So, here we sit, the dog and I, contemplating either our navels or our immortal souls, and I was never able - despite a few bandit raids into the dark of the theology faculty - to find anyone who could with certainty tell me the difference. It’s a Saturday in September and not all’s right with the world.
I saw a meme recently which said that it wasn’t enough to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes; you had to accept their experience even if it didn’t accord with your own. I’m all for specificity and if the additional instruction helps that’s only a good thing - but I’m also bothered by the idea that it’s possible to miss that implication in the original saying.
Thomas Nagel once asked “what is it like to be a bat?” It’s a great essay, dishing out some pretty deep thinking in a gently amusing way. (One waypoint in Nagel’s journey I always remember: you still wouldn’t know what it was like to be a bat if you were temporarily turned into a bat, because you’d be experiencing what it was like to be you transformed into a bat.)
Cannot stop listening to Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, except when I’m listening to Amalia Rodrigues.
Seichō Matsumoto’s Inspector Imanishi Investigates. I loved Tokyo Express and picked up this one at Daunt’s in Marylebone.
I’m impatient to read the translation of Kohei Saito’s Marx in the Anthropocene. In the meantime, I’m learning more about May 68 - something I should have done ages ago, which feels very relevant to the UK right now.
Note to self - it’s always important to read around your analyses. I was greatly enjoying a book of political history recently when I tripped over the author denouncing the Covid vaccine as a capitalist conspiracy to oppress the working class. It doesn’t invalidate the whole text, of course, but it is relevant information about the lens through which they see the world.
She-Hulk on Disney+ is fun. I’m having trouble with Rings of Power. I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about Andor. (I would dearly love to see the characters in Rebels cross over into the live action shows.)
I’ve been messing around with a borrowed Quest headset and it’s more interesting than I thought. That said, VR is going to need to cut loose from the majors to become what it needs to be; there’s the usual violence:yes, sex:no dynamic, and I suspect that would extend to anything politically challenging, as well. In other words until it goes a bit more indie, VR is basically murder school.
That said I’m getting to be respectable with a lightsaber.
The whole process of national mourning is only getting more weird. I keep seeing the airships in Flash Gordon: “all citizens will make merry, on pain of death”. I know she means a lot to a lot of people, but I’m not one of them. That has to be okay too. Mourn, if you feel sad. Others may feel angry - Britain was still very much a colonial power under her rule - or conflicted. But the strange thing is that on Monday it’ll be done, and I think the national emotional tide may go out very fast thereafter. Personal grief, in my all-too-extensive recent experience, is long, slow and deep; this feels different, like Corelli’s temporary madness of love.
Liz Truss doesn’t like the Oxford Comma. I’m always fascinated by grammar absolutists. “Adverbs are bad writing!” No, they’re not. The repetition of the most common adverbial ending in English, “-ly”, is unpleasant. Adverbs are perfectly acceptable descriptive modifiers, full of humour, range and purpose. Use them if you want to, don’t if you don’t, but ruling out a whole class of words which have evolved as part of a language (indeed, of most languages) is artistic petulance, not style.
The Oxford Comma has a simple use case. If you decline to use it when you need it, you’re going to end up confusing or offending people. If you use it when it’s not necessary, it stops the flow. How is this worth anyone’s time to get in a snit about?
But somehow it is.
Ramblings on bat mentation, grammar and genre tv? How can you resist?
Just came to say that I love your newsletter. Never too long and always interesting.
To respond to a few points (because that's what the comments are for right, not just fighting with strangers).
Well, I agree with most of what you said (navels, immortal souls, memes, other people's and bat's shoes).
Concerning the Queen, I have to admit that as a French man, I'm a bit bemused and amused by the whole thing. All of it feels like it comes from a parallel universe for me. The very concept of Monarchy still existing in the 21st Century, the decorum, the compulsory official sadness, all of it.
May 68... Yeah, we're many countries in serious need of a new one. Or a July 1789, you choose.
Grammar. As a non-native speaker, I never understood the big deal with the Oxford comma. Not equivalent in French, I mostly learned the American version of English, but I must admit that since I discovered the Oxford comma a few years ago (through debates online, where else), I find it very useful.
Adverbs. Never sure what to think about them. I see how avoiding them can make your writing stronger, but they do have their purpose too.
She-Hulk: not the best show around, but probably the most fun show around at the moment.
Rebels characters in Andor. I haven't thought about it, but as most of them have been cast for Ahsoka, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a cameo or two in Andor first. I hope Andor will be good, but I also hope Star Wars stops making prequels, prequels are lame and devoid of interest most of the time. Even the Obi-Wan show started much better than expected, but fell completely flat in the end because of the lack of stakes basically (which is the problem with most prequels).
With that being said, I do love Rings of Power with all my heart and I'll fight people for it (but not in comment sections, I'm better than this). Yes, I'm contractiding myself with the prequels thing above, but because of the way Tolkien wrote his world and history, it gets a pass. Call me a hypocrite, I don't care. Although, I think this is one of the main of the many problems of Peter Jackson's Hobbit: trying to make it a prequel for Lord of the Rings and not its own thing.