It's the first of May as I start this. I have COVID for the second time. Last year it went through my house at the start of the Easter school holidays. This year it was at the end of the holidays. Like last year, I was the last in my family to succumb, so my isolation period will be longer. Unlike last time, I'm not putting the finishing touches on the first draft of a novel. That first draft remains unimproved. Instead, I'm preparing for a presentation on my doctoral research proposal. I started my doctorate in July last year and the first twelve months involve upskilling each cohort to be able to go off and complete their research and thesis in 2-howevermanyittakes years.
Oh, and the Sacramento Kings lost in Game 7 to the Golden State Warriors this morning. Stephen Curry scored 50 points and the Kings imploded in the third quarter when they couldn't grab a defensive rebound. It was a fun season and Kings fans haven't felt this feeling in 17 years... actually longer. It's more like 1999-2000 when the last great Kings team was on the come-up, but needed to experience adversity to toughen them up for period like today's third quarter.
So now I have more time to think about non-basketball things... maybe, even with my doctorate, I'll have time to return to last year's novel...
Oh, I'm going to Europe with the family at the end of June (health and geopolitical stability willing). So maybe not?
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (novel, audiobook, US, 2019)
I grew up with a father who loved rock documentaries so I enjoyed this. Spent a lot of time wondering why others who might be less of an anorak when it comes to music would enjoy it - the love triangle never quite joins up, which means it skirts around the worst cliches of these kinds of tails but it doesn't really have a huge amount of tension to drive the narrative forward.
Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (novel, audiobook, US, 2022)
From rock stars to sport stars, in this case tennis. More of a straightforward first person narration with occasional "implags", the interest here was whether the story was going to use Carrie's position on the Autism spectrum as a "twist"/big reveal. It didn't. I was glad. Again, I'm a bit puzzled by how this worked, when the outcome of every tennis match described was easy to forecast and the description of said matches was often something like: "I served, she returned, I returned, she returned, I returned, she missed... Then it was match point and I won with a forehand slam."
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (novel, audiobook, US, 2020)
Another kind of novel that doesn't care much for things like character development or careful observation at the micro-level. This is all about the macro: what if poor performance against the Paris Agreement meant there was a Ministry for the Future to try and drive intergenerational justice (and what if that needed to be complemented by a dark-wing to get stuff done without bureaucracy). I got very depressed to begin with (I deal with this shit every day, so nothing was a surprise, it was more like: why I am listening to this while I work in my garden?!) but it kind of justified this depression through the journey it goes from this launching point.
Quit by Annie Duke (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2022)
I didn't know about Mohammed Ali's late career exploits. Great way to start a book about why gritting it out isn't always the best approach.
Better the Blood by Michael Bennett (novel, audiobook, NZ, 2022)
My brain enjoyed this, but I didn't really feel it elsewhere in my body, if that makes any sense.
Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy (novel, audiobook, US, 2022)
All talk. Madness... Genius.... Where's the line? I think McCarthy is possessed of both, so maybe there is no line.
Foster by Claire Keegan (novella, audibook, Ireland, 2010)
It's probably only a short story, but it's packaged as a standalone book, much like Small Things Like These. Loved this one. Every books should be this short.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2021)
Essays penned during the pandemic. Manages to avoid being intolerable. Patchett is smart and kind. I've enjoyed her novels in the passed. Convinced me to go back and read Bel Canto.
The Story of Art without Men by Katy Hessel (non-fiction, audiobook, UK, 2022)
Listening to an audiobook about art isn't the best experience, but it helps to know what you don't know much about (so long as you keep asking questions).
Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey (novel, audiobook, NZ, 2020)
There's always a hump to get over when a novel is set in Nazi Germany, especially when it's a NZ author's second book set there (though it's a standalone tale), but I got sucked in and bowled over. Good stuff.
The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2022)
I enjoyed the playlist I found on Spotify of the songs mentioned in this book more than Dylan's parsing of the lyrics or hepcat word associations (and don't get me started on his version of making America great again).
Nonzero by Robert Wright (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 1999)
Culture and Sustainability by Janet Stephenson (non-fiction, PDF, NZ, 2023)
FILM & TV
Down in the Valley (40 for 40) - great watch on the eve of the NBA playoffs
The Matrix Resurrections
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
Men - I vow never to watch another Alex Garland thingamee
Emily the Criminal
Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now
Beef - Season 1 - I mean, how could I not fall for dialogue like, "I thought I was Webber, but I might be Stojaković, right?"
The Last of Us - Season 1 - gave up after 10 mins of the pilot (zombie is my least favourite flavour of apocalypse) but was lured back in by raves. The Ron Swanson-Armond romance episode was sweet. I liked the way the season dealt with time (...three months later...). So yeah, worth watching.
Succession - Season 4 (first half) - sometimes you just want to hang with characters from the bottom right corner of the D&D moral alignment chart
Chad and JT go deep - Season 1
Cunk on Earth - Season 1
Taskmaster UK - Season 15
The Night Agent - Season 1 - I kinda hated this for being so fucking basic, but I devoured it like a stupid idiot anyway
Barry - Season 4 (1st half) - feels like a real drag... Like the writers got sick of the characters, or gummed up by what happened in Season 3...
MUSIC - APRIL