reading, writing, and commenting

1) I miss director’s commentary tracks.

One thing that I miss about DVDs is the director’s commentary tracks (or commentary tracks in general, although, in general, directors and writers are — in my experience — more interesting than actors to listen to). Not that DVDs don’t exist anymore, but in a lot of cases they no longer have commentary tracks, presumably because more and more people watch movies on streaming services and fewer and fewer on DVDs, so it’s not worth the effort.

So, it was pleasant to find that Rian Johnson recorded a commentary track for Glass Onion, a movie I enjoyed a lot. (I enjoyed Knives Out, too, and I have no interest in thinking about which is better, but Glass Onion is much more full of cameos and funny background details, so the commentary track is fun.)

2. Writing.

I’m holding off on starting a new story for the moment, since the four I’ve posted so far all needed a little sprucing up.

I’m not rewriting or anything like that — just a little tweak here and there. Mostly swapping out words for better words, and adjusting (and, I hope, improving) punctuation. “The Marvel Murder Case” and “The Town Hall Mystery” are done. I’m currently about halfway through “The Deacon Mystery.”

I know, that leaves out “The Heron Island Mystery.” That’s the longest of the four, by far, and it’s the only one which needs more than tweaking. I was constantly aware when writing it that it was going to end up much longer than I’d hoped. It’s 35,000 words, definitely a novella, and longer than “The Town Hall Mystery” and “The Deacon Mystery” put together.

But stories find their own length, and in worrying about how long it was becoming, I see now that I left out at least two small scenes which should be there. So, in addition to the tweaking, I’ll be adding a couple of things. Ironically, despite being, so I thought, “too long,” it’s actually been, until now, a bit too short.

3. Reading.

This article caused a bit of a stir earlier this year: “The End of the English Major.”

Here are a couple of responses from the New York Times:

I think this is interesting, but not, for me, personally compelling. Of the enduring cultural enthusiasms of my life, none of them were acquired at school. James Joyce comes the closest, since I did study that in college and I don’t think I’d read much Joyce before, but that’s not a top tier passion. My experience of formal education is that it has squashed more possible passions than it ever encouraged (to this day, I cringe at the idea of ever opening Moby Dick again).

That being said, I do like the idea of college as a way of educating people, rather than just training them for some future job. I had a friend when I was in college who wanted to become a doctor, and he said that a lot of his fellow future doctors had chosen a pre-med major very early on, but he’d chosen another major (I forget what), partly because he wanted a broader education, and partly because his research had shown that a lot of top medical schools were leaning toward applicants who had a more general undergraduate education, because there was a theory that they made better doctors.

I thought of this when I was considering the movie Eyes Wide Shut recently. I hadn’t liked it much when it was in theaters, but I’ve been watching some videos about it recently, and that’s made me think about it again. The central character is Dr. Bill Harford, a very successful M.D., and it suddenly struck me that he might be a perfect example of what happens when you focus throughout your higher education on the single goal of becoming a doctor.

Being a doctor is clearly his entire identity. He flashes some sort of medical ID card at everybody like it’s a badge, he barely interacts with his daughter, and it’s clearly never occurred to him that his wife is a three-dimensional human being. Has he ever read a book or seen a play? He treats the rich and powerful, but he has no idea how money or power actually work. He is amazed and alarmed to find out that his wife has a history and an interior life. He’s like a boy from junior high school who was yanked from the playground, given medical training and a degree, and who has been completely insulated from reality ever since by lots of prestige and cash.

So, yes, let’s focus some energy on the “humanities.”

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