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w/e 2020-08-30


§ This week we drove across England to the Essex coast again. I was a dash of navigational garnish in the human/machine sandwich, interpreting the phone’s directions as if they were slow rally driving pacenotes.

The “Avoid motorways” settings on Google Maps and Waze appear to do strictly that, happily sending you along A-road dual carriageways that aren’t techincally motorways. On the other hand Apple Maps’ “Avoid motorways” option largely includes dual carriageways in the definition of motorways, making for a calmer but longer drive. Both options are potentially useful but it’s an odd-to-me inconsistency.

Having generally only travelled the country by train it’s interesting to cut across those rail routes and see different places. But given my knowledge of geography is quite bad it’s hard to get a feel for where in the country we are by only following the phone’s linear, always forwards, route, like trying to imagine the shape of a country from a linear road map.

Yesterday I read this edition of the awful mass newsletter whose journey to Kent reminded me of our drive through the nowhere of Milton Keynes’ logistics warehouses striped along the A421:

Ashford happens by accident. It happened by accident to me, a passenger in a car, seeking solace on the very edge of England. A day trip to Dungeness takes us on a slow and grinding descent through the worsted subtopias of Tk and Sidcup. Long, fearless roads of worn tarmac and greasy plane trees lined with fat, fastidious Tudor mockery. Petrol stations, car dealerships, distribution sheds. An Amazon warehouse whose gigantism rouses something like beauty from its deeps - striped in blue-white gradient, so as to make it disappear into the air.

I also like the idea of a town called Tk, unmarked on maps, never findable, a settlement that exists only in legend and ancient hand-drawn maps.

Photo of dark grey clouds over a calm and dark grey sea
Some weather on Flickr

§ § This week I tried to get Webmentions up and running on this blog but eventually gave up. They seem like a nice thing – automatically sending notifications between websites that they’ve been mentioned somewhere (like Trackbacks for the older folk) – but they currently seems like more trouble than they’re worth.

I’m not going to write my own implementation from scratch, and there are, I think, two Django implementations of Webmentions:

  • django-wm which requires the use of Celery and RabbitMQ; way too much hassle for what I assume will be, at best, a couple of incoming or outgoing Webmentions every… week? month? year? (Maybe the asynchronous part of it could be simplified now Django has asynchronous support?)

  • django-webmentions is much simpler but, it turns out, only handles incoming Webmentions. I don’t want to add the complication of another app for another rarely-used feature if it only does half of what I want.

So, Webmentions, whatever.

§ I finished watching The Plot Against America just before it randomly vanished from NOW TV. (Presumably it is now only available on THEN TV ha ha sorry.) It was very good. As expected, watching America slide slowly towards Nazism during an alternate World War II is not at all uplifting, but it’s well-done: the delusion, the increasing intensity of fear, the growing desperation. The good thing about miniseries based on books is that they’re usually pretty tight, with a good solid ending or, at least, no “come back for season two!” openness. Unfortunately the ending here felt a bit pfffft. Good otherwise though.

§ We also finished Watchmen after that randomly re-appeared on NOW TV. I’d been looking forward to it after reading lots of positive tweets etc. during its initial broadcast.

I think it was good? I mean: it had a strong, not-all-white cast; it looked quite impressive; the right-on heroes stick it to the racist baddies; and I got fuzzy nostalgic feels from having been a fan of the comic in the 1980s. And, although it relied on many, many flashbacks this structure worked well, and also reminded me of the nature of the comic’s storytelling. But, despite all that, I did spend a lot of it thinking, “yes, but is it any good?”

Some of the time it seemed like a taught thriller but without being very taught. Just as things get tense and thriller-y, we’re off to watch Jeremy Irons slowly doing weird things for a bit too long. By episode seven I was really quite bored. Thankfully episode eight was very good, and nicely made sense of many loose strands, and the ninth and final episode wasn’t too bad. So, I don’t know. I’m a bit mystified about all the enthusiasm but it was often entirely fine.

§ Good luck if you have to go back to school or work this week. And good luck if you don’t.

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