Watching Adam Curtis

A poem that shares a title with a docu-series by Adam Curtis from 2011

The first time I watched an Adam Curtis documentary was “Century of the self” about a decade ago. After that, I have, on-and-off, tried to watch everything by him that I could get my hand on.

Not all of it felt equally good, but the good ones were very rewarding. No one else, to my knowledge, comes close to tackling these themes, hard-to-grasp and spread out over decades and involving so many threads of narrative as they are.

For the first time I looked up his filmography and found out that — I found this amazing — he has been making “this sort of thing” since before I was born (!)

Also, I realized I’d watched his work in a very haphazard, non-chronological order, jumping across decades.

I just watched the first 30min of the first episode of his latest creation after a gap of many years (I can’t get you outta my head), and it feels like one of his better ones.

I tend to watch everything slowly these days, so I imagine it will take me a while to get through it (at over eight hours), and perhaps I will mention whether or not it lived up to expectations when I am done.

But in the meantime, I can recommend these favorites of mine (I have been able to find everything on Youtube):

  • The century of the Self (2002)
  • All watched over by machines of loving grace (2011)
  • The Trap: what happened to our dream of freedom (2007)
  • Pandora’s Box (1992)

Enjoy.

A decade (nearly) of Lamy

Lamy Safari, Charcoal Black, Fine Nib

I’ve had this pen for about nine years now, which is longer than I’ve had my laptop, or my phone, or my current pair of jeans, or my bed, or the tv on the wall, or the lamp next to me, or … you get the idea.

I think I’ve mentioned recommendations for fountain pens before, but I’ll repeat this anyway: it’s hard to beat this cheap and reliable workhorse, the good old Lamy Safari (not quite old, though, there are new versions available)

I have two of these that I keep filled with (usually) black and blue ink, and I have secretly wished that they stop working, or even just degrade in quality just a bit, to give me an excuse to try and buy one of the more expensive fountain pens I’ve kept in my wish-list for years, but … that just hasn’t happened yet!

Tip on buying: if you’d like to skip paying Amazon, two great places for “stuff like this” are Jetpens and GouletPens.

Monthly Recap (Jan 2021)

An arrangement of leaves and twigs

Major updates

  • Well, a new year and a new adventure for me at Sigma Computing (bit more on that soon)

Minor updates

  • Played a bunch with silly-but-fun air-pump “rockets”
  • Switched to a new phone after three years
  • Doctor visits for Tara, not fun
  • Haircuts for everyone, after a long time
  • Poor sleep patterns for me

Watched/read/played/made

  • Cloudy with a chance of meatballs (I had missed this earlier, it was surprisingly good family fun)
  • David Attenborough’s “A life on earth” (good, but depressing)

Soylent emeralds is made of … dragons?

I said it but I didn’t do it, but here is one of those …. anomalies I mentioned earlier.

Spike is eating a “Soylent Emerald” snack.

Again, who is this for? It’s bizarre. But it exists.

(There are many more, I just haven’t taken a pic or sorted them or anything like that)

Anyway, this is from the sixth “Friendship is Magic” graphic novel I was reading with my daughter.

(Yes, I pre-ordered it 😐)

Generally Interesting Links – Jan 2021

Science

While it’s true that humans and animals tend to spread the spores of the mushrooms they make off with, thus aiding mushrooms in propagating genetic offspring, I sometimes wonder who’s cultivating whom here.

Tools for thought

Thinking

Mediums

Programming

Declaring “watch-later” bankruptcy

I’m sure a lot of people get to this point … it’s a form of procrastination, clicking on the tempting little Watch Later mini-clock-face.

“Of course I’ll watch you”, I say to the little thumbnail.

Fast-forward a few years later, and there are now about five hundred of these. Surprise.

Given that the average length is about half an hour (if it’s five minutes, I either watch now or watch never), this is several months of dedicated watching time. Not going to happen.

I could painfully prioritize these, figure out what I really meant to watch, and what I was just lying to myself about.

I don’t need to do that. I know I was lying to myself most of the time I clicked that little button.

So the next best option: start over.

Unfortunately, Youtube hasn’t allowed for this possibility.

I found a hack on StackExchange1. It involved moving some playlists around. Painful, but doable.

Doubly unfortunately, this doesn’t work anymore. The Watch Later playlist is an append-log now. Your pile of misery cannot be allowed to shrink2.

There seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel: by suitably obscure Javascript, you too can wipe your slate of false optimism clean. It was an innocuous looking short one-liner3.

I tried it, didn’t work for me.

I tried reverse-engineering it, but couldn’t hack and cut my way through the mass of divs that characterize modern web pages. Javascript is the new assembly language of the web, deal with it.

I got more desperate, tried out other, more unwieldy snippets4.

I did find some kindred souls5.

Anyway I’ve been on-and-off this quest, with no success. Still looking for that “magical snippet” that will work for me.

(@Youtube, Y U No Let Me Delete My Watch History ?!)


  1. From a comment on that page: the clearly bewildered response of “These instructions are unclear”. You don’t say. ↩︎
  2. Okay, it can, but only if you watch all of them and then click on “Remove watched videos” ↩︎
  3. Retrieving a bunch through the right call to getElementsByClassName, then looping and calling click on them ↩︎
  4. This one in particular, successfully crashed Safari for me after a few tries: javascript:var tmr = window.setInterval(function(){var _this = document.querySelector('ytd-playlist-video-list-renderer #button > yt-icon'); if (_this){_this.click();document.querySelector('#items > div > ytd-menu-service-item-renderer:nth-child(2)').click();}else{window.clearInterval(tmr)}}, 1000); ↩︎
  5. As this reddit thread says, “‌Um, I have a YouTube hoarding problem. I have 2,335 videos in my Watch Later list.” Yikes, worse than me by far ↩︎

Annual recap- 2020

Me:

  • “Company kick-off” cruise in the Bahamas
    • My first (and probably last) ever
    • In retrospect, very happy this didn’t turn into a COVID super-spreader event
  • Started tiny daily meditation habit
  • Travelled back from India with Tara at the beginning of the year, spent a week with her (minor achievement)

Tara:

  • (Yes, enough content for her own section)
  • Went climbing at Planet Granite (or rather, barely got the hang of it, before everything shut down)
  • Missed the dance classes in pre-school, had to do her performance virtually
  • (Virtual) preschool graduation
  • Got a new scooter
  • Learnt to ride her bike!
  • Began physical school (kindergarten), in the last quarter (yay)
  • Read
    • all of Ivy & Bean
    • First four Magic Treehouse
    • Harry Potter (Sorceror’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets)
  • Watched
    • Nutjob 1 & 2
    • Equestria Girls
    • Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
    • Scooby Doo (the 2012 series, the original series, the Scrappy Doo series)
    • Nightmare before Christmas
    • Mu Little Pony: The movie
    • Kung fu Panda
    • The Hobbit (old animated version)

Family:

  • WFH changes (duh)
    • Home layouts
    • Haircut experiments
  • Some repairs and replacements at home
  • Events
    • Tara turned 6
    • 10th wedding anniversary
  • Trips
    • Some hikes, some picnics
    • A weekend staycation in Capitola
    • SF Zoo (!)
    • Sanborn County Park (a new discovery)
    • Beach visits (Waddell, Rockaway, Greyhound, Pacifica)
  • Family board games became a thing!

Reading/Writing/Exploring/Learning:

  • Watched (Movies)
    • Fantastic Fungi (!!)
    • The Hobbit
    • Parasite, Knives out
    • 10000 BC, 2012 (repeats)
    • Brittany runs a marathon, Outbreak
    • Logan Lucky
    • Trip to Greece
    • The Bookshop, Little Women
    • The Vast of Night (!)
    • Social Dilemma
    • Struggle: life & lost art of Szugalski (!!)
    • Tenet (!!)
  • Watched (TV)
    • New season of Lost in Space
    • Messiah
    • Tiger King (!)
    • Money Heist
    • Vida
    • The Crown (season 4)
    • Killing Eve (season 3)
    • Hinterland (season 1)
  • Read
    • Lexicon (bought it at the SF airport, very original)
    • Three-body problem (whole new world of SF)
    • (Comixology) Witcher, Locke and Key, Alita

Review from last year:

  • I did complete a puzzle (never got around to collecting and sharing pictures)
  • I did scratch the “make a small app” itch
  • No small book, but … there are some collage-ish scribbles I’ll pick up some other time
  • No 10K, but … I did run 15 minutes (nearly) every Sunday morning

Tentative Resolutions:

  • (this is a bit pointless, unless revised during the year, but still …)
  • Sustain what little exercise routine I have!
  • Try (or keep trying) to get a good sleep routine
  • Complete one more puzzle
  • In general, create and share more