Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #27 – December 5th, 2021

Happy Sinterklaas!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

Actually, it seems, Dutch people don’t actually say that, not even in Dutch. But I’m saying it because today is Sinterklaas, and though I am not Dutch, my wife is and this is something we enjoy celebrating together, with our Dutch friends. As part of the celebration, we do a special gift exchange, called a Surprise (pronounce it with a Dutch accent). The gift is simple, but the wrapping and presentation is complex. Here for example, is the one that I made for my friend Lisa.

Lisa like to enjoy a cup of tea with a friend and has a very warm personality, so I made this thing for her. The gift is actually a crocheting magazine hidden in the table-top.

For my friend Ari, my kids (who are old enough to participate) got him a pot for a plant, and some packs of Laksa soup, which he likes. The packs of soup are in the pot buried under the dirt. Ari likes action movies, and I once watched Rambo III at his house for his birthday, hence the decor of the gift.

In the random draw for this event, I actually got my wife. I traded her name with the one that one of my daughters got to make it a bit easier for her, and so my daughter came up with this…

…It’s a stuffed dog disguised as a chicken. My wife likes both dogs and chickens. The actual present is another magazine (a home decor magazine) and a block of dark chocolate.

Another traditional part of Sinterklaas is the poem–if one is really going for it, you write a poem for your person as well. In fact, in my observation of Dutch people I’d say that for some this is more important than the gift. To make it easier for our busy lives we’ve given people the option of doing the Surprise or doing a poem, although some of us have done both.

Here’s the full pile of surprises. It’s not very big–there aren’t as many of us around these days.

The one I received is not really visible. It wasn’t wrapped in any particular sort of way, but I had to follow a little puzzle It was a good time.

I also played a game of croquet this week. That’s kind of unusual, right? My friend Emma celebrated her 40th birthday and invited a bunch of us to an evening at the local croquet club. I have not played for a very long time–in fact, since July 4th, 1995 (I think) in somebody’s backyard, and I didn’t do very well, but it was a fun time.

My worked involved this week two shoots on the Australian Aboriginal nun-focused documentary that I’m working on–one in Perth where I live and at the Benedictine community where she grew up. It’s an interesting place with a troubled history, which is a true statement about most places that are connected with both Aboriginal Australian history and the church.

A busy week has led to a good run of steps, but a bit less TV this week. Still, I did watch and enjoy Episode 3 of Hawkeye, which I continued to like quite a bit, and another episode and a half of Dogs in Space, which I continue to like enough to keep going with it..

Lost in Space

The big deal, though, was watching the first two episodes of the newly released season three of Lost in Space. My family loved Season 1 of the modern reboot series, and enjoyed Season well enough. We were vaguely aware that Season 3 was coming, but weren’t really keeping track of so when I got an email from Netflix telling me that it was up the other day, it was pretty exciting.

Getting into it, it’s taken me quite a while to remember all of what was going on to make sense of the action, but even when I was confused, I was still enjoying the interaction between the characters. I wish that the season hadn’t started off with a bunch of relational issue between our various leaders (John and Maureen have gone distant; Penny has issues with Judy)–they feel like artificially contrived drama, especially since the problems are basically resolved by the end of the first episode. But nonetheless, I am still digging the show’s aesthetic and generally scientific survival-based storytelling.


The other exciting television news in our family is that Season 8 of Endeavour became available for free here in Australia. My wife and I enjoy this Inspector Morse prequel quite a bit, though it’s a bit depressing knowing that it kind of has to leave Morse himself as a hard-drinking loner. The first episode of the season was Striker–directed by series star Shaun Evans–and feature an improbably solution of a guy attempting (and in one case, succeeding) to kill two different rival football players for completely different reasons. Again, even when there are plot weaknesses, I’ve gotten to know the characters well enough to enjoy their interactions. I especially enjoy Roger Allam’s Inspector Thursday.

Song of the Week

I have a playlist on my phone called “Ben’s Mix”, which is made up of 100-200 songs that I like which I shuffle between when I’m driving, etc. I was thinking about how with each of these songs there is a bit of a story about it, about what it makes me think of or why I like it. So I’m going to let my phone pick one randomly and then try to write up some comments on it while it plays.

April Come She Will by Simon & Garfunkel

A short and sweet little ditty by Paul Simon, I was introduced to this song by a friend who sent me a mix-tape (a different friend with a different mix-tape then the other time I mentioned something like this. It was the ’80’s and early 90’s–we were all about mix-tapes). I always liked the emotive quality of Simon & Garfunkel, and felt something of a kinship with them because of being from New York.

August, die she must
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September, I’ll remember
A love once new has now grown old

Incidentally, apparently a struggling actor I used to work with in an office back in the mid-1990’s once discovered who the woman he was partnered with for a class when he went to her apartment to rehearse a scene. The doorman at the place called up to the woman to make sure it was okay to let my colleague in, and then signed off the phone call by saying something like, “No problem, Mrs. Garfunkel.” He colleague went upstairs and found himself in the apartment of Art Garfunkel and his wife!

If the story is accurate (both my hearing of it, and my memory of it) then I guess the woman was Kathryn (Kim) Cermak, a former model that Garfunkel met in 1985, and has been married to since 1988.

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