Oct 21 – Nov 2, 2015

Nearly two weeks; in my defense I was sick for 8 of those days. Last Thursday we went & played games with friends at Atomic Fern, which was low-key and nice, except for the part where the nearly empty bar was invaded by someone who decided it would be cool to smoke inside. It’s so weird that we used to just put up with that. And so wonderful that we mostly don’t have to anymore. In any case, apart from that, it’s a solid place to go & nerd out with friends. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before it closes, given how empty it was on a Thursday.

Last Friday we visited friends who live on a farm between Durham & Chapel Hill. This included the petting of baby donkeys. It was already dark when we got there, which is why I don’t have any pictures of adorable baby donkeys with which to illustrate this entry. They had large flat heads & big eyes, and had been rolling in the dust all day long.

The next day we took in Pather Panchali, the first in Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, at the Carolina. I had never seen any of them; now I feel like I need to seek out the other two. They were also at the Carolina, but I was laid low by a cold Saturday night, and didn’t really emerge into the light until the following Friday.

Pather Panchali reminded me equally of Italian neorealism, and of postwar Japanese cinema. I was taught bits & pieces of the latter two in college, but nobody mentioned the Indian film industry, at all. I wonder if that has changed in the 25 years since I was in school.

The cold that kicked in on Saturday night wasn’t totally debilitating, but it softened my brain considerably. I worked from home all week, but I was really only good for 3-4 hours at most. I did some reading — comic books (I love Spread), some noir, the new Carrie Brownstein. She has the intermittent tendency to string appositives together in groups of three, and after a while I really wanted to take a red pen to the thing.

Still, it’s interesting to read her formalization of a lot of what I consider to be conventional wisdom about smaller scenes like Olympia (or here) in the 90s — the politics, the anti-success emphases, etc. It all feels very familiar and it’s probably good to get it all down in print.

Wednesday night we watched Bone Tomahawk, the strange new western/horror film starring Kurt Russell (playing a crusty old sheriff, in a role that doesn’t look that far removed from his upcoming role in the new Tarantino movie). It’s basically a riff on the Searchers, but instead of run-of-the-mill Indians, they’re pursuing cannibalistic troglodytes. Shit gets really gnarly in the final 30 minutes, gore-wise. Ultimately it may be something of an esoteric taste, but it would make for an awesome double feature with Ravenous.

By Friday I was able to leave the house & go to the office, which promptly exhausted me. Saturday we went to the Carolina to watch The Assassin, whose trailer represents it as a Chinese martial arts/swordplay movie, but which is actually a remarkable (and remarkably slow-moving) art movie that has a few minutes of swordplay scattered through its 105-minute runtime. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it was “about.”

Also trying to figure out why it was shot almost entirely in 1.33:1, with the exception of around 5 minutes which were shot in 1.85:1. In a modern theater, whose screen & projection system are set up to accommodate widescreen, to get Academy Ratio you just wind up masking off huge chunks of the sides of the screen. Any compositional gain the director felt he was getting was offset, for me, by how dang tiny the image wound up being.

So: I’m not sure I’d recommend it, at least not to most people. Some of the scenery was flat out gorgeous, though. And the pacing was good for my still somewhat fuzzy brain.

Over the weekend we [finally] started watching Black Mirror. Yes, it’s very good. Yes, it’s very depressing. Question: Assuming we finish it before our free month of Netflix is up, are there other reasons to keep Netflix around, keeping in mind that we don’t watch any TV series with more than ~10 episodes per season? I suppose if even two movies per month are available on Netflix vs Amazon, we’ll wind up nearly breaking even. Last time we had it, it had gotten to the point where there was *nothing* left we wanted to watch, though.

Oct 21 – Nov 2, 2015

February 12-14, 2015

The cold I had this week turned out to be a pale imitation of the killer cold I had over the holidays – it peaked on Thursday & by Saturday morning it was essentially gone. And it was apparently too weak to even get a foothold with M.

Thursday night we ate at The Boot for the first time. It’s no Gocciolina, nor is it trying to be. The meatballs were excellent, as was the marinara. It was all very comforting & thus perfect cold/cold-weather food. I feel like it could use a little more atmosphere, but maybe that takes time. 

The late-winter rollercoaster of making offers to students & waiting for them to accept/reject has officially begun. Got some quick accepts right out of the gate, which is awesome, since the projects we’re running this summer are particularly kewl, as are the mentors. Glad these students picked up on that & reacted favorably. Still, we’re a long way from fully staffed & there will be valleys ahead.

Friday night we met up with friends, parked our butts in a banquette at Juju, and ate a duck.


We’re all in our 40s and 3 of us had colds & we talked about body stuff all night like elderly people. 

Saturday, fortified by the duckfat, more or less free of sickness, M and I had dinner at Toast, saw Maria Bamford at the Carolina, and then walked through insane wind and blowing snow to the DPAC to see Erykah Badu. 

Bamford was the winner of that particular showdown. Every choice she makes seems calculated for maximum impact accompanied by maximum discomfort. She spent most of the set wrangling with the micstand, leaning at weird angles, fidgeting, and just generally using body language to convey extreme discomfort, while simultaneously talking in her trademark mixture of screwball baby voice and guttural barks. 

Which was all the perfect setup for the [many] times she would impersonate a “normal” person: standing still, face composed, voice perfectly modulated, saying the most inane things. Which always worked, always seemed so WEIRD and WRONG in just the right way.

Erykah Badu got caught in weather-related travel hell, was still in the air when her set was due to start, and finally came onstage around 90 minutes late, and only maybe 40 minutes after her plane landed at RDU. Didn’t seem to faze her at all. 

I bought those tickets having listened to her in the past, but without having a clear sense of which tunes are hers. I just knew that she’s a genius & that I wanted to see her do her thing. That impulse was amply rewarded, although we still left a little after midnight, to walk home through streets filled with flying bits of plastic sheeting from all the construction sites downtown.

February 12-14, 2015

December 28-29, 2014

M got this cold first, and it has hit her much harder than it has hit me. I credit my obsessive zinc usage from the moment she got sick, but it could just be that my stress levels are a lot lower now than they were 3-4 months ago.

Or maybe the worst is yet to come for me.

In any case, what was already going to be an uneventful holiday period has turned into a gruellingly uneventful slog through endless days filled with moving as little as possible, interrupted only by brief forays out to get food.

Reminder: Mami Nora makes some incredible chicken.

And the chicken soup from the Whole Foods hot bar is more than adequate when you’re sick and probably can’t taste anything correctly anyway.

The other night we watched Frank. I enjoyed it, up to a point – I wanted more Frank, more weird music, and less of the bland protagonist & his bland blandness. After we finished watching it, we looked up the music of the real Frank Sidebottom. Weird dude, but I liked the music from the film better.

I’m actually getting huge amounts of coding done. This is my first major project in node.js, and I have to say I’m enjoying it quite a bit. Some of that has to do with the fact that I’m comfortable in Javascript – its flexibility and ramshackleness remind me of Perl, a language I’m hugely fond of. Although if I wanted to do more formalized & proper OO coding in Javascript, I could do that too, which is another reason I love it.

And some of it has to do with the fact that NPM is so painless, and the Node community has just exploded with useful packages.

Anyway. I’ve been pushing Javascript & Node on students for 3 years now, after having really only just played around with it on small projects. Relieved to see I wasn’t crazy.

December 28-29, 2014