Sunday Sum-Up: February 12, 2023

Apparently, there is some sort of (American) football game going on? The Super Bowl, I guess? I don’t know. I’m going to see a documentary at the indie theater downtown.

Now, if this whole thing was about Superb Owls, I’d be in all the way.

\I watched the film Everything Everywhere All at Once (directed by Daniel Scheinart and Dan Kwan) last Sunday, it was fabulously weird and kind of made me cry at the end. I know there are a lot of interpretations, but it seems to be that it’s mostly about a woman named Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) whose ordinary life is breaking apart- her husband is filing for divorce, their laundromat business is on the verge of collapse, and her daughter is splitting away from the family. Then one day, Evelyn starts getting messages from another dimension, and everything starts going mad around her. I am quite certain that Michelle Yeoh is the only woman in Hollywood who could have accomplished everything this role demands, and the accolades and awards she’s earned are well-deserved. Also, whatever awards and accolades that Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu earn are well-deserved, too. This is a mind-bending film that is perfectly coherent because of how well it’s made. I’m really starting to think that A24 (the studio that produced this film and others like The Green Knight, Midsommar, Lady Bird, Ex Machina, Moonlight, and others) is becoming one of the best studios out there, as far as creativity and quality of filmmaking. It kind of makes me want to track down as many of their movies as I can and watch them.

Not right now. I have enough projects going on.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

I wash my sheets and towels every week on my weekday off, and it seems to be one of the highlights of Mina’s day. She gets to curl up in the pile of blankets and pillows while things are being laundered, and then she gets to flop around on the newly-washed and dried sheets while I’m trying to make the bed. This, of course, makes it take a lot longer to make the bed since the process goes like this: put one corner of the fitted sheet in place, move the cat; put another corner of the fitted sheet in place, move the cat; put a third– move the cat; put– move the cat. Give up, let the cat flop around on the newly washed sheets until she gets bored, then attempt the make the bed again. Repeat a few times until the bed is made again.

Once everything is washed, dried, and put back on the bed, she’ll spend the next few hours sitting on it and napping. I get it. The feeling of clean sheets is great. But could she perhaps wait until the bed is made before she flops around on it?

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Listen to This is the book that inspired my new little “let’s listen to music” project. In it, Ross discusses such disparate artists as Schubert, Verdi, Radiohead, Marion Anderson, and Björk, and takes them all seriously as artists, never putting Verdi or Schubert on a pedestal while diminishing Radiohead or any of the other contemporary artists simply for being contemporary. He also treats each of them as individual humans– flaws and all– instead of merely flinging accolades at Mozart or whoever simply for being famous. I especially appreciated this take when it came to the essay on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, as Ross doesn’t fall into the trap of dumping endless accolades on their album Nevermind and calling it a day. Instead– just like with Verdi or Schubert– Ross points out that Cobain was ambivalent about his music and his fame, and that both exacerbated the mental and other personal problems he was dealing with. Björk seems to get the lightest treatment, but even there, Ross points out that it’s hard for stardom to go to your head when you live in Reykjavik. This was a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening book about all sorts of musicians, so if you are at all interested in music (specifically Western music), I highly recommend it.

Heart of the Nile is the fourteenth book in the Barker and Llewellyn series, which is my favorite historical mystery series thanks to a cast of idiosyncratic characters. I always appreciate Llewellyn’s wit. In this outing, our fearless detectives investigate the murder of a man who worked in the Egyptian department of the British Museum. He found a giant, heart-shaped ruby inside a half-forgotten mummy stored in the museum, took it off museum grounds to report it to his supervisor, and disappeared. Now Barker and Llewellyn are on the case to locate the ruby and the man’s killers, even as the investigation comes far too close to home for comfort. Overall, this was a fantastic story. Llewellyn has really grown up in the ten years that he’s been employed by Barker, and while there are certain personal beats I wish had been fleshed out more, I was entertained all the way through the book. The only part I wasn’t too sure about was one part of the ending, which seemed a bit far-fetched. At some point before my review is due, I plan to revisit that part and give it a second chance. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Maid and the Queen takes a look at the story of Joan of Arc from a slightly different perspective and considers how Yolande of Aragon, the Queen of Sicily and mother-in-law to Charles VII of France, who was the king Joan of Arc helped to get crowned in spite of the English and Burgundian factions (and armies) arrayed against them. I knew very little about Yolande before reading this. Joan has always overshadowed her, but it was fascinating to find out how Yolande’s interest in a particular French legend about Melusine helped prime her to believe that Joan heard the voices of angels. It was also fascinating to find out how bold Yolande was, given how mild her son and son-in-law often were when it came to dealing with their situations at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. They apparently needed a couple of bold women to point them in the right direction (and help win some key victories for them). Overall, I enjoyed Nancy Goldstone’s approach to the historical narrative, and will definitely be looking into more of her books, which deal with the lives of historical figures I’m not very familiar with, but who sound like terribly interesting people.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I downloaded The Rest is Noise from my library after finishing Listen to This because I wanted more of Alex Ross’s analysis of music– especially since this book deals with twentieth-century classical music, which I enjoy but am not overly familiar with. So far, it’s been fascinating. The book begins with the lead-up to Strauss’s hair-raising one-act opera Salome, which premiered in 1905 and caused quite the stir wherever it was performed. Then we move on to works such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, a ballet that sparked a riot when it premiered in Paris in May, 1913. We hear about Schoenberg, who pioneered the modernist atonal movement (which also caused quite the stir when it premiered). It’s easy to look back and think, “this music is all old hat and familiar by now”, but if you stop and think about the music that had come before, say, Stravinsky’s Rite, then you start to see why it was such a shocking work at the time, and why modernism became such a force in music. At this point in the book, Ross is discussing American composers like Charles Ives and Aaron Copland and how they came to create a sound that was “thoroughly American”. I’m finding it all so interesting, and the fact that it’s a 20+ hour audiobook is not fazing me in the least.

I’m still working on War and Peace! I figured that I would just keep up with the chapter-a-day format that my W&P book club had set up at the beginning of this, but I quickly found that reading only 2-4 pages each day actually inhibited my ability to remember character names and events, so I’ve been reading 10-15 pages most days, which has helped my recall. I’ve only gotten to one chapter that delves into Tolstoy’s philosophy of life and war (a bit tedious, but it was only a few pages, so it wasn’t the end of the world), and I’m really looking forward to finding out what’s going to happen next to characters like Boris, Princess Marya, and especially Natasha. I’m far more engaged with this book than I thought I would be, which is a big change from Anna Karenina, which I often found challenging to get through (so, so many descriptions of farming…).

What I’m Listening To:


  • Homogenic
  • Vespertine
  • Medulla

John Luther Adams

  • Become Ocean

Tan Dun

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon original film score
  • Hero original film score

Shigeru Umebayashi

  • House of Flying Daggers original film score

Saying “I liked all of these” is low-hanging fruit, really, as I have already listened to these albums and liked them all. The House of Flying Daggers score was my least favorite, but it’s a lovely soundtrack. I just didn’t like it quite as much as the others I listened to.

I’d been meaning to go back and listen to Björk’s albums for a while, so Alex Ross’s essay about her in Listen to This gave me the nudge I needed to actually do it. I love Björk’s music and how she blends so many disparate sounds and voices into these wonderful harmonies. “Jóga”, from 1997’s Homogenic is my favorite song, but overall my favorite album is Vespertine (2001), though admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve listened to later albums such as Biophilia or Vulnicura. And I haven’t listened to her 2022 album, Fossora. So I have some more listening to do this week. It will be fun. I’m excited to see what I think of Vulnicura after not having heard it for a few years and to compare how her style and voice have changed over the past twenty years or so.

I’m sure I’ll talk about John Luther Adams at some point, but as Ross also featured him in Listen to This, I was reminded of how much I like Adams’s gorgeous and sweeping, forty-five-minute work, “Become Ocean”. It’s one of those meditative songs I can play when I want a work with rich strings or something that reminds me of the ocean. There are two other “Become —” works, but I haven’t really listened to them yet. That will be for the future, I think. This week, it’s Björk and Howard Shore’s score for the 2001 film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I’ve heard that one a time or two. I’ll have some things to say about it.

11 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: February 12, 2023

  1. Everything was a solid film. My perspective is family relationships. Solid acting. Ok…did you know that he was the kid in the second Indiana Jones movie?

  2. Super Bowl… hmmm… I think I’ve heard of that before. 🙂

    Everything Everywhere All at Once is sitting in my Netflix DVD queue waiting to become available. I’ve seen a couple recommendations now so I can’t wait to see it. And I remember really enjoying Ex Machina by that studio.

  3. I agree about Everything Everywhere All At Once! I got a chance to watch it a few weeks ago, and was blown away. It’s so weird, but weird with a purpose. Hearing about Mina and the sheets brought back a favorite childhood memory for me — my mother used to pile the sheets and towels fresh from the dryer over me and my sister to be all warm and snuggly while she made the beds!

  4. There was something about sports going on? My coworkers were pretty happy about the turnout, I guess.

    I checked out Everything from the library. They have a great selection of DVDs that I need to take advantage of more often….. I’d recommend The Green Knight by A24, too.

  5. Weird with a purpose is a great way to put it! There are other films out there that are weird, but it feels like it’s just weird to be weird, and not for any other reason. I’m not a big fan of that.

    What a lovely memory! You and your sister got to be warm and cozy, and she was free to make the beds! Is there anything better than stuff straight from the drier? It’s the best.

  6. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” to say it was an interesting film is an understatement. I really enjoyed it. Ex Machina was also very good. The way it ended caught me by surprise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s