The Northman (2022) IMDb B+

Saw with LD. Revenge flick set in Scandinavia in 895 AD. LD thought that the ultraviolence was a bit gratuitous and didn’t serve the plot very well. I don’t know what one would expect from a story about a beefy Viking beserker hell-bent on revenge. Lush, beautiful, amazing visuals from Eggers and crew. I wish I saw this in the theater. This is Eggers’ third movie after The Lighthouse (which we thoroughly enjoyed) and The Witch (which I am too much of a chicken to watch). Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy are simply excellent.

Bheemla Nayak (2022) IMDb B

Excellent cinematography and art direction. Bouncy background score by Thaman. Rana Daggubati stole the show, is magnetic in every scene he’s in, and we were all amazed by the ease with which he plays arrogant douchenozzles 💯 Could’ve been at least an hour shorter. Lovely poetry.

My Undecided Thirties

Indecision has been a pretty huge problem in my life and this comment by /u/tomwaste hit home.

I’m not sure if people have experienced the same but when I entered my 30s I became convinced I was rapidly running out of time. Rather than using that as motivation I let it paralyze me with indecision because I “couldn’t afford to make the wrong choice.” Consequently, I’m now 39 and, though I’ve had great things happen in my 30s, I regret spending so much time worrying and so little time committing to a course of action.

What’s the simplest way out of this mire of Analysis Paralysis?

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Their comment also reminded me of this Sylvia Plath poem illustrated by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils.

The Fig Tree, a poem by Sylvia Plath illustrated by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils

Zephyr Howls

This is Zephyr, a “captive-born gray wolf” at the Wolf Conservation Center in NY. Below, you can hear him and his friends orchestrate some of the most beautiful sounds you will hear today. I’ve watched this five times and it was somehow even better with my eyes closed.

Here’s the Wolf Conservation Center’s YouTube channel for more music. Fuck I love wolves ♥️🐺

Netsuke

Summary of Wikipedia article: Japanese kimono didn’t have pockets. They needed something to store their stuff in. So they made containers that they hung from their kimonos’ sashes1. The part that secured the container to the sash at the top was called a netsuke (“root attached”.)

Here’s a really cute one of a sleeping cat from the 19th century 😻

Japanese cat netsuke from the 19th century

Update

Here’s another. It’s a crouching tiger 😍

Japanese crouching tiger netsuke from the 19th century

  1. An obi, which is a favorite NYTimes crossword clue! ↩︎

The Valeriepieris Circle

This is from a while ago but I didn’t get the memo. It’s a little crazy:

A map of the The Valeriepieris Circle

It’s named after Reddit user /u/vaieriepieris, an ESL teacher from Texas, who made it for a map subreddit in 2013.

  • There are more Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Communists inside the circle than outside it.
  • It “pulls all of this off while being mostly water and including the most sparsely populated country on earth (Mongolia).” (Source).
  • It also contains the highest mountain and deepest trench.

On Doing Nothing At All

As far as Indian Gurus go, I find this guy more illumined and full of practical, actionable advice than, say, this guy, less full of shit than this one, and definitely less batshit crazy than this one.

Via LT 🙏

Update

The creator of the video is Masood Boomgaard. Here’s his YouTube channel. And here’s the Balm your Soul needs in its entirety 🙏 🌸

On One’s Work

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

Thomas Merton, in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966, reproduced in The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters by Thomas Merton (W. Shannon ed. 1993).

Check Everything and Twice

A couple from snowy Minnesota decided to take a winter vacation back in the simple Florida resort where they had stayed for a honeymoon twenty-five years before. Because of his wife’s delayed work schedule, the husband went first, and then when he got there he received a message that she would meet him soon. So he sent her this e-mail in reply. But because he typed one letter wrong in the e-mail address, it went by mistake to an old woman in Oklahoma, whose minister husband had died the day before. Here is what she read:

“Dearest,

Well the journey is over and I have finally arrived. I was surprised to find they have e-mail here now. They tell me you’ll be coming soon. It will be good to be together again.

Love as always.

P.S. Be prepared. It’s quite hot down here.”

Source Unknown

Senator Grassley, People, and Party

More people like this, and on both sides, please.

Senator Grassley is 88 years old. He voted to oppose Judge Jackson’s nomination.

“Having carefully studied her record, unfortunately I think she and I have fundamentally different views on the role of judges and the role that they should play in our system of government because of those disagreements I can’t support her nomination,” Grassley said.

Jordain Carney, “Grassley to oppose Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination”, The Hill

Via JK.

On Sitting on your Arse

I like nothing more in the world than sitting on my ass doing nothing. And it’s not my fault I have this attitude, because I happen to have an amazingly comfortable ass. It may not look like much, but if you could sit on this baby for two minutes, you’d realize that getting off this ass would be a crime against nature.

Lori Chapman

The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius by Graham Farmelo A

'The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius' by Graham Farmelo

I was lucky. I went to good schools, I had excellent teachers. I was in the right place at the right time.

Paul Dirac

Opportunity and luck bestow their benisons upon a once-in-a-generation genius, mathematical mystic, and one of the greatest theoretical physicists to have walked the planet.

You never hear of Dirac much1. I read this article about him being in love and decided to read more about his life and work. This award-winning book came highly recommended. I enjoyed its breadth and depth thoroughly. I am a slow reader and was surprised by the speed at which I got through its heft: 625 pages2! Farmelo expertly weaves world history, politics, religion, and humor into Dirac’s story. The epilogue spends some time conjecturing that he may have been autistic in a bid to explain his many eccentricities and severe taciturnity3. Lots of painful family tragedy that was rather difficult to read. Intuition and Mathematical beauty were paramount to him:

If you are receptive and humble, mathematics will lead you by the hand. Again and again, when I have been at a loss how to proceed, I have just had to wait until [this happened]. It has led me along an unexpected path, a path where new vistas open up, a path leading to new territory, where one can set up a base of operations, from which one can survey the surroundings and plan future progress.

Here’s an In Our Time episode with Farmelo and two other physicists if you want to get a taste of what this excellent and riveting biography is about. I thought this description of Dirac by a young Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (who took Dirac’s Quantum Mechanics course at Cambridge four times in 1930 because it was “just like a piece of music you want to hear over and over again”) was rather funny:

“Dirac showed none of the confidence that might be expected of a young man at the top of his game. Chandrasekhar wrote home to his father that he was disappointed that Dirac did not show a bit more swagger: ‘[Dirac is a] lean, meek shy young “Fellow” (FRS) who goes slyly along the streets. He walks quite close to the walls (like a thief!), and is not at all healthy. A contrast to Mr Fowler […] Dirac is pale, thin, and looks terribly overworked.”

Update

Here’s a video of the author giving a presentation on Dirac and Mathematical Beauty

  1. And according to the author, not even in his native Bristol… ↩︎

  2. Well, a hundred or so are copious footnotes and references. ↩︎

  3. And I do mean laughably, alarmingly severe. His colleagues came up with a unit called a “Dirac” which is one word per hour. ↩︎

Kali

Drawing of Kali from 1900 at a Museum in Baltimore

Unknown artist, circa 1800

The terrifying goddess Kali, wearing a necklace of skulls and holding a severed head in one of her hands, is worshiped here by other gods. From the left, we see Indra, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). Kali is associated with violence and sexuality; she stands for the forces of destruction, but she is also a life-giver. Her posture is that of a woman giving birth.

Kali as the Supreme Deity”, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Not gonna lie: Her head reminded me of the Dust Bunnies in Spirited Away 🙏

An Anglerfish

Photograph of an Angerfish

What a strange, strange creature. Those bumps remind me of rivets on a submarine. But because they are anglerfish, the bumps are even more bizarre than you’d expect:

Since anglerfish are deep sea creatures, it took scientists years and years to figure this stuff out. They could never find a male. Females preserved in formaldehyde sitting on dusty museum shelves usually have strange lumps that appear to be parasites. They ARE parasites. Sexual parasites!

Those lumps are all that is left of the males! They had taken that last bite and had become absorbed into the females’ bodies and became nothing more than dangly bits. The male’s eyes and fins atrophy away, and nourishment comes from the female’s blood.

BioGeoPlanet

Lovely.

Clean (2022) IMDb B-

Adrien Brody is a great actor and I love watching him act. I absolutely love good, easy revenge flicks. So this was an easy pick. Mr. Brody channels his inner Travis Bickle (for the most part.) This was Taxi Driver meets Taken meets John Wick, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Brody produced, wrote, and scored the movie, leading someone on Reddit to call this a “tough guy savior vanity project”. I loved the camera work, the overall revenge theme, ass-kicking, and little else. Recommended, easy watch if you like this genre. Others include The Equalizer (Denzel), Man on Fire (Denzel), and The Man from Nowhere (absolutely not Denzel).

Oh and RZA’s in this! His presence in this movie somehow reminded me of his role in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which is another fantastic movie of the “kind-hearted lone mumblegrumbler with a dark and troubled past kicks badguy ass to save the innocent” genre 💗

Dan Brown is Renowned

These articles are from a while ago. I love them a lot. By Michael Deacon.

That’s true, mused the accomplished composer of thrillers that combined religion, high culture and conspiracy theories. His books were read by everyone from renowned politician President Obama to renowned musician Britney Spears. It was said that a copy of The Da Vinci Code had even found its way into the hands of renowned monarch the Queen. He was grateful for his good fortune, and gave thanks every night in his prayers to renowned deity God.

Michael Deacon, “Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown”, The Telegraph

And the renowned encore:

His imagination was racing like a racecar made of brains. Picking up his personal copy of acclaimed tome The Da Vinci Code, he reread its exquisite opening paragraph.

“Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece towards himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.”

Hmm, meditated the 5’9” caucasian male. There is no doubting the magnificence of the prose, from the effortless elegance of its syntax to the way it brings characters vividly to life through evocative details like “the seventy-six-year-old man”. But the young people of today wouldn’t know about museums or Caravaggio. I must start again from scratch – and bring the story right up to date.

Michael Deacon, “Look Out, Kids! It’s The Return Of Renowned Dan Brown”, The Telegraph

I read The Da Vinci Code when it was all the rage a long while ago1, and so much of what’s being ridiculed here reminds me of submissions to the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest2.

Update

Here’s John Oliver on the phenonemon that was The Da Vinci Code. 19-year old Nikhil was absolutely mesmerized. His reaction at 5:45 is chef’s kiss

  1. My roommate at the time bought me the illustrated version for my birthday! ↩︎

  2. On my bucket list: Have a submission mentioned honorably 🙏 ↩︎

Steller’s Sea Eagle

The Steller’s sea eagle is one of the world’s rarest eagles. There are only around 4,000 left. It’s native to Russia and Japan. One was spotted in Maine and got bird watchers very excited.

“It would be like an elephant walking up out of Africa into Scandinavia,” Mr. Lund said. “Like getting a call that the Rolling Stones are playing in a field behind a warehouse in the next town over.”

Marion Renault, “This Eagle Is Very, Very Lost”, The New York Times

It also just happens to be an absolute unit of a bird at 20lbs with an 8ft wingspan 🔥🦅😍

Steller's Sea Eagle - 1
by Andres Vasquez Noboa

Steller's Sea Eagle - 2
Photographer unknown (source)

Steller's Sea Eagle - 3
by John Charles Putrino

Steller's Sea Eagle - 4
by Andres Vasquez Noboa

Dr. Lees said vagrancy, as a biological mechanism, could help migratory birds expand their ranges, a potential advantage as global warming redraws the contours of suitable habitat. Dr. Farnsworth said, conversely, extreme weather — which is anticipated to grow in frequency and intensity as climate change progresses — can also play a role in displacing birds by hundreds or even thousands of miles.

What’s next for the lone, pioneering Steller’s sea eagle? It could migrate along with native bald eagles down the coastline. It could find its way back to northeastern Asia. It could stick around Nova Scotia, as it is well adapted to the cold and seems able to survive there. It could die, out of range of its original flock.

“It’s like an avian soap opera,” Dr. Lees said. “We’re all rooting for it. Will it make it home? Or is it doomed to never see another species of its own in its lifetime?”

Nailbiter.

The Salesman (2016) IMDb A+

Saw with LD. This was our first Asghar Farhadi movie and it won’t be our last. Everything was magnificent: story, acting, screenplay, all of it. I remarked to LD that he managed to punch us in at least ten emotional centers in our hearts. So masterfully paced we didn’t feel two hours flow by.

Here’s a short clip where he describes his filmmaking process:

The hardest part is when the movie is done. When the movie starts to have its distance from me. When the movie is over I don’t show it to actors. Because they just look at themselves, and their opinion wouldn’t help me. I show it to some people who don’t have anything to do with cinema. Same with the script. I have the past script to the French teacher of my daughter.

When normal people see the film they can’t tell you what they feel right away. But while they’re watching the film you can sit with them and feel which part they are getting bored and which part gets them excited. The most important thing for me to understand after I am done with a film is that if my film is boring or not. I don’t like anyone to go out when viewing my film even if they have to go and pee. My film has to do something that they have to finish it and then leave.

I’ll watch the A Separation next1.

  1. Not that they matter too much but both these movies won Academy Awards for Farhadi. He refused to accept the second Oscar in person “out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.” If you didn’t notice when the movie was released: One guess as to which administration that happened under. ↩︎

On Fear (and Lethargy)

The question is, what does it mean to be living a fear-based agenda? Then your life is always constricted. Then it’s sabotaging the expression of your possibilities in life. Jung said once, in a book published in 1912, “The spirit of evil is negation of the life force by fear.” That’s strong language. Only boldness can deliver us from fear, and if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated. Now, I think of that as a kind of daily reminder to me. The way I put it in one of the books The Middle Passage, “Every morning, two gremlins at the foot of the bed, challenging us and threatening us, fear and lethargy. Fear says, it’s too much, it’s too big for you. You can’t handle this life. And lethargy says, chill out. Tomorrow’s another day, turn on the television, try to be distracted if you can.”

And both of them are the enemies of life, and they’ll be there again tomorrow, no matter what you do today. So we have to realize they are inside of us. The biggest enemies to life are inside of us: fear and lethargy. If we can address that life opens up and begins to be what it’s supposed to be, in my view, the unfolding of the gem that each of us embodies in this world.

James Hollis on an episode of the Insights at the Edge podcast with Tami Simon

Here’s a transcript. Via LD 🙏

Oracle

Here’s Bryan Cantrill’s classic assessment of Oracle Corporation (taken from this talk.)

On Twitter, a year after that video:

If you were an enterprise database customer who hadn’t heard of the Nazis, might it be easiest to explain them with Oracle allegory?

@bcantrill

I know people who’ve worked there (none of whom are with the company, mercifully) and have heard nothing but fascinating tales of dysfunction, fiefdoms, sinecures, overwork, and bureaucracy. One engineer told me that, of all the bad places he’d worked at, he felt his “soul dying slowly” at Oracle. It’s a generic and very real Evil Corporation™, and probably the company the protagonists in Office Space work at.

And this wouldn’t be too far-fetched a thought. Consider that the producers of Terminator: Genisys, who are an Oracle Co-Founders’s own children, based “Cyberdyne Systems, the fictional defense company responsible for the creation of the evil AI Skynet” on their dad’s company. Amazing.

On Drawing Logical Conclusions

I can’t see a thing on the surface of Venus. Why not? Because it’s covered with a dense layer of clouds. Well, what are clouds made of? Water, of course. Therefore, Venus must have an awful lot of water on it. Therefore, the surface must be wet. Well, if the surface is wet, it’s probably a swamp. If there’s a swamp, there’s ferns. If there’s ferns, maybe there’s even dinosaurs.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

It was only in 1922 that:

[…] fantasies of a wet, swampy Venus started to fade. Astronomers analyzing the visible light reflected from the planet’s atmosphere found no signs of the wavelengths which would have been given off by oxygen or water. Venus, they proposed, may instead be barren and dusty, a desert-like place.

The Venutian Dinosaur Fallacy, BigThink

which, as that article notes, still did not prevent us from imagining a Wet-Ass Venus well into the 1950s. Here are some pictures of its surface.

Car Silhouettes

Henry Lin has a degree in Architectural Design is a “a lover of all things transportative”. He draws really lovely Car Silhouettes 😍 Here are a few.

Silhouette of Chevrolet-Corvette-C3-08 by Henry Lin
Chevy Corvette C3 (1968-1972)

Silhouette of Jaguar-E-Type-02 by Henry Lin
Jaguar E-Type (1961-1968)

Silhouette of Lagonda-Rapide-01 by Henry Lin
Lagonda Rapide (1961 - 1964)

Silhouette of Mercedes-w221 by Henry Lin
Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W221)

Silhouette of Mercedes-C218 by Henry Lin
Mercedes-Benz CLS400 (C218)

Silhouette of Bugatti-Centodieci-01 by Henry Lin
Bugatti Centodieci

The Eye: Calanthek

This is a short film done entirely with the Early Access version of Unreal Engine 5. It’s only around eight minutes long and took six weeks to make but its plot is more exciting and coherent than whatever the heck was happening in Prometheus1.

  1. Some examples: Let’s take our helmets off on an alien planet teeming with life forms we are yet to study. Let’s then just go ahead and touch and electrocute said life forms. And what exactly are David’s motivations? From Wikipedia: “Writer Damon Lindelof stated that the character provides a non-human perspective on the film’s events, and said, ‘What does the movie look like from the robot’s point of view? If you were to ask him, ‘What do you think about all of this? What’s going on? What do you think about these humans who are around you?’ Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a way for that robot to answer those questions?’” Let’s ask these questions, never answer them, and waste Michael Fassbender on this embarrassing shit instead. Oh and if you didn’t know that the ‘Engineers’ in the movie are mad at us and want to destroy us because we killed Jesus, you do now. ↩︎