Only Lovers Left Alive

ONly Lovers Left AliveTwo hours of being cool and solitary, artistic and messy. I could watch Tilda Swinton read for hours. Really great beautiful night photography too.

The final scene is lit like a Hollywood movie and has a neon moon. It’s not the “diamond moon that makes music like a gong” because that’s their moon, the night people’s, not ours.

Throughout, the images rest upon the strong back of the soundtrack which fuses Detroit rock–noise and North African–lutes to create a near-perfect mood-piece.

Dracula Untold

Dracula UntoldAn awkward but not terrible movie that, like Maleficent, sets out to humanize an iconic villain. Dracula here is both a family man and a Leader®. In practical terms this means that he is the kind of guy who protects his wife and son by defeating the entire Turkish army through force of will and scrappiness. It also means that after defeating the devil himself he chooses to become a minion of evil because his dying wife is worried about their kid and wants him to become a vampire so that he can make sure he is ok.

But whatever. It was the weeks leading up to Halloween. I was teaching gothic fiction to my students in an 18th and 19th century novel class. And the mood was right. Right enough to push me to read a couple monster books in preparation for the season. So all’s good.

True Blood, season five

As per convention, I grabbed the next season of this show on a rainy day in the Fall at the end of a long week at work. I had no expectations and little hope that it would be any good, not after the disastrous fourth season. Boy was I wrong. It was fast, nimble and campy as hell. It may even have been better than season three, which is saying something.

So I’m back on the hook for the last two seasons.  Allan Ball is gone though, so I have no idea what to expect…

Survivor Redemption Island & South Pacific

I love Survivor and have been watching (without logging) past seasons that I haven’t seen before. At this point, I’ve seen all but a few of the early ones.

Most have been been pretty good, and as a rule, the show keeps getting better. Last year’s first “Blood v. Water” offered some of the most interesting television I’ve seen in years. The only season I’ve started but not watched through to the end was the abysmally bad “Guatemala.” An earlier favourite was “Gabon.”

Jeff Probts likes to call Survivor a “social experiment,” and he’s right, but what I’m most interested in is that it’s also a narrative experiment. How do you cull a story from a mass of footage shot in loosely structured but unscripted moments. This is not documentary. It can’t wander, can’t discover some quirky way to present its materials. Its end point is fixed. Together, the episodes must tell an evolving story that creates tension and misdirection and that establishes meaningful relationships which should not be simply hostile. These must lead to a satisfying conclusion that endorses the “winner” of the show as legitimate in some fashion.

Yet this clarity and focus has to be achieved using footage of participants who necessarily behave self-consiously within (and speak metacritically about) the narrative they expect they must be acting out. [note]I think it’s the strain of this reflexivity that creates the show’s sense of authenticity: most people can’t seem to maintain the mental and emotional effort this self-consciousness requires and wind up thrown back upon their fundamental resources of character. (Or perhaps, it’s the conflict between this reflexivity and the immediacy of the personal power struggles created by the voting structure that creates the unsustainable strain….) Whatever the case, the strain reads as authenticity.[/note] This situation is complicated by the phenomenon of “favourites”: players who return for multiple seasons, carrying a distinct persona with them that must be showcased and must evolve in an arc across seasons.

In a sense these are all simply variations on the question, how do you make sense of life using narrative. But that’s I guess my fascination: that question is fundamental, and this game-based show tackles it in an interesting, compelling way.

I hope they are archiving the unused footage because someday, someone is going to want to look at what the editors and producers were doing.


Blessed Insomnia

I woke up insanely early this morning, mind racing. Couldn’t get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens. Because, now what?

Recently I’d read “Note-taking Jujitsu, Or How I Make Sense of What I Read” & had wondered if the instructions there for getting highlights and notes off a Kindle could work for me. Could I get mine into Tinderbox in a usable form?

Why not try that now? It’s dark outside. That might help.

One prototype and forty-five minutes later, 1400 notes are organized into 35 containers, one per book.


I stopped using my kindle more than a year ago because I couldn’t really use any of the notes that I made on it. Now it looks like I can. And that it’s easy…

Alas it is still dark outside. Now what?

After the Banquet

After the BanquetThe first books I read by Yukio Mishima—Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion—were dense and alienating. They grappled with ideas and were beautifully written, but they were run through by currents of misanthropy as well, which made them difficult to stomach. Something in them attracted me though, and so, when I stumbled upon a cache of his books this summer in a used bookstore in Cleveland, I felt like I’d found a gold mine and grabbed them.

After the Banquet is the first of these I’ve read, and it’s nothing like the other two books, not least because it’s protagonist is a successful woman in her late sixties rather than a young man. This woman is an incredible character, smart, clever, and energetic, and it’s hard not to admire and fall in love with her.

The novel’s story is organized by her late-in-life romance and marriage to a retired government minister in his early seventies, but its content is about this elderly man’s half-hearted bid to be elected mayor of Tokyo. He’s no good at electoral politics and has no clear sense of why he should be mayor, but his wife has drive, a fierce intelligence and a natural talent for campaigning. Also she’s rich (with money she earned from a business she created).

As the novel follows her efforts to elect her husband (he’s a socialist in a city controlled by a conservative political machine), Mishima explores the relationship between politics and land, culture and and landscape, and the signs used to signal and shape the nationalism that remains in post-war Japan. (When I began reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow recently, I thought of this book.)

The novel draws on melodramatic form and tells the story of a woman who suffers at the hands of powerful men. So perhaps inevitably, its political narrative offers a scene for examining the political and economic position of women. And here the novel is moving and sympathetic in the way the novels I read earlier weren’t. Mishma had less compassion in those works for characters that seemed to stand in partially for himself.

Mishima really is worth reading.


Setting Attributes with On-add Actions

In my admin file, I want to keep track of where information in a note came from: at what meeting, from which organization, on what date, etc. But I also don’t want to have to remember to enter all of this information when I create notes. So when I make a container note for a meeting, I immediately set the on-add actions to enter this information automatically. For this last video in the series, I’m going to explain how I do this.

To Create an On-add Action From Scratch

If you want to set attributes automatically when you create or add notes in a container, you simply:

  1. Open the Inspector (cmd+1)
  2. Select the Action Inspector
  3. Select the Action tab
  4. Begin typing an attribute name, select it from the dropdown to complete it
  5. Assign a value for the attribute using “=” followed by the value in quotation marks
  6. Tab or click away to make sure everything registers
  7. Shift+Tab and then Tab existing notes to apply the action. (It will apply automatically to new notes.)

Note: in the video you will see that I place parentheses around my attribute values. I’m not sure where I picked up that habit, but I learned recently on the Tinderbox forum that it isn’t necessary. The quotation marks are sufficient.

Creating On-add Actions for Additional Notes

Once you have one on-add action written, you are living on easy street. Need to set attributes on another set of notes? Then simply:

  1. Open the Inspector (cmd+1)
  2. Select a nearby note and copy-paste the action to the new note
  3. Edit the bits that should be different
  4. Tab or click away to make sure everything registers
  5. Shift+Tab and then Tab existing notes to apply the action

And that’s it. So there’s nothing to remember. Figure out how to do this once, and when you need to set attributes the next time, open an inspector for an old note, and copy-paste what’s there.

What You’ll See

This video is longer than the others I’ve posted because I shows how to create and apply an on-add action to existing notes as well as how to revise and apply this action to additional notes. I include all of these steps because I think it is worth showing how little time the entire process requires. For a more automated approach to be worthwhile, it would have to be something I could imagine, write and revise more quickly than I can use this less automated approach.


Working Auto-manually

This system isn’t automatic in the sense that I type something once and forget about it and everything I want happens magically. It’s low-level automation that ensures consistency without being overly complex or abstract. It requires some work on my part, but I find that this work keeps me in touch with my materials. Neither do I have to know any complicated, conditional syntax or how to fetch information from other notes. I just enter the values I want to set directly.

Because the actions are so simple to manage, I also don’t feel much pressure to predict all of the attributes I will eventually want to set. In my admin file for example, I started out setting only two attributes. I added to these slowly over time, and my basic meeting containers now set five. Each time I realized I wanted to set a new attribute, I simply added it to my list, did some copy-pasting and some shift+tab/tabbing, and in fifteen twenty minutes everything was up to date.

Adding to Attribute Values

Finally, as I move notes around, the on-add actions I show here can create problems. If I’m not careful for example, a new container’s on-add action will replace the attributes set by the note’s previous container. I asked how to deal with this on the Tinderbox forum, and it turns out the solution is pretty straightforward.

If I type:


this action sets the attribute value to “A,” replacing any existing value.

But if I the attribute is a set, and I type:


this action adds “A” to the existing value of $CollegeOrganization without deleting any previous value. And because the attribute is a set, I can’t get duplicate values. So everything stays tidy.