#Weeknotes S02 E21

It doesn’t really feel like a long holiday weekend. Now, I’ve never been really big on “celebrating” long holiday weekends beyond reveling in the bliss of having an extra day off work. But in this work-from-home pandemic world, even the stress of the nine-to-five has transformed, at least for me. When the line between work and not-work gets blurred during business hours (e.g. this is the time of year when I’d be streaming Roland Garros between meetings at my desk which I wouldn’t have to do if it were still on), what exactly does “a day off” mean these days?

Still, some of the novelty of the novel coronavirus has faded. It’s probably overstating it to say I’ve “adjusted,” but I’m definitely further along the process than I was. Now, what that process is exactly or where it’s going? Hell if I know. But I know what “further along” looks like: catching up on stuff outside of work. Getting bits of reading done… trouble is, I didn’t really bother tracking on what I’ve read this week. But the point is, I’m doing it and that’s a good sign.

Getting my TV in, too. I just finished Season 3 of THE EXPANSE and Season 4 of KIM’S CONVENIENCE (with Mr. Mehta’s approval). And I promise I’ll wrap up my 2019 TWILIGHT ZONE reviews before Season 2 starts up. Maybe.

Okay, Chrisjen, I’m getting to it!

MISSING WHAT’S MISSING
It’s not just Grand Slam tennis tournaments that have to adjust. In lieu of the sci-fi/fantasy cons that would ordinarily be starting up in meatspace about now, there are a bunch of online versions this weekend. I kind of slept on registering and attending; they just slipped by me. To be honest though, I couldn’t see spending even more time in front of Zoom than I do during an average work week these days, awesome audio setup aside. I’ll probably look into the “podcast edition” of 4th Street Fantasy where I was headed in June, since I already took the time off work. Particularly, for the panel “This Is Fine: Making Art While the World Burns.”

I’m trying not to fixate — at least, not as much these days — on how hard it is to do things while the world burns. All things considered, me and mine are getting by so much better than a lot of folks. But it’s okay to take a moment and miss what’s missing. Maybe I need to do more of that this week.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
COVID-19 epidemiology, in terms geeks like me understand…

Wash your hands, wear a mask, have a safe and non-infectious Memorial Day Weekend!

#Weeknotes S02 E20

Wow, twenty of these. Twenty weekly posts in a row. That’s a pretty solid blogging record for me, even if you discount the occasional post I’ve done in between Weeknotes posts. Clearly, gone are the days when I start a year with “I’m gonna blog more” and quit after two or three posts until June.

Unfortunately the fog of coronavirus brain has really hit me bad this weekend. Not like the week was uneventful. I mean, just yesterday I got a better-than-expected quarantine haircut, because I still have to appear in professional Zoom meetings on a daily basis — the audio for which sounds really good now that I’ve tweaked my mixer settings. Watched some good TV (season 4 of KIM’S CONVENIENCE) and some bad TV (THE LOST GOLD OF WORLD WAR II and THE CURSE OF SKINWALKER RANCH). Read some things. Dug up some old tutorials about recording and editing audio. Other stuff, too — the week’s details are just, well, foggy. So I’ll come back next week, how about that?

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Quickie Review of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) S01 E07: “Not All Men”

As if men needed another reason to be horrible… in The Twilight Zone.

If there’s a message in this one, it’s a little lost on me. But I think it’s hard to see the forest for the trees because the trees are pretty damn compelling. This TZ iteration gets the societal dark side of the human condition almost note perfect (In this episode: women who feel weird saying “no,” white knighting as a pretext, men who don’t take no for an answer, etc.), in the way that the original series never could — that is, under network and advertiser scrutiny. It makes me wonder how much further “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” or “The Shelter” would go if they were made today.

The difference is, a lot of those original episodes were about a turn. There was at least an illusion that your neighbors maybe weren’t paranoid or racist or would turn on you, which a strange occurrence would then dispel. But even though tiny meteorites are as good a catalyst as aliens manipulating the power grid or a nuclear false alarm, there’s no surprise in “Not all Men.” There’s no shock as “Not All Men” reveal themselves.

I almost rated the episode lower than I did until I realized: Maybe that’s the point. Maybe this is THE TWILIGHT ZONE of the 21st century, where the real shock is that there wasn’t that much illusion to dispel after all — which makes it poignant on its own terms! On the other hand, I didn’t rate it higher because even if I’m right about the point, I still feel like I had to reach a bit to get to that conclusion.

Other takeaways:

  • “The Martians might be coming.” — not the Venusians?’
  • Calling someone “a jobsworth” is definitely something worthy of a Serling script.
  • All the acts of violence men do, great and small, are all compressed and on display in one episode.
    • Patronizing men. And the women who enable it.
    • No surprise that Zeke the Geek is an asshole, “He used to be so bullied.”
    • “It’s just assholes being assholes.” Boys being boys.
    • “I guess I gave him a confusing vibe.”
    • “I just didn’t say anything.”
    • “At least the men are just as aggressive to each other, too.”
    • Yes, even the gay men.

The Jack Elam Score for “Not All Men” (out of 5):

1: “And this lemon-sucker here…”
2: “Ain’t nobody been exonerated yet, that’s for sure!”
3: “Sharp boys, real sharp boys!”
4: “A regular Ray Bradbury!”
5: “CHECK ‘EM FOR WINGS!!!”

#Weeknotes S02 E19

A REDISCOVERY OF SOUND
If you’re following me on Twitter, you’re probably sick of pictures of the new mixer setup. But I just had to show off this hack (cramming the mixer on a book stand so it stands up) that allows me to reclaim some desktop real estate.

I finally have it set up right so that the audio for my Zoom calls really is good. But I discovered an unintended benefit this week — pumping music from my laptop through the mixer and into a set of monitor headphones cranked up to an unwise volume actually took me back in time.

See, in the days before iPods or other devices connected to Bluetooth speakers, decent portable music depended on how big a boombox your arms could handle and how many tapes or CDs you were willing to cart around. The sound was as good as you could get (depending how much money you were willing you shelled out), but it was never as good as plugging into an actual stereo system. You know — those huge components connected to a turntable that your older relatives (or young, obnoxious hipster friends with turntables) have that play music when put together.

I spent a lot of time in my ‘tween and teen years with a set of headphones plugged into my dad’s stereo. For me, the joy wasn’t just in the so-called HiFi audio quality. It was hearing things you never heard on the radio — the things that used to creep into studio recordings that could make a studio performance real like chatter or odd reverbs. It was hearing every single instrument part being played. Studio chatter in between and sometimes underneath certain tracks. It really was a world I would regularly get lost in.

I’d gotten used to listening to “good enough” audio over the decades, same as everyone else. I’d basically quit bothering tweaking audio levels on the computers I’ve owned; maybe I could’ve been doing this all along. But stumbling back into the joys of audio — where even the shitty 192 kbps .mp3s I’ve accumulated but never re-ripped over the years sound good — actually put me back in touch with something deeper this week that I’d forgotten about.

FEEDING MY EARS
The latest episode of KCRW’s UNFICTIONAL breaks my heart.

When Fedelina Lugasan moved to the U.S. from the Philippines for work, she was comforted by the fact that she’d start her new life with a family she trusted. But her life and job were not what they told her it would be, and she was cut off from family back home. When an opportunity presented itself, she took her freedom into her own hands.

There, but for the lucky circumstances of me and my family, go I. Not that my mother ever experienced this, but Nanay’s voice in this piece (Lugasan and the woman doing the transalation) reminds me of Mom. And not just because this is the story of an older Filipina, but because the horrors in this story check off a lot of the boogeyman scenario boxes that my parents put into my head as a young kid about how Filipinos could be treated if we stepped out of line, but for the occasional intervention of other Filipinos, which justifies the “us vs. them” mentality that immigrants with the barest measure of privilege sometimes have.

On the brighter side, though, here’s a 10-minute discussion with a friend-slash-my favorite writer ever, M. Rickert, on THE COODE STREET PODCAST.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
For any of you out there thinking about applying to Viable Paradise

There was more to my week, but not much more. So I’m gonna wrap it up and knock some more things off my to do lists. Stay safe, wash your hands, and don’t let anyone tell you not to wear a mask!

#Weeknotes S02 E18

This process might take a licking, but it keeps on ticking. 18 of these in 2020, huh? I actually didn’t think I could keep this up longer than 6 to 8 weeks. Anyway, this week I felt like I had just a little bit more brain capacity than I’ve had during the quarantine times. So, here we are! Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first…

FEEDING MY HEAD
I knocked out a few more pages of RUST: A MEMOIR OF STEEL AND GRIT by Eliese Collette Goldbach and of course got distracted by a shiny thing of a non-fiction writing how-to anthology edited by Lee Gutkind, KEEP IT REAL. Okay, more than distracted; I’m about halfway through it.

FEEDING MY EARS
I heard about this a few day after the fact but once I heard it, I swear my mental fog started lifting this week: the Free Nationals doing their first on NPR Tiny Desk Concert since appearing in 2016 with Anderson .Paak and the release of their self-titled debut album, which of course I immediately got! Check it out and do yourself a favor — don’t skip ahead to the Anderson .Paak tune. You’ll be cheating yourself, trust me.

ROTTING MY BRAIN
I totally missed the boat on the anime PARANOIA AGENT when it made the rounds on Adult Swim in 2005. It’s back now and… well, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing when I saw the first episode last week. But I’m hooked now. When they call this a “psychological thriller” believe it — it really is a fucking psychological head trip of a thriller. There’s a reason this shit is on at 1:00 am.

CORONAVIRUS JOURNAL
Ugh, I hate using that term, but let’s just call this section what it is…

This year’s 4th Street Fantasy convention is postponed until next year, which I’m sure was a difficult decision for the organizers but the correct one, all things considered. It was the one and only con I’d planned on attending this year, even before the plague came upon us. They’ve offered to roll registration fees forward for 2021, which I took them up on. Also, this would’ve been the first weekend of the local annual Friends of the Library Book Sale, and yesterday would have been Free Comic Book Day. My attendance to either has been sporadic in recent years, but boy it really makes a difference when the choice not to go isn’t yours.

Aside from the impact on the social/SFFH part of my life, my adjustments to the new remote work world order have crystallized finally. Thanks to various webapps, I’m able to conduct 99% of my worklife in Ubuntu using Firefox (and a couple of official and non-official Linux versions of a couple of standalone apps) and, as usual, the rest of my life in Chrome. It’s a good enough demarcation line.

When I had no clue what I was going to be putting up for this week’s Weeknotes, I started a write-up of my work-at-home gear and workflow. But maybe that’s for another time. I will mention a new addition that finally arrived this week. It’s on the right…

I maintain this new USB mixer is not a coronavirus hobby purchase, because (a) I’ve been thinking about getting this exact model ever since I recorded readings for the ‘zine LAKESIDE CIRCUS and (b) I’ve been wanting better audio for my Zoom calls. Okay, maybe that does make me a little bit of a tool, but a different kind of tool than people who decide to start a podcast while in quarantine (which, if you believe the social medias, makes you a huge tool).

And you know what, if maybe a year or ago, I started the very beginnings of a rough idea of a sketch of what a very short monthly podcast might could possibly look like… still not a coronavirus hobby purchase!

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

That’s all I’ve got this week. Stay well, wash your hands, and if you really, truly, in good faith don’t think going outside is going to endanger you or the vulnerable in your community, wear a fucking mask at least, huh?

Even better though, stay inside. Really.

#Weeknotes S02 E17

This week, and maybe for the foreseeable future, I’m dispensing with the pretense of following any kind of structure for these Weeknotes. It’s kind of a reflection life in the time of coronavirus. Sure, there’s a loose structure (at least for those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home), but if I can’t keep up with other routines, there’s no point in being a stickler about something like a weekly blog post. I’m just not feeling it right now.

I haven’t had a haircut in 2 months now. This is a pretty good representation of my hair before and during quarantine.

My time is either working or not-working. And during not-working time, I haven’t been in a headspace to do much else except mindlessly read, write, and binge watch stuff and do all the things in DESTINY 2 that I never got do when life was more normal. I’ve got some Twilight Zone draft posts queued up that I never got to finish this week. I peruse the internet and social medias as usual, and even make note of the interesting stuff like I usually do. But collecting, compiling, commenting? Eh, if I don’t have the presence of mind to stick it on Twitter, then it just leaks out of my mental RAM.

Here’s one thing that’s stuck in my mind this week: How I’m the target audience for this commercial, featuring a song that’s been in my personal rotation one way or the other since it came out.

Anything else I’ve read, parts of different memoirs, chapters out of books on writing non-fiction, the occasional article? In one ear and — well, maybe not out the other, but stuck inside my head.

I’m not going to stress about it right now. And believe it or not that’s actually progress for me. I have a tendency to fight these things, solve for them, to take any situation where I’m not sure what to do next and take stock, see what I can crack, what I can hack, what I can turn into lemonade. What I haven’t tried in awhile? Just sitting with it and seeing what comes of it. It’s hard to do that and keep working at the same time; we do what we gotta do, I guess.

IN THE WILD

#Weeknotes S02 E16

It’s not like nothing report worthy happened this week. But I’m definitely experiencing that weird, distorted sense of time everyone’s been talking about. It feels like no time has past since last week’s Weeknotes. Yet, it’s seven days later. What have I been doing? I look back and, like the past couple of weeks, seem to recall only flashes.

Between last Sunday and this Sunday, it’s just been flat out at the work-from-home dayjob-in-exile. A couple of longish days in there that didn’t leave me with much left over afterward. Using my personal tools for work has been working just fine, with a few interesting issues here and there. I’m smugly doing everything my Windows-based dayjob requires using Ubuntu. But I’m balancing it out by being unofficial tech support for coworkers who aren’t as tech savvy. Makes you wonder just how much of the world continues to run thanks to Zoom’s remote control feature.

FEEDING MY HEAD
I eked a few more paragraphs out of some of the stuff in my reading queue…

  • Elise Collette Goldbach’s, RUST: A MEMOIR OF STEEL AND GRIT
  • Osama Alomar’s THE TEETH OF THE COMB & OTHER STORIES
  • Kit Reed’s STORY FIRST: THE WRITER AS INSIDER

ROTTING MY BRAIN
I’ve gotten back into the (bad) weekly habit of livetweeting snark at the History Channel’s THE CURSE OF OAK ISLAND and THE SECRET OF SKINWALKER RANCH. It’s a rabbit hole, to say the least.

via GIPHY

I’ve got a To Be Watched queue, but I can be forgiven for this distraction in this time of coronavirus, right? (I mean, god knows I didn’t have an excuse any of the other times I’ve done this.)

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

You know, I think that’s all I have this week. Maybe I’ll get to bed early and tackle Monday fresh!

Yeah, I know: famous last words!

Quickie Review of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) S01 E06: “Six Degrees of Freedom”

Five astronauts in search of an exit… out of The Twilight Zone.

Definitely another original series mash-up of every episode with: astronauts, a catastrophe, obvious throwback references, and more importantly, a meta examination on the nature of reality. It was simple and straightforward, but still compelling. But just because I don’t have a lot to say about it, “Six Degrees” is one of those really solid episodes that I’d expect to see if this new series lasts long enough to get its own holiday marathons. Other impressions I had…

  • Featuring The Bradbury won’t necessarily get this episode a “4” rating, now…
  • Oh, TINA is talky — is it going to go H.A.L.?
  • I’m gonna be pissed if this whole thing is just someone’s delusion.
  • Otherwise, this would be a great pilot for a sci-fi TV series.
  • I swear, the astronaut who loses his shit is THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S answer to STAR TREK:TOS’s redshirts.

Okay, so while this episode does feature The Bradbury

The Jack Elam Score for “Six Degrees of Freedom” (out of 5):

1: “And this lemon-sucker here…”
2: “Ain’t nobody been exonerated yet, that’s for sure!”
3: “Sharp boys, real sharp boys!”
4: “A regular Ray Bradbury!”
5: “CHECK ‘EM FOR WINGS!!!”

#Weeknotes S02 E15

Ultra-short this week, because hey, Easter!

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

I feel like I’m slowly adjusting to the new normal. No, strike that — I feel like I’m further along in the grieving process over the old normal. I’ve got something of a routine where working the dayjob from home is concerned. Aside from that, I don’t know if me and mine have a “new normal” yet, because things are still shifting. Well, we’ll see what happens this week.

Also, Thundercat’s new album IT IS WHAT IT IS is pretty great. I recommend!

IN THE WILD
I know, Mazikeen. I know…

Catch you on the flip.

Quickie Review of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) S01 E05: “The Wunderkind”

Art imitates life imitating a reality TV show imitating life… uh… “Twilight Zone.”

I hoped for a follow-through on the OMEN-esque vibe I got seeing the trailer. Some kind of new update of “It’s a Good Life.” Of course, the last episode that brought this to my mind didn’t seem so good to me. “The Wunderkind” had a promising premise, a compelling character, and the clever throwback touches I’ve come to expect from the new series. Trouble is, it couldn’t get off the note of “Look, look, it’s about how we’ve normalized the weird shit going on in Washington DC, get it?” The other impressions I came away with…

  • Five episodes and I have to be imagining the continual references to “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” That jukebox could be referencing a bunch of episodes. Right…?
  • You’re blatantly mixing your o.g. TZ references with John Cho strapped to hospital bed, there — part “To Serve Man,” part “Eye of the Beholder.”
  • But only in the modern TZ could you have the Asian character say, “I want Justin Timberlake to play me in the HBO movie!”
  • The polls being “high tech baloney.” A child who “tells it like it is.” Hm, seems familiar…
  • Only in the modern TZ can Asian guys be selfish a-holes proposing ridiculous candidates/ideas, blinded by the privilege that lets him think, “Everybody wins, nobody gets hurt.” Yeah, right.
  • Nope, the episode took my suspension of disbelief a step too far. Why would parents let Raff near them again. I could believe they could go for it once, but twice? Obviously, because the plot needs it.
  • Look, little Bobby Flay jumping up on the cutting board.
  • Ah, here it is — “That was a good thing you did, Oliver. A good thing.”

I’m reminded of the interview James Gunn (the sci-fi writer, not the director) did with Rod Serling where Serling mused about the consistency of the original TZ: “It wasn’t a good show every week. It wasn’t a good show, sometimes, three weeks running.” “A” for effort here, but…

The Jack Elam Score for “Wunderkind” (out of 5):

1: “And this lemon-sucker here…”
2: “Ain’t nobody been exonerated yet, that’s for sure!”
3: “Sharp boys, real sharp boys!”
4: “A regular Ray Bradbury!”
5: “CHECK ‘EM FOR WINGS!!!”