a blog about stuff.

  • Being a Wes Anderson fan used to mean you were into weird and artsy-slash-eclectic films, but lately it just means that you’re probably just the one who is weird and a little artsy-slash-eclectic.

    Wes Anderson films have fallen into a kind of mainstream formulaic pattern that is so acutely focused that (apparently) you can download an app to apply a Wes Anderson filter to your video clips and use a kind of quasi-AI to Wes Andersonify your iPhone videos.

    I can only imagine that this is more than a little frustrating to Wes Anderson himself who while neatly defined by a style always manages to come up with something surprising and unique with his work.

    I had avoided as many reviews of Asteroid City as I could because of this very reason. Even the handful that snuck up on me and caught my attention long enough always seemed to start with some phrase like “The most Wes Anderson Wes Anderson film to date…” or “Asteroid City is Wes Anderson the Cliche The Movie…”

    But like walking into a modern art museum and musing at the Warhol, the Pollock or just the canvas painted a uniform shade of off white and wondering what the heck one is looking at and how the heck can this be art, the medium of the modern Wes Anderson film is in fact the message, and the plot or the story or the whatever your Marvel Cinematic Universe loving brain thinks should constitute a movie, these are secondary to the vibe being evoked in a film like Asteroid City.

    The film is a layered experience that seems to question the nature of media in our sleepwalking world. The deeper the fantasy the more real and in higher definition becomes the illusion, the weirdness amplifies into a crystal clear dream and the further we back out of the production the grainier and less defined the reality becomes. It is a meditation on art and story and acting and writing and all of it wraps into a weird science fictiony but character-driven lullaby that makes you want to revisit and follow the threads between things and see what the bigger pattern Mr Wes Anderson is trying to weave.

    Or maybe I’m just weird and a little artsy-slash-eclectic.

  • Two sleeps.

    I’ve had two sleeps since race day. This time as I write these very words, forty eight hours ago and accounting for time zone difference, I was standing near the gear check for the Chicago marathon getting ready to strip down to my race kit and file into the corral.

    Six of us ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. Six, plus fifty-eight thousand other people, of course. But six of us from my run crew made it down to the windy city by various means and with various certainty and after a couple days of playing tourist, we queued into our corral and took to the streets for a forty-two point two kilometer, twenty-six point one mile road race known as the World Major Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

    It was work.

    I flew threw the first half.

    I kept my goal pace until nearly thirty klicks.

    The weather was perfect. The crowds were beyond amazing. The city was a fascination. The other racers were all going the right direction, at least. A new world record was set on the course by (can I call him that?) one of my fellow racers. Two hours and thirty-five seconds. Insane.

    I felt the wall hit around thirty kilometres. My legs started twinging. My heart rate number spiked in the display on my watch by 25-35 bpm and even bringing it down by walking a bit it would immediately shoot back up within ten steps of running. I felt like I should be able to run, but off an on I would get a little spinny and had I been out for a stroll in the park I would have sat down and eaten a cookie or something, but I was running the goddamn Chicago Marathon and that shit don’t fly.

    I bonked.

    Yeah. I had been taking in calories. I had a nutrition plan and an electrolyte plan and I was following them. It just wasn’t enough.

    I made it to the finish with a huge split, but I finished.

    And I should technically be proud because as of Sunday I have a new marathon PR. A new personal record time. By about thirty seconds over my first (and previously best) marathon ten years ago.

    I will be proud.

    Right now, forty eight hours later, having spent yesterday in transit between Chicago and home, after saying goodbye to friends at the end of a vacation, after settling back into my armchair at home and finally putting up my feet to rest, I just kinda feel down.

    There is a very real post marathon blues that can hit you and it has multiple times for me. Part of me writing this post is just to acknowledge that and start the multi-week process of working through the post-race depression that hits like the second wall of the race. That feeling of playing the race over in your head, of suddenly not having a goal to work towards, of recounting the event and probably a bunch of actual biochemical effects of, y’know, just having tortured yourself for 42.2 km. Not only all that, but I’ve been building myself up for this race for literally three years and ten months. This race (including it’s imminent cancellation and conflicting feelings around it) was a leg in the tripod that was my covid pandemic experience. It’s been swirling through a thousand conversations and marked a very clear destination for me for a long time. And it’s now over and in the memory book. Just another medal on the wall. Just another handful of race photos. Just another t-shirt to wear out on the trails.

    Right now I’m not loving the marathon. Five races in and my experience has been uniformly the same. I love the work. I love the anticipation. I love the start line. I hate the finish and I feel like hell warmed over for days or weeks afterwards. It’s not my race.

    I am a marathoner. Five done and in the books. If I ever do another it would need to be a race for which I couldn’t say no, something amazing and perfect and an undeniable adventure. But otherwise I think the universe and my body are both telling me to stick to shorter races for a while. I’m okay with that.

  • Four sleeps.

    I wrote that on some social media platform this morning. After three years and ten months of waiting. A pandemic. A race cancellation. Double deferrals. A knee injury and slow recovery. And an entire spring and summer of hard core marathon training, the race is in four sleeps.

    This time tomorrow we’ll be on our first leg of our Chicago-bound flight, so today is the last day of so-called normal before the race travel begins and the adventure steamrolls me towards a start line and…

    Marathon five.

    Number one was so long ago I’m not sure I can remember the year. It was a local deal and I’d been rubber-arm cajoled in leading the training clinic at the running store where we all hung out. I trained by the book because I was teaching the book and I finished and moved on.

    Number two took me to Disney World. I thought why just run a marathon when I can run a marathon challenge, so I “did the Dopey” and ran four races in four days, incrementing through a five k, ten k, half, and ending on my second marathon finish.

    Number three was major. A major. I half-jokingly added my name to the group of folks who were entering the New York Marathon lottery in 2016 and was the only one of said group who “won” an entry that year. Won. As in they billed my credit card and as such invited me to participate. It has been my favourite to date.

    Number four was a pity race. People were training. Peer pressure got the better of me and I felt a bit guilty for encouraging others to run the local race when I had (originally) no intention of doing so myself. I signed up at the last minute and showed up at the start line the morning after returning from a family vacation. I did quite poorly.

    Chicago was supposed to be a redemption run for that showing.

    Chicago was supposed to have been over three years ago.

    Chicago was supposed to be a distant memory.

    Chicago is actually in four sleeps.

    Marathon five.

  • Autumn approaches and I prepare to cross the first seasonal threshold of my adventure in life-skewing decisions.

    I quit in the spring.

    I stopped working in the summer.

    I tiptoe towards fall with an odd sense of nextness that I can’t quite put my finger upon.

    It may be that I’ve been delving into the literature. Well, popular science books, online articles, youtube videos and podcasts as a kind of literature, right? I’ve been delving into that literature in search of a thread to trace the nuance of my life choices back to something resembling justification.

    I recently described the reactions I’ve been reading too much into as of late as a kind of magician’s audience smile. Watch as I perform this act right in front of your very eyes. I’ve done something astounding, having quit my job and now I’ll say the magic words and …

    There’s no trick. This is no performance.

    It’s just me trying to reset. Take a break. Figure out how I want to spend the next ten to fifteen years of my life, and I’m very much not sure what that looks like yet.

    Ta-da! It’s magic.

    Nope. I quit my job in the spring and spent most of the summer regrouping and now the leaves out the window are a lovely shade of orange as the road construction crews frantically work long days trying to finish their work before the snow flies any week now and all the while I sit here trying to wrap my mind around the decision to quit. The right decision. The healthy decision. But a decision that society doesn’t quite understand, at least any better than I do.

  • Worth checking in on my progress, I think, as I continue to simultaneously pound away on a couple of writing projects AND build a piece of software to assist with that effort.

    Key to these efforts is that I’ve been writing a story. Not quite a novel. A story with some weight and length, but more of something I’d like to turn into a serialized collection of short novella-like stories.

    Open up a word processor and start typing, you say.

    Well, sure. That’s great. But the book is a kind of quasi-scientific bordering on magical realism effort (though ultimately the magic is just really kooky physics-ish stuff) and that kind of writing requires a particularly amped up energy in the realm of world building. One needs not just flesh out some characters and give them interesting things to to and talk about, but one also needs to flesh out a world where rules exist that are set apart from rules in the real world.

    Additionally, I’ve created an entire fictional city in which these events occur, so there is a need to pitter-patter around the vibe of the place and how it all feels, acts, and interacts with the characters working through this whole plot.

    Did I mention that I also have a great big plot? I’ve been trying to make lots of notes about how that’s working.

    Going back to your helpful suggestion of a word processor then? Yeah, it’s not a terrible idea, but what if I not only had a word processor, but a word processor that chunked out everything into chapters so that I could focus on each chapter individually. Oh, and I’d want to add some metadata to each of those chapters, stuff that didn’t actually appear in the copy of the story, stuff like a summary of the plot, maybe a categorization for how it fits into the story arc, outline info and various notes about stuff I want to accomplish or have otherwise been thinking about while writing each chapter.

    It would be cool if I could also squirrel away some notes about the characters, too. Maybe a similar sort of tool to keep track of locations or other set pieces in the story. If only there was a kind of digital index card system with prompts in the corner that all got shuffled into useful notes for when I was feeling a little blocked with the words flowing onto the pages and…

    Ok.

    So that’s what I’ve built so far.

    Toss in a word counter and a versioning system for the auto-saves-my-work-every-10-seconds web-based word processor and you start to see the utility of this little thing.

    I’ve been writing code and simultaneously fleshing out this little world while writing chapters and plot outlines and putting skins on these crazy characters all while feeling quite productive.

    That’s progress, right?

iteratively improving
stay tuned