Weeknote 1 (2020) - Ending the hiatus

Not work. TV. Tech thoughts.

I have decided to restart the numbering on the weeknotes because I firmly believe that when other people have great ideas; you steal them. A new year; a new count. And if it helps me get over my blogging block, then so much the better.

Work

I’m not going to write about or mention work here in these weeknotes. Nor am I going to blog about it. The reason is both simple and complicated:

Simple, because I just don’t feel like it.

Complicated because whenever I write about work I risk disrupting the work of my colleagues. We already have people who do communications, marketing, and community building. Best case scenario when I write about work is that I don’t mess things up.

So I’m not going to.

This dilemma has had a big part in my blogging block so far. I felt that mentioning work related issues was a part of the format and one of my flaws is that I get stuck in formats, routines, and cycles. If my brain decides that something is a rule—like walking only clockwise or counter-clockwise through grocery stores—then I have a hard to time not following the rule.

I can change these rules with relative ease, but I have to be aware of them first.

TV

The Witcher

I watched Witcher like everybody else. It’s silly fun and not even remotely good. The best way I’ve found to describe it is that it’s as if somebody took Xena: Warrior Princess, updated it with a needlessly complicated narrative structure and CGI effects, added some tits and female nudity, and made it less gay.

If you want an example of what it could have been like, just look at Spartacus, the over-the-top Roman gladiator series made a few years ago by, among others, the former producers of Xena: Warrior Princess.

It added the special effects and complicated narative structure, yeah, and it had plenty of nudity. But the nudity was equal opportunity and the series as a whole had quite a few queer/gay moments.

Spartacus also had the benefit of having absolute clarity of who the bad guy was and what made them tick: the Roman institution of war and slavery. Spartacus wasn’t the best TV series around but it was easily one of the most fun.

Witcher has no such clarity. At the end of the series we have no real insight into the motivations of any of the adversaries nor do we have any real sense of how the society portrayed works. There’s some handwaving about magicians and courts but all of it without substance.

I’m not saying that Witcher could have been high quality TV, just that, fun as it was, it could have been even more fun.

The Mandalorian

An interesting series that didn’t start of particularly well (like watching somebody else play a series of side-quests in a video game) but the series started to come together as it went on, even managing to connect the dots to the early episodes quite well.

Is it good? Well, we don’t really know yet.

Some background:

I enjoy the Star Wars movies quite a bit, mostly out of nostalgia. The first movies I saw in the cinema was a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double feature with my dad. I’m of the generation that grew up with Star Wars toys and the Ewok TV movies. I have a lot of love for Star Wars. So much so that I’ve watched all of the movies, most of the TV movies (the two Ewok movies, the Christmas Special), quite a few of the TV series (bits of Droids, all of Clone Wars (2D), all of Clone Wars (3D), bits of Rebels), and read a bunch of the comics.

Oh, and I’ve read the Timothy Zahn Star Wars books. But not any of the other extended universe books. Even my nostalgia has limits.

But Star Wars also annoys me because none of it is actually any good.

OK, fine. Empire Strikes Back is a fun ride because it kept a good pace while still giving a bunch of handsome, charming actors the space to be all handsome and charming. And Star Wars: A New Hope is a groundbreaking, innovative movie that spawned countless imitators.

Rogue One might be the only one that’s actually good and, typically for Star Wars, it’s also a movie that serves no real narrative purpose—filling in continuity gaps that absolutely did not need filling in. It wasn’t a plot hole.

One of the core problems with Star Wars is that it has the depth of a muddy puddle. It portrays a society that is frankly horrifying on every level and refuses to engage with it in any meaningful way:

Pervasive slavery both in the Empire and the Republic: the droids are sentient beings without any rights who are regularly mind-wiped. So many aspects of how droids are treated in the series are genuinely horrifying. The new movies have managed to avoid tackling the topic head on so deftly that it’s quite obvious that they know exactly how problematic it is.

Then you have the Jedi: an armed force that is structured more like Janissary shock troops than the monks or knights we are supposed to be reminded of. Taken as children, forbidden to marry, forced to practice a religion that wasn’t theirs, and utterly brainwashed. They are the direct cause of most of the horrors in the series and the only movie that had even an inkling of a critique of them was the now partially retconned out of existence The Last Jedi.

The movie series is a topic of another day but my point is that the world as portrayed is pretty darn ghastly and The Mandalorian is the first time I’ve seen a hint of an alternate take on the worldbuilding.

Namely, in earlier TV series, the Mandalorians were frequent adversaries of the Jedi and the lead in the series is not a member of the existing power structure in any way.

It could be a good series if it takes the opportunity next season to criticise existing and past power structures in the galaxy. It has already evolved a slightly more thoughtful portrayal of droids over the first series. It could do the same for other aspects of Star Wars, one by one.

I don’t hold out much hope knowing how badly people responded to The Last Jedi’s tiny gestures towards patching Star Wars’ flawed worldbuilding.

At least we’ll always have Baby Yoda.

Picard

Picard is off to a good start, diving right into exactly the kind of problems and ideas that I associate with Star Trek—just with a bit more of a personal slant. Could be good.

Watchmen

I liked this more than I expected. It’s better than it has any right to be.

One story. One season. Pitch perfect ending. It shouldn’t have been this good.

Tech

Svelte

I’ve mentioned Svelte before but turns out that I like Svelte a lot as a web framework. It’s a decent compromise between the component-oriented enterprise-y worldview that dominates a lot of modern web dev and the hypertextual—resources and markup with a layer of behaviours—worldview of progressive web development.

It’s a compromise, though, and I’m not sure I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to work in a team with other developers.

Deno

I’d really like to take some time to test Deno at some point because it seems fix everything that is wrong with node.js:

At first glance Deno looks like serverside JS finally done right, paralleling the browser environment more closely and providing a balanced standard library.

And if you’re a TypeScript kind of person, it supports it natively.

It’s still early days but there’s a good chance that once it is stable, it’ll start taking a lot of market share from node.js, much like io.js did for a while. Mostly because it looks like a much nicer environment to work in.

That’s it, for now

I might write a bit about the movies and books I’ve enjoyed during my blog hiatus next week.