News-Adjacent Reading

Ask yourself what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them. Over time, your broader opinions will then evolve in better directions than if you focus on having an immediate emotional reaction to the events right before your eyes. The more tempted you are to judge, the higher the return from trying to read something factual and substantive instead.

Tyler Cowen on finding saner, more productive ways to relate to the news (if you must).

Interiority

To explore someone else’s interiority is not just to flash, at this moment, to what you think the other person might be thinking or feeling. It’s a layered, almost literary thing, to imagine the history of their experiences (known and unknown, actual and possible) and to think through those experiences, thoughts, and feelings all the way through to the end.

Today I found myself thinking back to this, from the January 12 edition of the Kottke/Carmody Noticing newsletter.

Streets of Fire

Streets of Fire. It’s such a good mash-up. Combine a western-style rescue movie with hardboiled dialogue (Michael Pare has a good John Wayne-ish drawl to his delivery sometimes), and set it in a rockabilly + ’80s glam alternate universe, and take some musical breaks. It stays pretty high-energy and moves along quickly. Early work from Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Bill Paxton, Rick Moranis. It’s just plain fun.

The Revenant

The Revenant. Second viewing (the first). I appreciate it so much more this time around. Jumping out this time were the recurring trees that save his life or support him throughout. (“The wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots. If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you see its stability.”) Like when he uses a branch as a cane. Or when injured, he’s hauled on a pallet of branches. When leaving his son for the last time, he turns away and props himself on a tree trunk. When escaping downriver, he floats on a log. He’s sheltered by an impromptu branch hut during a storm, a tree breaks his fall from a cliff, a tree branch makes a decoy when trying to lure Fitzgerald out of hiding. I also liked the nature interludes – elk crossing a river, buffalo stampede, avalanche – that make this epic tale seem so small, and nature indifferent.

Seeing What Is There

This past Saturday, I woke up early and went hiking. The day started gloomy like the photo above, then misty, then drizzly, and the weather got worse and worse as the morning went on.

Toward mid-day, the rain was coming down pretty steady. I came around a bend on the trail, walking up to a lookout point. A man and woman were standing there with their ponchos on, looking out at the wall of rain and fog and the dark fuzzy outlines of the ridge beyond.

I started a little small talk. “Not much of a view today!”

The guy smiled and laughed and gently corrected me: “Well… it’s different.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I liked it, overall, and it had just enough small things to drive me a little nuts. Snoke is a misfire (just call Ed Harris! You have the budget!), and so were the various little animals. That one ship’s jump to light speed was sublime. And very good space debris throughout. I like our time with Rey and Kylo, and Poe’s debacles. Finn was wasted, unfortunately. Benicio Del Toro is the best, but I wish they could have found him some other way. The space chase could and should have been gut-wrenching, but something about the cuts and pacing made it just sort of… there. I wonder how I’ll feel whenever I rewatch it again. Of the latest batch, this ranks behind Rogue One. Filed under: Star Wars.

Green

I spent a few hours at my favorite nearby park today. Heavy rains had the creek running high in the banks. Chilly air still had some snap to it, a different damp, one that makes your cheeks flush but makes you more eager to set out rather than bundle up. Walk along the creek, look out into the forest, and see the flora feeling the same way – branches blushing green, let’s get started, stretching out from the greys and browns of the last few months. Buds to unlayer and blossom soon enough. Just you wait. A few weeks ago I spent a week volunteering in Saguaro National Park, which was mostly grey and brown. I learned all about the cactus, succulents, flowers, trees, and more than I thought there was to know about grasses. It rained a bit before my arrival there, and there too I got to the first greens of the season peeking out. It was a preview of a preview, a hint of spring before spring. I came back home craving the first greens and what comes after. And out today, I think I see the plants craving it, too. Following through on their own promise. Just you wait. We’ll make it through the grey and brown and step out again.