6 December 2019

“I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.”

This Week

It’s December now and I’m preparing my end-of-year lists. I also wrote up the books and screenplays I read in November. (Paid subscribers, your essay is coming soon, apologies for the delay on that.)


“The École Polytechnique anniversary gives us a moment to confront an inconvenient truth: Politicians and corporate media are actively making things worse. They have failed to understand that men are radicalizing online; and, worse, many have found ways to exploit it, diminish it or simply ignore it.” On the École Polytechnique massacre, thirty years later.

I didn’t listen to many podcasts this year, at least as compared to previous years, so I appreciate this rundown of what I might have missed: the best podcasts of 2019.

What fire is like in space.

The noir sensibility of Tom Waits.

Screenplay readers, the screenplay for Knives Out is available for download.

I believe I have mentioned this before, but I recently became a big fan of having hobbies—real hobbies, activities you do probably do not that well but with enjoyment or calm, that you have zero intention of driving yourself to do perfectly or make money from. For me, it’s knitting and baking (I can only handle traditionally domestic pursuits when I’m released from the expectation of doing them well, evidently). I also started getting more out of yoga when I stopped thinking about it as something I needed to perpetually progress in. Anyway, I liked this piece on how to have a true hobby, not a side hustle.

“If you make your life colorful, and you make sure you have a series of contrasts so that you’re traveling to all the places you wanted to go to, and you’re doing the things you always wanted to do, then it just comes to you. You see, it comes to you without you even realizing it. You can’t download it. It’s a very spontaneous process. The best weapon you can have is a map of the world, and put pins in it and dream of where you want to go.” Killing Joke vocalist Jaz Colman in a wide-ranging interview about inspiration, the importance of ritual and the influence of art.


I’ve got a couple of horror film recommendations for you this week. First is Pure, which is streaming on Hulu. This is apparently part of a series of horror films from Blumhouse, but I stumbled on this film on its own. Four teenage girls navigate the already horrific setting of a Christian father/daughter purity ball retreat and they possibly introduce a vengeful demon into the mix at the same time. I hugely enjoyed this film and it comes with a satisfying ending.

- For several months, Hagazussa has been on my radar, but I didn’t have a very clear sense of what kind of film it was beyond a sort of atmospheric horror that I vaguely assumed I might like. Recently I sat down to watch it and I realized no one had described this one accurately. It is atmospheric horror, yes, more or less. But it’s less a narrative and more of a series of chronological vignettes, set in a past Europe where fear of witches runs rampant and the torture of isolation drives women mad. Make sure you are very committed before you take this one on. It’s slow and poetic and has at least one moment, in the realization of its implication, I found one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen in a film.

- Inspired by the Jaz Colman interview above, I’ve been listening to his Magna Invocatio: A Gnostic Mass for Choir and Orchestra Inspired By the Sublime Music of Killing Joke. I am not very knowledgable about music, but I do like it and if you are looking for a change of pace from popular modern music, give it a shot.

Just in case you thought I would send an entire newsletter with no Baby Yoda content.




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This week’s quote is from Sophocles.