Tag Archives: Reading

2020: The Year We… What’s With the Monolith?!?

I saw this last week, but decided to hold off, because I didn’t want to dwell on it, but here it is: a metal monolith was accidentally discovered in the middle of the Utah wilderness and although it’s probably made by humans, the level of effort to get it and “install” it like it’s some weird “think-piece” in the middle of nowhere is deeply weird.

In other words, it’s peak 2020.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen as more people venture out to look at it –despite its exact location not being public knowledge– but Stephen Colbert already has a film idea.

UPDATE: This is what I get for trying to do my posts in advance. As of Sunday, it disappeared!

SECOND UPDATE: Now a another monolith (or is it the same one?) has appeared in Romania!

THIRD UPDATE: Okay, so space elves did not abscond with the Utah monolith (Probably).

FOURTH UPDATE: And now there’s a monolith in California?!? COME ON, 2020!

FIFTH UPDATE: I don’t know if I can keep up with this…

Oh, and also as of 12/7/20, there’s a slightly different cousin monolith on the Isle of Wight.

America and Mass Transit

WMATA/Shutterstock/Madison McVeigh/CityLab

Hey! Since we here in the United States are not traveling so much on this traditional week of travel, how about we take that time and read this longform article by Jonathan English all about mass transit in the United States. It unearths some assumptions about what mass transit is and can be and how those assumptions developed over the past 100 years or so.

Besides the fond memories evoked by seeing the picture above (I was there for the grand opening of Washington’s Metro — you were able to ride free all day), I also found his premises interesting.

Banned Book Week, 2020

Librarians, archivists, and bibliophiles are well represented in my family, so I’ve always enjoyed Banned Book Week.

Since many library systems are closed due to the pandemic, many of you probably can’t saunter over to your local library and see their cool “Banned Book” displays. The site does have plenty of resources to read and download — as well as the always interesting top 100 books challenged or banned.

That list also provides me with one of my annual activities: reading one of the books on the list that I haven’t read before. This year, it’s Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, one of those well-regarded books I’ve missed.

If you are looking for something insidious to do this week that will possibly expose you to some new perspectives and definitely piss off The Man, I highly recommend it.

John August on Professionalism

Back in 2006, writer John August wrote (and presented) a really great talk called “Professionalism and the Rise of the Amateur.” It drew on his own experience as a writer, but it could be applied to other jobs — basically, anywhere where you’re trying to be “professional” — and what that word means, really.

Well, lots of things have happened since then, as he recounts as he revisits and expands (and corrects) some of those thoughts in “Professionalism in the Age of the Influencer.

Both are worth a read, but feel free to skip to the second one if you’re pressed for time, as he recounts some of the larger points.

20 Minutes Later into the Future

Max Headroom is one of those series I definitely need to rewatch, as it feels like it’s disturbingly more prophetic than we’d like these days.

Bryan Bishop over at The Verve has put together a lengthy oral history of the show and pop culture phenomenon. Check it out!

“Every winner begins as a loser”

This past weekend, I was talking about the National Theater Institute of which I am quite a happy alumnus. They practice a maxim of “Risk. Fail. Risk again” which is kind of like the positive spin of the War Boys’ outlook in Mad Max: Fury Road. Same flamethrower guitars (metaphorically), less desolation.

I’m pretty sure this was a movement class we took. My memory is hazy.

But that’s all artsy stuff, what about science? This is where David Noonan writing in Scientific American comes in. Apparently, some folks did some “big data” crunching and have a theory that an integral part of success is failure.

And if that isn’t something to motivate you on a Monday, um, I guess focus on being shiny and chrome?

Spock, Chabon, and This Mortal Coil

From “Q&A”

If you’ve checked out any of the anthology series “Short Treks,” you’ll know the arguable standout thus far is the first season’s “Calypso” co-written by Michael Chabon.

Chabon, probably better known to many as an award-winning novelist, also wrote this season’s “Q&A” and is the showrunner for the forthcoming Star Trek: Picard.

When I saw a behind-the-scenes photo of Chabon and the Vasquez Rocks (a popular Hollywood “exotic” filming location and one very storied for Star Trek), you could just tell his connection to Trek.

It was very evident for “Q&A” and now from this piece in the New Yorker, one now knows just how personal Star Trek is for him. And if this pain, love, and loss can be found in Picard (and I suspect it will), then I am loking forward to it more than ever.

I could have put this in my final Crisis of Infinite Star Treks post, but this article deserves to be read now.

Finding Other Sci-Fi and Fantasy Gems

Perhaps it’s because NaNoWriMo is nigh, but I found this piece in Wired about exploring and expanding the notions of “must read” works interesting. (I’m currently trying to fold in a bit more reading each day).

“Comic Book Movies” and “High Art”

Just last month I was musing about how, even in the face of “nerddom’s” ascension in all aspects of pop culture, people still feel the need to belittle or otherwise distance themselves and their work from science fiction as if the genre itself was wildly radioactive.

Now, in the face of a more meditative and gritty look at the origins of Joker –with more than a few homages to Martin Scorsese’s films– Scorsese himself felt the need to denigrate the Marvel film juggernaut as not “cinema.”

Now, on the one hand, that assertion is silly. It’s like saying a hamburger isn’t food because its preparation and presumed nutritional value isn’t on par with the fare from a three-star Michelin restaurant (and yes, you won’t surprise me if you produce examples of people asserting just that).

On the other hand, the aspirations behind films (and food) can vary greatly. “The Remains of the Day” is going for something different than “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama” — and anyone insisting “they’re the same” because “they’re both feature films” can and should be summarily mocked.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a piece in the Hollywood Reporter that tackles just this dichotomy tackling the elephant in the room that is the notion of “high art.” It’s well worth a read.

How About Those Vikings?

I stumbled across this longer article from BBC Scotland going into the impact of the Vikings last year, well after Leif Erikson Day and thought, “Why not use it for later?”

And so I scheduled it for far in the future, much as my Norwegian ancestors put up blog posts and salt cod for later use.