I have not had the time nor the energy to blog as much these past couple of years. Professional and family life demands more of me these days. I worked more on my Nietzsche blog than I have in recent years. So that took a bit of my blogging time and energy. Here (in no particular order) is my annual rundown of various odds and ends that I didn't blog about from the past year.
I went to the movie theater twice in 2017. You can read my review of Blade Runner 2049 here. The other film I saw, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, was not exactly a disappointment but it wasn't one of Nolan's stronger films either. Long-time readers know that Nolan is my favorite contemporary director and the film had several innovative and interesting qualities, particularly in its interweaving of three different narrative time scales and its use of sound effects. But I wouldn't give it higher than a 7 on my scale. I just didn't feel inspired to write about it even though it was a decent effort.
I read several new books throughout the year, mostly philosophy and military history. The one work of fiction I tackled was a novel that has been on my list for years - Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. I enjoyed this novel so much. Capote's style is impeccable, the narrative is gripping and the ending is heartrendingly nostalgic. It is a power story, expertly woven in glorious prose - a classic that I highly recommend, regardless of what type of reading you normally gravitate toward.
Neil Young put out his 38th and 39th studio albums this year. I reviewed The Visitor recently. He released Hitchhiker earlier in the year - a previously unreleased album of songs that mostly appear on other albums by Neil. Recorded back in 1976, this album has run through the rumor-mill among fans of Neil literally for decades. It features a couple of previously unreleased songs that I have (in other versions) in my rather large bootleg Neil collection. It is noteworthy that most of these songs were written as they were performed in the studio, literally all in a single day, which is rather incredible. Otherwise, however, Hitchhiker turns out to be little more than glorified "demo" tape of Neil on solo guitar. Even though I can appreciate the record as a document of Neil's famous spontaneous creativity, I still didn't care to purchase an acoustical recording of songs that are much more fleshed-out on other albums I own.
The Atlanta Braves sucked in 2017. I endured a long season of steady disappointments and the prospects for 2018 don't really seem that bright at the moment, though there is some young talent to root for. Nevertheless, I followed the team in dedicated fashion, mostly on the radio, but I never got around to seeing a game at their new stadium even though it is located much closer to my house than was Turner Field. Maybe next year.
Our Destin vacation was wonderful and relaxing but was cut a day short by Hurricane Irma. Jennifer and I made a wide swing through Alabama on the way home to avoid the horrific traffic jams in Atlanta. It felt strange to leave the beauty of the Florida panhandle only to rush home to be in the path of the storm. Irma literally petered out on my doorstep with minimal wind and rain. We didn't even lose power, which was a surprise. It was basically a nonevent for me but it gave us all something to worry about (not that we needed more to worry about in 2017, things were bad enough).
I watched more television (well, a lot of it was streaming on my iPad) in 2017 than I have in many years. Although I have previously only mentioned it in passing, I am a Game of Thrones fan. I found the seventh season to be very entertaining. I also rummaged through Netflix and watched all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad for the first time. It is a rather bleak story, spiced with occasional humor in earlier episodes, superbly acted, beautifully shot, and very well written. The thing that surprised me the most about Breaking Bad was how much its style reminded me of what is probably my all-time favorite TV series, The X-Files. With good reason since Vince Gilligan created the show and was previously involved with The X-Files. The influence of the older series is unmistakable even though the narrative for the two shows is very different.
Breaking Bad was an excellent series but, frankly, I didn't find it to be "the greatest TV show ever" like several of my friends have mentioned through the years. It is an interesting story filled with complex characters; clearly superior TV but I wasn't blown away by it.
Watching it influenced me to start re-watching The X-Files, however. I am finishing up season three as of this post. This is probably my third or fourth time through the series, but I last watched it over a decade ago. The dynamics between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson on-screen, along with the (mostly) great writing (the series suffers in seasons 8 and 9) and high production qualities make it well-worth repeat viewings. Sure, it's a show about alien abductions and the paranormal, but it is also about the development of the complex relationship between Mulder and Scully and the science fiction elements all serve as metaphors for modernity: abuse of power, fate versus free will, the importance of faith (or at least belief) today, the nature of evil, the interplay between friendship and attraction, etc.
Also in the mix were two very different shows, Westworld and Deadwood. I streamed both of these via HBO through my Sling TV subscription. I only made it through the first five episodes of Westworld before I realized, despite the work of great actors like Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, I was simply indifferent to any of the mysteries that show tried to create; boring and mostly cliche. Deadwood, on the other hand, was recommended by a friend and I was not disappointed. The early days of the wild west is not the type of setting I usually go for. But this show was humorous, dramatic, surprising, and an extremely well acted period piece. Season 3 got a bit muddled but, overall, the whole series was highly entertaining. The show became even more interesting to me when I discovered that it was all based on what happened historically - the settlement and most of the main characters are based upon real people and events.
I'm not sure why I watched so much TV in 2017. I will carry on with The X-Files and am excited that Season 11 will air on January 3. But, I have no other plans to allow the "glass teat" to get its clutches around my mind in 2018. You never know though, right?
I got a new iPad a couple of weeks ago. Once again, Apple amazes me with how easily it is to transfer your entire app environment seamlessly over from an old iPad to a new one. I wish things were that easy with my PC upgrades. All my apps are faster with greater functionality and far higher resolution. Wonderful stuff.
My primary iPad usage continues to be my tinkering with Flipboard. Since my last Loose Ends post my little digital publishing empire has grown to 40 magazines with 3,o85 followers as of this post. This blog and my Flipboard are as far as I wade into "social media." I still have no desire to open a Facebook account. I suppose if I were more active in social media, however, I might get more followers. But I am happy where I am.
Notice Magazine and Notice: Art remain my most popular Flipboard ventures. Although Notice Magazine is designed as "quick news," featuring articles rotated in and out over any given 3-day period, there is a section at the end of Notice Magazine where I keep a small "permanent" collection of articles I deem of special importance. You might want to check them out:
From NPR - President Obama's eulogy on the tragic Charleston shootings. He sings "Amazing Grace" at the end.
From The Daily Beast - "Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion"
From The New York Times - Roy Scranton's excellent article "We're Doomed, Now What?"
From The Huffington Post - "Dog Butt Looks Like Jesus Christ in a Robe"
From Buzzfeed - "26 Pictures That Will Give You Perspective on What Really Matters"
From Business Insider - "This map shows the US really has 11 separate 'nations' with entirely different cultures"
From Gizmodo - "Half of Our Planet's Wildlife is Gone. Here's Why."
From ThyBlackMan.com - "Stop Erasing History"
From The Atlantic - "Mass Shootings in the United States: 'This Is Who We Are'"
From The Huffington Post - "This Charlottesville Documentary is Required Viewing for Americans in 2017"
From Seeking Alpha - "You're Just Not Prepared for What's Coming"
Happy New Year! Here's for a much better 2018!
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