Two minutes of delight from Ariel Avissar: The Typewriter (supercut).
via Sameer Vasta’s newsletter Weekend Reading: Flashing Palely in the Margins.
In our house, we have embraced streaming video. It’s convenient and mostly reliable.
So, as part of our downsizing, I took a lazy Saturday to sort our DVD collection into three piles:
I thought, with so much content available via streaming, I would be able to discard a good number of those DVD titles. This shows my naiveté, I expect. I was surprised at how many of our favorite and precious movies and shows are not easily accessed via the streaming services.
We live in the future, where you can watch a movie from a small plate of glass in your hand, but the future is not evenly streamed.
Mrs. Dalloway and Topsy-Turvy are two movies that we like trotting out every few years to enjoy the stories’ now-familiar contours and textures.
Mrs. Dalloway is viewable only on odd platforms like Hoopla 2, Tubi, PlutoTV, and Filmrise, or on Amazon Prime Video via its IMDb TV channel (ad-supported, which for me is a hard no).
Topsy-Turvy cannot be streamed at all, on any platform.
And there other favorites from our – ahem – curated collection that are not easily available online:
And so on. I have some DVDs I’m keeping because they are really good, out of print, and available nowhere else. Others I’m keeping because they have special features that cannot be accessed via streaming, like the Criterion Collection’s edition of F for Fake and Richard Linklater’s Waking Life.
It’s not a large list of DVD titles – about 25 or so – but still, I was surprised that they aren’t ALL online in a more easily accessible way. Their absence from the streaming services means I will be holding them close for some time yet.
The Maybe pile is for the 20 or so DVDs I’ve either never seen and want to see at least once, or they have some interviews or behind-the-scenes feature I’m curious about, or I want just one more look before making a final decision.
Some of those DVDs are the very arty or obscure foreign movies I picked up for cheap when the late lamented Visart Video chain went out of business over a decade ago. I always think I have a more refined taste for the esoteric than I really do.
Still, before I decide whether to keep or discard, I’d like to see Chekhovian Motifs and Decasia: The State of Decay. But right alongside those worthies I also want to see the dance numbers from Follow the Fleet and The Barkleys of Broadway 3, plus the featurettes for Top Hat and Batman: The Movie (Adam West is my Batman).
I remember one of Ramit Sethi’s rules being to pay as you go rather than subscribe to services you pay for and don’t use. Most streaming movies are rentable for $4 or $5 from the major platforms, and not much more to purchase. So if I have a hankering to see The Dark Knight Rises again (um, doubt it), then I don’t mind paying a few dollars to see it. And so The Dark Knight Rises Blu-Ray goes into the discard pile.
Despite Ramit’s advice, though, I subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and AppleTV 4. We also have access to PBS Video, Hoopla, and Acorn TV. The chances of finding a streamable movie from one of those platforms is pretty good. So I’m not worried about meeting our entertainment and distraction needs.
My latest post to the Bull City Commons blog: What Can You Do with a Durham County Library Card? Learned a lot tonight researching and writing this! I am barely scratching the surface of what our local library has to offer.
As part of my downsizing, I’ve looked at the shelves of graphic novels and wondered how I could quickly create a list of them. In case I want to sell them or even give them away, I’d like to be able to hand over a list of what I have so people know what they’re getting, or so a buyer can tell me what they’re most interested in.
Of course, I thought, “There’s an app for that.”
I’m not sure why I spent hours today searching for and trying out apps to scan a book or DVD’s barcode to generate a list quickly and easily. But my intuition said to do it, so I did.
All I wanted was an app that I could use to scan the barcodes of books and DVDs, match those barcodes to book and DVD names, and then export the list. And ideally, they’d be easy to use without me puzzling over settings or help pages. (No fear there: only one or two of these apps even had support pages or FAQs, however skimpy.)
My first path was incorrect: I searched for iOS-based barcode scanners and this created a whole morning and afternoon spent reading app reviews, downloading and testing a few apps, and generally just being displeased with the whole exercise. These tend to be consumer-level price-finding apps. The apps tend to be adware, or buggy, or just generally difficult to work with.
After stepping away for a bit, I hit on the second path: look for book cataloging apps, or cataloging apps that could do books and DVDs – and why not CDs, while I’m at it.
After more Googling, I found Libib, which was the answer to my dreams.
Libib has two components: 1) a mobile app that can scan barcodes and 2) a website where those entries can be tagged, metadata entered or edited, etc. For personal use, the app and site are free at Standard level; if you’re a small library, there is a Pro level with more admin features.
Libib can show you the entire contents of all the libraries you have created, or only the library you select. Libib offers four types of libraries you can create: Books, Movies, Video Games, and Music. I assume that each library type is associated with its own set of catalogs or custom searches, which improves the speed of the barcode matching.
On the web site, I created two libraries: Graphic Novels and DVDs. I downloaded and logged in to the iOS app on my iPhone. And then I picked a few DVDs for testing.
My tests worked great. The iOS app read barcodes and returned product info as fast as the camera took the picture – and MUCH faster than any of the barcode-scanning apps. Refreshing the web site showed those entries on my DVDs Library page. (That may not sound like a big deal to you, but so many of the apps I tried today lacked such basic competence in design and function that I almost cried with joy to find something simple that simply WORKED AS EXPECTED.)
I eventually found the Export capability: from your account page, select Settings, select the Libraries tab, select Export Library (.csv), and then the library you want to export. I was impressed by the amount of metadata included with the DVDs; and it’s probably possible to customize the metadata further.
What I love about Libib – the site and the app – is the speed, the cleanness of design, proper Support pages so I can troubleshoot problems myself, and its own general soundness and sanity.
There are social functions that I don’t care at all about and don’t see myself using, but that’s fine. Libib does what I want, as I expect it to, and I am now – at long last – looking forward to cleaning out those shelves of graphic novels.
One of the nice touches of the Libib interface is the ability to view your library’s items in a plain list view, as large icons, or a hybrid view, as shown here, with full description and metadata on the DVDs.
A typical jigsaw puzzle manufacturer uses the same die-cut pattern for many different puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable, so I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal “puzzle montage” that the manufacturer never imagined. I take great pleasure in discovering such strange images lying shattered, sometimes for decades, within the cardboard boxes of ordinary mass-produced puzzles.
Great gallery of surreal montages to scroll through!
I remember once reading through descriptions of MBTI personality types. For each type, they included a short catchphrase characteristic of that personality. I identify as INTJ, and the catchphrase for that type was “Well…what did you think would happen?”
I shared this with a friend, also an INTJ, and we both marveled at how this expressed our often unspoken reactions when we would hear other people complain or wonder about this or that event happening to them. For us, what happened to them sounded extremely logical based on the starting point, and why couldn’t you have worked that out for yourself beforehand??
Since discovering this catchphrase, I try to notice when I think it and stop myself saying it out loud. There’s such an “I told you so” superiority vibe to it; even if I don’t say it, I’m sure people can feel it.
Now, when it’s appropriate, I will lay out my expectations for something (a movie, a project, a meeting) before the event starts. Because, anyway, who’s to say I’m right? But at least I’ve said out loud what my personal and emotional logic is laying out before me, imaginary though it may be.
I also try to notice when I am starting a sentence with “At least…” and stop it from passing my lips.
I have been listening to the Sherlock Holmes stories read by Stephen Fry.
As one would expect, Fry does a marvelous job of it. He’s a lifelong Sherlockian and his love for the series comes out in some of the personal essays he wrote to accompany each book, and also in his narration.
I’ve long been acquainted with the Holmes stories – I’m sure I read the Adventures and Memoirs volumes in my pre-teen years – but they never quite stuck in my mind and I never progressed much farther. I depended on other media (TV, movies, comics) to fill in the gaps.
The whole realm of Sherlockiana on the other hand – the annotated volumes, the encyclopedias, the books about Sherlock – seemed a bit more fun. And, in fact, I think I absorbed most of what I know about the Sherlock Holmes universe that way.
So it’s interesting to hear the stories as an adult. As a kid, I remember really trudging through the long other story inside A Study in Scarlet and wondering why it was there. I can stand those digressions a little better nowadays.
So far, I’ve heard A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, Adventures, and am about halfway through Memoirs. Here are some stray thoughts I’ve had listening to them:
…That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him.
He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect … He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat. Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid on in his house.
A passage from the actor Terence Stamp’s memoir, Rare Stamps. There are the usual ups and downs of an actor’s life – from being celebrated when he first appeared onscreen, he was broke by 1984 – funny backstage moments, and lots of soul-searching as he travels to India trying to find the answer “out there.” The answers he finds seem to be the answers that are always there.
What can I tell you that I haven’t already told you? Only the essence of what artists finer than myself shared with me.
Engage in what life presents. It has its own reasons. Maybe it isn’t what you’ve hoped for, but hope is like honey. Don’t indulge in it. Just eat it when it’s on your spoon.
Be present and notice when you’re not. This being present and knowing when you’re present usually has its roots in a heightened state of work. Allow it to flow over into your life—anytime. It is the cog that only appears to turn; yet its radiant presence is the foundation for all the atoms in what we call our body.
Aim high; life will support you: It is resonating in your own heart. Have faith in it; be courageous.
Disregard your doubtful thoughts. As William Shakespeare wrote, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Let doubts pass like clouds in the sky.
Dorothy Wordsworth and Pamela Woof
&c—The old woman was very happy to see us & we were so in the pleasure we gave. She was an affecting picture of Patient disappointment suffering under no particular affliction.
Many years ago, we had a work friend who was a member of a community chorus; they usually performed popular or light programs of songs.
One year, the director really wanted to flex his muscles so they studied, practiced, and performed Carmina Burana, with key soloists and some instrumentalists hired for the performance.
It was challenging for her – different from the normal “pops” style of concert programming and difficult musically, especially such an odd piece that she was not familiar with before. By the end of it, she was enjoying the musical and theatrical challenge of the piece.
We met with her after the concert and asked what the next concert would be.
“It’ll be a concert of Gershwin music. It’ll be good,” she said. She paused, and added, a little wistfully, “But it won’t be Carmina Burana.”
Loose verse written sitting in an outdoor chair, under an awning of the car repair place, during a warm all-day rain
When did I become my grandfather,
an old man whose only pastime is
sitting in a chair on a sidewalk
watching the weather
looking at people passing by
looking at his thoughts passing by
not distracting himself with a book,
a phone, a game, a podcast,
food, not even coffee (well, apart
from my thermos sitting on the ground beside me)
Sitting waiting on my car to be worked on,
I’m content not feeding my mind with
others’ ideas or imaginations
Just sitting quiet and still
part of the landscape
part of the weather
Liz just finished weeding a section of the front yard; we’ll see if Home Depot has mulch later.
On today’s agenda: I’ll vacuum the house, we’ll get groceries, order a pizza, watch a movie.
I always thought being an adult would give me a ticket to a glamorous life of non-stop excitement and stimulation. But I find much so pleasure in the day-to-day ordinariness of life that I never noticed how my dreams and vision changed.
Not a good or bad thing, just a thing to notice and wonder at.
Liz just came in to tell me today’s Cryptoquote (she does the crypto and Jumble puzzles daily). Something from Mark Twain about how fiction is obliged to be plausible, whereas reality has no such restriction. I’ve used that quote a lot in the last four years.
At 59, do you start counting up or start counting down?
Mark Evanier’s perhaps never-to-be-quite-exhaustive “List of Things I’ve Learned About the Comic Book Industry Since I Got Into it in 1970, Many But Not All of Which Still Apply.”
Emotions are never a statement about the world around us. They are always a statement about our momentary perspective on life. Emotions are a quality-control device that measures the quality of our thinking. They tell us whether or not we are viewing life dispassionately—and how sound our judgment is. When we experience black emotions like anger and despair, we know that we are taking things too personally and have lost touch with the big picture. When our feelings are positive and light we know we are viewing life with more wisdom and perspective. (Location 883)
The Theory of Action as defined by me states that if something is moving, you are getting closer to your goals. This means your mouth is moving while you call prospective employers or clients, your feet are moving as you walk to an appointment you set up, your eyes are moving as you read a book to improve your skills, your fingers are moving as they type up a business plan you will present to investors to attract new capital to a business, your feet are moving as you exercise to lose weight. The corollary to The Theory of Action is equally as important. If something isn’t moving, you probably are not getting closer to your goals. (Location 3,398)
A talent never persuades or encourages the owner of it; it drives him with a whip. (Location 1,080)
So is that what architectural sophistication means – knowing what buildings you’re supposed to like and not like, according to people who know a lot more about the subject than you ever will? I hope not. Architecture merits close study, even if amateurs like me sometimes get it wrong and miss the finer points, for the reasons that all culture merits close study: to take nothing for granted, to resist complacency, to notice things, to be more awake, to be more alive. Close study of skateboarding may well provide the same advantages; I really couldn’t say. Maybe what matters as much as the things we love is the quality of attention we bring to the things we love.
And the only thing that’s interesting about most writers is just the tap tap tap of keys. Otherwise they’re just as boring as the rest of us.
Michael. We wouldn’t have lasted ten years if our marriage hadn’t turned around. We went to a marriage counselor who knew what he was doing. He helped us to straighten things out. Interviewer. What did he tell you? Michael. He suggested we stop trying to analyze and “work on” the relationship and concentrate on enjoying each other. (Location 2,294)
But if writers are to entice us into their vision, let us make them work for it. Let us resist enchantment for a while, or at least for long enough to have some idea of what we are being drawn into. For the mindless, passive acceptance of other people’s representations of the world can only enchain us and hamper our personal growth, hamper the possibility of positive action. Sometimes it seems the whole of society languishes in the stupor of the fictions it has swallowed. Wasn’t this what Cervantes was complaining about when he began Don Quixote? Better to read a poor book with alert resistance, than devour a good one in mindless adoration. (Location 77)
But Bennett’s insight is that zoning out is tiring, not relaxing; half-hearted semi-focusing causes life to feel like an exhausting blur. (Location 689)
My days run through me as water through a sieve. (Location 86,728)
I realized being free does not come from being aware of our story; it comes from being aware of our creation of our story. (Location 4,487)
These are the highlighted Kindle passages sent to me today by Readwise.
The second question threading its way through this book is: how do we go about changing career and making the best possible decisions along the way? Although I offer no blueprint strategy that will work for everyone, there are three steps we ought to take. A starting point is to understand the sources of our confusions and fears about leaving our old jobs behind us and embarking on a new career. The next step is to reject the myth that there is a single, perfect job out there waiting for us to discover it, and instead identify our ‘multiple selves’ – a range of potential careers that might suit the different sides of our character. Finally, we have to turn the standard model of career change on its head: rather than meticulously planning then taking action, we should act first and reflect later, doing experimental projects that test-run our various selves in the real world. Ever thought of treating yourself to a ‘radical sabbatical’? (Location 142)
Greg Waldmann Reviews the Musical Career of Anthony Burgess (couldn’t find a link!)
One my favorite passages from his writings is at the beginning of Little Wilson and Big God, where he sits in New York’s Plaza Hotel in 1985, watching people go about their lives and thinking back on his own. “One goes on writing,” he says, “partly because it is the only available way of earning a living. It is a hard way and highly competitive… But one pushes on because one has to pay bills. There is also a privier reason for pushing on, and that is the hopeless hope that some day that intractable enemy language will yield to the struggle to control it… When I hear a journalist like Malcolm Muggeridge praising God because he has mastered the craft of writing, I feel a powerful nausea. It is not a thing to be said. Mastery never comes, and one serves a lifelong apprenticeship. The writer cannot retire from the battle; he dies fighting.” (Location 184)
CONTINUE TO “MANUFACTURE” a healthy environment and appreciate the results, without hoping for more. Hoping for more gets in the way of appreciating what you have now. (Location 703)
In the cultivation of the mind one of the most important factors is precisely the feeling of strain, of difficulty, of a task which one part of you is anxious to achieve and another part of you is anxious to shirk. (Location 963)
Ultimately, if you protect yourself perfectly, you will never grow. All your habits and idiosyncrasies will stay the same. Life becomes stagnant when people protect their stored issues. (Location 889)
Habits. It’s the 5x5 rule. You are not just the average of the five people around you. You’re the average of the five habits you do, the things you eat, the ideas you have, the content you consume, etc.
An animated graph showing causes of death since March 2020; note COVID-19’s rise from the bottom to the top.
To make two paintings, this much of a plan had come to her quickly, her first day in New Orleans, and even before. It hadn’t seemed serious or plausible then, had been simply too daunting. But now she knew where to find in herself what she needed to be able to do it. She’d started to catch on at the fountain at Pat O’Brien’s: that she, like everybody else, was both a reservoir and an outpouring. That she’d been pretty stingy all these years about what she’d poured out. (Location 4,213)
The great convenience of masterpieces is that they are so astonishingly lucid. (Location 949)
How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the bright kids – and your belief that you are “stuck” being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. Which would be fine, if your abilities were innate and unchangeable. Only they’re not. (Location 1,923)
To see the stories readers perceive in your paragraph, circle all the grammatical subjects and read them in progression. (Location 353)
The art of career change requires turning the conventional approach on its head. We should wean ourselves off the rational-planning mentality and replace it with a philosophy of ‘act first, reflect later’. Ruminating in an armchair or poring through files at a career centre is not what we need. We must enter a more playful and experimental way of being, where we do then think, not think then do. (Location 836)
Latest issue of newsletter I send to friends and fam: update on stay-at-home, donating blood, jigsaw puzzles, taking out a tree, coach training, and what habits to keep after we get to the other side of COVID-19.
Ghost town photos of normally bustling public places in Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill