dill & fennel

July

It’s midsummer here in Oakland, and due to the persistence of people’s risky behavior, we’re still very quarantined. At this rate, I might read quite a few more books than I initially imagined I would, as it could be well rinto 2021 before anything changes. I’m still watching quite a bit of TV, and the Formula 1 season that finally started. Seeing folks drive cars all over Europe is quite the treat.

Books

Infomocracy — Malka Older

A very good re-read. In the lead up to the election, this feels appropriate.

Buddhism for Beginners

A pretty solid introduction formatted as an extended Q&A that covers most ground related to how Buddhist teachings apply to our present time. I think I prefer the other book I read recently, but it was nice to have clarity on a few things I’d heard in teachings at sanghas.

Because Internet: Gretchen McCulloch

A delightful linguistic investigation into the history and present of internet culture, memes, and language. This felt somewhat similar to Lurking insofar as they cover a bit of the same territory, but I think this deeper dive into the language and communication styles that came from Old Internet People is a nice companion to that book. If you’re online in any capacity, this is something important to read.

An American Spy — Olen Steinhauer

Ah, I finally got to a volume I haven’t read before—I loved the switch in perspective to the spymaster Zhu. I am pretty curious to see what happens in the final Milo Weaver book, especially with a few years separating it from this hopeful book. Generally, this series felt light enough to get through quickly, but fun, and meaty enough to really sink into during that time.

The Nearest Exit — Olen Steinhauer

Apparently I read this book before in 2010, but I’ve definitely slept since then because most of it was still a surprise to me. The saga of Milo Weaver gets even more twisty in this volume as he tries to quit his job and fix his family. Definitely wishing I could do some traveling of my own after these two spy novels.

Buddhism Without Beliefs — Stephen Bachelor

A few years ago I started going to a sangha regularly and meditating a lot. While I haven’t kept up with the practice regularly, mediation is a pretty awesome part of my life when I’m able to do it, and I’ve enjoyed the lessons of the four noble truths and eightfold path. The bits of capital B Buddhism I wasn’t amped on were the religious bits, so it’s interesting to read about an agnostic buddhism.

My Soul to Keep — Yrsa Sigurdadóttir

Another cozy mystery with the lawyer Thora. This went on a little long, but was still twisty enough to be interesting. In a world of Nordic noir, it’s kinda fun to read something where the protagonist isn’t a cop.

The Tourist — Olen Steinhauer

A fun spy novel with plenty of twists and a good take on “the spy that tried to get out” trope.

A Memory Called Empire — Arkady Martine

I have to admit I heard this author read at an event and her style was such I didn’t want to read this book for some time. However, I’m glad I got over that and dove into this fantastical world. Martine deftly wove together the foundation for a really neat space opera, with compelling characters, and a lot of meaty world-building. There was intrigue plenty, and I’m excited for the next book in September.

In Praise of Shadows — Junichiro Tanizaki

A lot of this book (or possibly long essay) really holds up. I love all the bits about soft lighting and over-illumination killing mystery and beauty, but the parts of skin color and race are definitely not of-the-times. Tanizaki was a strange fellow, but I’m glad I read this seminal work.

Movies

Money Plane

A true piece of crap. Everyone in this film seemed like they mostly work on Cinemax soft core films.

Spectre

A delightful rewatch.

6 Underground

Continuing my tradition of watching mediocre Netflix thrillers, I think I’m almost done with the current set. Ryan Reynolds is doing his sarcastic guy thing, and there’s tons of fast cuts and action stuff. The first action scene felt exciting for a bit, but by the twelfth hat-on-a-hat and shitty rock song I was hoping for relief. Fortunately it got better later, but I wish this’d been modeled more on Fast & Furious and less on xXx. I wonder if Bezos watched this and thought “I’ve trained for this!”?

Extraction

Thor trades his hammer for guns in this exciting action film without much behind the action. Sometimes you need to watch stuff get blown-up without much plot.

Time to Hunt

Outstanding thriller that kept building and moving throughout. I saw this on a sci-fi list, but for the most part this felt like a slightly alternate reality, vs something in the future. Very fun.

Bad Boys for Life

This series is epically ridiculous, and fun throughout. Everyone seems to be having fun, and there’s a lot of wild action and even a surprise third act trip out of the country.

The Old Guard

Fun but ultimately thin action flick. Solid action near the end, but so much of it felt emotionless in a way that was just not super entertaining.

Greyhound

Tom Hanks has a fantastic presence, but they don’t really develop many other folks in this tense battle movie. Which, hey, that makes sense, since the whole movie they’re just depth charging the shit out of the sea.