Tuesday Tidbits

On the weekend, we watched WandaVision on Disney+. WandaVision is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the tale of what happened to Wanda and Vision after the events shown in the film Avengers: Endgame. It’s a miniseries consisting of 9 episodes. It’s very well made, with a strong meta-fictional element: Wanda and Vision seem to be living TV sitcom episodes through the decades, starting in the fifties in black and white. Odd things happen and later we also get an outside view of the situation, though the eyes of Agents of S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) and the FBI. Apparently S.W.O.R.D. is S.H.I.E.L.D. in space, who’d have known?!

We also watched the films Shoplifters and Paterson, both the complete opposite of the blockbuster Marvel Universe. Shoplifters is about a Japanese family of outcasts who shoplift to supplement the granny’s pension and wages from exploitative dead-end jobs. They love each other and take in a young girl who is neglected and abused by her parents. It all comes unraveled, though, when the granny dies. It has a softly tragic end. Paterson is about a bus driver named Paterson who lives with his creative and optimistic wife and their grumpy bulldog in the town of Paterson. Paterson the bus driver is also a poet. We follow a week in his life. Nothing much happens and yet a lot happens. It’s like a poetic version of normal life. The poems in the movie were written by a real poet, Ron Padgett. The film is just lovely, with humour and sadness. Both films are kind of warm and life-affirming.

The weather was kind of April-like, very changeable in the past few days. It was quite windy, occasionally rainy, sometimes sunny, but not very warm. Monday morning Curious Dog and I got drenched on our walk. Considering walks: I think I’m seeing some improvements with Curious Dog’s behaviour on the leash. I think he’s beginning to pull a bit less. I’m inspired by seeing a series on TV about a German dog whisperer. It runs every now and then on Sunday afternoons. The dogs shown in the show are much worse behaved than Curious Dog, but they still mostly improve (if they don’t, it’s the owner’s fault for not being consistent and assertive enough). Curious Dog’s pulling on the leash is annoying, but he doesn’t pull all the time, and he’s generally good with other dogs (except for some, especially male terriers, whom he really can’t stand). But it would be nice if he stopped pulling for more of the time, so I’m working on it. I also got a muzzle for him to wear on public transport where it is often required by law. He’s not keen on that at all (no wonder, who would be?). I hope I can get him used to it by the time we are planning on going on vacation in October, as we may need it on a cable car. I’m not convinced that taking Curious Dog on a cable car is a good idea, but we’ll see how the muzzle thing works out.

We had elections in my state of Baden-Württemberg on Sunday: the Green party won, which I’m happy about (but they will need a coalition, as is usual in German politics). I hope that they will really concentrate on politics to alleviate climate change during their turn in office. I’m also delighted because the AfD (a party of far-right, potentially if not actually anti-democratic bigots) lost 5% and fell to just under 10% of all votes – hope this decline continues in autumn, when we have the federal elections.

Work has been a pain in the last couple of weeks. There’s lots of things to do but our main content management software was on the blink. Unstable and horrifically slow. We had a few emergency downtimes for repairs that didn’t help much. At least this week things seem to have improved. I’m taking Thursday off and will therefore be only working three days which is great. We’re driving to Bavaria again on Thursday afternoon (probably, we may already leave on Wednesday after work – depends on the weather). Our three weeks at my place passed very quickly as usual.

Mum’s got her second vaccination appointment on Friday. She was a bit under the weather for a few days after the first jab. Hope it won’t be worse after the second. It will be great when she’s done with the vaccination and hopefully safe from Corona. Unfortunately, it looks like a third wave is slowly building up in Germany. Vaccination isn’t progressing fast enough. Very worrying again. Just as things were looking up, it seems that we may need to extend the lockdown again.

2021_03_16

Inspired by James Boswell’s Life of Johnson that I read in December and January, I’ve been reading Samuel Johnson: Selected Writings edited by David Womersley. It’s full of variety: some poems (not much my cup of tea, although I otherwise do like poetry), a couple of short biographies of people I’d never heard of but found diverting anyway, lots of short essays written for periodicals, the preface to his dictionary, a bit of literary criticism… He’s also written plays and novellas, but I haven’t got to them yet as I’m only halfway through the collection. I’m really enjoying it, but the style is so dense that it is taking me a lot longer to read than literature written more recently. But I do think I’m getting faster and reading more fluently. I’m enjoying it a lot; Johnson is an interesting writer and I like his style. Here’s a fascinating quote about the Seven Year’s War 1756 – 1763 part of which was carried out between England and France in their North American colonies:

It is allowed on both sides, that hostilities began in America, and that the French and English quarrelled about the boundaries of their settlements, about grounds and rivers to which, I am afraid, neither can shew any other right than that of power, and which neither can occupy but by usurpation, and the dispossession of the natural lords and original inhabitants. Such is the contest that no honest man can heartily wish success to either party.

“Observations on the present State of Affairs” in Samuel Johnson: Selected Writings, ed. by David Womersley, p.536.

I guess that this opinion wasn’t shared by many in his time, otherwise American history might have turned out quite differently. He views colonization critically because the land was gained by immoral practices.

In one of his essays for The Adventurer, a periodical, he writes about readers and their motivations for reading as well as the influence books may have on the readers’ minds:

It is difficult to enumerate the several motives, which procure to books the honour of perusal: spite, vanity, and curiosity, hope and fear, love and hatred, every passion which incites to any other action, serves at one time or other to stimulate a reader.
[…]
Some read that they may embellish their conversation, or shine in dispute; some that they may not be detected in ignorance, or want the reputation of literary accomplishments: but the most general and prevalent reason of study, is the impossibility of finding another amusement equally cheap or constant, equally independent on the hour and the weather.
[…]
But, perhaps, it seldom happens, that study terminates in mere pastime. Books have always a secret influence on the understanding; we cannot at pleasure obliterate ideas; he that reads books of science, though without any fixed desire of improvement, will grow more knowing; he that entertains himself with moral or religious treatises, will imperceptibly advance in goodness; the ideas which are offered to the mind, will at last find a lucky moment when it is disposed to receive them.

“No. 137 of The Adventurer. Tuesday, 26 February 1754” in Samuel Johnson: Selected Writings, ed. by David Womersley, p. 484f.

Myself, I’m not sure about the entertainment value of “moral or religious treatises”, but in the rest of the essay Johnson mentions that he isn’t totally against reading lighter fare for pure amusement. 😉

Johnson writes about all sorts of topics and most of his pieces are just a few pages long, so reading my way through this volume of collected works is entertaining. Even if I come across something that’s totally uninspired (and I haven’t yet), it’s soon done with and the next piece is a new start.

Keep safe, world.

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