What I Enjoyed, January 2017

Thoughts on the books, films, and music I enjoyed in February 2017—A Wizard of Earthsea, Game of Thrones, and more.

January 2017 was an unfortunately busy month for me. It was the kind of busy that threw off my balance, and I’m working on trying to find it again. Outside of work, I spent most of my time working on my personal projects, with some book reading and television watching mixed in.

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I Finally Watched Blade Runner

Thoughts on the film Blade Runner after truly seeing it for the first time.

When I was a freshman in college I had a professor that was very into Phillip K. Dick. We read a collection of his short stories and then watched Blade Runner. Strangely enough we didn’t read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We watched the film over the course of three class periods on a small CRT monitor with crappy speakers. I could barely make out the dialog. I had no clue what was going on. My most vivid memory is of Pris acrobatically putting Deckard’s head into a scissor lock. At the time and in the proceeding years until now, I didn’t get what all of the hubbub was about. People hailed it as the classic science fiction film. It’s historic. But to me, it was just that film I watched in class and didn’t really understand.

With the release of the visually impressive first teaser for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel set 30 years later, I felt like the film deserved a second chance. Wow, am I glad I gave it one.

Note: there are a few light spoilers below.

The settings throughout the film feel so real. They’re gritty and industrial, not sterile and modern like so many futuristic depictions. In a lot of ways, the city of L.A. in the film feels like its own character. It’s the kind of world that I want to spend more time in.

The predicted technologies, while off in some ways, still feel futuristic today. Little touches like the apartment lights automatically turning on in Deckard’s apartment when he walked into a room had me wondering, Why don’t the lights in my apartment work like that? Speaking of lighting, it is done so well in Blade Runner. It sets the mood and completely fits with the visual design throughout the movie.

The contained story works really well. I think the scope of it leaves enough to the imagination and doesn’t squander itself. I loved the ambiguous ending. It’s abstract and mysterious enough to make one wonder what it all means. Those kinds of endings keep the mystery alive, which I think keeps something churning in one’s mind after it ends.

The “Tears in Rain” speech at the end is very well known, and I found it to be very impactful. It gave me goosebumps. It’s a great performance. I think all of the actors did a great job.

The only think I didn’t really care for was Deckard’s romance with Rachael. It was forced, literally and figuratively. It seemed there was a checkbox for “add romance scene.” Everything else with Rachael, the Voight-Kampff test and Deckard conversation with her about how she’s a replicant, made sense to me. But the way the romance progressed felt like a stretch.

One of, if not the, most lasting parts of the movie for me has been the music. It’s incredible. I bought the soundtrack and haven’t stopped listening. I really enjoy writing while listening to it. It really puts me in a certain place. A dark and dreamy futuristic place.

Since finishing the film, I wanted to enjoy some stories with a similar atmosphere, so I started reading the manga BLAME! It seemingly draws some inspiration from Blade Runner and other sci-fi, and I am enjoying it. The art style is pretty unique. Blade Runner also has me excited to watch Akira again. They both nail the atmosphere of the futuristic cities. The world needs some more grit and neon in it.

I would say, with little doubt in my mind, that Blade Runner is now one of my favorite films. I’m very much looking forward to watching it again soon.


Additional Notes

  • I watched The Final Cut version.
  • I bought the Blade Runner Trilogy soundtrack by Vangelis, which has two discs of music from the film and one of original music inspired by the film. I highly recommend it.
  • I watched Blade Runner on an iPad, although it seems like the kind of film that would be even better on the big screen in a theater. Fingers crossed I get the chance one day.

Drive Book Review

Thoughts on the novel Drive by James Sallis.

I finished reading Drive by James Sallis last week, and I have some mixed feelings about it. I think it’s an okay read with some fundamental issues.

I enjoyed the shorter length of the novel. I think it works well for the story being told, and the writing flows nicely. The atmosphere seems to be spot on in the way that the grittier parts of L.A. are described.

I disliked that there were essentially zero consequential female characters. I think the film does a better job than the novel of developing the character of Irina/Irene. I found the plot difficult to follow, with each chapter jumping back and forth in the timeline. There were shifts in tense throughout the book, which felt awkward. Maybe it was intentional, but I found it confusing.

I read the book pretty slowly over the course of a few weeks. I think this made the book more difficult to follow. Because of the shorter length—only 192 pages—I think Drive would have been better suited for reading over a few sittings back-to-back.

The film adaptation of Drive is one of my favorite movies from this decade, so I was excited to read the source material. All-in-all, it’s an okay read but not one that I am enthralled with. I get the feeling that I just didn’t get it, so it may be a novel worth revisiting in a few years.

Favorite Album of 2016

Musical highlights of 2016.

A handful of new albums came out in 2016 that I really enjoyed. A few albums are from artists I have been listening to years, while others are recent discoveries. My taste in music tends to orbit around indie rock, with some ambient, jazz, and Japanese dance music mixed in.

The highlights from this year for me were the following albums:

  • Blanco by David Bazan
  • Ruminations by Conor Oberst
  • 22, A Million by Bon Iver
  • LP2 by American Football
  • Art Nature by Tomggg

While I have enjoyed the aforementioned highlights, my favorite album of 2016 is Plays the Music of Twin Peaks by Xiu Xiu. It is a cover album of Twin Peaks music, and Xiu Xiu totally nails it. The interpretations of each song are a bit darker than the originals, which works to great effect.

My favorite songs from the album are:

Blue Frank / Pink Room — A combination of two songs from Fire Walk with Me, which go together like cherry pie and a cup of coffee. It’s one of the heavier songs on the album, and listening at a high volume is recommended.

Audrey’s Dance — The horns and animal calls mixed with the xylophone and ambient noise are spot on.

Falling — Jamie Stewart’s soft and emotional vocals are powerful in this cover of the opening song from the show. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.

Plays the Music of Twin Peaks has been on repeat for me since its release. It has me so excited for the new series coming next year. Also, Xiu Xiu’s live performance that was commissioned by the Gallery of Modern Art is incredible:

The First Day Retrospective

Reflection on The First Day and my experience writing it.

Last week I released The First Day, my first piece of fiction that I have shared publicly. It is also my first work of interactive fiction (a.k.a. choose your own adventure story). Both had me feeling excited and nervous. Since releasing it, I feel proud about The First Day and happy with how it turned out.

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