Ahead on Differential


Here are ten things I want to get better at doing.

  1. Tarot. Tarot cards are less interesting to me as a divinatory tool than they are as a storytelling device. I have three decks on my desk and one in my bag, and they're gathering more dust than I'd like to admit. I'm not a mystic or anything, but as addressed in an earlier post, I am a Jungian, at least in that I believe in meaningful coincidences and archetypes and such, and this is part of why tarot interests me. Their archetypal nature is such that a reader cast a wide enough net so that a querent might see themselves in the spread; this is the essence of cold reading. But I'm not out here trying to predict anyone's future. I just want to tell a story. That said, I only know enough about tarot to be dangerous. I'm familiar with tarot in the same way I am with chess: I know how all the pieces move, but not really how they go together. My notion of what the suits, ranks, and Major Arcana cards represent by themselves is okay, but how they relate to each other? That's still nebulous.

  2. Playing ukulele. One of my major sliding doors moments was when I was about 9, when my grandfather offered to show me how to play guitar. Naturally, being 9 and a total idiot, I turned him down. I had better things to do that day, I guess? Fast-forward 25 years later, and I'm at a party where a jam is happening in a friend's kitchen. I'm sitting next to my editor, and I tell him that musicians are 1,000% cooler than writers, to which he counters, “Then just pick up the guitar, it's not that hard.” Images of my two ukuleles gathering dust near my desk then passed before my eyes. It's not that I want to become the Eddie Van Halen of the ukulele or anything, I just want to be able to put chords together without faceplanting. I know your classic cowboy chords, but again, this is a situation where I know enough to be dangerous. But my editor is right: this is a reachable goal. Dare I dream that I could one day sing while playing? If I can get to a point where I can croak my way through “Don't Dream It's Over,” I'll be happy.

  3. Using the library. I moan and I complain and I make a giant stink about physical media dying and like a total asshole, I visit the library like four times a year. The major library here is right on a major metro station! There's no excuse! My failure at using the library as the vast and wonderful resource it is segues perfectly into my next two points.

  4. Reading. I am colossally ill-read. Not even “for a former English major.” I am terrible at keeping up with reading. I have a bad habit of abandoning books about 70% of the way through. Not because they're bad, just because I've moved onto something else, or something has muscled itself onto reading's chunk of the calendar. There are seven books in my line of sight that I have left unfinished. I used to read on the subway but I bike to work now, so audiobooks might be an option. (Editor's note: please don't listen to shit while biking.) I have checked out so many books with the best intentions of reading them only to admit defeat after renewing my loan over and over and over again.

  5. Watching movies. I spend so much time with a thumb in my ass and the other on the OK button of my Roku just letting YouTube wash over me. I want to be more active in my watching habits, which is in part why I cobbled together something I'm calling the Modular Film Festival for September.

  6. Taking pictures with a disposable camera. I was hanging out with some writer buddies of mine and I started talking about how I didn't have evidence of my 20s: no mementos, no trinkets, no nothing. All I had were zeroes and ones on my phone. A few months later, those same few friends sprang a birthday get-together on me and gifted me a lo-fi solution to this particular existential issue: a disposable camera and a couple of photo albums to fill. It was a very sweet and thoughtful gift that I proceeded to not use all that much. It took me five months to take 24 pictures. I don't want the second camera to sit idle as long.

  7. Playing Scrabble. I might be a Scrabble asshole. Yes, I play QI and XI and AA and SUQ and QAT. Maybe I should join a club, and the internet tells me there's a club in my neighbourhood. It's all well and good when you just shellac Maven by 150 points, but I think I want to test my mettle against other Scrabble assholes.

  8. Playing Magic: The Gathering. My Magic proclivities have been documented elsewhere, but even when you factor in my preferred way of playing, It is absurd that I've been playing this game for this long and can't go .500 in a draft event, jank or no jank.

  9. Listening. To music, to others, to myself. Deliberate attention and all that, I don't know that you can ever get too good at this.

  10. Writing. I haven't written a poem in weeks. The keys of my typewriter have gone silent. I've got more empty notebooks than I care to admit. I can't keep up with my Letterboxd capsules. Hell, it took me a week to muster up the energy to finish this very blog post. The worst of it is that every time I sit down to write, I do right, and it infuriates me that “apply ass to chair” (i.e. sustained focus and energy) is still undefeated as advice for writers. The tricky part is carving out the time necessary where said sustained focus can happen.


Sadly, Bad News Barnes and those slick Spirits unis did not make the cut

  1. Escape from New York was shot there
  2. those 16 games or whatever Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky played for the Blues together
  3. Ozzie Smith
  4. Chuck Berry (music only)
  5. that big-ass croquet hoop they've got


Here are ten things.

  1. It was Halloween! Because I am an incorrigible dork, I went as Luke Wilson as Richie Tenenbaum. My pal Emily went as Owen Wilson as Eli Cash. It was uncanny. Bonus: true to her handle, Steph went as the softest bunny.
  2. A bunch of us had a quiet night in of costumes, snacks, and the new Jackbox Party Pack. The standout game for me was Job Job, where players use words in each other's answers to prompts to answer completely different questions. A little Survive the Internet, a little Quiplash.
  3. The new big update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons dropped a day early, sending all the Nookheads I know into a tizzy.
  4. Blaseball is back, baby! This new run of seasons, called Short Circuits, is taking place in a different part of the Blaseball metaverse, so the continuing adventures of Jaylen Hotdogfingers will have to wait. But for now, my beloved Seattle Garages are the best team in the Solid League and have an eight-game lead on their nearest division rival. Damn, now I know this is an alternate universe!
  5. Pen nerd shit: I've been having a fun time writing with these Pilot Razor Points. I'm just a sucker for an ultra-fine felt tip pen.
  6. Indianapolis Colts 45, New York Jets 30. I love gridiron football games that have Arenaball scores, but that's not why I'm including this game as one of the ten things. I'm including it here because 45-30 is scorigami, baby! I still love you, Carson Wentz.
  7. Speaking of football: we turn to the college ranks for the silliest news story of the week, in which the Texas Longhorns special teams coach's exotic dancer girlfriend's emotional support monkey fucking bit a kid on Halloween. Yes, you read that correctly. Alex McDaniel at USA Today has a good write-up of the story so far, and the legends at Shutdown Fullcast dedicated an entire episode to it.
  8. Speaking of podcasts (damn, look at this fool go, two segues in a row): We'll Take This One, a podcast about advice columns that is hosted by some online buddies of mine, has shaken off the cobwebs and dropped a new episode. A passing reference is made to the great Wayne White, which made me remember how dope the documentary Beauty Is Embarrassing is (that's a Short Good Secret Hall of Famer right there).
  9. The new War on Drugs record I Don't Live Here Anymore fucking goes. It is precisely my shit.
  10. A poem, via Matthew Ogle's essential newsletter Pome:

I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across the lake in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools, the overgrown path to the creek, raw garlic, used tires, taverns, saloons, bars, gallons of red wine, abandoned farmhouses, stunted lilac groves, gravel roads that end, brush piles, thickets, girls who haven’t quite gone totally wild, river eddies, leaky wooden boats, the smell of used engine oil, turbulent rivers, lakes without cottages lost in the woods, the primrose growing out of a cow skull, the thousands of birds I’ve talked to all of my life, the dogs that talked back, the Chihuahuan ravens that follow me on long walks. The rattler escaping the cold hose, the fluttering unknown gods that I nearly see from the left corner of my blind eye, struggling to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot. —Jim Harrison, “I Believe”

#lists #tenthings

Here are ten things.

  1. I've been loving the Blank Check miniseries on the films of the great John Carpenter. Their last episode at time of writing was on the Chevy Chase vehicle Memoirs of an Invisible Man. This movie is by most accounts Carpenter's first out-and-out dud, snapping an impressive 11-movie winning streak that lasted from 1974 to 1988. Who else had comparable runs? QT? Miyazaki? Malick? Kurosawa?

  2. This leads to my hot take of the week: if you don't have a run of ten good movies (not even masterpieces, just good movies), you're disqualified from the GOAT conversation. Sorry, Steven Spielberg!

  3. I went on a writing retreat out east with nine other writers and it was fun as hell. Aside from getting some actual work done, the experience reminded me of all the positive parts of dorm life (communal meals, drifting in and out of several coversations, spontaneous group activities). My freind Laura went HAM and made the lot of us a four-course meal on the Saturday. I ate panna cotta for the first time. It was rad.

  4. The collected life wisdom of podcaster extraordinaire Merlin Mann.

  5. The Argo, the oldest independent English-language bookstore in Montréal (and the first place I ever read poetry IRL), has settled into a new home.

  6. The new Elvis Costello & the Imposters single “Magnificent Hurt” fucking whips.

  7. What are the records in your Autumn Album Canon? This thread has some dope answers, but my fall listening habits consist of alternating between Neil Young's Harvest and the Clientele's Strange Geometry.

  8. Goth Derek paid me a visit: I got a wild hair up my ass and painted my nails for the first time in over 15 years. My girlfriend Steph said it best: “It's good to be adorned.” For those playing the home game, this is what I ended up using.

  9. RIP Alan Hawkshaw, an English musician and legendary figure in the world of library music. The great Jon Bois eulogized him in a tweet, and there are tons of sick tunes to check out in the replies.

In an effort to get people to look into each other’s eyes more, and also to appease the mutes, the government has decided to allot each person exactly one hundred and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear without saying hello. In the restaurant I point at chicken noodle soup. I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover, proudly say I only used fifty-nine today. I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond, I know she’s used up all her words, so I slowly whisper I love you thirty-two and a third times. After that, we just sit on the line and listen to each other breathe.
—Jeffrey McDaniel, “The Quiet World”

#lists #tenthings

art by Jason Rainville

Here are ten things.

  1. Like most of the internet, I've been transfixed by the ongoing “Bad Art Friend” saga. Two new wrinkles: a list of corrections Dawn Dorland sent to Gawker regarding their blog posts on this whole kerfuffle and a New Yorker review of the Sonya Larson short story at the heart of the matter.
  2. Even though I consistently go 1-2 and get my ass stomped, Jank City, my Magic playgroup's flagship draft event, is always a blast when it happens. My pal Neil won the day with a dudes-heavy Gruul deck powered by the Mythic Conspiracy card Hymn of the Wilds. We have now banned this card from future play.
  3. I'm always tickled by the stuff Wikipedia Haiku pulls out. A sample:
    It was said the lights
    were clearer on the eve of
    a lunar New Year
  4. What horror movie character are you? My answer: “the guy who gets fucked up by an animal-shaped demon because he wanted to pet it”
  5. Speaking of horror, I watched Gremlins 2: The New Batch for the first time as part of my ongoing spooky season viewing project, and as it turns out, it's a masterpiece. For one brief shining moment, Joe Dante was the American Jacques Tati.
  6. Further viewing: I also watched Alien 3 and thought it was... fine. Admirably downbeat and textured in the way those early Fincher movies are, and not a whole lot else for me to hang my hat on. I talked to my friend Isabelle about it (she's a massive Alien 3 booster), and it was kind of an insight into disagreements about art. Often, it's not so much about misreading or not getting it or whatever, it's differing aesthetic reactions to something both people correctly identified.
  7. Whoever designed the packaging for the Criterion edition of The Celebration deserves a promotion and a raise.
  8. The new black midi record Cavalcade fucking whips ass. Plays like every version of King Crimson at once.
  9. The newest episode of Shutdown Fullcast is a doozy: “What's the dumbest fight you've ever witnessed?”
  10. I'm going to take a page from Laura Olin's playbook and end with a poem I stumbled onto.
    Now we gather worshipful.
    The gears in his legs shine down.
    He lifts his head.
    Here he comes!
    We’re erecting a maypole with green ribbons.
    His legs are four probes.
    And his back is a ship and his eyes are holes in the curtain.
    We’re eating cookies in the shape of him.
    The icing is gold and silver.
    He’s’ shedding gears, here he comes tripping!
    He is casting off the elastic bindings.
    Now we’re hanging giant flags.
    The wind-up key sticks in his side like a blade.
    The wind rocks him on his wheels.
    Here he comes, crawling!
    The bright obvious shines in his body.
    Here comes the electric, the burning mystery!
    —Sarah Manguso, “The Deer Comes Down the Mountain”

#lists #tenthings

Bo Burnham via Netflix

Here are ten things.

  1. Like most of the world, I watched Bo Burnham's latest special Inside on Netflix. It appears to be pretty divisive in my circles, but I quite enjoyed it as a collection of skits and songs about the performances we all put on, for everyone and no one, on the Internet.

  2. Blaseball is back from an extended Siesta and my beloved Seattle Garages are as dogshit as ever. We're in a strong position to win the Underbracket, but I have mixed feeling about that.

  3. Auckland-via-Detroit filmmaker/festival programmer Doug Dillaman challenged people to program a film festival to “replace” the postponed New Zealand International Film Festival using a specific set of rules. Here's my crack at it.

  4. Reporter Lee Sanderlin finished dead last in his fantasy football league, and as punishment, had to eat his way out of a 24-hour stay at Waffle House. This is his saga.

  5. Quinton Reviews goes waaaaay long on two artifacts of millennial junk culture, Fred and iCarly. The only conclusion I can draw after watching 8.5 hours of this is that this is media criticism as a form of self-flagellation. #FREDPILLED

  6. On the most recent episode of The Big Picture, co-host Sean Fennessey spoke with filmmaker Alex Ross Perry about home video distribution, how canons get built, and movies that fall into the cracks of history.

  7. I filled a big gap in my personal filmography by finally sitting down and watching Singin' in the Rain. I was winded just watching this movie. Here's Donald O'Connor doing “Make 'em Laugh,” and keep in mind, this dude smoked four packs a day and was hospitalized after this because he simply went in too hard.

  8. I revistied Brian Eno's Another Green World, which is a great piece of work. I love it when Robert Fripp's distinctive guitar shows up anywhere.

  9. A compendium of design objects used in Star Trek and who made them, via Jason Kottke, because everything online worth seeing passes through Kottke.

  10. I wrote a poem about bathroom smells, but not the ones you're thinking of. It's called “Sense of Smell, Sense of Time.”

#lists #tenthings

The man himself Photo: Shudder

This is a lightly-edited list of king shlockmeister Joe Bob Briggs's advice for budding writers. Like all writing advice, it boils down to “apply ass to chair,” but with a fair bit more Job Bob colour:

  1. The way you become a writer is you WRITE. Every day. No exceptions.
  2. What you write is not important.
  3. Nobody is going to steal your idea.
  4. THERE ARE NO NEW IDEAS. There are only individual expressions of old ideas.
  5. Be honest. It always works.
  6. Don't listen to anybody's opinions about what you write, especially your friends and family. (I don't mean ignore these people. I mean listen to the voice inside you that says "That's good" and "That stinks." It's the only voice that doesn't lie.)
  7. Never be afraid to write something that stinks. The more stinky stuff you put out, the more risks you take. And the more risks you take, the better chance you have of creating something beautiful. No great writer has ever been a wimp.
  8. If you can explain how to write a book, then you don't know how to write one. If you can write a book, then you won't be able to explain how you did it. It's stupid, but it's true.
  9. There are no membership cards or initiation rites for this profession. Anybody with a sheet of paper can do it. So you become a writer on the day you say "I'm a writer." It doesn't matter where your income comes from. The work you take joy from is writing.
  10. Nobody can tell you how to write, but there are certain things you can do to get to a PLACE where you can write. There are three of them: Write every day. Write every day. Write every day.

This is all I know.

Source: JoeBobBriggs.com

#lists #writing

I'm with you up until, like, number seven

I found this in my desk at work and I guarantee you this list is different now.

#movies #lists

The GOAT, talking shit

I am back in the swing of things at work, which is great for my livelihood but not so good for my writing. Thankfully, I love writing lists, and since it was both Hayao Miyazaki's birthday (happy 80th to the GOAT) and just another day on the internet (nerds having opinions about Wes Anderson, yours truly included), I wrote up some lists. I love making lists. And I hope you love reading (or arguing with, whichever suits your fancy) them.

Wes Anderson, Ranked

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel. It took me a long time to admit to myself that not only is it my favourite, but that it's a five-star film.

  2. Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe I just like the cute/funny Wes movies rather than the sad ones.

  3. Rushmore. The first one I saw. For a kid from the sticks, the movies Wes makes might has well have been set on Mars, but that was part of the appeal. What wasn't alien was kick-ass rock music, crushes on people I had no business having crushes on, and, in retrospect, being an annoying precocious asswipe.

  4. The Royal Tenenbaums. Bet you 20 bucks this goes up two spots on rewatch.

  5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. See above. Might resonate with me more now that I'm over 30.

  6. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Can't help but feel I lowballed this on the first go.

  7. Bottle Rocket. Wes's first is his least quintessential, but I love how shaggy it is. Come back to us, Owen Wilson, all is forgiven.

  8. Isle of Dogs. Uh, well... the dogs are cute? The sushi prep scene is cool? Strong weeb vibes coming off this one.

  9. The Darjeeling Limited. Man, I don't want to talk about this one, this one's kinda of rough. I think it's the only complete misfire in the run.

Top 10 (Paul Thomas,Paul W.S.,Wes) Anderson Films

  1. Boogie Nights. It's not the Great American Novel if there's no dick and no cocaine.

  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

  3. Inherent Vice. Up in smoke.

  4. There Will Be Blood. I'm starting to suspect that PTA is attracted to these widescreen American tragedies with mad barons and charlatans and shit in them.

  5. Moonrise Kingdom.

  6. The Master. This is what Joaquin should have gotten his Oscar for. Either this or You Were Never Really Here.

  7. Phantom Thread. Motherfucker really went and named his character "Woodcock," huh.

  8. Rushmore.

  9. The Royal Tenenbaums.

  10. Event Horizon. Hell is outer space.

Hayao Miyazaki: A Tier List

  • N/A: Porco Rosso, Ponyo. I'll get to them eventually, I swear.

  • D tier: Hayao Miyazaki has never made anything less than good and to claim otherwise would be heresy of the highest order.

  • C tier: Castle in the Sky. As with any of these lists, this is subjective, but this is the only one that doesn't, you know, move me.

  • B tier: The Castle of Caglisotro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle. The first one is really fun heist movie, and Howl might be Miyazaki's most phantasmagorical film, and yes, I'm aware Spirited Away is a thing.

  • A tier: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, The Wind Rises. I especially like The Wind Rises, because it's the most politically complex film of the bunch. What does it mean when the thing you love is turned into something that brings hell on Earth?

  • S tier: My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke. Two perfect films, what can I say. Two very different way of communing with nature. Sometimes it comes to you softly, and sometimes it comes to you with a vengeance. Plus Totoro is south of God's Runtime, which as we all know, is 87 minutes.

#movies #lists #listsoflists

  • Grocery lists
  • Diagrams of the change I need for the laundry
  • Chores (one of them is “Watch Vince Vaughan beat the piss out of a whole prison”)
  • Pen tests
  • Lists of movies
  • Lists of lists of movies
  • A single lament about my colour blindness
  • Magic: The Gathering Two-Headed Giant results, likely Battlebond (2-1, not bad)
  • Vehicles Brawl deck (speaking of Magic)
  • A podcast idea I'm still trying to crack
  • Another list of movies
  • “Sweaters?”
  • The results for Jank City III (if you know, you know)
  • A three-year absence

#miscellany #lists