mirrors
William Maxwell LOA novels (Bright Center of Heaven | They Came Like Swallows | The Folded Leaf | Time Will Darken It | The Château | So Long, See You Tomorrow)
Dawn Powell A Time To Be Born 
Dawn Powell LOA novels 1944-62 (My Home Is Far Away | The Locusts Have No King | The Wicked Pavilion | The Golden Spur) 
(intersperse Maxwell and Powell)
Thisby The Good People of New York
DeLillo Cosmopolis (also out of order)
Burroughs Naked Lunch
Celine Journey to the End of the Night
T.C. Boyle Drop City
Sinclair Lewis (Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth and It Can't Happen Here) 
Maritta Wolff -- Whistle Stop, Night Shift, Sudden Rain, Buttonwood and The Big Nickelodeon
(intersperse Lewis with Wolff)
Tom Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities
Maugham The Razor's Edge
Aeschylus The Oresteia
Faulkner The Snopes Family (Hamlet, Town, Mansion)
Powers Wheat That Springeth Green
Mavis Gallant Home Truths
Natalia Ginzburg Family Lexicon
Malamud Pictures of Fidelman
Mary McCarthy The Group
Melville Pierre
Kierkegaard Either/Or & Fear and Trembling & Sickness Unto Death
Amis The Alteration
Mahfouz The Mirage 
P. Roth -- Zuckerman Bound, Exit Ghost
Richard Yates Eleven Kinds of Loneliness  
John O'Hara Waiting for Winter
Richard Yates Revolutionary Road
John O'Hara Appointment in Samarra
Fontane Effi Briest
Beckett Krapp's Last Tape & Three Novels
Waugh Decline & Fall and Vile Bodies
Victor Serge Conquered City
Fuentes Where the Air is Clear
Perec Life: A User's Manual
Vargas Llosa The Time of the Hero
Elizabeth Bowen The Heat of the Day
Fontane Before the Storm
Tolstoy War and Peace
Vasily Grossman Life and Fate
Victor Serge Midnight in the Century
Don DeLillo End Zone
Pym Some Tame Gazelle
Bissoondath Digging Up the Mountains
Skvorecky Miss Silver's Past
Roth The Counterlife
A. Barrett Ship Fever
Mahfouz The Search
Lowry Under the Volcano
Ghosh The Calcutta Chromosome
Narayan The Guide
Natalia Ginzburg The Road to the City (includes The Dry Heart)
Dickens Pictures from Italy & American Notes
Herzen Letters from France and Italy
Gogol Dead Souls
Conrad The Secret Agent
Bely Petersburg
Victor Serge Unforgiving Years
Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49 (and V???)
Kawabata Palm-of-the-Hand Stories
Meera Syal Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee
Russell Smith How Insensitive & Noise
Hemingway The Sun Also Rises
Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise
Hemingway A Farewell to Arms
Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned
Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls
Dos Passos Adventures of a Young Man
Fitzgerald Tender Is the Night 
Hemingway A Moveable Feast
Fitzgerald The Last Tycoon
Gloria Naylor Mama Day
Fuentes A Change of Skin
Naipaul Miguel Street
Lethem Fortress of Solitude
Bissoondath A Casual Brutality
Fuentes Aura
Russell Smith Muriella Pent
Laurie Colwin Family Happiness
Bove Quicksand
(after this more Pym and Doris Lessing* and a return to Mahfouz and Narayan)
Desani All About H. Hatterr
Bellow Adventures of Augie March
Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment
Conrad Under Western Eyes
Chekhov 7 Short Novels
Turgenev Smoke
Huxley Chrome Yellow
Turgenev Virgin Soil
Huxley Mortal Coils (stories, incl. The Gioconda Smile)
Gissing New Grub Street
Neruda Isla Negra
Fuentes Terra Nostra
Steinbeck To a God Unknown
Cesare Pavese Selected Works
Mary McCarthy Birds of America
P. Roth American Pastoral
Kafu American Stories
I.B. Singer Enemies
J. Roth Radetzky March & The Emperor's Tomb
Walser The Tanners 
Pym Excellent Women 
Elizabeth Bowen Eva Trout
McKay Home to Harlem
Don DeLillo Great Jones Street 
Constance Beresford-Howe The Book of Eve
Helen Weinzweig Basic Black with Pearls
John Lavery Sandra Beck
Saramago Skylight
R. Mistry Tales from Firozsha Baag
Adiga Between the Assassinations
Fisher The Conjure Man Dies
Angela Carter The Bloody Chamber
Welty The Robber Bridegroom 
Taylor The Wedding Group 
Green Blindness
Saramago Blindness
Knut Hamsun Hunger
Fante The Bandini Quartet (Wait Until Spring, Bandini; The Road to Los Angeles; Ask the Dust and Dreams From Bunker Hill)
Perec A Void
Camus The Plague (and perhaps reread/skim The Stranger)
Malraux Man's Fate
Koestler Darkness at Noon 
Victor Serge The Case of Comrade Tulayev
Thien Do Not Say We Have Nothing 
Kim Thúy Ru
Malamud The Fixer
DeLillo Ratner's Star
P. Roth Nemeses (Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, Nemesis)
M. Thomas Man Gone Down
Green Living 
Taylor Blaming 
Levi The Sixth Day
Mann The Magic Mountain
Huysmans Against Nature
Austen Mansfield Park
Gide The Immoralist/Strait Is the Gate
Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow
Scarlett Thomas PopCo 
Pym Jane and Prudence
Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer
Christopher Isherwood Berlin Stories
Joseph Roth The White Cities/Report from Paris
Fante West of Rome
Ghosh The Glass Palace
Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America - indefinitely suspended for cowardice
de Tocqueville Democracy in America 
Trollope The Three Clerks
Achebe  A Man of the People
Cela The Hive 
Achebe Anthills of the Savannah
Hoban Riddley Walker
Tunney Flan 
Powys Wolf Soylent
Drew Hayden Taylor Take Us to Your Leader
Lem Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
Lem More Tales of Pirx the Pilot (a lot of Lem worth reading, but I might circle back first to Pirx and then Ijon Tichy (The Star Diaries, Memoirs of a space traveler and The Futurological Congress))
Victor Pelevin Omon Ra
Hardy Return of the Native
Steinbeck Tortilla Flat
Álvaro Mutis Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll 
Murdoch The Sea The Sea (way out of sequence, maybe rethink this)
Pynchon Against the Day 
DeLillo Players/Running Dog
Murakami Norwegian Wood
Austen Emma
Guillaume Morissette New Tab
Gornick Louisa Meets Bear
Narayan The Man-Eater of Malgudi
DeLillo Amazons
Findley Dinner Along the Amazon
Churchill Cloud 9
Cortazar 62: A Model Kit
Lessing The Golden Notebook
Musil Five Women
Jean Rhys Quartet & After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie
Munro Open Secrets
Guy Vanderhaeghe Homesick
Malamud The Tenants ?
Forrest Meteor in the Madhouse
Trollope Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices
Vicki Baum Grand Hotel
Anna Seghers Transit (NYRB)
Bove Night Departure & No Place
D.H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers (uncut version)
Faulkner Sanctuary & Requiem for a Nun
Green Party Going
Woolf Mrs. Dalloway/Mrs. Dalloway's Party
Austen Persuasion
Isak Dinesen Babette's Feast & Ehrengard
Nabokov The Enchanter ?
Narayan The Vendor of Sweets
Chatterjee English, August: An Indian Story
Dickens Oliver Twist
Celine Death on the Installment Plan
Mahfouz The Beggar
Balzac The Human Comedy/Pere Goriot
Davies The Salterton Trilogy
Didion Play It As It Lays
Trollope He Knew He Was Right
Bissoondath Doing the Heart Good
Rhys Good Morning, Midnight
Engel Lunatic Villas
Mann Buddenbrooks
Murakami Men Without Women
Angela Carter Wise Children
O'Connor Wise Blood
Welty Delta Wedding
Zola The Fortune of the Rougons
Téa Obreht The Tiger's Wife
Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamazov


(I'll have to keeping intersperse a bit more Canadian fiction (I've already added a bit more Alice Munro and some Atwood), and probably some of the early DeLillo novels, a few more from Narayan and Mahfouz and perhaps Nabokov from their respective lists, reread Barbara Pym and then perhaps tackle Dickens and Trollope.  Still, this is a decent 2-3 year plan (or 4-5 if I throw in a lot of Trollope and Musil's The Man Without Qualities and maybe cycle back through Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa), so we'll just see how it goes.  I'm sure unpacking and rearranging the books will cause me to promote others on the list higher.  I think after I make it through this extended list, I will more or less work my way through the rest of the books on the shelves to make sure I have had a chance to read them all.  I believe I have read roughly 35% of the fiction & poetry books on the shelves, which is actually not that shabby.  That will obviously change radically if I add another bookcase of fiction, but I think I probably will have to break down and get more shelves.)


* If I really do start in on Lessing's Children of Violence series, I will probably follow it up with Eric Kraft's tres amusant books about Peter Leroy.  I got through 6 or so of the early short novellas but not the later, longer novels.  Anyway, I think before the Doris Lessing/Eric Kraft combo, I should revisit Jose Saramago, even though some of this will be rereading.  I'm thinking something sort of like this:

Saramago Skylight
R. Mistry Tales from Firozsha Baag
Adiga Between the Assassinations
Saramago Blindness
Perec A Void
DeLillo The Names
Saramago All the Names
Cunningham The Hours
Plato The Republic (at least Book VII)
Saramago The Cave
Plato The Symposium
Muriel Spark Symposium
Saramago Seeing
Norfolk The Pope's Rhinoceros
Saramago The Elephant's Journey
Murakami The Elephant Vanishes
Pynchon Inherent Vice
Faulkner The Wild Palms (linked through the palm trees of Miami Vice)
(I've already moved just a few up to the tail end of the main list) 

If I really do make it through this and have not gotten completely sick of this list, it will be time to really tackle Dickens and Trollope -- and for some variety the longer novels of Murakami -- and probably the Edmund White trilogy and Joyce Cary's First Trilogy.

I'm also thinking of tackling far more short stories in 2017-18, as I am tracking here.  I've already been reading Alice Munro fairly regularly and will start adding in Mavis Gallant and Bernard Malamud.  I might set aside a month or two in 2018 where I work through a number of short story collections in a cyclical fashion -- perhaps John Cheever, T.C. Boyle, Angela Carter, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Lessing, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, John Updike, etc.  Maybe even John O'Hara and J.F. Powers. 

Undetermined position
(books that I purged (unread) but available in Toronto libraries)
Terry Darlington Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
Mulisch The Discovery of Heaven

Transferred from VPL lists

Husain Basti
Albert Cossery A Splendid Conspiracy (UT)
Albert Cossery Laziness in the Fertile Valley (UT)
Laura Lush Fault Line
Andrew Crumey Sputnik Caledonia
Amy Waldman The Submission
4 poets : Daniela Elza, Peter Morin, Al Rempel, Onjana Yawnghwe
Tash Aw Five Star Billionaire
Machado de Assis A Chapter of Hats: Stories
Machado de Assis The Devil's Church and Other Stories (UT)
Machado de Assis Esau and Jacob (UT)
Joseph Roth Right and Left  (UT)
Fernando Pessoa The book of disquiet (look for Zenith translation from 2002/3)
Cesare Pavese The Political Prisoner (UT)
Trichter Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Stewart O'Nan Last Night at the Lobster
Ben Winters The Last Policeman
Terry Fallis The Best Laid Plans
Terry Fallis The High Road
Frederick Busch The Mutual Friend (UT)
Frederick Busch Closing Arguments
Ken Kalfus The Commissariat of Enlightenment
Ken Kalfus A Disorder Peculiar to the Country
Chloe Aridjis Book of Clouds
Sunjeev Sahota Ours Are the Streets (UT)
Rebecca Lee City Is A Rising Tide
Alex Shakar The Savage Girl
Jansson The True Deceiver
Guillermo Arriaga Jordán The Night Buffalo
M. John Harrison Nova Swing
Richard Ford The Sportswriter (indeed the entire Bascombe trilogy and coda)
Bishop-Stall Ghosted
John Connolly The Book of Lost Things
Rowan Somerville The End of Sleep
Kenny Fries The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (UT)
Hisham Matar Anatomy of A Disappearance
Sergio de la Pava A Naked Singularity
Samuel Delany Babel-17
Samuel Delany Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Samuel Delany Nova ?
David Deutsch The Fabric of Reality
David Deutsch The Beginning of Infinity Explanations That Transform the World
Stephen Graham Cities Under Siege The New Military Urbanism
Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot
Michael J. Meyer The Last Days of Old Beijing
Jennifer Egan The Invisible Circus
Joe LeSueur Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara
Will Clarke Lord Vishnu's Love Handles A Spy Novel
Clark Blaise The Meagre Tarmac Stories
Josephine Johnson Now in November (TPL - reference only...)
Martin Flavin Journey in the Dark (UT-Downsview)
Elias Canetti Memoirs (The Tongue Set Free/The Torch in My Ear/The Play of the Eye)
Lionel Trilling The Liberal Imagination Essays on Literature and Society (NYRB edition)
Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1920s & 30s By Wilson, Edmund (UT)
Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s & 40s By Wilson, Edmund (UT)
Edmund Wilson Memoirs of Hecate County
The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs By Bierce, Ambrose (UT)
Roald Nasgaard The Mystic North
Michael North Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age (UT)

Strained Saturday

I'd say I'm still not 100%, but I just have so much trouble taking it easy when there is so much to be done.  First, I ran off and got the groceries. 

Then I decided I didn't really want to see Arthur Miller's Broken Glass today, but I could run up and get the ticket for later in the week and then take care of other errands.  This set off quite a chain reaction.  There wasn't much point in getting started before 12:30, since the box office wasn't open until 1.  So I started pulling together some books to sell.  I recently picked up a signed copy of Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence, so I could sell off the hardback version I already owned.  I had planned to sell Bissoondath's On the Eve of Uncertain Tomorrows, but when I opened it up, I saw there was a long inscription and signature, so I decided to keep that (even though it wasn't dedicated to me).  Finally, I had a book bag full of books and a few CDs I could part with.

It was a long wait for the bus (in the cold), so I wasn't in the best of moods.  Then I got to Bloor and Yonge only to find out that part of the subway was down and they were running replacement buses.  While it was only a relatively short stretch, it was very slow and very crowded and just unpleasant all the way around.  I think in the end, this added 40+ minutes to the trip up and back, which put me in a foul mood.  About the only good thing to come of it, is that I made substantial progress in Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and I'll probably finish that off tomorrow.

My mood worsened when I found out that the only discounted tickets were for seats with obstructed views.  Even the balcony seats were full price.  I thought that was uncalled for (and this put the show just a bit out of reach of what I thought was reasonable, which was the same reason I finally bailed on Wilson's Burn This).  I actually stomped out and went about halfway down the road when I decided that I was being a bit ridiculous, given that I had already invested close to an hour to get to the theatre box office, so I went back and bought a ticket for next Tues.  However, this is very likely the last time I come up to North York to see a play unless it is something I absolutely must see.

In some way, going back south seemed even worse than coming north, but I finally got back into the core.  I managed to sell off several of the books, and than ran over to Robarts.  I had just enough time to renew my alumni card, but then needed another 10 minutes or so to check something out at the Media Commons.  I was so close.  The same thing happened with Laidlaw Library, which also closed at 5.  No question had the TTC not shut down a bit chunk of the subway, I would have been able to complete all these tasks.  Indeed, it is possible I could have gotten it all done had I reversed the order.  Still, I was thoroughly pissed off.

I ran down to work, partly to drop off the ticket (so I didn't lose it) and also to pick up a few more books I was trying to sell.  I took them to a different BMV and managed to sell two more (though I picked up one book, Passing Ceremony by Helen Weinzweig, but passed on Basic Black with Pearls as I just pre-ordered the NYRB edition).  In the end I sold $25 worth of merchandise.  I had hoped to make it $30, but times are tough.  I actually have a fairly tall stack of CDs that I need to try to take to a store (it looks like the one I used to take them to has closed).  I guess that is something I can work on later in the week.  So it was a partially successful day, but it would have been much more productive if the TTC hadn't been so slow.  I'll try to ensure I don't have to rely on them tomorrow!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cubing It

In the midst of all my (minor) illness, I forgot that I promised to post that my daughter actually solved the 2 x 2 version of the Rubik's Cube.



She was quite proud of this.  I have to say, I really never got into the whole cubing thing.  I could generally get one side and a bunch of stripes in order but then something would always go wrong as I tried to get the last pieces in place.  I probably should have just read a book on the best strategies, but I never cared quite enough to really work at it.

Anyway, I was recently at a high school open house and one boy was asking if the school had a cubing club.  Sort of hard to believe this is becoming a mini-fad all over again.  Though I also ran across an adult who admitted to playing D & D, which I thought was dead and buried.  I guess you never know what people get up to in their spare time.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

As I mentioned, I finally got around to seeing this movie on Sat.  The room was relatively packed, so I am a bit surprised to hear the media narrative of this film is that no one is going to see it and that it will lose a ton of money (actually it has sort of broken even already if you don't count marketing, and I saw very little marketing, so I don't know what they spent). In a way, this almost seemed like a throwback to 80s era films with a fair bit of nudity, some in the service of the plot and some a bit more gratuitous.  It felt like a long film (and many people slipped out in what was essentially the third reel just to hit the rest room).  I just read that the original cut was 4 hours long!  So perhaps there will be a director's cut as well.

Minor SPOILERS

I agree that it is ridiculous to say it is misogynistic just because the main villain is a female (even one who is gratuitously evil to another woman).  You can say that there are some tired tropes here.  The way that female replicants (androids) are disposed of without a second thought when they don't measure up (whereas the male replicants at least have a fighting chance literally).  There is a bit of a Handmaid's Tale vibe going on where women are sort of reduced to their reproductive ability.  (And yet children were not actually valued at all, given the frankly unbelievable number of orphans.)

I will also agree that there are some ideas that work better than others, but the reveal about the Gosling character (K dash something) was actually pretty good.  (This article agrees with me, though warning that it has major spoilers.)  Still, the internal SF "world building" rules don't seem to make any kind of sense.  Also I thought there were a few specific plot holes, particularly how LAPD of the future has apparently no meaningful internal security or even metal detectors in its building.  I thought K, the Ryan Gosling character, 1) might have realized he was easily trackable (this is a neo-noir after all) and 2) would likely have had to give up his cool flying car (maybe this is better explained in the 4 hour cut).  Also, why replicants need their own apartments (rather than living in a cubical at work for instance) and are paid actual money for their services is unclear (again see the odd "world building" rules).

But I did enjoy it.  The visuals worked well, both the rainy LA setting and then the exploration of what was presumably Las Vegas.  I was a bit less sold on the soundtrack, which was a bit too much of a rehash of the original.  I'm quite glad I saw it on the big screen before it vanished.  This may be one of those films that has an audience that grows over time, just like the original film.

Major SPOILERS

I might as well put the rest of my thoughts down before I forget them.  Many of them are about the world building issues.  I don't quite understand why Las Vegas would be this radioactive hellhole and Los Angeles is unpleasant but still livable.  Are they imagining that the seemingly endless rain (brought about by climate change) somehow washed more of the radiation out of West Coast cities?  But a bigger issue is how there could presumably have been a nuclear war and then society had already recovered from it.  Unless the bombing of Las Vegas was a bit of a one-off, perhaps a missile launched by North Korea.  Bonus points if this was what led to the "Black Out" that wiped out most digital records from the period between the original Blade Runner and the events in this movie.

Society seems to largely have collapsed with the middle class emptied out, with most people fleeing to the outer colonies (presumably the work of the original replicants has finally led to them being habitable).  However, unlike the original movie where there were many abandoned buildings, here LA has become as overcrowded as Delhi with poor people living on the landings of K's building.  And then the huge number of orphans working on scrap piles in what used to be San Diego!  Still I guess we do get a few flashes of average people still living in LA having coffee (so maybe not everyone left after all), though a huge number of people are actually replicants.

I think it is a bit unlikely that the Wallace Corporation could have really convinced the government(s) to allow it to start rebuilding replicants, even with more internal brain-washing and control.  But more to the point, it's odd that Wallace really thinks in the long run it would be cheaper to come up with replicants that could reproduce rather than just being grown in vats, if for no other reason that they have such a long time to grow to maturity whereas the grown replicants are adult sized and ready for work right away.  It's also unclear whether naturally-born replicants would have the proper slave programming (and indeed the film suggests that they would not), so once the government found out about this, they would definitely shut down the program with prejudice.  But the weakest link really is that he wants millions of replicants to go off and explore the stars, but aside from the fact that finding inhabitable planets light years away is pretty useless, if it just a matter of bodies to stuff into spaceships (as the slave programming will be broken anyway), why not just develop "generation ships" and put all these orphans in them?  No one will miss them.  I guess there is the matter of radiation poisoning.  Somehow replicants are biologically-based and yet are immune to radiation, which is a bit of a cop-out. Like so many SF movies, the androids have near super powers most of the time, but then have human vulnerabilities when necessary to advance the plot.  It didn't really seem consistent.

I still don't quite understand why the LAPD didn't just have holding tanks where they stored the replicants between jobs, as it would have resulted in less friction with the general human population (that really hates "skinjobs") and probably would have made it easier for the replicants to maintain their baseline.  Also, why they don't just provide the minimum nutrition and necessities of life -- rather than paying the replicants a salary -- is not clear.  Not only does K get paid, but he often gets bonuses for retiring particularly difficult cases.  I'm a little disappointed in how K didn't realize just how easy the Wallace Corporation could track him (presumably some kind of internal chip, that they didn't bother to disclose to the LAPD), based on the time when the Wallace Corporation rained down missiles to save him from a battle with a bunch of scavengers.  We also don't see him restarting his flying car after it was taken down in San Diego, so I am not sure how he gets back to LA.  For that matter, his car is completely destroyed in Las Vegas, and he has a high powered one shortly after this that he uses to shoot down Luv's car.  In this case, I presume he borrowed it from the rebel replicants.  In a way, I kind of thought it would have been more logical that when he turned in his gun (and badge?) to the LAPD (because his baseline readings were way out of wack), then he should have turned in his car as well.  It certainly seemed pretty high powered with some extra features not available to civilians.  But maybe it was his personal property.  I admit it would have been hard to advance the plot if K had to get to Las Vegas on camel or something, but that could have been interesting.  (Really, I just thought it would have been super cool to have "Nobody Walks in LA" on the soundtrack...)

One nice touch when we finally meet Deckard and things calm down a bit is that there is a dog, presumably a replicant dog (because again, radiation levels off the charts).  This in many ways is the closest that either scripts really gets to the original PKD novel where there are different sorts of artificial pets.

These issues don't detract too much, but it isn't a perfect movie, particularly if you don't like plot holes or are concerned with how everything hangs together in this future society (as I noted, this world seems improbable at best).  It does have a number of nice neo-noir touches and in some ways is a more legitimate mystery compared to the original Blade Runner, which is more a police procedural with considerable violence doled out along the way.