November has been something of a turning point, maybe even a breaking point, for me. I had to schedule a meeting with my boss to say that I just can’t keep working at the current pitch much longer. Not only is it hard to sustain, but I feel that I’m not the best teacher I can be. And I know that I can contribute bigger ideas and make real progress only if I have the time to assess and reflect. She was very supportive and I think maybe things will start to get easier in the new year.
I had a similar conversation with my music collective. I’m not having fun and not doing great work on their musical projects while I’m so busy and stressed with everything else. And trying to drive an hour each way on a weeknight for sessions just isn’t practical for me. They’ll continue on without me and hopefully I can get back into it when more of my time is my own again.
It’s funny, one of the things that spurred the above decisions has been this growing sense of creative restlessness, almost a ravenous hunger to return to my own personal creative pursuits that I haven’t touched in a long time, especially to make personal music again. And even more especially to have the mental space to let my mind wander and explore in a creative way. Then I happened onto this article about how there are seven types of rest that people need to be healthy. Pretty sure I’m lacking in almost every kind, but the creative rest is the one that feels most painful to miss right now.
Things are looking up since I had that conversation with my boss and since the end of the semester is almost here. I’m really optimistic about the break (if I can keep my seasonal affective disorder from getting in my way) and about next semester. Hopefully by setting some boundaries I’ll move closer to a more sustainable balance. Doesn’t that sound nice?
- Austin Puppet Incident—We’ve watched this festival of puppetry arts for the last five years-ish (virtually this year), and you never know quite what you will see. It’s always a mix of the funny, the movie, and (mostly) the very, very strange. This year’s festival was rather less memorable than previously, but enjoyable nonetheless.
- Worked ACC Creative Careers Expo—I got roped into working a Saturday outreach event at our new campus, and it actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable. Most especially because I got an opportunity to tour the brand new facilities of the RTF, music recording, culinary, and photography departments on our new Highland campus. All very impressive.
- Classic Movie Night: Goldfinger—We hosted this one in our backyard and provided classic gin martinis, Bond’s own Vesper martinis, and a delicious English-style beef stew.
- Friendsgiving—I managed to avoid any traditional family entanglements on the holiday this year, but my friend Danielle hosted a delightful dinner for friends that gave the break a sense of occasion that I would otherwise have lacked.
- Got together with our friend Stache to make an occasion out of watching the finale of the Great British Baking Show season 10. We love that show.
- The Comedy of Errors—I don’t know if I wasn’t in the mood or if maybe this kind of comedy plays better on stage than on the page, but this quintessential Shakespearian farce of lookalikes and mistaken identities just didn’t land for me.
- The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde—I hadn’t read this since I was maybe twelve years old, and I was really surprised at how much the details and even the specific words resurfaced in my memory as I read. A classic for a reason, I enjoyed this every bit as much as when I was young.
- Consider Phlebas—This one was rather disappointing, and I confess that I didn’t make it quite all the way to the end. Too episodic. Too cartoony. Not enough depth.
- Second Foundation—Continuing my journey through Asimov’s Foundation series, this one continues adding complexity and questions onto the original premise. And it’s just so readable, with a plot that twists and turns.
- *Porco Rosso—*Probably the least heavy of all the Miyazaki films I’ve seen, but still plenty of charm, whimsy, and heart to spare. Delightful.
- Chocolat— Rewatched this after my wife finished reading the novel on which it is based. Overall, pretty enjoyable, though I wish the more magical elements didn’t fade away as the film goes on.
- Devs—I’m a fan of Alex Garland’s movies Ex Machina and Annihilation, so I was was keen to see what he’d do when given the opportunity to make a limited series. It doesn’t disappoint. And if suspension of disbelief and the end are less that perfect, the ambition and mood of the show largely makes up for it. Plus, Nick Offerman is great in this.
- Goldfinger—We chose this one for Classic Movie Night as our pick for quintessential Bond film. It’s a ton of fun. But what surprises me watching it now is that as a youth I saw only Bond’s suaveness and coolness, but these days the main thing that stands out is just how wacky and downright silly the whole franchise always was.
- Police Story—Hong Kong-era Jackie Chan in full force. Like many of those Hong Kong films, the humor is really hoaky and the plot lacks any real structure, but, dang, those stunts and the inventiveness of the fight choreography are unbeatable.
- Squid Game—I’m often skeptical of media that hits big with general audiences, but this one is just sooo good. I hesitate to say more about it because there is just so much praise I could heap on nearly every aspect. Fantastic.
- Gone Girl—Rewatched this on a whim one evening. Every David Fincher film is brilliant in its own way, but this one I particularly like. Fincher is a director talented on many levels, but one thing that struck me this time is just how unexpectedly spot-on his casting is. I never would have thought of Neil Patrick Harris or Tyler Perry for those roles, but damned if they’re not perfect in them.
- Installed acoustic window inserts in my studio. I’ve been waiting for these for more than six months as the manufactures struggled against supply-chain shortages. But they arrived at last and have dramatically reduced the outside noise getting in, meaning I can finally record quiet acoustic guitars without having to worry about the take being ruined by some petro-masculine souped-up truck vrooming by the house at a hundred decibels.
- Slight update to my blogging process: I realized Notion’s tags are formatted similarly to YAML frontmatter when exported, so I set up fields for each of my front matter keys. Should make the whole process a bit smoother as I no longer have to constantly refresh myself as to the exact terms I use for each key.
- Installed solid core doors in my studio and our bedroom so I can play music at night without waking my wife. Turns out cutting down and hanging doors is a finicky business.
- Voted on the Hugo Awards. I look forward to this every year. And while I didn’t have time to read the nominees in as many categories as I would have liked, it feels great to be an active part of the world scifi and fantasy community.
- Began creating an Eleventy-based web interface to map and track the curriculum of all the courses in our department’s programs at school. Who knows if I’ll find time to complete it, but it could be a really useful tool for us, and it’s fun to play around with code sometimes.