KTamas' Blog

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The Story of My Avatar

· 414 words · 2 min read

The year is 2016. It was a Monday, starting my second week of my first trip to New York in August, and I was sitting on the subway. I think I was just looking at my phone, not paying much attention to anything when suddenly, approaching a station, someone hands me a drawing. Of me.

I was flabbergasted; this guy just gave me a sketch of me, and an amazing one of that. I may have given him a dollar or two, then he got off the train.

I loved it so much that I took a picture of it; you may recognize it since it’s the avatar I use everywhere on the internet for the past 4 years:


It was one of the coolest “this is a very New York thing” moments I had.

I didn’t know who this person was, and although he signed the image, it’s hard to read and I didn’t think much of it, so that was that.

Three years later, I’m in New York again, at the XOXO meetup at the Lavender Lake bar, and somehow I was telling the story of how I got my avatar to my friend Joel. He looks at the picture, notices the signature, starts googling and lo and behold, he finds this article: Meeting This Artist Could Be the Best Thing to Happen to You on the Subway. I encourage you to read it, but here are the first two paragraphs:

For most New Yorkers, performers on the subway must be endured as part of our daily commutes. However, imagine my surprise this past weekend as I looked up from a conversation with my Tetris-engrossed boyfriend to see that there was a man with a sketchbook across from us, quietly drawing our portrait in broad strokes with a black marker.

That man is Orin, and maybe you’ve seen him, too. He told me he’s drawn over 500,000 portraits of people on the subway, as part of a daily project he’s been doing for the last 15 years.

Incidentally, the article was written just two weeks before Orin drew my picture. This is not the only one about him, though: here’s one in the Mirror in 2014 and one in the New York Times way back from 2004.

You can find more of his work on his website. It was recently updated, and according to a tweet from 2018, he’s still around, still drawing sketches of random New Yorkers. I hope he’s well.

My !!Con 2020 experience as a speaker

· 1124 words · 6 min read

!!Con 2020 was the best-organized virtual conference I’ve ever attended, and I figured I’d share a few things that I feel like made it great.

First, they take care of their speakers. This is nothing new; in the past, they’d pay for your trip and accommodation to NYC. On top of that, you receive a $256 honorarium.

This being a virtual conference, no trips were involved, but speakers did need good audio and video for their talks. The organizers covered everyone’s cost to get a good webcam and a microphone for up to around $250 (a soft limit). I was lucky and got a Logitech Brio immediately after my talk was accepted, just before the entire world ran out of webcams; others were less lucky. I also got a Blue Yeti microphone, which worked well.

The original plan was for everyone to stream via OBS to a custom RTMP server, but this was eventually scrapped for several reasons. They ended up using StreamYard instead. The service only requires a web browser; as a speaker, you open a link, share your mic, webcam and you’re good to go. This does not give you as much flexibility, but it does the job and works really well.

As a speaker, you also had the option to make a pre-recorded version of your talk and have them play it instead of doing it live, or just have it as a backup in case something goes wrong; I think every virtual conference should implement a system like this. You had to record yourself and your presentation in two separate videos, and Confreaks took care of the rest. The organizers also made sure to do an A/V check with every speaker before the conference, and you even had the option of sending them a separate video to upload to Youtube if you felt like your live talk could be improved in post.

!!Con was always livestreamed for free on Youtube. The perks you got if you had a ticket were access to a closed Discord server and a T-shirt.

This is not the first virtual conference that organized their hallway track around Discord, but they went the extra mile and then some.

For one, they set up a channel for each speaker’s talk, ordered by the schedule. As the day and the talks progressed, you would move from channel to channel, down on the list. This proved to be a brilliant idea: it was easy to keep track of the conversations, they were not in one big batch, and you could always go back to a given channel if you wanted to talk about a specific talk. More conferences should adopt this.

Communication with the speakers also went through Discord; one had to keep it open because it was where they’d tell you if something was not right with your A/V setup or whatever. This proved to be a challenge for a few people as some presentation software — I’m looking at you, Keynote — blanks out all your screens while in presentation mode. But in those cases, the organizers could fall back to just texting the person. I had Discord open on my iPad since I was presenting from my laptop.

They also had a bot that could match random people up to hang out. You would go to a channel and say “match me”, and if other people did the same in the next 60 (or later, 90) seconds, it’d create a Discord voice room and send everyone an invite. This worked okay, but I didn’t see it used that much, and many times, you would not get enough interested people to join you.

Besides Discord and the thoughtful organization of the channels, there were virtual Zoom rooms you could join throughout the conference. You were given a map with all the rooms, and it showed you who was in the given room; if your Zoom name and Discord name matched to a certain degree, it even showed your avatar.

Early on, someone started a Spreadsheet Party and it was a huge success; it was even turned into an editable Glitch page.

The broadcast itself overall went well; there were some early glitches, sound issues and such, but these are almost inevitable. Cindy from Confreaks did a great job with everything. After some people suggested it, the organizers started adding some padding between talks, because people needed time to mentally move on to the next talk and Discord channel. It’d be nice to have a dedicated emcee next year, though; I’ve seen that work very well on other virtual conferences.

All this culminated in the fact that throughout the weekend, I really felt like I was there at the conference and that was a first for me with a virtual event. I’d be on Discord, have the livestream open (or up on my TV), chat/talk/zoom with people in the breaks, clap at the end of each talk and so on. It was like magic.

One of the many, many strengths of !!Con is that the organizers are really good at curating interesting talks. Even the ones where you go “meh” are still objectively good ones.

This year was no different, and I wanted to highlight a few that I enjoyed the most.

But possibly the best talk of all was the unconference session with Mirabai Knight who talked about Steno (and Plover); it was so fascinating. Check out some of her talks on YouTube.

Oh, yeah, I also did a talk: Little Printing for Everyone!!1.

Overall, !!Con 2020 was a very positive experience, and I hope to be there (and possibly give a talk!) next year as well, one way or another.

My Recent Media Diet (May, 2020)

· 1067 words · 6 min read

Previously: March/April, February, January, Best of Media, 2019

Time to catch up with things I’ve been watching/enjoying! I am shamelessly copying Kottke’s format, with some minor changes. It was a very strong month for TV shows, with Never Have I Ever, Normal People and The Great being its highlights.


Weathering with You (Tenki No Ko, 2019): I’ve long been waiting to watch this and had high hopes for it, as it was created by Makoto Shinkai who also made one of my favorite animes ever, Your Name (Kimi no Na wa). The animation is gorgeous, but the story left me sorely disappointed and I bailed halfway through.


Popstar: Never Stop Stopping (2016): This was loads of fun. Way more fun than I expected. I already liked Lonely Island so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Anyways, I loved it. It’s the This Is Spinal Tap of the 2010s. (A)

The Losers (2010): Very dumb, but also, mostly very fun. (B)

The Lovebirds (2020): This was fun. I mostly background watched it, but I did focus more when it was necessary and in the final 30 minutes or so. There is nothing special about this movie, but there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. (B-)

Background watch

New section! I started doing jigsaw puzzles, and I needed something to play in the background and/or during work. These are the ones I’ve seen so far. I’m probably not going to give these a proper rating.

Star Trek II (1982), III (1984) and IV (1986): These were okay, I guess. It’s been a long while since I watch them. It’s startling just how much the Klingons are a stand-in for the Soviets. The highlight of these is definitely the 4th movie.

Star Trek: Voyager (season 4, episode 25 “One”): I try not to watch too much pandemic-related content, but I felt the urge to rewatch this in the background, and it was pretty good.

The Death of Stalin (2017): Meh. I barely paid attention.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011): I couldn’t even get through it as a background watch.

Top Gun (1986): Ok so the thing is, in 2020, Top Gun reads like a parody of itself. The dialog is so incredibly cheesy and over-the-top that it is nigh impossible to take the movie seriously. I’m still excited about the coming sequel, though.

TV shows

Billions (season 5, episodes 1-4): This show has long reached its natural endpoint and now it’s just a soap opera disguised as prestige television. But also? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very entertaining and I have nothing to complain about. (A-)

Defending Jacob (miniseries): This is not a bad show (it has some strong performances, including Sweater America as one of the protagonists) but at the end, it felt like a pointless one. Does it have a message? I guess. But it’s mostly a very depressing much with basically no rewards. Skip it. (C)

Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian (season 1, episodes 1-4): This is an excellent behind-the-scenes series about the show. Instead of going through episode-by-episode, they choose to focus on different aspects each time, and I think that format works well. (A-)

Halt and Catch Fire (season 2 episode 6-10): Still extremely good. I’m saving the last two seasons for harder times. I love this show to bits. (A)

Killing Eve (season 3, episode 4-7): The third season continues to be a massive improvement over the second one, and in episode 5 they deliver the best one they’ve ever made so far. This season does feel weirdly unfocused in specific ways. I think the show also suffers from the fact that they kinda got to a good natural endpoint at the end of season 1, they had to make more of it. In any case, a lot hinges on the last episode; we’ll see how it goes; I’m moderately optimistic. (A-)

O.J. - Made in America (miniseries, episodes 1-2): This is a well-produced documentary, and it gave me a lot of background on the, uh, pre-murder days of O.J. But once it gets to that, I had to stop because that bit is just too gut-wrenching.

Mythic Quest: Quarantine (special episode): This was fun! Not quite as Emmy-worthy as they want it to be, but still, very good. Especially impressive in how quickly they put it together. (A)

Never Have I Ever (season 1): This is the best new TV show I’ve seen in 2020 so far. A smart teen dramedy about grief and being South Asian in America, among other things, created by Mindy Kaling, who’s fantastic. (A)

Normal People (miniseries): Actually, no, THIS is the best new TV show I’ve seen in 2020 so far. It utterly destroyed emotionally. The writing, the acting, the cinematography, it’s all perfect. Go watch it immediately. (A+)

Run (miniseries, episode 4-7): So overall, this was good; the side-story with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character made it even better. But I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed by its final, somewhat anticlimactic episode, and the fact that tonally it was all over the place, and not in a good way. (B+)

Snowpiercer (season 1, episodes 1-2): Yikes. The movie was great, but this has way too much torture porn and not much else, really. The pilot ends with the most predictable twist in the history of television. I bailed in the middle of episode 2, and I won’t be missing it. (F)

The Great (miniseries): This is, well, one of the best new TV shows of this year. A pitch-black satirical dramedy, a fictionalized tale of the early beginnings of Cathrene the Great that made me laugh more than anything else in 2020, probably. But they don’t quite stick the landing, which is a shame. Nevertheless, It’s heaps of fun, and I highly recommend it. (A-)

The Last Dance (miniseries, episode 1): Eh, this wasn’t my jam. I’m not that into basketball. I bailed after 30 minutes or so.

Trying (miniseries, episodes 1-3): I started watching this, and I don’t know, there is nothing wrong with it but it feels like the story is a bit too thin to hold everything together? I might finish it. Or not.

Westworld (season 3, episode 8): Yeah, this sucked. The whole season was terrible. (F)

Patriot Act is back, and it’s as good as ever! Still not watching Last Week Tonight, though and honestly? Not missing it that much.

My Recent Media Diet (March/April, 2020)

· 1149 words · 6 min read

Previously: February, 2020, January, 2020, Best of Media, 2019

Time to catch up with things I’ve been watching/enjoying! I am shamelessly copying Kottke’s format, with some minor changes.

Wow. Jesus. It’s been, uh, a decade since my last post and a lot has changed. I was way too overwhelmed with gestures with hands to finish it so this will be a combined March/April post.


Bad Education (2019): This is a movie, though it’s an HBO movie. It’s filled with a ton of stars and it’s like the worst bits of oscar-bait movies meet with the worst bits of prestige television. It’s just… boring. (C)

Cittadini del Mondo (2019): Both me and my sister agreed that this movie is boring and left the movie theater halfway through.

Meet Joe Black (1998): Rewatch. I tried and I tried and I just couldn’t get into it, even though I really liked it a couple years ago when I first watched it.

Melting Souls (2018): This is a fascinating documentary about factory workers in the middle of nowhere, Norilsk, Siberia. It was a good watch. Not sure where you can watch it; it’s up on Vimeo but with French subtitles. There is a longread in the NYT that serves as a de-facto epilogue for it, though. (A-)

National Treasure (2004): This was surprisingly fun! Probably one of the better Nick Cage movies. (B)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019): What happens if you take the AO3 tags “slow burn” and “pining” and turn it up to like, 200%? This movie. It’s awesome. It’s my second favorite movie of the year after Little Women. Go watch it, it’s out everywhere. (A+)

TiMER (2009): This would have been a “meh” low-budget scifi but then they had to completely mess up the ending. Ugh.

The Gentleman (2019): Left the movie theater after 30 minutes or so. I was in a bad mood, but later on, I checked out the rest of the plot on Wikipedia and had no regrets. If you want to watch something from Guy Ritchie, just stick to Lock, Stock… and Snatch, his two great movies he keeps trying to recreate for the last 20 years.

The Revenant (2015): I had low expectations but I ended up kinda loving this? I’m not 100% onboard with the ending but I’ll allow it. This movie is a hell of a ride and done amazingly well. Iñárritu has a good reputation for a reason. (A)

The Way Back (2020): This new Sad Ben Affleck movie is solid. If you like watching Ben Affleck being Sad for two hours, this is definitely your movie. There is also basketball. (A-)

Transformers (2007): God this is boring even as a background watch.

TV Shows

Amazing Stories (season 1, episode 1): Oof, yikes. This show is stuck in the 80s. I might check out more episodes, but I probably won’t? Mostly a waste of time. (C)

Devs (miniseries): Well, this sucked. It starts out strong and fairly quickly gets worse and worse. However, do give it a try; it’s very much a love/hate kind of show. You might just end up loving it, several of my friends did. (C)

Doctor Who (season 12, episode 10): This season has been a letdown overall but the last two episodes were not half bad, by Doctor Who standards anyway. Still, I’m starting to miss Moffat, as bad as that era could be at times. (B-)

Halt and Catch Fire (season 1, season 2 eps 1-5): Rewatch. This is one of my favorite shows, and it’s one of those that gets every season. It starts out strong; the first few episodes are great, but the second half of the first season is Not Great. It really starts finding itself in season 2, when they figure out which characters they should focus on. Season 2 is far from perfect, but I already know it gets even better. I know this may be a tough sell but if you haven’t: watch this show. You won’t regret it. (B-; B+)

High Maintenance (season 4, episodes 4-5): I watched two episodes of this, and then I had to stop because The Plague started and there was just something overwhelming about seeing NYC business as usual in the show. I might watch the rest of the episodes of the season later though. (A-)

Homeland (season 8, episodes 4-12): This season was probably better than the previous two; more tightly written, but still sticking to the — by now — standard Homeland tropes, playing them to their logical extremes. This was the final season of the show and the ending is very on-brand, for better or worse. (B-)

Killing Eve (season 3, episodes 1-3): Season 1 of this show is a masterpiece; Season 2 is a mess and ultimately a disappointment. However there are signs that things might be improving, so I’m cautiously optimistic. (B+)

Run (miniseries, episodes 1-3): This is a show created by Vicky Jones (Fleabag) and produced — among other people — by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, which was already enough to make me watch it, and boy does it deliver so far. (A)

Star Trek: Picard (season 1, episodes 7-10): An inconsistent ending to an inconsistent season, that’s noticeably better in its second half and yet stumbles landing it. There is another season coming, should we survive the Plague, and I’m kinda looking forward to that. (B-)

The Magicians (season 5, episodes 9-13): I love this show and the characters so fucking much. Another show that mostly got better every season; I have a spoiler-filled love letter written. I saved up the final 5 episodes for a particularly tough time and after I was done with them, I cried for like half an hour, mostly because it was over. The ending was great. The final episodes were great, I’ll miss this show so much. (A)

Unorthodox (miniseries): Ok so don’t let my grade deter you. This is a great show about a girl escaping the ultra-orthodox Satmar Jews in Williamsburg and starting a new life in Berlin. I just really feel like it needed one more episode for it to really bring it home, but even as it is… it’s good. There is a “Making Unorthodox” episode on Netflix as well; make sure to watch it after you’re done with the show. (B+)

Westworld (season 3, episode 1-7): God, this season is so bad. The first two episodes are great but then it goes downhill rapidly. Watching it feels like a goddamn chore. I don’t even know why I’m doing this to myself (I do know, I’m too invested.) One more episode to go and the 4th season is already ordered. (C-)

I had to stop watching Last Week Tonight for my sanity — I just can’t take anymore news these days, even if they are occasionally funny. See you John after the Plague is over.

My grandma's Hungarian Green Pea Soup recipe (aka Zöldborsóleves)

· 349 words · 2 min read

photo of soup


for the soup:

  • 1kg green peas (ideally fresh but frozen works)
  • 3-500g carrots, depends on how much you want in it
  • Chicken broth/stock (if not, then 3ish chicken-flavored bouillon cubes)
  • salt to taste (it needs a lot because the peas and the carrots are sweet)

for the noodles:

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 spoons of flour – this is not an exact science, it needs to have the right texture, not too runny, but not too thick

thickening (roux):

  • 2 teaspoons of Hungarian paprika (in absence, non-Hungarian paprika will do, but obviously not optimal)
  • 1.5 tablespoon of rapeseed/sunflower oil, or a bit less lard
  • 1.5 tablespoon of flour
  • 2 packs or two big fistfuls of parsley (the more the merrier, at least up to a certain point)


Boil the peas in a large pot with water for 15-30 minutes, until a white foam on the top appears. Take it off the stove, replace the water with chicken broth (or just water). Cook until green peas are soft (it really depends on what kind of peas can you get, anywhere between 20 minutes and 4 hours). Make sure to cut the carrots and add them to the soup before the peas are done so they have time to get soft as well.

Prepare the noodles: beat 2 eggs then add 6 tablespoons of flour. Sift the flour, if possible. Mix it well until it is smooth.

When the carrots are soft, do the thickening:

Warm the oil/lard in a small saucepan. Add the flour, cook it until it’s golden brown, mixing it constantly. Take it off the stove and give it a minute or three to cool a bit. Add the paprika and parsley (chopped). Mix it well. Add a cold cup (!) of water. Mix it well until smooth. Pour it all in the soup, boil it.

Grate the noodles into the soup, or use a teaspoon. Cook it for a few minutes, then it’s done.

Can be eaten with or without crème fraîche/sour cream.

This serves about 6-8 people, and the recipe scales up or down really well.

How to Stay Sane on Twitter

· 1010 words · 5 min read

If you’re like me, you probably spend a lot of time on Twitter. I don’t blame nor judge you for that — it’s a simple fact of life. You are also aware that it can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing more often than not, what with everyone being on edge for, ah, many reasons these days.

Sure, you could just spend less time on the hellsite, but we both know that’s not going to happen. Instead, let’s take a few steps to improve our experience and lessen the impact it has on our mental health.

You already know how to unfollow, mute and block people, and that’s definitely the first line of defense. But there are a lot of people whom you enjoy following and reading, but perhaps they are passionate about specific topics you’d rather not be bombarded with 24/7 on your timeline?

That’s where our weapon of choice comes in: Twitter’s “Muted words” feature. Whatever words you put there, any tweet with them will magically disappear from your timeline. You can find this option under Settings -> Content preferences -> Muted -> Muted words. I highly recommend bookmarking it.

This feature is far from perfect as it comes with several limitations, but it does the job:

  • It matches exact words and that’s it. It does not know about conjugation, plurals or the possessive 's — which is yes, technically, is part of the word — so if you want to mute the word Trump, you’ll also have to mute Trump's; if you’re going to mute the word senator you’ll also have to mute senators and so on. It is also case insensitive, which is (mostly) a good thing for us.
  • You can only mute up to 200 words. That sounds like a lot at first, but trust me, it’s far too easy to run into that limit. There isn’t much you can do about it; I try to curate my muted word list and regularly remove things that are not in the ~discourse~ anymore. You can specify how long you want to mute a given word; use this wisely. They expire automatically, but you do have to remove them by hand to free up the space.

On the web, muted words are listed in reverse chronological order; on mobile, however, it’s sorted alphabetically, which can be useful at times.

(A note: You can also use Tweetbot, which can use regular expressions and other things; I, however, mostly use twitter.com on desktop and the official app on iOS.)

I use muted words for a couple of things:

  • Permanently filter out 90% of American politics and activism (disclosure: I’m not American)
  • Cut down the noise on random things that annoys me that comes out in the daily ~discourse~. For these, I usually mute something for, say, seven days, because by then (hopefully) everyone moved on to some other thing
  • I’m also filtering most of the COVID-19 stuff because I have enough anxiety thank you very much

To give an example, here are the words I filter right now to cut down on all things coronavirus: quarantine, COVID19, #COVID19, expose, virus, pandemic, coronavirus, covid-19.

muted words screenshot

Muted words is not a perfect solution: you’ll never be able to filter something out completely. But I find that to be, in a way, an advantage: my American Politics filter, for example, lets just enough stuff through that I still know what’s going on most of the time.

So, great, you’ve cleaned up your timeline and now it’s 50% less anxiety-inducing. But Tamas, you ask me, what if, from time to time, I do want to see what everyone’s tweeting, without any filters?

For that, we’ll employ another Twitter feature: Lists. More importantly, the fact that muted words do not affect lists. So all you need to do is put everyone you follow on a private list; you can even pin that to your timeline on iOS (and maybe Android too?).

pinned list Here’s the list I use, pinned on my timeline and I can just swipe right to read it. On Desktop, you’ll find it under Lists but of course you can bookmark that as well.

Now, you can, of course, go through each and every person you follow and manually add them to your “Unfiltered” list, but that’s going to be very time-consuming, so we’re going to use some command-line magic to do this in one big swoop.

What you need: Ruby 2.4+ installed on your computer and having a Developer account at Twitter. For the latter, if you haven’t done so yet, go to developer.twitter.com and apply for one; unfortunately, it can sometimes take days for them to approve you. Once that’s done, create a new, dummy app you’ll use for this.

Next, install the t gem: gem install t, and because it’s a bit old, downgrade the twitter gem: gem install twitter -v 6.1.0 && gem uninstall twitter -v 6.2.0.

Now you’re almost ready to go, but first, you’ll have to log in and authorize your command-line client. Run t authorize and follow the instructions; it’ll ask for the API key and API secret key, then gives you a URL where you can log into the dummy app you just created.

Now you’re ready. Create a new list on the Twitter web UI, name it whatever you want; I’m using “Unfiltered”. Then get a list of the people you follow and pipe it into a text file: t followings > ~/my_followings.txt, which you’ll use to add everyone to your list: cat ~/my_followings.txt|xargs t list add Unfiltered. You can also do this with just one command, as you might have deducted.

And that’s it! You now have both a heavily filtered timeline that keeps you mostly sane, but also the ability to check it out without any of those filters, if you wish to.

The only thing you have to keep in mind now is whenever you follow or unfollow someone, you’ll have to add or remove them to/from your Unfiltered Twitter list as well. I find that to be a small price to pay, personally.

My Recent Media Diet (February, 2020)

· 1117 words · 6 min read

Previously: January, Best of Media, 2019

Time to catch up with things I’ve been watching/enjoying! I am shamelessly copying Kottke’s format, with some minor changes.


I started reading Better Than IRL, which is about the Old Internet and how people find community there. I hope I can finish it, I’ve already read two essays from it.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): I did not grow up with Mr. Rodgers, in fact I have not heard of him at all before the documentary came out last year. I was very cynical going it but by the end, it won me over to at least some degree. (B+)

American Factory (2019): What happens when a Chinese company opens a factory in Ohio and cultures clash? This movie, among other things. It’s an interesting watch, well worth it. (A)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014): Rewatch. It’s pretty good but it takes like half an hour for it to really get going and that kinda sucks. Still, once it gets going, it’s great. (B+)

Force Majure (2014): This was great, though I’m not really happy with the ending. It didn’t stress me out nearly as Marriage Story did, strangely. (A-)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (2010, 2011): Rewatch. I just wanted some emotional catharsis in my life and also our heroes being desperate in a forest. It kind of delivers on both, though not enough. The romantic pairings are a complete nonsense and the epilogue never happened. (B-)

Interstellar (2014): Wow, I was on a 2014 streak I guess? Anyways, another rewatch, the third time I’ve seen this movie and I just, love it so much. Yes, the third act is not as great as the first two but I don’t care. It’s the epic space drama we very much needed, the sound is amazing, the visuals are amazing, the actors are amazing. (A)

Miss Americana (2020): This is a pretty great documentary about Taylor Swift and I enjoyed it a lot. (A-)

Speed (1994): Technically a rewatch, although I’ve only seen it as a kid and didn’t remember too much. I thought it’d be bad but actually this is a pretty good 90s action movie. (A-)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015): I’ve been sort of meaning to watch this for years but I was kind of meh about it until I saw Bel Powley in The Morning Show where she’s great and that gave me the final push. I didn’t regret it; it’s a decent coming-of-age movie. (B+)

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020): I liked the first movie but I bailed halfway through on this one. Meh.

Uncut Gems (2019): I tried watching it once and turned it off after 40 minutes because it was too stressful. I tried again about a month later and then I just dissociated enough to not feel anything. It’s just not my movie, even though Adam Sandler is objectively great in it.

TV Shows

Altered Carbon (season 2): I really enjoyed this, I might even write a separate spoiler-filled review. I decided against rewatching the first season and in retrospect I kind of regret that. In any case, it was great, developing existing and new characters and the show’s mythology. (A)

Cheer (season 1): I have mixed feelings about this show. I loved it, and now I’m emotionally invested in several kids featured, but also I’m wary of the whole authoritarian coach as a savior thing and worried what will happen to everyone once they stop doing cheerleading because it’s a thing you can’t do forever. In any case, I highly recommend it. (A+)

Doctor Who (season 12, episodes 6-9): This season has been a letdown overall but the last two episodes were not half bad, by Doctor Who standards anyway. Still, I’m starting to miss Moffat, as bad as that era could be at times. (B-)

High Fidelity (season 1): I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the movie in ages, but I enjoyed the twists the made with this show. Zoë Kravitz is great and so are the supporting characters. I hope it gets another season. (A-)

High Maintenance (season 4, episodes 1-3): The best show about New York is back with an amazing first episode and two other ones that are, at parts, a bit meh, but even a “meh” High Maintenance episode is a great High Maintenance episode; they have such a high bar. (A)

Homeland (season 8, episodes 1-3): One more season of Carrie ugly-crying, which so far has not really happened but all in due time. It’s mostly the usual though episode 3 was quite good. (B)

I Am Not Okay With This (season 1): So this is based on a comic book by the same person who wrote The End of the Fucking World (which I love) but the show is kind of a letdown. It’s short and feels like the second half of the season is missing; it has a lot of style, but not enough substance. If they make another season, I’ll watch it but I’m still somewhat disappointed. (B-)

McMillions (miniseries): I wanted to like this, but I quit after 3 episodes. As much as I like Agent Doug, they drag out the story too much and that kind of ruins it for me.

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (season 1): A sitcom about a game studio. This takes 2-3 episodes to warm up but if you stick with it, it gets really good. Episode 5 is particularly great. (A-)

Occupied (season 1): I bailed on this around episode 8. I wanted to like this but I mostly watched it because it’s a Norwegian show. It’s just… not good.

Star Trek: Picard (season 1, episodes 3-6): I continue to be very disappointed about this show, though episode 6 was not half bad so maybe it gets better in the second half? Let’s hope so. (B-)

Stargate SG-1 (season 4, episode 6 “Window of Opportunity”): This is something I rewatch every Groundhog Day because, well, it’s the Groundhog Day episode of this show that I love very much and it’s fun every single time. (A+)

The Magicians (season 5, episodes 4-8): I love this show and the characters so fucking much. There was a fairly week episode this month but otherwise, it really delivers every week with all its unashamed craziness. (A)

UnREAL (season 2 episodes 9-10): This show is just, bad for me, not unlike You was not long ago. I will work very hard not to watch the final two seasons because again, bad for me. (B)

I’m still watching Last Week Tonight and it’s fine but the long segments are just increasingly meh.

My Recent Media Diet (January, 2020)

· 1129 words · 6 min read

Previously: Best of Media, 2019

Time to catch up with things I’ve been watching/enjoying! I am shamelessly copying Kottke’s format, with some minor changes.


For the Love of Men by Liz Plank: Hey, I read a book! Someone give me an award. *ahem* Anyway! I’ve written about it a bit in this post and I have a lot more to share soon. This is the book I evangelize right now to everyone I meet, especially men.


Adam (2019): Adam was very controversial before it came out (it has an IMDB rating of 2.8), and yet people would benefit a lot from watching something before forming an opinion about it because it’s a great movie about a complicated subject, that does not give you easy answers but also manages to surprise you more than once. I loved it. (A)

Fargo (1996): This is the movie I watch when I crave some snow porn; I’ve seen it three times now I think. I was just in the mood to see a lot of snow. That and the amazing Frances McDormand. And everything else. I love all of it, it’s a masterpiece. (A+)

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019): Yeah, no. Turned it off after 20 minutes or so. I think Kevin Smith did great movies (mostly) in the 90s — Clerks, Clerks 2, Mallrats, Dogma — but this is literally just overt fanservice with no story. I’m too old for this.

JoJo Rabbit (2019): This was great! It takes real skill to make a satire about nazis in 2019 but Taika Waititi pulls it off. It’s funny and it’s heartfelt and it’s smart. You should watch it. (A)

Knives Out (2019): This was fine? Daniel Craig is great and a sequel is in the works with his character which I’m happy about. I sort of get the hype around it but I don’t think it’s as great as it was hyped. Still, I was somewhat entertained. (B-)

Little Women (2019): This is the best thing I’ve seen in this year so far (well, this and Sex Education, see below). I’ve never read the book, though I was somewhat familiar with bits of the story. I loved almost every minute of it; it has a ton of heart, great actors, amazing visuals and clothes and directing and everything, really. It’s also clever how it subverts some of the stuff in the book; I’ve read the plot summary of it after watching the movie. Give it all the Oscars, especially the ones it was not nominated for (I’m looking at you, Best Director). (A+)

TV Shows

Doctor Who (season 12, episodes 1-5): This must be the worst quality drop from one season to the next in the history of Doctor Who. The previous one with the new Doctor was pretty great, or so I remember; this is a clusterfuck with the notable exception of the fifth episode, which was pretty good, and gives me some hope that the quality may recover. (C)

Don’t Fuck with Cats: Hunting and Internet Killer (miniseries): I watched the first episode and a bit of the second but these true crime shows are not for me.

Little America (season 1): I loved this so much; this show was almost engineered to make me cry in its final minutes. Yes, the stories are a bit too sweet and a bit too idealized sometimes but I don’t care. I’m glad that season 2 was already ordered. (A)

Messiah (season 1): This was not nearly as bad as the critics (mostly) panned it and overall I mostly enjoyed it. It’s a decent exploration of faith. If it gets a second season, I’ll watch that. (B+)

Sex Education (season 2): This will definitely go on my “Best of Media, 2020” list, and ranked much higher than its previous season. I wrote more about it in detail here with spoilers. Without spoilers: this season is better than the already good first one and it’s filled with wonderful characters I love and care for and manages to give justice to the existing ones while introducing a few more into the mix. Season 3 is almost a sure thing, thankfully. (A)

Star Trek: Short Treks (episode “Children of Mars”): This was fine. (B)

Star Trek: Picard (season 1, episodes 1-2): I was really looking forward to this but so far this is a letdown. Clumsy exposition, worse than usual pseudoscience, questionably decisions in the pilot and so on. I’ll keep watching it and hope it improves, but I might lower my expectations a bit. (C)

The Good Place (season 4, episodes 10-13): Let’s face it, this final season was probably the weakest. And yet it gave us one of the strongest episodes ever (episode 9, the one about Chidi) and ended on an almost perfect note; I was close to crying more than once. Overall I’m satisfied. (A-)

The Magicians (season 5, episodes 1-3): Look this show is a mess, it was always a mess and I know I keep using this phrase but it’s a loveable mess. I love these characters so much and I will be watching it until it gets canceled. In these first three episodes, they took a complex topic and explored it well and I can’t wait for the rest. (A-)

The Witcher (season 1): I mean, this is also a loveable mess in a way I just wish the first few episodes weren’t so information-dense with next to no exposition; I had to read recaps to make sense of the whole thing. Someone described it as “Xena/Hercules meets Game of Thrones cover band” and honestly that’s pretty accurate. It has a lot of potential, though, so we’ll see what the next season brings. (B)

UnREAL (season 1; season 2 episodes 2-8): You think you’ve seen TV shows about despicable people? Go watch the first season of UnREAL because it takes this genre to a whole new level. A trashy show about a producing a trashy reality show; deeply broken and traumatized people doing everything they can and then some to exploit and manipulate other, even more broken and traumatized people. The second season is starting to get a bit tired, though and I don’t know if I’ll stay for its final two ones. (A-; B)

You (season 1 and 2): I really enjoyed the first season but the second one is more of the same and eventually I could not handle being in the protagonist’s head anymore, it was just too much toxic masculinity for me, even if that’s the whole point of the show. I read the recaps for the rest of the season and, I mean, wow. Not gonna say anything else. And I’m definitely not watching the third season if that happens. (A-; B-)

My Favorite Newsletters (Early 2020 Edition)

· 303 words · 2 min read

I love newsletters and I read quite a few of them. I made a list a bit more than a year ago and a few things have changed since then. I compiled this list for the XOXO slack yesterday and I figured it’d be good to share it here as well. These are the things I read these days.

Last but not least, not strictly a newsletter but Spoonbill is useful to know what the people you follow on twitter are up to.

Sarah Kay - Dreaming Boy

· 593 words · 3 min read

(I haven’t found a page with both the video and the text where it was formatted what looks like how it was likely intended so I made my own. Source for the text is here.)

In most of the dreams I remember
from childhood, I am a boy. Saving a maiden
or not saving anyone in particular, but definitely a boy.

For years, when the only language I had were the scraps
tossed to me from the popular kids’ table, lesbian
seemed as likely an explanation as anything.

What does it mean to dream myself a gender?
What does it mean to hold that secret beneath my tongue?
The first time I kissed a boy, he was so tall, his mouth so soft,

I dreamt of the ocean for weeks. Never in control of my limbs.
Next to him, I seemed like a convincing enough girl. At least
when I was awake. At night, I was Batman. At night, a fireman.

At night, a boy, with muscles in boy places. And a firm hand.
And a direction to run. The first time I kissed a girl, I didn’t
like how much our faces melted into each other.

Where was the stubble? The hard jaw and cinnamon? I could not breathe
through all her lilac. I dreamt of being lost in the woods.
Of a terrible tidal wave. If I was not a lesbian,

what possible explanation did I have? What words
could I tie around this treacherous heart?
This impossible hunger, this miserable mind?

The first time I met you, someone said, Oh, he’s definitely gay,
And maybe that was a confusion I recognized.
The first time I kissed you, you told me to take it slow.

I placed my hand against your rib cage, and you moved it away.
I felt like a fourteen-year-old trying to get a bra strap off.
You spent the night anyway, and we lay next to each other breathing,

my hands inches from your boxer shorts, twitching against the covers.
The next morning, you made the bed and folded my clothes while I was at class.
You learned to play the harp and sang me songs while you played.

For my birthday, you baked me a triple layer cake, woke up early to ice it.
I watched your shirtless torso push icing through a tube,
I have never loved a body the way I loved yours in that moment.

You pick flowers on your way to class, leave bouquets in every room.
When you dance, the walls lean to get closer to you.
When I finally asked you if you might want to date boys,

I held my breath while you thought about it for a long, quiet minute.
I haven’t met one I’d like to date yet, you said. And for right now,
I’m pretty in love with you, if that’s OK. And just like that,

I did not crave language I had always thought I needed.
And just like that, somewhere a hand reached backwards into a
faraway dream and said, come on, then. We have a maiden to save.

I guess what I am saying is: you make me feel like a boy.
Like the boy I have always been. At night, I climb trees
and wear cargo shorts. I scale buildings and build fires.

When I wake, I am curled around your back, the happiest big spoon in
the drawer. You are naked and heavy-breathing, the man I love. I hold
your body like the gift it is, safely sinking back into dreams.