I consumed so much content (and food) in December, so much so that it was difficult to pick what impacted me and what I wanted to write about.
But hey, that’s a good problem to have. Better than struggling to find interesting stuff to watch and read. Let’s go.
Movies and TV
The Expanse, Season 4 / ★★★★
In so many ways, writing about a show on its fourth season is pointless. So what if the season is good? It doesn’t stand on its own, you’ll have to start in the beginning anyway.
So let’s do that instead. The Expanse is a sci-fi show set in a future where humanity has colonized the stars. There’s the OG humans on Earth (now unified under the United Nations), there’s hyper-futuristic humans on Mars (“they turned a lifeless rock into a garden”), and lastly, there’s the neglected human laborers in the asteroid belt, called Belters. This show is probably the best at world-building, and the factions themselves are almost as interesting as the story.
The show begins with people discovering mysterious alien technology. It is so powerful and unpredictable that whoever can unlock it, can tilt the balance of power in their favor. Earth is stagnant and rotten — the best and brightest went to Mars. Mars is still looked down by Earth, but it has so much more potential. And Belters are abused by everyone. They do all the work and reap none of the benefits. Controlling this alien tech could change everything.
Since then, we see each side fighting for the tech and all the political maneuvering and the looming threat of war. It’s thriller mystery at its best, and frankly, sci-fi at its best. Sci-fi, done right, doesn’t have to be about space lasers and aliens, but rather, about human fragility, hopes, dreams, and ambition.
The Mandalorian, Season 1 / ★★★1/2
I’m not a Star Wars person, and yet I’ll be writing about two Star Wars-related content this month. Disney is really good at pumping out content huh.
The Mandalorian takes place in the Star Wars universe, but it is much more. It is unburdened by all the expectations and restrictions of the Star Wars franchise. Instead, it gets to start anew and choose what it wants to be. In this case, it’s a space western, and we follow a bounty hunter as he escapes some bad guys and protect Baby Yoda. The show doesn’t try to be anything more. And in that way, it’s perfect.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker / ★★
This film is a disaster. Maybe it is passable in the theater, but minutes later when it all sinks in, you realize oh my god it’s bad.
I don’t want to spoil the plot points, but honestly, the plot of this movie doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. It’s just fast-paced jumping from one action scene to the next. Don’t ask questions. Don’t think about it too much. And then maybe, you might actually enjoy the film.
Knives Out / ★★★1/2
Ironically, Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed Knives Out, also directed The Last Jedi. It’s a small world I guess, and the shadow of Star Wars looms over everything.
Luckily, Knives Out is quite good. It’s a murder mystery with an eccentric detective (hey, just like Murder on the Orient Express). The main difference is, the detective played by Daniel Craig, is much dumber than the one in Orient Express.
This makes a much more refreshing movie, because it’s certainly possible that Daniel Craig, like the audience, could be duped by the unlikely circumstances of the murder. Holistically, I still think Orient Express was a better package with a better cast and more interesting characters, but Knives Out certainly has a better mystery. It’s a great movie to be sure, and I think a must-watch for anyone interested in the genre.
I’m deeply fascinated by common sense obvious things that turn out to be wrong. Most notably about how the death penalty or harsher punishments don’t deter crime and just lead to tragic executions of innocent people.
And yet when I read that the Seattle Public Library was no longer going to charge late fines, my first thought was “but then everyone would just return stuff late.” Well, I’m glad to be wrong here.
Turns out that other libraries throughout the US have stopped charging late fines and they’ve found basically no difference in the timeliness of returns. Yeah, late fines don’t deter late returns. Not only that, but it turns out late fines disproportionately hurt lower-income families, who need public libraries the most.
So this is a thoroughly interesting read (if you’re nerdy about stuff like this), and it’s a quick one too, so jump in and let me know what you think.
Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg comes off as slimy to so many of us on the left. He is too composed, calculating, and his story keeps changing. The latest revelation comes from Ashley Feinberg (who also found Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter account and unearthed Trump’s weird hair treatment).
Feinberg found someone who very likely is Mayor Pete editing his own Wikipedia entry, and tracked the account’s activities in detail from the very beginning to the point where Pete probably gave the account to a confidant. It’s a thrilling read and if you hate Pete, a great motivator to go campaign for someone who actually believes in something or in anything at all.
You Don’t Know Bernie, Buzzfeed News
I’m not really a Bernie person but it’s hard not to respect him after reading this profile of him.
It’s clear Bernie never really wanted to be president, and probably doesn’t even want to be president right now. It’s also clear Bernie has a mission to mobilize young people and wants to let us know that our voices and action matter. Progressive ideas are popular and possible, we just need to do our part.
Here’s a kicker from the profile:
The secret, it turns out, is that in addition to taking this work very seriously, Bernie Sanders also takes it very personally. The secret is that a mostly solitary man—a man who has spent most of his political career on the outskirts, who’s never really fit into someone’s idea of a politician, who’s “cast some lonely votes, fought some lonely fights, mounted some lonely campaigns”—is now trying to win a presidential campaign, maybe his last, by making people feel less alone.
Yeah, Bernie is just a lonely and grumpy man. But if he can inspire millions and create change, we can too.
Problems of output are problems of input, Austin Kleon
It’s funny how as someone who does creative work everyday, it’s actually very easy to forget to sit back and consume other people’s work.
From the article:
“I often get most blocked when I lose sight of why I began my work in the first place: because I was inspired by the work of others and wanted to join in the fun. When I stall out, it’s time to start taking things in again: read more, re-read, watch movies, listen to music, go to art museums, travel, take people to lunch, etc. Just being open and alert and on the lookout for That Thing that will get me going again.”
This is why I started a media journal. There’s so much good stuff out there. They’re thought-provoking, they’re inspiring, or sometimes, just plain fun simple entertainment. I want to consume more, and hopefully process them better.