Sharp Objects

Al & I finished Sharp Objects (the HBO series) last week. I checked Sharp Objects (the novel) out on my Kobo right after.

The series was respectful of the source material, and it was an effective translation on a few levels: Where the novel requires a certain attentiveness from the reader, the series – through its use of disjointed flashback – makes the viewer stretch a little. There were insertions in the series that feel almost scientific in the way they rebalance the narrative. In order to afford the dreamy, disorienting flashbacks, a few characters are pulled into sharper relief and a few situations tip it closer to melodrama than the novel went.

The series pacing was interesting, too: The first three or four episodes take their time building up, and they’re a little exhausting. We went on a “one ep a night” budget for those. In the back half it all tips over and we wanted to go two at a time. It was more challenging than the source material.

I don’t always have the patience for this kind of series. Al tends to like them a little more and really enjoys the ur-genre of slow, psychological crime drama that seems to come out of Europe a little more than the U.S. The last time I sat through one of these was Mare of Easttown, and I liked that one a lot, too.

Panic’s Nova

I’ve been using Sublime Text a lot lately, but got a case of the fidgets and decided to give Panic’s Nova another try. I’ve had a license for a while, but I bought it during a previous web jag then forgot about it.

Stuff I’m enjoying this go-round:

  • “Tasks,” which work by project similar to Sublime’s build systems. I like being able to fire up a Hugo preview server within the app.
  • Git integration, both as a matter of making it easy to stage, commit, push, and make branches but also with the inline Git blame stuff. Sublime pushes you toward their own Git client. I don’t know what there is in the extension ecosystem there.
  • GUI config, which sounds weird but after a few month’s of Sublime’s JSON configuration and the friction it adds, it’s nice to just open a config panel, see an option, add a value, and go.
  • Nice little bits of UI flare, like the brace matching beacon.

It feels more like Coda or Espresso than it feels like Sublime or TextMate, which is to say leaning heavily toward a certain kind of web developer, but the extensions and build systems feel worth exploring more, and probably make it good for all-rounder types who bounce between a static site, utility scripting, and frameworks like Rails or Sinatra.

Software lens corrections defended

DPReview on software lens corrections and how they’re okay? It’s photography, so of course there’s a controversy at all. I do know I was shocked when I trialed DX Photolab and processed a few raw files from my Q2: The digital correction with that lens even gets rid of the Leica-supplied lens hood, so without automatic correction turned on in PhotoLab I thought something had gone horribly wrong. Then I turned it on and the pictures went back to the usual gorgeous Q2 output.

The article makes a compelling case: It helps keep complexity and cost down and it’s used in a way that is amenable to mathematical correction. I’m grateful for the tiny “Fujicrons” in my Fujifilm kit, and I suspect they’re exactly the kind of lens that is enabled with digital correction.

Jacobin on involuntary hospitalization

Jacobin is one of the few consistent voices on the ways in which we are failing the poor and mentally ill. If I need someone to bust whatever neoliberal frame I’ve succumbed to on issues like public housing, health care, or mental health treatment, Jacobin pretty reliably manages that for me.

Something I appreciate about this piece is the way in which the writer stays clear of a certain rhetorical trope that’s become common on the left liberal side of the homelessness/mental health care debate. They’re willing to acknowledge that mental illness and addiction are prominent complicators.

In Portland media, at least, there’s an almost ritualistic need to say these things are not “primary drivers.” I understand why that is, the way I understand why any degraded discourse instills a need to checkmate “the other side,” but Oregon has some of the worst mental health and addiction care in the nation, and mental illness and addiction are huge complicators in our homelessness crisis. Saying so isn’t always some sort of rhetorical feint or victim-blaming.

Anyhow, the article isn’t about that. It is about why this country’s mental health care is in such a tragic shambles and why forced institutionalization is not the answer.


I have a phone-based smart alarm tied to the Hues in my room. It senses when I am stirring and gently creates a Hue-driven “dawn” up to 30 minutes before I want to get out of bed. In the winter it is the best.

I also have a clock radio set to play NPR at my hard wakeup time.

This morning I was especially irritated by NPR and found myself wishing for newscasts that used to be more common on AM radio a long time ago.

When I was a kid in Indiana the parents on our block took turn hosting the kids waiting for the school bus during the winter. You’d get up in the dark, bundle up, go nextdoor or across the street and stand around in the living room of the hosting family waiting for the bus to honk, or spot its flashing white light reflecting off the walls of the still mostly unlit house.

One of the houses in the bus-waiting coop had a kitchen in the back lit with fluorescent lights, and the mom played AM radio news. I’d stand in the living room and smell their breakfast and see her moving around back there, across the living room and through the dining area you get in old houses. You’d hear professional radio newscasters reading the headlines in summary, maybe with some recorded audio clips. You’d hear financial news in the form of interest rates, and stock market indexes, and the station they listened to also had commodities prices. Then a few top 40 songs from previous decades and a ton of ads from local merchants.

There was something fundamentally square yet wholesome about the whole thing in its wildly variable information density: I started each day the bus-waiting co-op convened at the Weighoff house aware of five or seven top stories, the general state of key Wall Street indexes, and the overnight price of corn. I also became very familiar with a version of “Morning Has Broken” that either predated Cat Stevens’ interpretation, or was piped in from an alternate universe where the Lawrence Welk Singers reigned supreme.

It didn’t feel like anybody was swinging for a Peabody Award. It was nothing anyone would describe as “smart” or “engaging.”

NPR does about five minutes of straight news at the top of every hour, and then it’s on to the interviews and features, and there are mornings I find those cloying, grating, or both. I think the answer may be to either drop the clock radio, or pick a music station with top-of-the-hour headlines, or find a straight-news podcast I can autoplay on an alarm.