Dune — Frank Herbert
A classic. I read this when I was a kid, but hadn’t reread it since then. It’s weird, long, and great. The rest of the series is supposed to be bizarre, so I can’t wait. The spice must flow.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead — Sara Gran
An alright mystery book, but more than a few times, I think the author attempted to add grit but just ended up sounding like a very awkward narrator. Also points off for a trans slur—like, c’mon, I don’t care who your narrator or, or how much of a fuck-up she is, leave us alone.
Paradise Rot — Jenny Hval
A strange story of roommates, love, and interior mold. I hope Hval writes more strange books.
I cried a lot during this film. Awkwafina did a fantastic job, and it’s cool to see a major US release mostly in Mandarin. If you’ve recently lost a grandparent, or have gone through family illness, this might just hit you really hard.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This was a very strange movie, even by Tarentino’s standards. A mix of fake show clips, stories of a man and his valet, and glimpses into the Manson family. I laughed quite a bit, and generally found this movie to be a blast.
This was hard to watch. It was very well done, and intensely paced, but the abuse in the films was painful. There’s a grim morality in this film, and a certain catharsis in seeing abusers punished, but fuck.
A fantastically creepy film about ennui and friendship. I loved it.
Spiderman: Far from Home
This is exactly what I want from a superhero movie: fun. The stakes were much smaller than an Avengers movie, despite this film happening in the aftermath of both the “blip” and many deaths, and that’s a good thing. Instead of world-changing events, we got to enjoy Peter and his classmates goofing around in Europe, and the zany world of Mysterio. I loved this movie. The action was exciting, and the jokes were silly and fun.
A strange movie reminiscent of a short story I read years ago where. house guests slowly take over a family’s home. It’s dark, funny, and a poignant commentary on xenophobia.
Wow. What a gorgeous, twisted, wild film. From the music to the ultra-bright summer of it all, I loved this movie. If you’re quite squeamish, give it a pass. Otherwise, skål!
It’s official: I’ve joined the newsletter trend in earnest. I’ve had a newsletter for a few months now, but I wasn’t sure what to really do with it. Fortunately, I realized what I love to see the most from some of my favorite newsletters is links to what these authors are reading this week—little jewels from internet wanderings.
My re-launched Dill and Fennel newsletter will have links to some of the more interesting or funny things I’ve seen in the previous week. Sometimes these may be links to books, or tweets with a little color commentary. If you read this site, you might enjoy subscribing.
I’ll still write here as often as I can, but I found myself wanting a quicker way to write weekly, without needing a big thing to blog about, or something to review. My monthly media diets will still be posted to brookshelley.com as well. It’s been fun to do tiny reviews of books and movies, even if it’s mostly for my own memory of what I consumed in a year. Not using Letterboxed or Goodreads for this was a very conscious decision—I want to own and control my own data. If you keep track of this kind of stuff yourself, or run your own little slice of the internet, I’d love to hear about it!
The Fated Sky — Mary Robinette Kowal
More cool space stuff! I enjoyed the pacing more in this book, and despite the frustration with very 50s attitudes that still pervade the modern world, I enjoyed journeying with these two books to mars.
The Bone Clocks — David Mitchell
A delightful collision of strange characters across time. This book is just fantastical enough to scratch my sci-fi itch, and literary enough to keep me satisfied. I hadn’t read Michell in a while, but diving back in was like slipping on a well-fitting shoe. My only complaint is that I got a bit sick of “psycho-“ being applied to every magic thing, as it felt a bit too much like RPG spell naming, lol.
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good — Helene Tursten
Delightfully wicked tales of a murderous octogenarian. I laughed, and cringed in turn. A short, strange read.
The Calculating Stars — Mary Robinette Kowal
This is an interesting alternate history where a disaster changes the fate of the planet, and accelerates the space race. Unfortunately, no disaster can change the rampant misogyny and racism of the men in power in this world. The protagonist, Dr. York, is a calculator, and dreams of being an astronaut, after years of flying planes as a WASP. I’m excited to read the sequel, but so many of the scenes of men being jerks to everyone else were pretty frustrating.
Exhalation: Stories — Ted Chiang
Chiang is one of the only authors I’ve read that truly puts the “speculative” into speculative fiction. Combining a curiosity about math, physics, and philosophy, Exhalation’s stories show a very adept storyteller playing with quite a few ideas. Each story is so different, and yet similarly great. I really hope Chiang writes a novel at some point, because I want to roam around his world’s for much longer.
Sourdough — Robin Sloan
A fun book on getting into a new hobby, and getting out of tech. I’m not a baker, but I really liked how Robin described the baking process. There weren’t many characters with real depth, but our protagonist was fun.
The Book of M — Peng Shepherd
An interesting take on a plague/zombie-style post-apocalypse. I had trouble putting this book down, and the story kept me reading most of the day. I got to hear Shepherd read from her book at a literary event in the bay, and I’m very glad I did—this book ruled.
Noumenon: Infinity — Marina J. Lostetter
This series ruled. There were pretty significant characters who were trans, or differently abled, and I feel like they were written pretty dang well. The space exploration and discovery plotlines split and re-intertwined many times, and always kept me fascinated. Definitely one of the most interesting sci-fi series I’ve read in years.
A slow burn of a movie. Largely, this is about a family, and a father who is kind of a shit. Tormund from GoT shows up. Lots of skiing. Grey fog. Fin.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
This was super cute, with a nice mix of weird jokes and internet references. It’s wild how many amazing actors they got to join in the strange fun. If you liked the first film, you’ll enjoy the new one.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
This movie wasn’t as bad as critics have said, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Out of the two treatments of the Dark Phoenix, I think this one was better. The story was a bit odd, but overall, it was fun and a lot of shit blew up. B- summer pap.
A largely solo trek through grief, loneliness, and the end of the world. The soundtrack to Starfish was excellent, as was the performance of Ginny Gardner. Without spoiling anything, it’s best to say this movie goes in interesting directions and is shot beautifully.
The best parts of this show were the weirdly delightful friendship scenes between Sheen and Tennant. I hadn’t read this book, but the story moved along at a good clip, and remained strange and funny enough to delight me.
I watched two seasons of this show this month—the second season is currently airing. It’s got the drama and silliness of GBBO, but with teams of two, and A & B groups that whittle down for a final set of showdowns. Liam does a great job hosting, and just like GBBO this show is a warm and fun thing to watch while unwinding.
It’s probably clear by now that I love my iPad Pro. I travel with it, write on it, and practice Japanese on it. When Apple announced iPadOS, it suddenly seemed liked my dream of only using my iPad had come true.
With a glance at the home screen, it’s clear that this isn’t iOS 12. Onscreen widgets isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it saves me a slide-over every time I want to check the weather, or which meeting I’m headed to next. It’s pretty cool, and even though it’s in some ways a catch-up to what other platforms have had for a while, I dig it.
Copy and pasting also get a refresh in iPadOS, with three-finger gestures copying, cutting, and pasting. I’m not sure how intuitive it is, but for power-users at least, it should work quite well. I’ve gotten somewhat used to the gestures already. Multiple taps allow for some cool selection specificity, though occasionally this feels more frustrating as I struggle to remember how many taps to select a word. I think this will get better with practice
Ever since I started practicing kanji for an hour or two every day, I noticed I was getting repetitive strain on my thumb and hand. I’m not sure how much this new swipe-to-type will help, but I’m enjoying the faster typing it enables.
This single change is the reason iPadOS is a massive update for so many of us. Desktop versions of websites mean I can finally use Google Docs, or Notion, or Figma without pulling out my MacBook Pro at work. In testing, it seems like it really works, which rules. The first version of the OS just launched, so I’d expect we might see even better support between now and the launch of the OS in the fall.
This sign-in upgrade will come to iPad and iPhone, and is an amazing privacy boost for everyone using an iOS device. By removing the need to give your email address to every service I use, Apple is potentially saving me hundreds of unsubscribes and delete from inbox actions, not to mention all the scraping and ad targeting. I’m very stoked.
I love dark mode, don’t get me wrong, but this update is a small change compared to the rest of the amazing stuff packed into iPadOS.
Column view, quick actions, more metadata, and a downloads folder all mean better file management without a desktop. Apple also added the ability to use thumb drives and hard drives in the USB-C drive, which isn’t really something I need, but seems to be a big deal to a lot of folks.
With iPad OS, I can’t think of a single thing I do on my Mac that I can’t do on my iPad with the exception of working with a very large Github repo (just try downloading and updating a 6gb repo over WiFi, yow). With the addition of Catalyst apps on Mac, I hope that even more developers will devote energy to making powerful and fun iPad apps in the future. This fall will likely bring device updates with minor spec bumps, and likely this time I’ll snag a Cellular version so I can take advantage of Google Fi’s data sim. Until now I’ve always been fine with tethering my iPad to my phone, but international travel makes that impossible due to Google’s restrictions, and since it’s essentially a free add-on, it seems like a no-brainer.
As of this year, I carry my iPad to most meetings, and almost always bring it instead of my Mac on trips—even for work. This new OS ensures that this will keep being the case. Macs will keep being a great option for my desk at work, but more and more, the iPad and the iPhone are where I prefer to do my computing.
If you haven’t checked out an iPad in a while, this fall will be a really good time to do so. You might not love it as much as I do, but it might surprise you.
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