East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Sword & Sorcery movies

I happen to be on a Sword & Sorcery roll. Big deal, you say, as if it was the first time. But really, in part this is because for Christmas I got the last volume in Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series, and so I’m finally setting out to read the whole bunch of novels in chronological order, starting with A Fortress in Shadow. In part it’s because another gift I got in my sock for the Befana festival is P.J. Thorndyke’s Barbarians at the Gates of Hollywood, this being a fun and opinionated survey of the golden age of sword & sorcery movies, to wit, the 1980s.

And as I was reading Thorndyke’s book, it happened – as it usually does – that I started feeling like re-watching these old flicks. because no one will be surprised to learn I saw each one of them at least once, and many of them (yes, I’m looking at you, Beastmaster) repeatedly, in many long summer nights, when sleep would not come, and a silly movie and a cup of ice cream was all that stood between my sanity and heat-induced madness.

And of course I’ve been watching a lot of movies since I started co-hosting the Paura & Delirio podcast with my friend Lucy – at least one movie per week, often watching it twice; more when we do our specials, like the one we did on New Year’s Eve about the Hammer Karnstein Trilogy, and what we’ll soon do with the two Nosferatu movies – Murnau’s and Herzog’s.

So the question is – do I have the time, between Cook’s book, my writing projects, my planning and building a vegetable garden and the idea of acquiring a new skill in February… do I have the time for these old sword & sorcery films? Say one per week, following P.J. Thorndyke’s excellent guide?

And, should I do it … what next?
I could blog about them, of course.
And maybe do something more – a film or two will maybe find a place in Paura & Delirio – because of the contiguity between sword & sorcery and horror/weird fiction.
But what of the rest?

I’ll have to find an idea.
But right now, I’ll have to go dig in the box of old DVDs for the titles in my viewing list that are not on VHS.
This is going to be fun…

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Because it’s cool!

During lunch-break, my friend Emanuele came visiting – we are planning a vegetable garden, and we surveyed the area and made a few plans, throwing around a few ideas.
Then my brother made coffee, and Emanuele explored the shelves of my library, and he asked a question…

Why are you so fascinated by the Silk Road?

And the answer was, of course,

Because it’s cool!

And really, I stand by this definition. But let me expand a little.

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In the shadow of Arséne

And so finally the new Lupin TV series hit the screens, as a Netflix Original, and I spent a day watching it while my computer system was slowly grinding back to normal. Together with the fifth season of The Expanse, this was for me the highest expected show in the late2020/early 2021 season.
So, is it any good?

Short review: it is very good.

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So you’ve got a cold.
The world – or at least a fair chunk of it – is going bonkers, and you’re going through one of your usual bouts of insomnia.
It’s three am and you’re unable to stream the new Lupin TV series.
Your house is cold as a Viking hell, and you don’t feel like writing.
What better opportunity to back-up your data and then update your operating system?

Fast forward to seven hours later.
You are trying to roll-back a failed update, while your PC refuses to connect to the web.
You start thinking that this year 2021 is going to give 2020 a run for its money.
You are cursing ancient Lovecraftian gods.

Then, thankfully, your computer programmer brother finds a way to get your LAN working again, you go online and the roll-back fails, but now you can try the update again, and it sort of works.
You have the whole afternoon to re-install the bits that are missing.

Your PC works – and it’s the perfect time to find out that all of your backed up data was lost, because the portable HD you used acted up. You have a fine collection of empty folders.

The weekend will never come too soon.


Four weeks in February

As I mentioned, I’d love to spend the month of February learning a new skill. February will begin on a Monday, four clean weeks, 28 days in which I might be able to set aside the time needed to acquire a new competence. As a way to clean the rust off my brain, and also as an opportunity to enrich my life.

But what should I try and do?
Once again, I am open to suggestions, but in the meantime, let me write down a few simple rules, or a sort of wish list

  • I plan to learn something practical – there’s a lot of courses out there about the environment, and history, that look very interesting, but for this go I’d want something more hands-on
  • I need something I can manage to acquire in four weeks – and yes, one can get a smattering of a completely foreign language (say, Korean) in four weeks, but that’s not what I’m aiming for
  • I want to tackle something that will not cost me a lot of money to set up – I’ll use the occasional handbook, online free courses and video tutorials, and I’d like to keep things on the cheap as far as materials are concerned

And right now there’s five possible skills I might look into to chose from…

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Something new in four weeks, and dreams of gardens

Two ideas I picked up on the web today.
First, this morning a contact of mine asked his followers on Twitter about what useful skill they could learn in a month. Something that would be useful, or make them happy and take away their worries when they feel down. To me, such a skill would be cooking, or better, the ability to hold my own in the kitchen – not necessarily knowing a lot of recipes, but being handy with the tools of the trade. Nothing better than cooking a simple, good meal, when you feel down.

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