Mixed media, Saturday 31 December 2022

Two mixed media posts in one year. Gosh.

The Lazarus Project was one of my favourite shows this year

Episodic Video (“TV”)

  • Legion season 2 || Did not finish. The novelty of the first season was gone; the characters were scattered; I wasn’t invested in the grand story arc. Got bored after a couple of episodes.
  • Mr Inbetween || Did not finish. Australian low-key character-based dark comedy about a hit man and how he integrated his job with his life. I liked it, but it didn’t draw me in enough to keep coming back for the next episode.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 1 || Watched three episodes, but did not finish. I had hoped to enjoy this, but it felt too affected, and the plot didn’t move quickly enough. Was watching this while sick with Covid, so missing half my brain might have played a part as well. Don’t feel inclined to go back to it, though.
  • Bosch season 1 || Won’t finish. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Michael Connelly’s books about Harry Bosch, and I find Titus Welliver compelling on screen, but episode 1 of this was outright copaganda and super hard to watch.
  • The Boys season 3 || Keeps on digging deeper into how horrible these superheroes are.
  • ⭐️ She-Hulk season 1 || Fun. I like the version of Jennifer Walters Marvel has out together for the TV show. It’s bright and quirky and the season was short without feeling (too) awkward. Although it wasn’t entirely out of place, I thoroughly disliked the finale. Breaking the fourth wall, yes, super-self-referential in-jokes, maybe not.
  • ⭐️ The Old Man season 1 || Good. I enjoyed Jeff Bridges as a grizzled, long-retired spy, and John Lithgow as his handler. Great pair of actors they found for the younger selves as well. I enjoy this kind of low-key spy drama, with occasional action, to giant big-budget slug-fests. I think I would have preferred it if they’d wrapped up the story in a single mini-series with an actual ending, though.
  • ⭐️ The House of the Dragon season 1 || Yeah, good. Happy to keep watching this to see where it goes.
  • ⭐️ The Peripheral season 1 || Based on William Gibson’s book, which I loved. I enjoyed seeing some of the very vivid characters brought to life on screen. This is a great adaptation, but just like The Old Man, I wish they’d wrapped it up with an actual ending.
  • ⭐️ The Lazarus Project season 1 || Time loops + secret agents? Sign me up. I adored this. Episode 3 is thoroughly harrowing, though – content warning for all parents. Just like The Old Man and The Peripheral, I regret the choice to end the season on a cliffhanger, but this one feels more like a natural jumping-off point to a new chapter of the story, whereas those other two shows just failed to end.
  • ⭐️ The Undeclared War season 1 || Near-future thriller that isn’t so much a spy thriller as a surveillance and intelligence thriller. But that’s what makes it feel very realistic. These are the trenches of information warfare.
  • War of the Worlds season 3 || This third season criss-crosses two parallel timelines that were created by the time-travel device at the end of season 2. It’s fine, but compared to the first two seasons this felt perfunctory and tacked-on.
  • ⭐️ Dead to Me season 3 || This third season wrapped up all the threads from the first two seasons in a satisfying and gentle way, but with a sense of inevitable sadness that it could never have a truly happy ending.
  • ⭐️ Andor || Amazing. It feels grounded in a way that other Star Wars properties completely don’t. This is helped by the fact that they used very visible real-world locations with (retro-)futuristic appearances for some of their sets (e.g. the Barbican in London, the Cruachan Dam near Loch Awe in Scotland), and seamlessly enhanced them with digital effects. But the story is low-powered (no Jedi), and it skims the borderlines of grimy and shiny, rich and poor, corrupt and principled in a way that no Star Wars show or film has done before. It was a bit like Captain America: The Winter Soldier in that sense. After watching two seasons ot The Mandalorian I was bored with the setting. After one season of Andor I want more of it.
  • Archer season 11 || I keep watching this. By this point it’s neither good nor bad, it just kind of exists?
  • ⭐️ Star Trek Picard season 2 || Even though they abandoned far-off planets in favour of exploring the strange new world of present-day Los Angeles, I found this compelling. The story felt more cohesive than season 1, although building up the character of Kore only to have her whisked away in the finale felt like a bit of a cheat. Maybe this means she’ll be back in season 3?


  • ⭐️ Govert Schilling – De Olifant In Het Universum (The Elephant in the Universe) || I came across this book on Tim Bray’s blog. It’s a history of the scientists and scientific theories of dark matter. Because Govert Schilling is a Dutch science writer, I figured I might as well read the book in Dutch rather than in an English translation. However, when I actually got the book I discovered in the afterword that he’d written the book in English originally, and the Dutch version is the translation. Oh well, nice try. It’s a good book, although perhaps a little unsatisfying in the sense that we still don’t know what dark matter actually is. It’s the first whole book I’ve read in Dutch in a long time.
  • ⭐️ Richard Osman – The Bullet That Missed || Third in the Thursday Murder Club series. Lightweight and fun, intricately plotted.
  • Mick Herron – Bad Actors || Another in the Slough House series. I remember enjoying this when I read it, but looking at it now I can hardly remember anything at all about it. I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or a bad one. On the one hand, enjoyment is good, and I’m happy to encourage myself to read books that I can go through super quickly, because it reinforces the long-form reading habit, which I fear I’m in danger of losing. On the other hand, “not very memorable” isn’t exactly high praise, is it?
  • Oliver Darkshire – Once Upon A Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller || A collection of quirky little autobiographical stories about the author getting a job at Sotheran’s in London, and learning the ins and outs of the trade. Reads like a collection of blog articles, or Twitter threads. A few good laughs, but I’d hoped for a bit more depth.
  • ⭐️ Harry Connolly – The Flood Circle || This follows on immediately from The Iron Gate. With this book Harry is rolling towards the endgame for the Twenty Palaces series. I don’t think I’m giving much away if I say this book ends on a cliffhanger, which is normally a big no-no for me unless I’ve got the next one lined up. But I’m invested in the series, and I really want to see how he lands this. In The Flood Circle we learn a lot more about Ray and Annalise, and get clues about the original spellbooks: how they might not be what they seem, and how the Twenty Palaces society might not be as knowledgeable as they seem. (Tangentially, I ordered this book and its predecessor in paperback, through Amazon, where they were fulfilled as print-on-demand books. I was impressed by how quickly it was generated and arrived on my doorstep. The interior printing and binding were fine, but the card stock used for the cover is very prone to curling. After handling it for just a little while, the covers just seem to peel open like a banana.)
Harry Connolly – The Flood Circle


  • Day Shift || Forgettable vampire hunt. Only slightly enlivened by the presence of Snoop Dogg as a bad-ass cowboy vampire hunter. Pity he’s just a minor supporting character.
  • Werewolf By Night || Fun little black-and-white Halloween snack.
  • 💩💩 Moonfall || Bad. Very bad. There’s a cool idea behind the film (moon’s haunted), and I’m sure there was a shooting script, and that they took a lot of footage… but then they reassembled it in a random order? Like a lego kit dropped on the floor and then rebuilt without the original instructions. While drunk. In darkened room. Wearing gloves.
  • ⭐️ Prey || Predator movie set in 1719, on the North American plains, with native American protagonists. Simple but effective – a classic cat-and-mouse thriller, fantastically executed.
  • ⭐️ Thirteen Lives || Ron Howard’s adaptation of the story a group of boys who got trapped by flooding inside the Tham Luang cave system in Thailand in 2018. This is an incredibly tense film. It does an amazing job of portraying the scale and difficulty of the rescue effort. Filming this must have been an enormous technical challenge, but the film never tries to be a show-off. Howard keeps the focus on the individuals, the danger they’re in, and the risks they were taking. (Similar to Apollo 13, in that sense.)
  • Margin Call || I hadn’t seen this before, but in the wake of the crypto collapse and the spectacular demise of FTX, it felt appropriate to track it down. Just like The Big Short, Margin Call is set in the heart of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. The Big Short tries to tell a bigger story, and explores just how big a hole the crisis created, while Margin Call focuses on just a handful of people in a single firm, watching disaster strike them personally in the course of a single day. It carefully selects which characters are worthy of a small amount of empathy, and which ones get painted as ruthlessly detached monsters. It feels very real, but also horribly dispassionate and bloodless, and free of the cosequences we know played out in the real world.
  • 💩Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special || Take human trafficking and make it fun. Take Mantis and Drax and make them even more cringe. Not the worst addition to the MCU, but … actually it might be.
  • ⭐️ Glass Onion || Rian Johnson takes aim squarely at Elon Musk in this follow-up to Knives Out, and given that this film was in the making long before Musk’s catastrophic 2022, this looks wonderfully insightful and prescient. (The new insights into Benoit Blanc’s character are wonderful, and I can’t wait to see more of him. My main issue with the film is that every piece of it goes on for too long. It takes too long to get to the island, it takes too long for the murder to happen, the flashback sequence is more of a film-within-a-film than a peek behind the scenes while the detective does the big reveal, the comeuppance sequence takes forever and ultimately feels like a soft landing for the villain, although that’s perhaps part of the overall critique of the ultra-rich. I eagerly await more Benoit Blanc, but I hope future iterations will be a little more tightly constructed (like the original Knives Out).
  • Wakanda Forever || Still digesting this. Just like Glass Onion, I thought it was slow, and went on for too long. I’m ambivalent about setting the kingdoms of Wakanda and Talokan at each others’ throats. Given that we see UN members being willing to violate Wakanda’s generosity and attempting to steal vibranium, and that there seems to be a developing narrative setting up Director de Fontaine as a new subversive Hydra-like authoritarian force, it feels our heroes are being fooled into losing sight of who the real enemy is. Maybe that’s the point? But I found the big battle between Wakanda and Talokan to be more distressing that thrilling. Beautiful production design, though.


  • ⭐️ Horizon Forbidden West || I re-played Horizon Zero Dawn before tackling the new game, and I didn’t play it as soon as it was released (18 February) because I didn’t want it to get in the way of my last exam. But once everything was wrapped up, I played the heck out of this. I didn’t quite 100% it. After getting Covid in July, followed by going away on holiday in August, I hadn’t played for about a month, and found it a bit hard to go back to. But according to the PlayStation clock I had logged 103h and 15m by the time I finished it. Good game, good value. I’m looking forward to the DLC next year, but I don’t think I’ll play through the whole game again in the run-up to its launch. (I’m curious to see where the DLC will be positioned in the game’s timeline as well – I hope it comes after the endgame.)
  • ⭐️ Stray || Cat game! Short (about 5-6 hours) exploration and puzzle-solving game in a post-apocalyptic world filled with robots with video screens for faces.
  • ⭐️ Hades || Haven’t finished this yet, but I’m still enjoying it. I find it holds my attention for a run or two, and then I’ve had enough for the day. But the structure of the game means that I still make a little bit of progress each time, and then come back the next day. Lovely graphics.

Mixed media, Sunday 9 August 2020

My last Mixed Media post was about five months ago; my last post at all here was on 28th March. I wrote the latter while procrastinating in the middle of the “48-hour online timed assessment” (don’t call it an “exam”) at the end of the Learning & Development module for the Org Psych course I’m following.

The course is a big time commitment. The university suggests that we should expect to spend around 15 hours per week on it during term time. This comes in the form of a weekly lecture, readings, and writing assignments for the online forums. My intention is always to spend use “evenings and weekends” for this, but reality is that I’m often too tired at the end of a full work day to hit the books after dinner. I find myself doing most of the work in the weekends, submitting my forum posts long after everyone else has chewed over the subject of the week, trying hard to contribute something new or useful. In terms 2 and 3 I experienced a pattern of feeling like I was constantly falling behind, and a huge amount of stress and anxiety before the assessment.

Is this fun? I’m not taking this course because I have to. I’m doing it because I’m interested in the subject, because I thought a deeper understanding of organizational psychology would help me be a better manager, and because it seemed like a bit of a challenge. There are many other things I could be doing with my time, such as, oh, not putting myself under that kind of pressure 30 weeks out of the year. I’m learning a lot, and I’m gaining a sense of achievement from doing this, but is it worth the cost?

The exam online timed assessment (there’s a rant in there, but I’ll save it for another time) for term 3 was about a month ago, so I’m in the middle of the summer break now until the start of October. It’s very relaxing! I can wake up at the weekend and spend a day doing absolutely nothing without a feeling of guilt that I should be reading and studying. (I still spend time doing nothing, or at least nothing “productive” during term time; it just leads to me feeling bad.) I tried to go easy on bingeing TV shows during term, and I deliberately held back on buying The Last of Us Part II until the assessment was over. If I wasn’t spending time studying, is that all I would do, though, read books, watch TV, play video games? (I could say that I’d spend the time getting back to practicing the bass, but let’s keep it real.) Would simply enjoying myself be a bad thing? Don’t answer that, I already know.

So I’m spending some time thinking about whether to continue the course after the summer. I don’t have to decide straight away, and because I’ve got 5 years in total to complete it, perhaps I just space out the modules a bit more, and do 2 per academic year instead of 3. Maybe future modules will be different?

Last term was a bit of a pressure cooker: the Selection & Assessment module covers subjects of fairness and biases in hiring practices, the role of “intelligence” (aka “general mental ability”), and the differences in average test scores between racial groups. In the light of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and elsewhere, I found myself getting genuinely angry at some of the research literature I encountered that didn’t address scientific racism, but instead took a hands-off “we’re just reporting the numbers, what you do with them is up to you” attitude. Many researchers do try hard to come up with methodological explanations for the means differences: the apparent numbers just can’t be right, so what’s causing them? But the journals of I/O psychology are not exactly a hotbed of social justice activism. This is frustrating because outside the field, there’s a much simpler answer: the prolonged effects of structural racism!

Also COVID-19 and lockdowns. That’s not making me feel happy and comfortable, either.

Hmm, I started this blog post with the intention of writing about media.


Euskal kultura - News
  • 💩 Need for Speed: Too much nonsensical plot, not enough racing. Fast & furious, this isn’t. I watched it because I was looking for something mindless, and that’s what I got.
  • ⭐️ El Hoyo: Tight and tense sci-fi thriller about a prison? Rehab centre? Social experiment gone wrong?
  • Bloodshot: I’d been looking forward to seeing this in the cinema, but then lockdown hit. Fortunately, the studio released the film for download. It’s daft, but neat. Interesting for a film to offer a twist beginning rather than a twist ending. Don’t see it spawning a major franchise.
  • Rampage: Daft, but entertaining.
  • ⭐️ Booksmart: Yes, it’s good, with good gags, strong characters, and a nice pay-off; but I’d hoped for it to be a little less cringe-y.
  • ⭐️ Onward: Good Pixar, not great Pixar.
  • Code 8: I remember seeing the short film a few years ago; this is the full-length thing, a low-budget, low-key crime thriller in a world where some people have powers, but society has grown to shun and marginalize them. Engaging.
  • ⭐️ Jumanji – The Next Level: More fun than it has any right to be. It’s simple and silly, but the cast sell it really well.
  • 💩 Central Intelligence: I’d been going to say something about how I enjoy pretty much anything with Dwayne Johnson in it, but I’m putting that thought back on ice.
  • ⭐️ Colossal: The premise is weird, and for a while it looks like the characters will follow a certain kind of redemption arc, but it goes somewhere darker instead.
  • The Lovebirds: Throwaway romantic comedy. There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes.
  • Brightburn: What if Superman origin story, but he turns out as a brutal psychopath instead? Jump scares and some slasher-ish horror, but it’s not much deeper than that.
  • Mute: Very pretty Blade Runner vibe to the production design, with a very earnest tragic romance driving the plot, but lacking in focus. I didn’t need to see so much of both sides of the curtain.
  • 💩 Bad Boys For Life: I got about five minutes into this and couldn’t watch any more. After the Black Lives Matter protests and the heightened awareness of police brutality in the US, the opening scenes felt laid bare as a classic building block of pro-police propaganda that I hadn’t critically examined before. See also Jordan Calhoun’s article “Saying Goodbye to Law & Order” in the Atlantic.
  • ⭐️ The Old Guard: Satisfying action thriller with a bunch of immortals trying to come to terms with who they’re fighting for, and why.


  • ⭐️ Mick Herron – Joe Country:I’m still enjoying these Slough House spy stories.
  • ⭐️ Curtis C Chen – Kangaroo Too: Sequel to Waypoint Kangaroo. I don’t think he has written any more in the series, which is a terrible shame because I love the wise-cracking space opera spy with superpowers vibe here.
  • ⭐️ William Gibson – The Peripheral: I got a few chapters into this a couple of years ago and gave up because I couldn’t get a handle on it. This is a very dense book. The writing style is sparse, and there’s no surplus exposition. You have to build your picture of the world from the inside out. At times it feels like Gibson started with a 1200-page draft and then deleted every other word to bring it down to size. But I found it enormously rewarding once I got properly stuck into it, especially because the current pandemic makes it feel like we’re living out part of the Jackpot, a decades-long slow-motion global catastrophe.
  • ⭐️ William Gibson – Agency: I felt an ache when Gibson described the circumstances in the present-day “stub” world, where most of the action in Agency takes place: Trump didn’t win, and no Brexit. The world is in peril for different reasons, though, so still no party. The writing feels lighter and faster-paced, but maybe that’s because I’d already bootstrapped my understanding of the world from The Peripheral. The ending also felt a little too tidy and hopeful. You’d think I’d enjoy a bit of hopefulness? Given the backdrop of the Jackpot in the book, and the current situation of our world, it rang a bit hollow.
  • Warren Ellis & Jason Howard – Trees vol 3: So there’s the Warren Ellis thing. This struck me because it came hot on the heels of the allegations and accusations around Max Temkin. I had enjoyed the weekly podcast Do By Friday with Temkin, Merlin Mann, and Alex Cox for a couple of years, and had just recently backed his Magic Puzzles kickstarter. Picking up the first two volumes of Transmetropolitan, along with Matt Fraction, David Aja, & Javier Pulido’s Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon at Dr. Comics & Mr Games in Oakland in the summer of 2013 feels like the start of my ongoing love of modern comics. I had consistently sought out Ellis’s other comics. I subscribed to his newsletter, and through it learned about many other artists and people of interest. I’m fully aware that any fondness I had for Ellis and Temkin was parasocial. But the fondness was there, and when it gets betrayed there are feelings. June 2020 was a pretty fucking intense month for feelings. Anyway – ignoring the author, Trees vol 3 is a minor addition to that canon: a claustrophobic murder mystery/ghost story that doesn’t contribute to the global events the first volumes showed. I’d be surprised if we ever see any more.
  • 💩 Stuart MacBride – All That’s Dead: Filler material in the Logan McRae series. Gratuitously gruesome. No character evolution. Skip it.
  • Max Brooks – Devolution: Remote Washington residential community for clueless rich people gets attacked by Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) when Mt Rainier erupts and cuts them off from the rest of the world. Much more easily filmable than World War Z, but much less interesting as a result.

Episodic Video (“TV”)

  • ⭐️ The Witcher season 1: Highly entertaining fantasy. Neither Tolkienesque nor GoT-ish grimdark. Looking forward to more of this.
  • ⭐️ Tiger King: So much has been written about this already. It’s compelling viewing, each episode filled with more WTF than the next. One of the wildest things was how the film-makers got footage of the whole story as events unfolded over several years. The result is far more reality show than an investigative documentary.
  • ⭐️ Better Call Saul season 5: Beautiful, meticulously constructed, and continues to generate empathy for characters, good and bad, whose destiny is already written. Except for Kim: she’s never mentioned at all in Breaking Bad, yet she’s grown to be one of the biggest elements of the show, and is thus the biggest mystery. I’m looking forward to and dreading the final season.
  • ⭐️ Agents of SHIELD season 6: Took a very different direction than the out-in-space season 5. Still great. Annoying that season 7 isn’t up on Disney+.
  • Halt and Catch Fire season 1: It’s a wonderful production, full of intricate historical verisimilitude. You can watch it as a computer expert and not strain your eyes from rolling them. At the same time, the characters are horrible people, I don’t like them, and if I keep watching the following seasons sooner or later one of them is going to kill someone, possibly accidentally, but definitely with a lot of secrecy, guilt and remorse, and I’ll like them even less. I don’t think I’m up for that.
  • Community seasons 3, 4, 5: Funny, yes, but there’s a certain cruelty that always seems very close to the surface, and shows its face often enough for it to make me uncomfortable.
  • Runaways season 2: Entertaining enough. Annoying that season 3 isn’t up on Disney+.
  • ⭐️ Dead to Me seasons 1 & 2: Brilliant dark comedy drama.
  • ⭐️ ⭐️ Chernobyl: ? Utterly astonishing. As a teen in the Netherlands at the time of the events of 1986, I remember only the general shape of news events, and a heightened sense of alarm about radiation. In the years since, the disaster has been sanded down by history, and rendered abstract by factual articles and encyclopedia entries. This 5-episode mini-series brings out the full horror or the catastrophe, and shows how close we came to it being unimaginably worse. The image of a shaft of blue light, caused by Cherenkov radiation, spearing up up into the sky from the exposed core is something that will stay with me.
  • 💩 Space Force season 1: I couldn’t watch more than the first two episodes. First of all it’s just not very funny. Secondly, I have no appetite for gentle satire of government and administrative incompetence when genuine malfeasance is rampant and needs to be attacked, not made light of.
  • ⭐️ Dark seasons 2 & 3: I appreciate a show that actually brings things to an end. And for a show all about free will versus determinism, and the ambiguity of “good” and “bad” within the context of a time loop (the characters spend much of their time apologizing to younger versions of themselves or their family members about horrible things that are about to happen, or staring at things in regret), the ending was surprisingly tidy. It made me wonder a lot about how the writers had planned from the start, and how much they tweaked on the fly between seasons. Dark is a deliberately slow burn, but even at that careful pace, it’s one of the densest, twistiest time travel stories I’ve ever seen.


I finished Desert Golfing. I’d seen a video of someone finishing the game at around 24,000 holes, but that was from some time ago. Originally the game was “unending”, but had some impossible holes in it. In an update a couple of years ago the creator put a 10,000 limit in place for new games, or 10,000 more than wherever you were at the time of the update – hence why some people have so many holes.

I’ve picked up Golf on Mars, the follow-up, but the physics are a bit different, and hard to get used to after so much of the original. It also has 25,770,000,000 holes, which is effectively infinite. This somehow makes it feel less challenging and more pointless? Not that there was much point in finishing Desert Golfing, but it always felt like there was an end I was striving for – some kind of achievement. Without such a goal, and no high-score to beat, I’ve quickly lost interest.

Post Mortem Review - The Last of Us Part II - Modern Gamer

I’ve also finished The Last of Us Part II. Fiona and I played it together: me on the controls, and Fiona providing snark about how bad I am at killing zombles. After the end credits rolled, the game presented a screen asking us if we wanted to start a New Game + session to level up the characters even further and pick up all the collectibles we’d missed. We were both very much NOPE NOT GOING BACK THERE THANK YOU.

It’s an amazing game in many ways: the graphics, environment, and art are stunning; the post-apocalyptic world is richly portrayed; the character models are shockingly emotive; the voice acting is unparalleled; the gameplay is fluid, with well-balanced difficulty that can nonetheless be adjusted on-the-fly so that you don’t get stuck and get bored.

But it’s also continuously, intimately violent far beyond my comfort level. The absence of choice in all of the actually meaningful encounters makes a mockery of your ability to sneak past enemies instead of shooting or stabbing them along the way. This is very much not an open-world game, or a role-playing game where you can steer your character’s personality. It forces you to become attached to a sympathetic character, and then forces you to watch her (to be her) as she then consistently makes the worst possible choices. It’s maddening, bordering on sickening. Maddy Myers describes it very well in her review at Polygon. Art doesn’t have a responsibility to make us feel happy or comfortable. I’m glad that I’m done with the game; I’m not sure if I’m glad I played it.