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w/e 2021-01-31

I’ve probably said this before but what with the virus playing havoc with content production schedules we all need to get used to more repeats.

When I was doing Meisner acting classes – which feels like a decade ago, and not just over a year ago – we were often asked, while working, whether we were feeling “mad, sad or glad”. You could only be one. Feeling a mixture of emotions meant you couldn’t be clear in what you did or how you did it. You couldn’t reach the heights or depths of an emotion, or help your partner reach theirs, if you weren’t fully invested in one.

I often think of mad, sad and glad as being the three* main emotions and recently it feels like I’m switching between them increasingly rapidly, several times every day. Fun! Something to do with all this? Something to do with a lack of variety and emotional inputs beyond anything in this house making minor emotional swings seem more dramatic? Nothing to do with any of that but confirmation bias making me think it’s not just the usual random emotions? Who knows.

* Obviously, as we all know, there must be four main emotions, not three, because there are four main things in every category. So maybe the fourth main emotion, probably not useful in acting, is feeling “OK, just sort of fine, you know?”

§ This month, as promised, I’ve been doing Adriene Yogawith’s Breath: A 30 Day Yoga Journey. While I’ve done her yoga before – maybe a couple of times a week last year – this was the first time I’ve done one of her 30 Days series in “real time” every day over January. There have been a handful of times this month where I’ve seen people I read on Twitter, blogs or newsletters who’ve mention in passing doing Adriene’s yoga and it’s been nice to, very tangentially, feel that distant connection.

It’s been a pretty good experience, aside from a couple of not-so-good points:

  • As expected some of it was too far over the woo-woo line for me. The day or two that involved nothing but breathing were not for me (but I did them anyway). I’m only here for the much-needed physical stretching and twisting.
  • The sessions vary from about 15 to 35 minutes, with most somewhere in between. It’s not a massive difference but I found it hard to plan pre-work exercise when I had no idea how long yoga would take. I skipped following the final hour-long session without her talking – too long and too hard to follow – and made up a bit myself.

But overall, it was good, and doing a little yoga every morning (or nearly every morning) is something I’d like to keep doing. Having been to quite a few teachers’ real-life yoga classes over the years Adriene’s pretty close to ideal for me, even if slightly too chatty and woo-woo and liable to break into song. Any suggestions for alternatives I might like are definitely welcomed.

§ Yesterday I was looking for recommendations of multitools that are legal to carry in the UK. Unless you have a specifc reason to carry a knife (you’re on your way to work as a chef or handyman, or you’re camping, etc.), blades can only be upto three inches long, and must not lock in place. Unlike Swiss Army Knives most multitool knives lock, or probably count as locking if the knife can’t be folded back without opening the whole tool up again.

The good side of the internet: There are many aging forum topics in which someone asks this specific question.

The bad side of the internet: Every single topic rapidly transforms into several pages of let’s-assume-men well-actuallying each other over exactly what the law means in both theory and practice.

I should not have been surprised.

§ Talking of the internet… There was a time when all this was new and we (I) were all young and we (I) knew we were on the side of getting it while all the old-fashioned, old-media, (relatively) old-people didn’t get it. “The internet’s amazing, it’ll change everything, you’ll see!” we said, while they dismissed it as a silly fad for young folk, before commissioning more TV shows (“TV’s dead, losers!” we probably also said).

It’s tempting to keep thinking that we (I) are still young, and still get it, as the decades pass, when it’s not necessarily true any more.

I mean, at some point you (I) become one of the old-fashioned, (relatively) old-media, (relatively) old-people even while still thinking the internet is amazing. Because the things we (I) like about it all, and still think of as “new”, are actually now old and boring — they’ve probably become established or else failed.

And we (I) have probably dismissed many actually-new aspects of it all because they seem like, er, silly fads for young folk. But, by now, some of those silly fads have been around for years and are changing everything, even if no one’s quite sure how yet, and we (I) realise there are all these… young people around doing weird new things.

This is all what I thought after reading this paragraph from Ryan Broderick’s Garbage Day newsletter about GameStop:

If you’re a 22-year-old trader on Reddit, you’ve only ever known a world of cryptocurrency. You were 12 when I was watching my roommate show me how he could make fake internet money with his desktop graphics card. Now that fake internet money is worth 32,000 a coin. Anything can be worth anything if the internet wills it.

And I think my point is that it’s been easy for some people (me) to think that, although the internet hasn’t finished changing the world, it would continue to change things in similar ways to how we said it would, and how it already has been: previously real-world-only things would go online, old businesses would go bust, people would form physically-dispersed communities, information would be free, etc. etc.

But there are so many more, new ways in which the internet can affect “the real world”, for better or worse, and we (I) are now often the old people laughing at what we (I) think are silly fads.

§ Recently I’ve been reading a bit about using equalization to improve the sound of headphones. I mean, I haven’t been reading it closely enough to fully understand it, but enough to be interested. When even a pair of $10 headphones can be made to sound really quite decent it seems worth looking into.

There are collections of equalisation settings for different headphones but you know if you’re visiting GitHub in an effort to tweak consumer audio you’re heading into a frustrating rabbit hole.

On a Mac it seemed like the easiest way to try this was to buy SoundSource which, among many other features, has all those collections of settings built in and searchable. You can add a “Headphone EQ” effect and then search for ones that match your headphones (if they exist; one of my two pairs of decent-ish headphones is over 30 years old and unsurprisingly isn’t listed).

But… I have no idea if it makes much difference to my ears. Trying different profiles with my ageing Audio-Technica ATH-M50s I can tell they sound different but I’m not sure how to judge if they sound better. Maybe it just takes more listening than I’ve done.

Aside from that I was wondering why this feature isn’t built in to, say, Macs and iOS devices. Just as phones rely on software to dramatically improve the performance of their tiny camera lenses and sensors, why not use software to improve the sound of whatever headphones you’re using? Rebrand the toggle-able feature as “iEQ” or something and say how headphones sound better on Apple devices.

§ This week I finished reading Larry McMurtry’s Dead Man’s Walk, the first of two prequels to Lonesome Dove which I enjoyed in 2017. It was good. Not-change-your-life amazing but it was entertaining and easy enough which was all I wanted. The only problem was that having read Lonesome Dove, set 30 or so years later, I couldn’t shake the image of the two main characters being a lot older, rather than the very young men they are here.

Coincidentally, Craig Mod mentioned Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian in his Ridgeline newsletter which is also set in mid-19th century around the American/Mexican borders. Similar time and place but very different treatments. While I’m sure it takes work to write as “simply” as McMurtry does, that work is much less visible than in McCarthy’s prose.

It’s only just occurred to me to google both. It turns out Lonesome Dove and Blood Meridian were both published in 1985 and, of course, there are plenty of comparisons online (e.g. a discussion on Reddit). And here’s McMurtry on McCarthy (having just referred to himself as a “minor regional writer”):

I think that his early books are not very good. His great book, if he has a great book, is Blood Meridian, but I’m not sure it alone lifts him out of the category of being a minor regional writer. I like, for myself, No Country for Old Men better than Blood Meridian. I think Blood Meridian is a little windy. It loses focus sometimes, although I admire it. And the great passages in it are really wonderful.

§ Despite finding season one of The Newsroom pretty annoying the characters had got under our skin enough that a couple of weeks later we wanted to carry on watching, so we’ve now finished the remaining two seasons.

They were better! For one thing, it didn’t seem quite as pompous (although one supposedly super-serious moment towards the end was unintentionally hilarious in its self-importance). Also, the characters were slightly less annoying (e.g. Sloan Sabbith was less frustratingly ditzy and more formidable). The various romantic will-they-won’t-they relationships mostly remained tedious.

The season-length plots helped with keeping it gripping and this time around we actually looked forward to the next episode. The only odd bit of pacing was season two’s plot seeming to finish early, leaving its final two episodes full of repetitive anti-climax. But, otherwise, good, with fun, snappy dialogue, and worth persevering with.

§ 2021’s been a long year hasn’t it!

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