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I'm reading Alan Moore's Providence (a twelve-issues mini of which I think nine have been published so far). Some random observations:


  • You could say it's something like "Planetary meets Lovecraft and the Gang."

  • You have to assume trigger warnings for graphical depictions of pretty much everything you could imagine.

  • The way it plays with time, dreams, and symbols is fascinating, and leverages the medium very well. It's Alan Moore, of course; that's kind of what he does.

  • The humor... I don't know if humor is the right word, YMMV, but another way of describing this would be Mr. Magoo Goes to Hell. This is bleakly funny sometimes, and other times almost intolerable. Every issue ends with a few pages of the protagonist's Commonplace Book (more of a journal, actually), which you definitely shouldn't skip over.

  • The story is its own meta, unashamedly and deliberately so.

Movie paused to ask myself

... Did Dick, dressed as Batman, just comment on some katana-wielding Sisters by saying That would make them nunjas?

Yes. Yes, I think he did. Of course he did.

I think I now understand better Robin's tactical role. No matter how focused you are on following your plan, it's impossible to stay on mission when there's this kid dressed like a colorblind elf saying things like that. You just can't. You'd be aiming at Batman's back, ready to shoot, and you'd hesitate half a second too long, struggling between your cherished goal of killing Batman and your sudden, physical need to shoot that kid so he'll shut the fuck up. Must've been excruciating.

Hell, I'm sure Batman had to train himself specifically so he wouldn't stop during a fight to make sure he heard Dick say what he knows he said. Alfred probably has to deal every month with one or two young orphans bent on revenge who have crossed the world to reach Wayne Manor and learn Battle Punning at the feet of Dick Grayson.

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Another almost impossibly beautiful thing

Look at this (still not peer-reviewed) bioRxiv paper: Thanatotranscriptome: genes actively expressed after organismal death.

One one hand, yes, it's intellectually fascinating molecular biology, and might even help understand how things work for non-dead organisms.

On the other hand, they are studying the thanatotranscriptome. I feel some sort of IP routing error landed on my feed reader a paper from a much more interesting parallel timeline. This is a paper you want to print out and read by candlelight, while a storm howls outside as if Nature knew of your plans and were voicing her outrage at the very idea.

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I can't even

I continue going through the Poirot tv series. The Poirot-Hastings-Japp dynamic is a joy to watch; most of the time it's a low key, deeply amiable version of the Holmes-Watson-Lestrade archetype, and some days that's precisely what I want.

Right now I'm watching a bit of The A.B.C. Murders where Hastings is washing up the tea service the victim's relatives have just used during their interview at Whitehaven Mansions, while Poirot stands next to him wearing the tidiest white apron you've ever seen, drying things up as Hastings passes them over, but passing them back if he seems something wrong with them.

You can tell they are already used to this by the way this is done automatically while they discuss the murders, and how Hastings doesn't complain or even makes a face as Poirot returns the same saucer for the third time (and Hastings spends about 17% of his time making faces at Poirot), he just takes him back and re-washes it without even looking at it.

If that's not domesticity, I don't know what is.

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Books! (Death and History Edition)

Maigret's Little Joke (Georges Simenon, 2016/#41): A reread. Maigret relaxes and has fun, and so did this reader.

The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien (Georges Simenon, 2016/#42): A reread.

The Shadow in the Courtyard (Georges Simenon, 2016/#43): A reread.

Retrogame Archeology (John Aycock, 2016/#44): A low-level look at some of the programming tricks in old (as in, mostly 1980's, and some earlier than that) computer games. Intellectually fascinating on its own, it also naturally triggered a certain amount of nostalgia; not just about specific games and programming environments, but also the mindset involved in playing or woking in them. Feelings can be associated to skills as strongly as to anything else, I guess.

Eminence (Jean-Vincent Blanchard, 2016/#45): A readable biography of Richelieu; not disparaging, but rather realistic about his skills as politician and statesman. Spends a lot of time describing Richelieu's efforts and difficulties managing his relationship with Louis XIII, which was clearly a more-than-full-time job on itself and, in a political system like France's, a prerequisite for doing anything else; it's fascinating how the still not quite centralized politics of the place and time are shown in the frequent *military* challenges from nobles (including relatives) to the monarchy, something that definitely feels pre-modern. If nothing else, Richelieu wasn't just a passionate patron of theater (seriously, he spent a lot of money and time on incredibly luxurious theater halls and plays), but also quite good at staging psychologically impressive political drama, not that people around him were particularly stoic either. I mean, the concept and practice of the "royal favorite" is fascinating from a comparative point of view, particularly the custom of giving them power in addition to money and palaces; human, perhaps, in the context of a culture where government was something you did instead of an entity you were part of (and would've probably applied to female mistresses as well if not for the axiomatic misogyny), but awfully problematic from a practical point of view.


Might as Well be Dead (Rex Stout, 2016/#46): A shortish, pleasant Nero Wolfe story (despite an unexpected death).

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On the constancy of human nature

Today I heard for the first time Figaro's aria from The Barber of Seville with translated subtitles. Mutatis mutandis, it could've been released yesterday! (on Tidal, probably) He's literally boasting about how cool his life is, how he's the greatest guy in town, how everybody choruses his name, and about all the "perks" that come with his job (interestingly enough, both young women and young gentlemen).

About 85% of the reason why I love this song is Bugs Bunny, but now that I've read the lyrics, I like it even more.

ETA: Even if you already knew the lyrics, do watch the video. The guy playing Figaro nails the attitude.

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Maybe another day

Began reading Maslow's The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, but gave up about half a chapter into it. I like the idea of looking at healthy psychological mechanisms being as important as looking as pathologies, and I'm of course always interested in human self-improvement, but Maslow's concept of a well-defined class of superior human beings being all-around superior, and his tacit certainty that there's only one way of being healthy, and that he can instinctively pick the "better humans" out, are rather troubling. His affirmation that psychologically healthy beings are always quick, certain, and correct in their moral judgments, and his casual inclusion of homosexuality among the "obviously" unhealthy behaviors, were just two among the rapidly accumulating warning signs.

I don't want to go Godwin, but the temptation is certainly there. So I dumped that book and instead read a biography of Richelieu.

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My reaction to Rebirth #1 is my icon

Probably the worst part of being a Flash is that you're drafted into the early stages of every damn single end-of-everything multiversal conflict, and they keep happening more and more frequently.

We're rushing towards some sort of singularity where we'll just have #1 issues of everything every week: Pages 1-7 say it's a new universe and make an impressionistic description of it, pages 8-10 have the titular hero defeat a foe but with an unsettling hint of something cosmic going on, in pages 11-18 a cosmic entity we've never heard of before will gather the hero and about forty-five others to fight some sort of multiversal threat that's an overpowered variation of the one three weeks ago, in page 19 everybody sacrifices themselves, page 20 is all white with a box saying something about death, page 21 shows a new world and something about life or hope or rebirth or whatever.

Under no circumstance will you get to page 12 without encountering the word "crisis."

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This is almost impossibly beautiful

The German government has been working on a Thesaurus Linguae Latinae so insanely comprehensive that it considers every usage of every word up to at least the third century.
They began on 1894, and published the volume for 'P' on 2010 (although they skipped over 'N' and will have to go back to it eventually, and there's some doubt about whether they'll be able to meet their 2050 deadline; at least they won't have to dedicate time to IT upgrades, as the entire project still runs on index cards and slips of paper).

Just thinking about it makes me happier.

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