Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

This audiobook of short stories was harrowing and hilarious. The stories all deal with modern immigrant Chinese families, generally told from the point of view of the young daughter. The Dads are mostly educated, unfaithful, yet struggling to support the family in America, working multiple jobs. The mothers seemed hysterical, in the sense of being crazy rather than funny. Sometimes grandparents are as well. Some of the stories include characters with the same names and use similar anecdotes. The sacrifices, the struggles, the anxieties, the family love. Maybe it was like picking a scab, but I found it so compelling.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

This is heart breaking and mind blowing. I think Malcolm Gladwell once mentioned how much sadder it is when the favourite loses. This deals with devastation of one who seemed externally who had it made. I am probably naive, but the story kept surprising me with the revelations about characters. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was amazed at how he shifts perspectives and whole vistas of a character open up. The political unrest of the 60s seems relevant today. I felt particularly moved by the disillusioned father whose best intentions and efforts are utterly wasted.

Momotaro:Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway

I started reading this book because I saw its relation to the Japanese Momotaro story, which I have used myself. I enjoyed this middle grade fantasy adventure about Xander grade six student in California who discovers he has special powers his Japanese father had not told him about before being captured by demons. It incorporates many different Japanese mythological elements, including _tsukumogami_, objects that turn into monsters, which I only heard about this summer in a talk by Japanese folklore guy Zack Davisson at the Powell Street Festival. I still find it surprising to see stories that involve Nikkei characters.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

My brother had a picture of Steve Martin in his trademark white three-piece suit with a fish sticking out of his vest. This memoir shares fascinating insights into comedy as an art form. Apparently, he wore the suit to be more visible on huge stages. The former wild and crazy guy reflects on how he melded his interests in banjo playing, magic, and comedy to consciously push the originality of his act. He intentionally made himself look absurd to be less offensive. His overwhelming success led to his disillusionment and abrupt departure. I'll try to keep that in mind.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I enjoyed this story about a young designer after she notices a large robotic-looking statue on a street in New York. Contemporary in its depiction of social media, in particular YouTube and Twitter, it illustrates the benefits and drawbacks of fame, and the beauty of social problem solving. The mysteries that drove the plot reminded me of digital puzzle games I like to play. It is an thoughtful exploration of contrasting world views, of how to behave when faced with the unknown, — whether it is a powerful alien intelligence or I suppose life in general — with love or fear?

#ThreeBillboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The movie begins with three derelict billboards on a rural road fallen into disuse because of a freeway. A woman named Mildred played by Frances McDormand has a plan for them. I'm glad I knew nothing about it before watching because I enjoyed how the characters transformed and how played with my expectations. It explores the aftermath of a horrible event and other horrible events and how people in an imaginary small southern town respond. Seems to reflect the frustration and rage of so many people these days. Yet some hope for humanity lingers. Or maybe that is just my hope.

Zettelkasten (Note taking approach)

I have been working on this idea of collecting notes on things after reading about a German sociologist Luhmann who kept slips of paper in boxes (zettelkasten) with an elaborate coding system that allowed him to figure out where the different cards were. So he would have reference material information and cards that were indexes of ideas and so on apparently. Some people are trying to resurrect this method with digital approaches. In some cases they have created new apps. I could have used the version of Notational Velocity which I’ve had for a long time and wondered how I might use. Of the others, I might try these, but if this approach works, it will need to be something that lasts, and so I wanted something that has some proven reliability and effectiveness. At the moment I am using Tinderbox because I already had it. So other apps would work also. It kind of bugs me to pay as much as I do for it every year, but in a way this makes me look for more ways to use it. It is easy to create notes and move them around and include attributes. I might have used Devonthink, but I use that for archiving whole documents and emails and I kind of have to store it in one location it seems. So I am making an effort to take notes on interesting things I read and watch and hear and put them in this. I am concerned about it slowing down as it gets larger but having notes has been kind of fun. The thing that got me hooked was the idea that it makes writing easier if you already have notes to work with. This perhaps applies more to academic or nonfiction writing, but it is kind of stimulating. Given that anything could really be a seed for a cartoon or a story, I think it makes sense to build it. I had been bothered by all the the ideas I consume but do not really make use of. When I had been writing blog posts for Science World, I was saving documents in separate files of Tinderbox or Scrivener or Evernote or Devonthink. I saw this point about the illusion of gathering information when you are just copying it. So you have to make it in your own notes. So that is what I am attempting to do and keeping the notes all together so that they might be reused in the future for other things. So let’s see how it goes. I have not been directly linking the notes together, but relying on tags so they they could be searched later if I needed. In the original conception the sequential linking was apparently a useful thing, but I don’t know about that. Tinderbox also has this ability to lay notes out in a map to rearrange them. I might do that for subsets I am working on. But the general input is in a outline list form. It is a all text based this approach, but to loosen things up a little, I have been adding icons. Maybe I should be using emojis if I end up changing formats later. Maybe not critical. It is kind of weirdly fun to build this collection of ideas.