Justin Cawthorne dot com

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pretty sunset

2018 in words and numbers

(Week 2: January 6 – 12)

Having looked at my annual totals in last week’s post, this week I want to focus specifically (and briefly) on my stats for 2018.

Writtenavg.EditedTotal
Totals:91,589640
93,770185,359
Jan17,603
103511,31328,916
Feb7,9865321,4439,429
Mar5,84941810,69116,540
Apr9,8015452,81512,616
May9,70374610,16519,868
Jun2,15553915,46115,461
Jul10,9349119,5519,551
Aug3,3196648904,209
Sep9,0675677,2007,200
Oct9,6335075,8205,820
Nov9,63361512,10712,107
Dec 1,231 4106,3147,545

Having looked at my annual totals in last week’s post, this week I want to focus specifically (and briefly) on my stats for 2018.

Overall last year was pretty good writing-wise; far more consistent than the preceding few years. Thanks, in part, to my cosy writing corner (which I set up in my bedroom halfway through 2017) I managed to more or less avoid the winter slump that has hit me in previous years. I suspect those low August figures are more to do with me being particularly poor at recording my daily word counts during that month than anything else. In fact, if there has been any single ongoing issue during last year, it’s my lax attitude to properly recording my writing output. That’s something I plan to improve on this year.

Going briefly through the rest of the year … the high word count in January is down to two things: some fairly chunky blog posts, and a couple of epic sessions on a story that I was clearly very motivated to write. I did a further draft of that same story in March, partly accounting for that month’s high editing count, but also started work on a sci-fi novella; progress on which helped keep my word counts healthy over much of the year. November saw me revisiting a few stories I’d started earlier in the year, with some bumper editing sessions. December, perhaps predictably, ended up being largely overtaken by Christmas.

In total, I started ten new stories in 2018; 7 of those are now complete, and 3 still need work. I wrote 52 blog posts, of varying length. I also managed to write somewhere in the region 30,000 words towards a sci-fi novella (which, given I’m only halfway though, may well end up being a novel).

So, yeah, pretty happy with 2018.

Watching

I watched little of note this week, so let’s skip ahead to the next section.

Reading

i am legend graphic novel cover

Just before Christmas I bought an anthology of Richard Matheson adaptations from ComiXology. For some reason, I Am Legend had been on my mind over the last month, so I started with that story. It turned out to be an immensely detailed—and very lengthy—adaptation. I haven’t read the original novel, but I get the feeling this retelling crams as many of the original words in as possible. It was very similar, in fact, to the graphic novel of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? which I read last year, and which very much felt like the novel being retold with imagery (as opposed to the rushed Cliff’s Notes version which many adaptations end up being).

It took me several nights to read, and left me with the sense that I’d been on a journey with the main character—which is exactly what you want from a novel. The stark black and white design conveyed the desolation of the story beautifully, without ever distracting from it.

Overall, definitely recommended; though I’m highly tempted to read to novel now to see if it really does compare as closely as I suspect.

black and white cat sleeping on sofa

The words that count

(Week 1: Jan 1 – 5)

I’m going to start this year’s posts by looking back at my writing stats for the last four years. It seems like a crazy long time ago now, but it was in late 2014 that I made the decision to start getting up early in the mornings to do my writing (instead of struggling through the evenings). At the same time, I began recording my daily word counts so I could see if this new strategy was actually working.

This number crunching ended up serving a few purposes. Firstly, it gave me a reasonable idea of my average rate, so I now know how much I can expect to write per week/month. Secondly, it gave me a picture of which times of year I tended to write more or less. This is particularly valuable for the latter, as it helps me to work on strategies for beating those slumps (such as finding a warmer place to write on winter mornings).

Finally, it continues to offer a very simple reward strategy: the more words I write, the better I feel. And, if I have a frustrating day when I only manage to write a hundred words, I can console myself by looking at all the other days when I’ve written well above my average.

Writing

Total words writtenTotal days of writingAverage words per day
201891,589143640
201734,67965534
201646,71772649
201585,548118725

So, I’m already feeling pretty good about that word count for 2018. It felt like a pretty productive year at the time, and those numbers prove the case. Sure, my average is a little down on some previous years, but I’ve been working on an assumed average of around 640 words per day for a while now so I’m very happy to be sticking with that.

Looking through the other years … 2017 is the same year that my marriage ended, so it’s not really surprising that there were a good few months in there that I didn’t get much done. 2016 found me writing a bunch of new stories, but I spent almost twice as many days editing that year as writing (and you’ll see those figures below). 2015 is still the year to beat: it’s the year I began working on a novel, which gave me a fairly consistent and disciplined workflow. For a while, at least …

Editing

Total words editedTotal days of editingAverage words per day
201893,770
97967
201791,50897943
2016147,5471421,039
2015130,8651031,271

I record my editing word counts quite simply: it’s the number of words in whichever chunk of whatever story I’ve edited that day. Sometimes this involves writing new words, or changing existing words, or just rereading what’s there. I usually do at least three drafts of any story, which means my editing word count would typically be at least twice that of my writing word count.

Clearly I’ve left 2018 with a slight editing backlog. The word count for 2016 is particularly high as I put serious effort into submitting my stories that year; so, naturally, I put a lot of time and effort into making them as good as they could be. 2015, meanwhile, is slightly lower due to me only getting to second draft stage on several chapters of the novel.

Days (and Totals)

Total words crunchedTotal Days’ crunchingDays missed
2018185,359240125
2017126,187162203
2016194,264214161
2015216,413221144

For this stat, I simply total up the number of days on which I did any writing or editing (for days missed, I then subtract that from the total number of days in the year). I take every Saturday off, so I’m automatically down by 52 before I even start. Then there’ll be days where I’m sick, or overslept, or something else comes up.

I’m pretty happy with my stats for 2018, but if there’s one stat I’d like to improve in 2019, it’s this one: I’d really like to see it nudge a lot closer to 300 days for this year.

Targets

So, based on all of the above, I reckon my targets for 2019 could look something like:

  • Writing total: 64,000 words (100 days @ 640 words/day)
  • Editing total: 200,000 words (200 days @ 1,000 words/day)

Let’s see how I do.

(Author’s note: so, although my 2019 posts are going to be primarily writing focused, I have decided to keep my Watching and Reading sections. This is mostly because I enjoy writing these bits, but also because it gives me the opportunity to talk about stories that other people are telling!)

Watching

poster for doctor who resolution

January 2 saw the debut of the first ever New Year’s Day Doctor Who special (“Resolution”). It proved to be a perfectly entertaining episode that’s packed so full of stupid that it’s hard not to loathe yourself a little for enjoying it once you start scratching below the surface. While there was undeniably a lot of fun to be had, I could go on for way too long about the simple flaws and inconsistencies that could have easily been ironed out had someone taken another pass over the script. Rather than pick through them myself, I’ll pass this one over to Andrew Ellard and his always excellent Tweetnotes on the episode.

poster for The ABC Murders on BBC

I also watched The ABC Murders, the latest BBC/Sarsah Phelps/Agatha Christie adaptation. I’d checked out Ordeal By Innocence (the previous year’s offering) a week earlier, and found myself far less engaged by this Poirot-based follow up. It was perfectly good, but somehow lacked the compelling sense of mystery and personal drama that has driven the other Phelps/Christie adaptations.

poster for the babysitter movie

My final notable viewing of the week was The Babysitter, one of Netflix’s horror movie offerings. This was awesome. It was as if John Hughes, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi had decided to make a horror movie together. Given the freshness and energy on display, it’s all the more surprising to note that it’s directed by McG; someone you’d expect to be a bit jaded after being chewed up and spat out by the Hollywood machine. I won’t say much more about it, for fear of spoiling a few surprises, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with this one.

Reading

book cover for doctor who tales of terror

Main reading this week is a short story collection called Doctor Who: Tales Of Terror, which my awesome partner bought me for Christmas. As you might deduce, it’s a collection of short, horror-themed Doctor Who stories. Excellent! Of course, Doctor Who is traditionally tinged with terror, but most of these tales still manage to do something with the theme. That said, they are clearly written with an all-ages audience in mind, so there’s only so far they can go.

The best part is that each of the twelve stories features one each of the twelve Doctors (as of the time of publication), which gives a satisfying sense of progression to the collection.

For now, have a quick summary of the first six stories:

  • The First Doctor, Stephen and Dodo find themselves in the midst of a particularly creepy Halloween party, and run into an old foe. A fun way to start the collection: suitably themed, and with some nice fan service;
  • The Second Doctor is forced to come to the rescue when Ben, Polly and Jamie try out a ouija board they find in the secondary control room. This felt like the horror angle had been forced in somewhat, but was still an enjoyable romp;
  • The Third Doctor and Jo Grant encounter a stranded dalek hiding in the woods. It was funny reading this one so soon after the New Year’s Special (Resolution) given the obvious similarities. This one could have easily ramped up the horror, so there’s a small feeling that there’s a missed opportunity here, but it was a pretty well rounded story and felt very authentic to the era;
  • The Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry fend off witches trying to invade the TARDIS. This wasn’t perhaps the most memorable story, but had some nice links to specific Ninth and Tenth Doctor stories, and also earns marks for giving Harry Sullivan a bit more time on board the TARDIS;
  • The Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough have an unexpected reunion with a familiar adversary. This one was actually pretty dark, and did a nice job of using the little-seen, oft-derided Kamelion;
  • The Sixth Doctor has to contend with some mysterious trick or treaters, in a tale which turns out–quite nicely–to be a sequel to the first tale in this collection.

If I had to choose only one of the above to read again, it would probably be the Third Doctor one (though I particularly enjoyed the Sixth Doctor story too).

cosmic command toy

Week 52: The end

(December 24- 31)

It’s the first day of 2019 as I write this, and this will be the last post for 2018. It will also be the last ‘diary style’ post that I do on this blog. I began this slightly crazy project exactly two years ago, with a vague idea in the back of my head that I should document my experiences during 2017. That instinct turned out, absurdly, to be right: 2017 ended up being a pretty crazy year.

Ending these diary posts at this point in my life brings a nice circularity to things. I started 2017 married to someone I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. That relationship ended a few short months into the year. Now, I end 2018 in a relationship with someone I met a few short months ago, and who I’m already certain I will be spending the rest of my life with.

But, through the course of the last year–and from these two years of journaling–what have I learned?

Perhaps the most important lesson is that things turn around. Balance will return if you’re patient and tenacious enough–and, most importantly, if you’re lucky enough. 2017 was tumultuous, to say the least. It wasn’t quite a downward spiral, but it was a time when my life was thrown up in the air and I didn’t necessarily end the year finding out how all of those pieces were all going to land.

2018, in contrast, felt more like the recovery. It was purposefully unambitious. Things ambled along steadily and securely. Life carried on. My family and I learned, together, that things could continue working perfectly well. The most important outcome is that my kids are happy, which is one of the best things I could ask for–that’s not just down to me; it’s taken both parents, the rest of the family, and a lot of friends to make that happen, and I’m grateful to everyone who’s had a part in that.

After the events of 2017, I was quite happy with having a relatively unspectacular 2017. For a time the biggest highlight was the Elderbeast getting into the Gifted & Talented program (and he ends this year having graduated from primary school, and ready to start his first year at high school). I did spend a lot of time reflecting on the end of my marriage and my unplanned single status. For the most part I found myself at peace with it all.

Sometime around the middle of the year a friend asked me if I was dating yet. That simple question unearthed a whole cacophony of conflicting thoughts. There was the very real possibility that I might have remained single for the rest of my life, and I was prepared to accept that. Then again, the one thing I was consistently missing was a sense of companionship. Above all else, I assumed I’d already had my shot, and that I had no chance of meeting someone who would be perfectly right for me. I assumed that if I ever did meet someone there would be some element of compromise, and maybe, if that was the case, then it simply wasn’t to be.

After a while, I stopped worrying about it all and figured things would happen if they were meant to happen.

And then I met someone. And she was absolutely perfect.

And that’s all you get about that on this blog 😉

Getting back on point, throughout all of this–the last two years–I’ve learned that journaling has been a big help to me, even when I’ve been at my most vague, or my most trivial. The act of writing all this crap down inevitably moved beyond any irrational need to share the minutiae of my life and has become an essential exercise for me. It’s become a chance to reflect on my recent past and a regular opportunity to clear the cobwebs with a bit of [almost] free writing. It’s a chance to get something written even when I don’t have a story in play.

For those reasons, I won’t be completely abandoning this blog or my journaling habits. One of my not-resolutions for 2019 is to focus a bit more on my writing–I wrote plenty during 2018, but with little corresponding effort towards getting anything published.

I also want to write more about writing than I have done to date; so my blog in 2019 will be some form of writing diary. I’ll probably keep up the watching/reading sections, but my posts will otherwise be an update on what I’ve been writing each week and will, hopefully, include some useful reflections and lessons learned for any other budding writers out there who happen to be reading.

Let’s see how that goes …

pavlova

Week 51: Christmas is coming …

(December 17 – 23)

This week is all about that final run up to Christmas: that day that always lurks right near the end of the year, and then suddenly appears around the corner even when you think you’ve been watching out for it.

This time around I’ve mostly had two things on my mind: have I bought all the presents I need to get? And how long till my Christmas break starts? Preston buying this year has been a fluid and organic process. I’ve mostly been on top of it, but there’s constantly just ‘a few more presents’ to buy. Even when those presents are bought, there’s the wait for the last few deliveries to come. And when all the presents have come, then there’s the wrapping. But it all eventually leads to the giving, which is the really fun part.

Meanwhile, this week is also the last week of work for the year, and I feel more ready for a break than ever. I believe this is mostly because of what the break offers, than for any particular work-related sentiment. Not only do I get a weekend with my New Favourite Person, but I get to catch up with most of my friends, I have the traditional Christmas Eve viewing of Die Hard, I have Christmas Day, and then I have the best part of a week where I don’t have to get up and go to work. It’s one of my favourite weeks of the year; where normal routine is dropped and you can just do whatever you want.

Watching

After failing to keep up with The Good Place for several weeks, I sat down with the Elderbeast at the start of this week to wrap up series three … only to find that we’re still three episodes away from the end. Oh well, it was good to get caught up and I’m constantly impressed at the way the show manages to reinvent and reinterpret its premise.

I’m also continuing to make my way through The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina which, while filling a Buffy-shaped hole in my life, is very much its own thing and very enjoyable for it. I remain intrigued by the blurry camera effect. All I’ve been able to learn about it so far is that it bugs the hell out of a whole bunch of people on the internet. I don’t mind the effect too much myself, but I’m keen to understand the rationale behind it. It’s most obvious during scenes that involve magic, but then also appears during other, completely everyday scenes.

For Fridate we watched Bird Box (thanks, Netflix). As you’ll see below I also finished the book. Overall I found the film did a better job with the story than the book did. It’s fascinating to compare the two: the plot is broadly the same, a lot of the same beats are in there. However, the film has tweaked a few things, changed characters, moved a few plot points around, and general told a more satisfying story with a lot of the same pieces. Perhaps the most effective change is to add in

Reading

I managed to finish Bird Box this week, as I set out to do. It was a perfectly fine book, but probably not one I’ll be recommending to anyone. While the premise was intriguing, there was an overall lack of substance and the ‘interesting idea’ behind the story remained nothing more than an interesting idea.

lego diner

Week 50: Who?

(December 10 – 16)

I’ve written a huge amount in the ‘Watching’ section this week, so I’ll keep the weekly update to this: how come, when I’ve been buying presents for the last several weeks, I still seem to have so many left to buy? It’s endless …

Watching

The final Doctor Who episode of the new season (“The Battle of Pretentiously Unpronounceable”) landed this week, and it confirms my very mixed feelings about the new series.

Let me start by reaffirming that I love the new Doctor, and I love that the series is, once again, totally different to what it was before (and, yet, still Doctor Who). I say this because it’s increasingly hard to pick between those who have valid criticism of the show, and those who need to be ignored because they can’t handle that the Doctor is a woman now, or that she has companions with non-white skin, or that it’s not ‘their’ show any more. (And let’s also ignore those supposed ‘fans’ who simply love to dump on Doctor Who whatever the era or showrunner—God knows we’ve had enough of them over the last few years).

In almost every way, this season has been exemplary. The show looks and sounds incredible, the acting is top-notch, and the focus on character has added a degree of substance that the show has previously lacked.

That doesn’t, however, mean that it’s been perfect.

My one, solitary, single concern about the new season was that Chris Chibnall has written some of the show’s weakest stories in the past. And, unfortunately, this is exactly where the show has suffered this year. We’ve had one outstanding episode (“Rosa”), no stinkers (for a change), and nine other episodes that have levelled out at merely competent or, perhaps worse, have failed to achieve their potential. In short, this season has been full of episodes that are perfectly good, but almost completely forgettable.

There’s been an occasional tendency to throw enough good ideas at the screen to fill two or three episodes, but then fail to properly develop any of them (“It Takes You Away”). Meanwhile, several episodes have started off strongly, only to introduce alien foes that have largely distracted from the proceedings (“The Witchfinders”). There have been other stories that have been fun on the surface, but on a rewatch prove to be riddled head-scratching inconsistencies (“Arachnids In The UK”)

Overall, the most damning complaint about the new season is that it has been … unexciting.

My impression is of a slight lack of confidence and a desire to play it safe, as if Chris Chibnall has gone all out to make the show his own, but then faltered at the last hurdle and decided that you can’t do a Doctor Who stories without aliens, or that throwing ideas at the screen would mask the routine plot holes or occasional character inconsistencies. This was most apparent during the first half of the season, where we saw a run of episodes work through the main Doctor Who tropes and story settings; while the latter half of the season never really escaped from that to find its own feet, nor did it really escalate or build towards anything (except for, perhaps, Ryan and Graham’s fistbump).

I once read (I think) that being a Doctor Who fan was an exercise in preparing for disappointment. This is largely true. The innate charm of the show is what we tune in for. The times when it manages to bring everything together are the moments we wait for. The show is never unequivocally good; there are always strengths, but there are always concomitant weaknesses. Russell T Davies delivered emotion at the expense of consistency; Stephen Moffat stretched the fictional bounds of the show’s concept at the expense of character; now Chibnall is giving us character at the expense of strong storytelling.

The good news is that the ratings have been good, so there’s clearly a lot that’s right about the show. I truly hope that the fact that team is taking a year off (which still seems a bit rich after just one year in the job) means they’ll have the chance to really focus on the storytelling and deliver some scripts that match the quality of everything else about the show.

In other viewing news, I started watching The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina on Netflix this week, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. So far it’s pretty awesome, but I’ll have more to say when I’ve seen more of the series.

I also laughed through a few more episodes of The Haunting Of Hill House, which continues to be excellent but is almost relentlessly grim. I’m equal parts relieved and disappointed that I only have four episodes left.

For Fridate horror we watched Child’s Play—I fancied a classic eighties horror, and realised that I’d never seen this one. It was fun, and I think it was the sense of humour that’s carried it through the years as I found it a bit threadbare otherwise. Even Chris Sarandon, who captivates the screen in Fright Night, comes across as hokey and uncharismatic here.

On Saturday the Elderbeast was at a sleepover, so I was able to choose my own viewing. Accordingly, I picked the superbly violent Indonesian thriller The Night Comes For Us. I was hoping this would be a spiritual successor to The Raid, and I wasn’t disappointed. The plotting and pacing were a bit shambolic, but the action scenes were magnificent, not to mention insanely gruesome in parts. I’m not, by default a fan of violent movies, but there’s a particular art and choreography in doing fight scenes and outrageous violence well, and this movie delivered that in exemplary fashion.

Reading

The movie adaption of Bird Box hits Netflix next week, so I’ve set myself that as a deadline for finishing the book. It’s been easy, relatively enjoyable reading so far—I’ve just not carved out much actual reading time over the last couple of weeks.

I’m approaching halfway though Leviathan Wakes and, again, mostly enjoying it. It’s, perhaps, moving a bit more slowly than I’d like but the characters and scenario are engaging enough to keep me listening.

I’ve got a huge backlog of stuff on my Spotify account. Between the few things I’ve purchased, the two Audible Originals I get each month, and the handful of items I’ve just bought in the end of year sale, I’ve probably got enough to keep me going through next year. I’ll have to work out how to get more listening time in!

Oh, and I’m also finding that I’m missing It, so I’ll probably go back and finish that next, which will take another several weeks …

please don't sign

Week 49: Snake demons not invited

(December 3 – 9)

The big occasion this week was the Elderbeast’s primary school graduation. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this.

On the one hand it’s simply leaving one school and starting another. There are no exams, qualifications, or specific achievements involved. On the other hand, it’s a pretty major life change for the Elderbeast. He’s been at his school for about 7 years now, he’s had several ups and downs, and he’s made a bunch of friends. Now he has to leave all of that behind, go to a completely different place each day and start to make brand new friends. Put it in those terms and it seems like quite a big ask for a 12 year old.

I’ll admit I started to feel a little emotional during the ceremony; thinking about how the Elderbeast is growing up, and thinking about how well he’s come through the various challenges of the last couple of years. It would have been nice to see him get one of the million or so awards and certificates that were given out as the main part of the assembly, but not every achievement can be marked by a piece of paper and I take a lot of satisfaction from knowing that that Elderbeast has, above all, had a happy year.

It was very sweet, after the ceremony, to see all the kids crying and hugging each other. There must have been a whirlwind of emotions for these kids, being placed front and center for the assembly, then realising that this day marks the start of a week that will end with some of them never seeing each other again. It was also good to see the tears quickly replaced by a form of elation, as the kids spent the ensuring morning tea hanging out and getting photos taken with each other.

Watching

The penultimate episode of Doctor Who this week (“It Takes You Away”), and I’m still not completely sure what to make of it. It started off firmly in horror territory—one of the Doctor Who tropes that, I think, the new series hasn’t really tackled yet. However, it then diverted into something closer to dark fantasy, before jumping head first into some sort of cosmic philosophy.

I like that we’ve had at least one episode where they took off the brakes a little and just ran with what they had. However, with at least three different stories going on in this one, I feel that neither was really done justice—and I definitely feel cheated out of a full on horror episode of Doctor Who.

And then (minor spoiler) we also need to talk about the frog …

A significant part of me loves that the show runners decided to represent a sentient alternate universe as a talking frog. However, I’m still wondering what the thinking was behind doing it with a particularly unconvincing frog puppet. It was so obviously bad that there has to be a rationale for it.

I caught up on another few episodes of The Haunting Of Hill House, which is truly excellent but almost overbearingly grim.

Fridate horror this week was a Netflix offering called Yesterday. For a short time I was baffled at its absence on IMDB, until I realised its original title was Yesterday, but it’s more commonly known as the The Blackcoat’s Daughter. It’s helmed by the same director as I Am The Pretty Thing … and has a very similar mood to it. I really enjoyed it, although the soporific tone did nearly send me to sleep!

The weekend also brought repeat viewings of Godzilla, Fright Night and The Shawshank Redemption, all of which are great.

Reading

I’ve been continuing to listen to Leviathan Wakes, and enjoying it. I’ve settled a bit more into the relatively flat narration, and am fully into the story. I’m intrigued by the way I’m getting drawn into it this time, while the TV adaptation left me a bit flat. I will write more on that later.

I’m also catching up with Bird Box when I can. It’s a relatively quick read, and I’m definitely hooked enough to want to see it through. Hopefully I can find time to finish it next week (ideally before the film hits Netflix).

cat on a box

Week 48: Timier and even more wimier

(November 26 – December 2)

I’ve been thinking a bit more about time this week; specifically our perception of it. The passage of time seems particularly erratic to me at the moment. Waiting a week can feel like forever, but I look back over the last month and can’t believe how quickly the time seems to have passed. Yet, I also look back at everything that’s happened in the past month and it feels like it surely took place over several months.

I’ve also been thinking about how we use our time, how we fall into our routines and how easy it is to find that trivial things (like answering emails) end up falling by the wayside. I hadn’t truly realised that I’ve slipped into a comfortable routine over the last year or so.

However, while I maintain that routines are valuable things, I also believe it’s important to break them from time to time. It’s important to value the present, and to make time for occasions that are unique and non-repeatable—such as spending time with friends—over the things that can easily be deferred, such as watching the next episode of a show on Netflix.

Watching

Another perfectly fine episode of Doctor Who this week (“The Witchfinders”), but yet another instance where I found myself disappointed at the unnecessary bolting on of an alien menace. I realise this is Doctor Who, and we expect monsters and aliens, but this is at least the third story where there was enough drama in play without the need for a scary monster to drive things along. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for Alan Cummings’ performance as King James, this episode would probably be entirely forgettable. I wonder if we’ll end up seeing him again …

For Fridate horror we visited The Orphanage, which was not exactly what I expected. There were scares aplenty, but it turned out to be more of a story about a mother and her son—and came with a bizarrely grim/happy ending.

Over the weekend I watched Next Gen on Netflix with the Kinderbesten—it seemed good, but I was too busy getting popcorn, etc, to properly take it in. For Saturday night, the Elderbeast wanted to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming, which we did … only for him to bail on me halfway through and go to bed. Oh well, at least it meant I got to go to bed early.

For Sunday, inspired by a very prominent reference in Spider-Man: Homecoming, we watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This might only be my second or third time watching this film, and it definitely gets better each time. I’m surprised at how late it comes in the John Hughes canon (after The Breakfast Club) but it’s got the perfect balance of comedy and feels. I really enjoyed revisiting this one.

Reading

I formalised my temporary separation from It this week by downloading and starting the audiobook of Leviathan Wakes, the first book in The Expanse series. I’ve had plenty of recommendations for this series over the past few years (even if the TV adaptation left me a bit cold) and it was exciting to have the option of listening to it first time around instead of reading it.

So far it’s good. I’m finding the narration pretty flat compared to my recent listening experiences, but it’s not getting in the way of the story—which is pretty engrossing so far.

I’ve also made a little more headway into Bird Box. Not much has changed in the story so far. I’ll have to make speedier progress or I risk getting bored.

sunset

Week 47: Close

(November 19 – 25)

This week I’m reminded that working with people is very much like sharing a flat. When you’re in constant close quarters with others, it’s the tiniest things that can have the biggest effects. It can make things that you would generally ignore in a casual friendship turn into the hugest millstones around your neck.

It’s remarkable the amount of stress these tiny things can generate as well. It can completely distract from the work itself, and end up becoming the sole focus of your working day.

I guess it’s a good thing that work only takes up a third of the day …

Watching

Episode “I’ve Lost Count” of Doctor Who this week, aka “Kerblam!”

Again, a very decent, but largely unremarkable episode. I appreciate that the denouement wasn’t quite what we might have suspected, but otherwise there were few surprises. I worry that this season is going to end up filled with mostly unmemorable episodes; so far there’s been one highlight (“Rosa”) and a handful of perfectly competent episodes. It’ll be a shame if this is the case, as almost everything else about this season is perfect.

I also managed to dip back into The Haunting Of Hill House—just for episode 3. There was a brief moment when I thought I’d already watched the episode and forgotten about it, but that didn’t end up being the case. At my going rate, I’ll finish this show by next Easter.

Fridate’s horror movie was a superb Netflix offering from Indonesia called May The Devil Take You. It was a touch hokey in parts, but overall it was a tremendous tribute to Sam Raimi filled with plenty of genuine scares to balance out the frequent over-the-top gore. Much fun, and very much recommended.

Other weekend viewing included return visits to Super 8 and Highlander. Super 8 remains the purest of tributes to Steven Spielberg, and is always good to watch when you’ve recently been stuck into Stranger Things. Highlander, meanwhile, is never less than enormous fun.

Reading

I am taking an unofficial break from listening to It. This wasn’t part of the plan for this week, but on the drive to and from work most days I’ve found myself listening to music instead of … It. Clearly, It is no longer gripping me. It might be time for us to take a break from each other.

I’m also continuing to read Bird Box. Not totally sure about this one yet, but the premise is intriguing enough to keep me reading (plus I kinda want to get it read before the film drops).

delicious roasties

Week 46: Timey wimey

(November 12 – 18)

One of the random moments that’s always stuck with me from the Star Wars films is when Yoda accuses Luke of always looking to the future, “…never his mind on where we was, what he was doing…

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting this week, and a lot of reflecting, and it’s made me think about how we continually live our lives across three different time streams (if you’ll forgive me getting a little time-wimey). We always have the promise of the future, distracting us from the present. And we always have the past that we revisit constantly, but can never truly restore to the present. Nostalgia has become a great cultural driver for us, and a great feeder for capitalism—which is surely nothing more than the drive to acquire material assets to (supposedly) make your future better.

But that’s not really my point. My point is, I think, that it’s remarkable that we can function in the third–the present–at all. We spend all our time looking forward to things: that next cup of coffee; the end of the day; seeing someone; planning for tomorrow. And then the experiences we have in the present get filed away as memories of the past which inform our desires (or fears) from the future. They also fill our present. We spend vast swathes of time reliving and sharing those memories: talking about that great movie we saw last night; that delicious meal; that legendary holiday.

It’s a self-sustaining feedback loop in which the present is the briefest flash of our existence: this split second as I write this word and then you read this one. Then it’s gone. We can only act in the present, but the bulk of our consciousness is devoted to either side of that line.

Anyway, that went way deeper than planned, so let’s talk about Doctor Who!

Watching

A little bit underwhelmed by this week’s episode of Doctor Who (“Demons Of The Punjab”), which is a shame as it was excellently made and had all the hallmarks of being a bit of a keeper. I’ll definitely give it a second chance, but I feel like the series is starting to play a lot of the same cards: they’re strong cards, no doubt, but I’m now waiting to see it all come together. The next two look pretty intriguing though.

For Fridate horror we watched an anthology film called Holidays on Netflix. As you might reasonably guess, each short film was based around a particular holiday (St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc). With eight holidays to cover, the films were pretty short—in fact it was like an evening going through horror shorts on YouTube (with the same wild variance in quality). A couple of the shorts were absolutely batshit crazy, some were fun. One was really, really good—the one inspired by Father’s Day. If you can track that one down then I highly recommend giving it a watch on its own.

But possibly not on your own.

Reading

After looking through my virtual to-read pile, I realised I’ve owned a copy of Bird Box for some time now. My interest in this was especially piqued after watching the trailer recently, so I started reading it. Several chapters in and I’m intrigued by the premise (if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll get a perfect sense of the book so far). I am already wondering if the plot can be sustained long enough to remain interesting, but the book seems short enough that I’m willing to stay around long enough to find out.

Meanwhile, It is continuing to plod along in it’s amiable and expertly-crafted way. I marvel at Stephen King’s ability to drift wildly from the plot, and yet still retain the interest of his reader (listener). Equally, the energy which Steven Weber continues to bring to the narration is a delight.

Pathfinder board game

Week 45: Tiny moments

(November 5 – 11)

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about tiny actions, and the way they can change the course of our lives; a little bit like the butterfly effect. For example, randomly picking up a Doctor Who book in my primary school playground sparked a lifelong love of the show. Many years later, writing a letter to a video magazine, to see if I could write for them, proved to be the first step in a life/career path that indirectly led to me emigrating to Australia and starting a career in IT. Go figure.

Alongside those tiny actions are the coincidences: the confluences of unplanned events that steer our lives in seemingly unpredictable directions. You miss out on what you think is your dream job, only to get a job you really like a few months later. One apparent setback becomes the thing that you only realise later had left your life clear for much better things to happen.

How many times in our lives does this happen? We turn left instead of right? We say one thing instead of another, and those are the words that changes someone’s mind? We go out, instead of staying at home, and meet someone amazing?

And if you didn’t make one of those choices, sometimes years back, how different would your life be now?

Watching

Episode 5 of the new series of Doctor Who (“The Tsuranga Conundrum”), and the io9 review sums it up best for me: I’m ready for Doctor Who to stop proving that it’s still Doctor Who. This week we had the alien/base under siege story. This has followed from the obligatory monster story and the (very excellent) historical story. Once again, a perfectly good episode—gorgeous to look at, strong attention to characterisation. I just don’t think it’s going to be an especially memorable one. I’m ready for this season to throw off the restraints and *really* show us what the new production team are capable of. Five down; six to go!

Friday’s horror movie was A Quiet Place, which I’ve been waiting to watch for a long time (indeed, the bluray has been sitting on my shelf for months now). And it was pretty damn good. Very slow–a consequence of the [necessary] lack of dialogue, and the literal slow and measured pace of the characters. However, once it starts (and it starts pretty early on) it doesn’t let up. In fact, I was surprised when it ended.

But, I do love that last scene ….

Reading

Not much.

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