Bits, bobs.

by waxbanks

Recently I’ve been (oh lord) content in reading/watching:

The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries (Colin Wilson and his son): The Wilsons strike just the right tone in their eliptonic grand tour — credulous without seeming wooly-headed, though perhaps they’re that too. Style and tone are everything in a book like this, full of secondhand folklore and floating signifiers of Weirdness; I wish I’d known about Wilson pere as a kid, when I used to terrify myself with this kind of material. (Anyone else remember the Time-Life series about the paranormal? I still get nightmares about the church statues coming to unholy life…)

True Detective, Season One: Yes the monologues are paraphrased Ligotti, yes this demonstrates a certain self-delusion or just laziness at the minimum, yes Ligotti’s anhedonic bleakness is tiresome even when delivered by the (suddenly!) remarkable Matthew McConaughey. But with one exception, this seemed to me to be eight flawless hours of television — even the final scene worked, though I’m predisposed to reject and dislike the kind of comfort on offer. (Ignore complaints about red herrings and misdirection, e.g., the Mythos elements; anyone who complains about dangling threads in a mystery story is a rube.) The exception, though, is big: there’s one recurring female character on the show. She’s played by Michelle Monaghan, superbly but all alone. Her role is largely ‘collateral damage,’ though she’s a expertly rendered instance of the type. I was able to overlook this shortcoming while watching — it’s even better than its reputation — but it argues against the show’s claim to the status of Great Art. Not that such claims matter.

Ranters & Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-92 (Greil Marcus): Marcus’s straining for Significance, his relentless mythologizing, tires me out pretty quickly. On that score, this book goes down easier than the seminal Lipstick Traces — you can only strain and mythologize so much in 500 words. Marcus doesn’t condescend to his material like his comrade Christgau; on the contrary, he builds his favourite musicians up into mythical-historical figures. He does the same for Ronald Reagan, who’s the barely-hidden subject of this collection. (The villain, in case you were wondering.) Very fine writing, some of which contains information about music.

The LEGO Movie: Too fast and hipster-slangy for pre-K kids, too loud and manic and hipster-slangy for me, but it’s every bit as good as everyone says, even if its central emotion is nostalgia for a line of children’s toys. This one’s barely-hidden subject is 80s kids’ pop culture, and its handling of its core theme (‘specialness’) is as incoherent as everything else about it, its disdain for double-decker couches included. Remember that its utterly ‘generic’ lead character, ‘Emmet,’ is available only in limited-run LEGO Movie kits, not as a faceless Random Construction Worker but as a unique named character — just like Batman, and please think before you say ‘that’s the whole point,’ thanks…

Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu: One of the few popular LEGO properties created in-house; like the LEGO Movie, a guileless mashup of every action/adventure movie since Star Wars (there’s even a charming Back to the Future reference in the two-part pilot). I’m powerless in the face of this show. I find the eye-rolling cheek of LEGO cartoons (and especially the LEGO Star Wars games) tiresome, but I just love this one — more than it deserves, certainly. Ideal for my four-year-old son: epic and unprepossessing all at once. There are dragons and telephone wires. Ideal.

Understanding Computation (O’Reilly): A breezy intro text for coders lacking background in programming language/computation/theory, with code examples all in (non-idiomatic) Ruby. I’m digging it so far, having skipped TofC and Compilers (two well-loved heavy duty CS classes) in college. And now I’m here and so are you. Time well spent, all around.