What a weird start to 2023.
As much as I’d like to think this is a new beginning, we’re past the pandemic, the world is being righted (again), it all still feels a bit strange. Work, home, all of these feel just a little bit off and I cannot help finding myself on long walks listening to random music aimlessly. It’s not even good music, it’s just music that can guide one’s steps and maintain momentum, music to keep you going while you’re trying to run away from your thoughts. Weird, as I said.
Nonetheless, I have been reading, listening and watching. Not a lot, but enough to convince myself that I am not just a machine that produces slide decks or speaks persuasively in meetings.
I’ve been listening to the Tennis Podcast a LOT. Despite the lack of any personal stake, and by that I mean the fact that my personal favorite, Carlos Alcaraz is not playing, and despite the sheer impossibility to watch any of the games live since it’s all happening while this part of the world sleeps, I have been keeping up with the Australian Open via the Tennis Podcast. It’s an interesting way to keep oneself busy, getting invested in the progress of all these players who I know nothing about, imbuing them with guessed attributes and imagined personality traits — Sinner is balanced, Tsitsipas is anxious, Djokovic is mean and selfish :)
I have listened to the Tennis Podcast also as a companion to Netflix’ successor to Drive to Survive, Break Point, the tennis focused docu series — an unworthy successor if you ask me, as it fails to capture any stake or drama beyond the predictable inner struggles of any professional athlete. I doubt it will do the same for tennis as Drive to Survive did for F1. Drive to Survive gave F1 exactly what it was lacking: intrigue, politics, personality. Break Point seems to be doing exactly the opposite to tennis: it creates these stereotypical personalities, gives nothing away about the politics of the game and has zero intrigue. It’s about personal strife, something we saw depicted soooo much better in series like Last Chance U. The first episodes were thoroughly disappointing.
Have also been listening to Death Panel — very slowly as the episodes are very very dense. Still think it’s a solid listen but it may be less exciting for those who are not into American socio politics.
On the watch front, lots toreport. Aside from Break Point mentioned above, I binged Alpha Males — a Spanish series about 4 men trying to deal with being …well, “real men” in a changing world. It’s a light hearted, comedic look at masculinity and its reinvention and while it may seem like this is not a subject that should be tackled with a smile, I found it liberating to be able to laugh at things that normally seem to only create animosity and violence.
We also watched part of Elles, starting Juliette Binoche and did not manage to finish it partly because it was a bit too dreary for a Friday night, but also partly because it felts a bit too unstructured and we were getting sleepy. It’s an interesting analysis of the idea of prostitution and how women negotiate the relationship with sex and the body, but I found it mostly stressful because one of the young women having to prostitute herself to be able to live in Paris was Eastern European. I’ve constantly struggled with the idea that one can take these heartbreaking stories and use them to make a point, transforming them into a sort of metaphor when they are so real for so many people. I remember a photography exhibition at the Barbican where the author had taken so many pictures of despondent, lonely and poor women in Romania, Georgia and Macedonia and I felt so heartbroken to be standing in front of those images and consume them like they were art. But there you have it… maybe this is how people find out about the things that are not right with the world. Through art.
Another film I didn’t manage to finish was Amsterdam. I wrote an entire paragraph about what I thought worked and didn’t work with it but …to be honest, I just did not get what they were trying to do. It wasn’t funny like Knives out, or quirky like a Wes Anderson. It was just… meh.
I did also watch Tar, starring Cate Blanchett and boy, did she not disappoint. Wonderful acting in what was a solid movie but by no means the masterpiece everyone made it out to be. It kindof tells you what it’s all about by minute 40, and then it’s just a slow, and very grandiose slope towards a predictable ending. Not sure what all the fuss is about. In the line of good, mainstream movies of the past 5–10 years this is not in the top 10.
Reading wise, not the most successful of weeks. I cannot seem to focus at all. My mind keeps skipping to work and I find that only things that don’t miss a beat can hold my attention for a long period of time. So, the only things that did have been an article about white women travel influencers in The Baffler and one about the visual blandness of Netflix-produced movies written by Haley Nahman in her newsletter Maybe Baby. I’d spoken to my partner on more than one occasion about the latter subject because there was no shortage of Netflix productions that we thought could have been great but for the set design and general look and feel. Anything from scifi (Annihilation) to drama (Lady Chatterley’s Lover), thriller (Gray Man) and historical (All Quiet on the Western Front) feels a bit too…clean. My friend used to say that “the shoes and seats are never worn in” to explain this phenomenon, meaning that somehow the sets never seem to have any patina. This also made me think of the time I got into a huge fight about why the old Star Wars were better than the new, and it took me over 5 years to understand what my interlocutor meant by “they don’t feel real”. I now understand that he was referring to the fact that in the newest Star Wars you cannot feel the weight and texture of things as much as they’ve tried with CGI, whereas in the old ones you could, because a lot of the ships and animals were actually made of matter as opposed to pixels.
But I digress. Those two I read plus a fair amount of uninteresting stuff about chatGPT which seems to be the latest obsession of the advertising world, proving once and for all that there is nothing this industry won’t swallow up and spit out in less than 3 months. I wonder how many people yelling about NFTs and web3.0 are still doing that right now. At any rate, I’ve tried chatGPT and was thoroughly impressed mainly by the realisation that it is not trying to appear human at all and yet is able to provide what makes for a not offputting experience. I look fwd to seeing it used in meaningful things. Not advertising for sure.