Life: Leisure and Leisure Panic

I enjoyed a truly wonderful staycation (stay at home vacation) over the Independence Day Holiday week. Part of what made it wonderful was that I resisted the urge to MAXIMIZE the time off.

One of my commute pals described her days off, and we both acknowledged that we suffer the psychological strain of leisure panic: the sense of having so little time off that we feel we Must.Do.Something.Amazing with our time off. Which… kind of defeats the purpose of having time off? Yet WE DO THIS. We leave work or wake up on our first day off with a goal-oriented sensibility. As if we have been programmed this way. Perhaps it doesn’t help that people are more likely to ask WHAT we did during the break (implying we should have done something?) rather than how it was (FANTASTIC, and all the more fantastic when I didn’t leave the house!).

I achieved a sort of balance during that time: I did plenty of fun things and I LOUNGED AROUND intensely. It was… so good. And it was so strange to see what I look like when I’ve had a full night’s sleep!

Some of my leisure was “busy.” There was a long walk / food /good conversation with friends; the PRIDE parade; medical appointments, lab tests, prescriptions, and so on (during which I had an honest conversation with a medical assistant about what people (like me) who work in law are like, and how she is a good friend for pressing her lawyer friends to sit on a beach with an umbrella-containing beverage and BE STILL); spa time; reading; writing; painting, and buying paint; minor chores; a little bit of online training to meet some arbitrary software deadlines; exploring the City on foot to visit a new place… But I took extra days off, so there was time for all those things to be spread thinly between even longer pajama hours.

My most serious commitment was to eating. The regional origins of the many types of foods I consumed include: Brazil (origin of the açai bowl, interpreted by Reveille), the Yucatan (Cochinita), Indonesia (Rasa Rasa), France (Grand Creperie), Ethiopian (Tadu), South Indian (I made fresh tomato rasam myself PLUS ordered in from Udupi Palace), Taiwanese (a gorgeous ube coconut milk latte boba from Boba Guys), Japanese (Sakesan plus homemade miso soups)… I didn’t repeat any restaurants (or shops!) from my artist pal’s recent visit, to my own surprise. Eating my way through the City in an unplanned way is a wonderful thing, any time!

There were many hours of staying at home in soft clothes and sitting still. Thinking. Watching the fog go out and return. Moving slowly. Drinking tea. Going back to bed after getting up too early. Having UNINTERRUPTED THOUGHTS. It was so… good.

(Even now, on this foggy Saturday afternoon, I am wearing soft , fastener-free clothes, have my hair in a bun above a makeup-free face. Topical caffeine is being absorbed by the bags under my eyes, while a salicylic acid sticker lies on emerging acne. So.NOT.photogenic! So comfy. I’ve heard gorgeous, presentable people described as making their great looks appear effortless. Please note that you really don’t want to see what my version of ‘effortless’ looks like! [evil, non-photogenic laughter])

As Independence Day weekend ended, and I began to dwell on what awaited me at work, I knew what to do: I ordered in fresh veggie sushi, sipped junmai ginjo sake out of a pretty glass, and read a new Korean comic. I was delighted for hours, with NO time wasted wondering about what my laptop would do when I turned it on. [happy sigh]. I hope this practice will allow me to JUST REST more (and more) often. And if anyone asks, I’ll say my weekend was GREAT, and I rested. Because that’s an achievement worth disclosing.

Film: The Marvels

The Marvels
published by Marvel Entertainment (which feels self referential, but isn’t)

[Me, shouting:] THIS IS AN ACTION COMEDY. Viewers laughed loudly in the theater with delight at appropriate moments when I saw it! I enjoyed it. It was intentionally silly. It was perfectly FINE.

But whoever was responsible for most of the ad campaign should be interrogated and maybe have to spend a few years locked up with Loki, or perhaps reading rival DC’s hate mail.

The film previews were misleading. Maybe the ads came out during the writers-strike or were the work of an evil intern, but they featured dead Avenger flashbacks about fighting great evil, rather than costumed musical numbers involving a hot prince singing to Captain Marvel while she dances in a ballgown-version of her battle costume. (This was a surprise worth saving to delight my fellow movie-goers, but STILL.)

Captain Marvel herself doesn’t seem to be having fun through much of the film, as the weight of possibly being a war criminal weighs heavily on her (ooopsie). Luckily, Ms. Marvel is having enough fun for everyone. And Monica Rambeau is grounded, consistent, and capable, playing it straight between star-struck Ms. Marvel and gloomy Captain Marvel.

If you like action hero comedies with mismatched buddies, disapproving parents, musical numbers, hot princes (hello, Park Seo-Jun!), secret marriages, flerkin kittens consuming Nick Fury’s staff, fangirls, and very poorly timed body swapping, this is a ‘light romp’ in superhero-dom that you might enjoy.

Film: Polite Society

Polite Society
published by Focus Features

This is an action comedy about a younger sister who doesn’t want to lose her supportive older sister to some smooth-talking wanker with a blatantly evil mother.

Does the younger sister misinterpret some social signals? Sure. Do her parents listen? No. Is she doing some very humiliating things while barking up the wrong tree and undermining her own cause? Yikes, yes. But she truly loves her sister, and is willing to go to outrageous lengths to stop her marriage.

Who can resist great fight-scenes between women dressed up for wedding? (I can’t.)

It is a sweet tale of sisterly love featuring dramatic physical fighting while wearing great outfits. It delivers what the preview promises.

Life: I know you!

The streetcar that I almost-finished the watercolor study of passed me Monday evening, and I was all, “HEY!”

I felt rather… proprietary towards it. Friendly, but also with a sense of ownership.

Film: Dune & Dune Part 2

published by Warner Brothers
2021 (Part 2) 2024

The most beautiful science fiction films I’ve seen recently are these two films. Based on books by Frank Herbert, they tell a story of extractive settler colonialism, in which one feudal family is assigned by the emperor to rule a colony, but this leaves them vulnerable to the jealous emperor’s sabotage. Instead of being fully destroyed, the survivors foment an uprising that takes control of the substance that makes intergalactic travel possible, which threatens to undo the emperor completely.

Dune (part 1) shows the fall of that sabotaged feudal family, House Atreides. Dune Part 2 shows the beginning of uprising against the emperor’s go-to saboteurs, House Harkonnen, which will lead to war for the galactic empire itself.

The architecture is striking; the scale of it, the focus on shade and shelter, the efforts to shape the machine-like city to withstand sandstorms… The vehicles are impressive, with the vast scale that space would logically lead to (though landing such craft on planets with gravity seems less practical from an engineering standpoint, and more as a display of power toward unwilling subjects). The dragonfly-like craft are especially pleasing…

The acting is GOOD. If you’ve seen prior versions of this story on tv or film, you’ve seen both sincere efforts and cartoonish camp. This story plays it straight; the actor playing Paul Atreides is young enough to pull off the role of a conflicted youth persuasively, rather than being played by a full adult with painted rosy cheeks who is bigger than the people referring to him as ‘the little one;’ the villains remain over the top, but in a properly menacing way, more as plausible abusers of power than merely as monsters in appearance.

There are many things to admire, including the scale and pomp of many large gatherings, and the parts of the story that are simply about a boy and his mother trying to survive. The story scales up and down without losing the narrative. Technology scales from space weapons to knives, and still works seamlessly.

It’s really lovely to watch. You’ll need time – these are long movies – but there is a lot of story to cover in these books, and it never hurts to spend time looking at the beautiful patterns wind makes on sand – or how spaceships look when they explode in flames.

Film: Monarch: Legacy of Monsters

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters
published by Apple TV+ (1 season/10 episodes so far)

We San Franciscans can be vain about our beloved City, so OF COURSE we have to watch the Godzilla movie about the “G-Day” attack on SF in current times, and remark on the rendering of the monster-smashed high-rises and relocated subway stops that appear in this fun series.

The premise: Godzilla and other giant Titans are real, and can periodically leave their connected universe to appear on (and destroy parts of) our world. How our worlds connect was the focus of the parents and grandparents of two of our three young current-era protagonists, who track down solider Lee Shaw (played by Kurt Russell now and by his son, Wyatt, in Shaw’s youth) to learn more about Titans, their world, the missing father of two of the leads, plus the government agency, Monarch, that turned against Shaw.

The series does a good job of telling the past and present stories without jarring us – we always know which era we are in (thanks, Russell father and son!) – and of showing a version of our current world where Titan evacuation drills are just a thing we do.

The older generation of characters, Doctors Miura & Randa and Lt. Shaw, have great chemistry, and I love seeing scientists as the leading characters. Their monster-chasing adventures have an old-school, Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark feel in the best kind of way (and in a different era), but with less camp. Their grandkids are persistent in the right way, though their shaky bonds are shaky for plot reasons; once they free him, older Shaw herds them to where they need to go.

This is a fun, San-Francisco-smashing version of a Godzilla mythos, and I would like to see another season.

Film: Gunpowder Milkshake

Gunpowder Milkshake
published by Netflix

This hyper-violent action comedy has a fun cast – including Karen Gillan, Angela Bassett, and Michelle Yeoh – and features stylish sets, great lighting, playful colors, and VIOLENCE.

An assassin (who was abandoned by her own assassin mother) rescues a child, and assassin-wars ensue.

This stylish fantasy checks all of the American set boxes – the lovely colors of the bowling alley fight scene, the pastels of the diner, the gentleness of the “librarians” around small children before they begin shooting massive weapons – and looks like it was fun for the actors to be over-the-top killers.

It delivers what the preview shows! Please note that this is a comedy AND an action film, so the deadpan commentary by the actors is not self-seriousness EVER. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.

Life: Managing Fear of (Watercolor) Failure

I sat down on the national holiday and made a little sketch to paint, and while it was harder than it should have been, it also wasn’t the end of the world. It isn’t finished – I need it to dry to glaze some sections that aren’t well defined – but it is recognizably the right general [vague hand-waving gesture] shape.

I could say this reminds me of going from being a swimming instructor with superb form to feeling like a brick dragging itself through the water with weak arms after many years of not swimming laps regularly. (A thing that happened to me.) But the difference is: I was actually good at swimming. (I practiced for years every summer weekday as a student, and kept practicing as a swimming teacher, so there was a least a decade of intensive swimming there, including recreational racing with others.). When I lost that ease in the water, I felt… wrong. Like I’d forgotten something important, and had ‘let myself go’ in a way that made me sad.

However, I was always a beginner-level painter, so I can’t pretend to be crushed at still being one now. I took up watercolor with enthusiasm back in college, but took too many classes, and had no time to play. Painting lost out in favor of manual drafting (a skill I was rewarded for as both a student and professional). (OMG, I am so old!) Watercolor back then was something great for “renderings,” which were hand-painted, intentionally pretty illustrations of what a building would look like in the future, to help clients visualize their project in flattering ways. Being a renderer was a professional speciality people paid extra for. Now that’s all done digitally, which means design projects by others made during my youth are going to wind up in museums, and people will be so impressed that people could once make such images without computers…

Ah, well. There are some watercolor projects I’d like to try, and yesterday’s sketch suggests I can chip away at my fears and work on them.

Some of my watercolor project ideas are mere fantasies: much like cafes with big windows and views of gardens, the IDEA of painting is a fantasy of leisure. Imagine, having time to paint! Imagine, painting often enough to be good at it! Imagine having time to drink good coffee and practice! I know what I’m like: I work too much, I see what these ideas of quiet painting time offer, and I understand why these projects are such a draw, even if my actual results are so basic.

Once I overcome my dread of being bad, painting allows me to enjoy the process of painting. The results are less important than the experience, in some ways. If the experience is pleasant, I will try again. Even if the results aren’t great, I am still able to sit still for a while and put paint on paper for a few hours, which is a joy.

Film: Kate

published by Netflix

Kate is a stylish film about the last day of an American assassin’s life in Japan. It is also one of the few films that properly shows the lead character looking like hell while their health collapses, which is strangely refreshing!

(Note that this is one of those films with nearly all American lead characters set in Japan, in a some combination of cultural fan service and backdrop-exploitation. I like it as fan service, of course. I also like the good guy and bad guy cross-cultural collaboration as an attempt at better cultural engagement to ground the story. (There is a speech within the film that suggests disdain for exploitative foreigners, which implies…. self-awareness, even though the context is different.))

Kate is a skilled assassin living in Japan, working for an American handler at jobs that the local assassins can’t or won’t do for local political reasons. She displays (minimal) ethics by wanting to reschedule an assassination that would happen in front of a child, to let us know that she is a good person. Shortly after telling her boss she wants to get out of the assassination business, Kate suffers a medical incident, learns she has been poisoned, and only has hours to live. How will she spend that time? Identifying her assassin and avenging herself, of course!

This film is tight: the pacing is good, the scenes are stylishly composed, the roving fight scenes are extremely satisfying (room to room, bathhouse to alley, street to restaurant), exposition is limited (guns and swords do the talking), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an understated heroine. While the preview has a local ally/frenemy talking Kate up as a badass, there is very little swagger – Kate fights like she means it, not like she wants others to be impressed.

I believe I’ve watched this four times. I would buy this if it were for sale. I’ll watch it again. It’s a well-executed action film.

Film: The Old Guard

The Old Guard
published by Netflix

This is a fun action film about a group of near-immortals who work as soldiers for hire in the modern world. Charlize Theron shines as Andi, the leader of this group that has come together over centuries after finding each other (often through dreams) and fighting side by side. If practice makes perfect, this army of five is very close to perfect – and almost impossible to kill.

As they take on ethical-yet-violent jobs, they come to the attention of an evil biotech bro who wants to turn what they’ve got into profit – and he isn’t going to wait for them to agree to his invasive study plan.

The backstory flashbacks across time are well done; the settings are good; the fight scenes are well choreographed; the logistics of supporting oneself over centuries are addressed in bite-sized realism; the camaraderie between the near-immortals is adorable. I’ve watched this at least three times, and recommended it strongly when it first came out, to ensure my circle had a chance to see it.

It’s well done American-style action. I’d buy this if it were for sale. I’d watch sequels.