The posts here come from some random thoughts I have daily. The plan is to eventually write something more substantial, but for now don't expect more than a few paragraphs per post.

Wikipedia and rats.

April 7, 2019

Next time I see a banner on Wikipedia asks me to donate, I’ll be thinking of this:

"Is Alberta Rat-Free" - the greatest edit war in the history of Wikipedia, locked by an admin after 12,239 pages of heated debate,

— Kia‏☆ (@alt_kia) August 24, 2018

If everyone reading Wikipedia donated the cost of a cup of coffee, this debate could’ve gone forever!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Wikipedia and have donated to it. Where else could I get trivia as random as this:

On the Isle of Man, there is a taboo against the word “rat”.

Nabokov as a refugee.

April 4, 2019

Interesting article from the NYT about Nabokov. Not knowing much about his life other than he was Russian and lived in the US later in life, I was surprised by some of the information here; for example, after leaving Russia, he traveled with a Nansen passport (issued to stateless persons), he and his wife having been stripped of Russian citizenship. The article actually shows a US immigrant identification card with his nationality stated as without. And then this:

And then there was “Dr. Zhivago.” Published four weeks after “Lolita,” it joined Nabokov’s masterpiece at the top of the 1958 best-seller list. Nabokov wrote off Boris Pasternak’s novel as “wretched and mediocre,” or, on a better day, as “a sorry thing, clumsy, trivial, and melodramatic.” He might shrug off his losses, but 1919 still burned bright: He could not forgive Pasternak for having raced past the liberal revolution on his way to writing about the Bolshevik coup. The Nabokovs knew a Soviet plot when they saw one: They were convinced the Communists had pretended to smuggle Pasternak’s novel out of the Soviet Union. Its American publication amounted to a cunning act of currency conversion. Nabokov forbade his publisher from mentioning him and Pasternak in the same breath. It was as if the Cold War played out weekly in America’s bookstores.

I knew he had strong opinions about other writers, but this degree of paranoia makes him sound a bit like some of his characters.


April 3, 2019

I saw the Danish/Swedish drama Dronningen1, in a movie theater that was uncharacteristically packed for a Monday. I imagine the reason is that the movie has been getting a lot of press, apparently for being controversial. (I don’t know what the controversy is, but I can take a guess.) I tried writing my thoughts in a spoiler-free fashion but I only produced nonsense, so mind the spoilers below.

My first impression of Anne is that she is a bit too controlling and uptight and needs to relax a bit. That she does eventually, partly due to a few failures at work and partly due to seeing the carefreeness and youth of the newly arrived Gustav. And I suppose she has a bit of a midlife crisis as well.

By engaging in a groundbreaking affair with Gustav, she allows herself to become more and more vulnerable, and happier as a result. I don’t know if she ever contemplates what her new life situation means to people around her, because the moment her choices start affecting her “old” life, she shuts off the affair and comes back to being her old self again. Although this winds up having terrible consequences to her family, she seems to deal with it just fine, her previous life choices having been vindicated.

What it got me thinking about, even though it’s probably not the focus of the movie – it has a lot more things to say –, was how it’s impossible to introduce positive change in our lives without also changing what’s around us. And failure to see that often leads old behaviors to be reinforced, which makes future change more difficult. It’s a bit like the alcoholic who wants to remove the bad influences of alcohol in their life (and who wouldn’t want that!) but does not want to change their life otherwise. Maybe they try to drink less, which essentially never works. Or maybe they quit drinking but still want to keep their old friends. Introducing change is a lot more work than you think.

  1. The English title is “Queen of Hearts”, but I refuse to use that at least until it comes out in English-speaking countries. [return]

John Adams

March 31, 2019

I’ve never seen Hamilton, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack many times. I’ve always pictured John Adams like this:

Which I realize now is not John Adams but Silas Adams from Deadwood, which I’ve been frantically rewatching in anticipation of the upcoming film.

John Adams seems to have looked quite different. Here’s a painting of him at 29:

Writing shouldn't feel this hard.

March 31, 2019

A lot has been written about procrastination, perhaps as a way for the author to distract themselves from what they really want to write about. So I’ll be brief.

For me it really comes down to a mismatch between feeling productive and actually being productive. I want to write, but first I want to make sure I have the perfect environment for writing: perfect text editor, perfect-looking website, perfect publish process, and so on.

I do enjoy each of those activities and they have some value, but the amount of time I’m willing to spend doing them is insanely disproportionate with the benefit they bring. But doing them makes me feel productive, so I keep at it. In an attempt to remove obstacles from writing, I end up creating obstacles in my mind.