February 23, 2024

🏀 “I don’t need to lay eggs to know when one is rotten” is a spin on being allowed to critique something without being an expert in the field, or indeed without ever having done that something at all. Well, I’ve never played basketball but after last night’s game against the Nuggets I can say with some certainty that the Wizards are the worst team in the NBA. Any clip of theirs, like the one I just linked to, should be set to Yakety Sax (aka the Benny Hill theme).

February 22, 2024

I remember how many years later, in a bookstore in Georgetown, in Washington, I saw for the first time a person buying books by piling them in a cart the way one buys potatoes or bananas in a supermarket. That struck me as entirely disrespectful of writers. I would not like my books to be bought in such a way

This is from Branko Milanović’s most recent post. It looks like he doesn’t believe in the antilibrary.

Related to my previous post: 27 reading tips from Nassim Taleb. My favorites:

A good book gets better at the second reading. A great book at the third. Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading.

Books are not read by the majority because they read the Internet, which is like junk food for the mind.

The unread books on your shelf are like a universe of alternate possibilities waiting to be explored.

A novel you like resembles a friend. You read it and reread it, getting to know it better. Like a friend, you accept it the way it is; you do not judge it.

And here is his favorite.

February 21, 2024

Trying out Readwise this week. I am still undecided, though leaning towards “not for me” and for the reason why look no further than their video explaining how to use RSS: I am about 20 years too old to appreciate the style, and the anachronisms are infuriating.

The American feedback-industrial complex is getting out of hand. “Overall, how satisfied were you with your recent ATM experience?” asked an email I received today. Really, Bank of America?

February 20, 2024

📺 True Detective: Night Country

📺 True Detective: Night Country comes 10 years after the first season, if you can believe it has been that long. It is a different show for a different time now: the atmosphere of confusion, uncertainty and dread from the original is still there, but so many other things are different that it is a bit of a stretch to have them share the True Detective title. A few spoiler-ish observations:

  1. Like the original, there is an actual real-world solution to the murder mystery. Unlike the original, which had a slight layer of the supernatural added on top, Night Country has supernatural tendencies up top, down below, and everywhere in between but somehow leaves out any of the Lovecraftian horror that would have been perfect for the setting. Oh well.
  2. Night Country had too much vagueness in some key aspects for me to be fully immersed: What kind of pollution, exactly, is threatening the town that is able to cause so much misery but also… speeds up thawing of the permafrost? And how could those substances, whatever they are, possibly speed up studying bacteria?
  3. Jodie Foster and Kali Reis are as good of a couple as McConaughey and Harrelson were in Season 1, if not better, but True Detective is not only about dysfunctional cops partnering up in barely inhabitable locations.
  4. When I saw that the season was set in Alaska I was hoping for some more callback to H.P. Lovecraft. Sure, At the Mountains of Madness was set at the other pole, but dark horrors lurking deep beneath the ice would have fit perfectly with the season’s premise. Alas, nonsensical mentions of time being “a flat circle” and people “asking the wrong question” were the only artifacts brought back from 2014.
  5. The intro sequence was the only time I tolerated a Billie Eilish song.

If nothing else it made us start watching Season 3, which we hadn’t noticed at all when it came out in 2017. It looks promising!

February 19, 2024

A proper paella, with a thin layer of short grain rice. Seafood instead of the original Valenciana since I’m not a fan of snails, but I’ll have to try it next time.

Top-down photo of a seafood paella.

February 18, 2024

R.F. Kuang, Neil Gaiman and many other great writers weren’t nominated for last year’s Hugo awards because the award administrators flagged their works as potentially “sensitive” to China.

As Ada Palmer wrote, most censorship has always been self-censorship, even in what we think of as the darkest days of the inquisition. Good thing her own Sci-Fi series was nominated one year earlier, in 2022.

📚 Speaking of Ada Palmer, I am reading Too Like the Lightning and two-thirds through my feelings on the book and its protagonists are alternating between hooked and horrified. If I had to wager I would say that hooked will prevail, but then I’m not a gambler.

Finished reading: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer 📚 and it is like nothing I have read before. I wish that was only because of the premise: that a 25th century character would write for a 26th century audience in the style of the 18th century — quite convenient when the author’s day job is being a historian of the Enlightment. Or just because of the gratuitous and at times bizzare sex, more than in anything I’ve read before — which, fine, nothing new under the Sun (king). But there is also, splattered across the pages, more gore, dismemberment and canibalism than I have ever — please, please, please excuse the pun — digested, and I am all for expanding boundaries but really, Dr. Palmer? The interest in censorship suddenly comes under a different light.

Still, it is an important story well told and I will grudgingly read the second book in the series.