5 stars, 10 out of 10, the best film I’ve seen in years. A seamless marriage of plot, characterisation (both Gosling and Ford don’t act, they ARE), evocation of a dystopian world, and Philip K. Dick’s quest to understand what it is to be sentient humans and androids. Visually grand yet personally close-up. A long film but at the end you wish it were ten hours in length.
This is not a review but a plea to myself. Modern film can achieve art different to the art of books – Bladerunner 2049 could not, I believe, be as brilliant a novel – and I long to obsess. A Movie Big Year, say a film a day for 365 days, appeals immensely. But this is not the time to obsess about movies. Sigh.
East Point, Darwin, birding the mangrove swamp with an expert a week ago. Sultry, the tide in, a tart reek in the air. Viscous popping noises in the mud. Oh, if you could witness my coprophageous grin!
You non-birders can’t appreciate how much birding calls to me. This year has seen almost none of it but Darwin reawakens the siren call. Definitely 2018 must include some form of Birding Big Year!
It’s a big deal to start a club, right? All that work! The anxiety: what if it flops?
Relax. If you can find two others who will work through Shakespeare’s work-worthy works, or watch Game of Thrones from S1E1, or puzzle over Mars’ craters, or curse a David Astle crossword, or learn relativity, or . . . blichxl Iceland’s grubberflipZRs (that is, anything at all, there is no limit to what can fascinate us) . . . well, then, just begin. Meet monthly on the second Thursday, rotate home venues, start early and finish early, relax with a pinot. Hold a first meeting, then a second, then a third. If it collapses, so be it (and what’s next?)
Yes, that’s a harness you can see. The binoculars are too heavy to wear continuously around the neck. No birding Big Years on the immediate horizon, but over the next two days we’ll keep that flame alive by scanning, admiring and ticking birds in NSW and northern Victoria.
It’s not too early to devise the grand purpose, and then the ground rules, for next year’s Big Year. I need a bigger, bolder and more intelligent plan.
But how do I dream up such a plan? Logical analysis isn’t much help. I think I need a day spare, a quiet sunny afternoon alone. Perhaps red wine could assist.
Years ago I used to buy non-commercial CDs from a nifty new website, CD Baby. It was bought out eventually, making a small fortune for founder Derek Sivers. Now he’s put out a compact book of his wisdoms: Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. He is direct, engaging and often interesting, but my read didn’t yield much for my purposes, except for one para of advice. It’s advice that speaks to a future project that I can’t seem to begin, and his words jibe:
If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1 percent of what you have in your grand vision. It’ll be a humble prototype version of your grand vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest, because you actually started, while others are waiting for the finish line to magically appear at the starting line.
I appreciate that my geeky obsessions don’t appeal to most, but really, a Big Year is nothing more than instilling a habit. And if you’ve become alarmingly sedentary, if your balance has worsened, if age seems to be creeping up faster than you’d like, why not try a Strolling Big Year?
The idea: on January 1, 2018, set a timer and walk your streets for half an hour, then repeat this 364 times until December 31.
Based on my experience, I reckon you’d go through a process something like this:
- The first stroll is a cinch and you feel virtuous, so you ponder making it an hour instead. Resist that temptation!
- In January the days are long and light, so you’ve a wealth of half-hour time slots to use. But one day, busy family affairs mean you need to squeeze in your stroll, and that leaves you a bit stressed, and that’s not enjoyable. My experience? Walk the same time every day; better still, go early every day.
- A forty degree summer’s day? You walk early and guess what, it’s not so bad.
- Take the dog? Definitely not (unless yours is an uncommonly obedient at-your-side pooch). Walking a dog benefits the dog, not the human. Ignore his/her pleas and treat them later in the day.
- A few weeks in, you get a niggle with a toe or an ankle. Don’t stop! If you have to, go see a physio (not a doctor, at least at first) and ask what to do in order to to keep walking. This is a good sign: at last you’re reshaping your limbs. Perhaps you should invest in some cheap hiking boots.
- In March, you fret that you haven’t lost weight yet. My experience? Keep checking the scales but just walk. You can’t expect a stroll to use more than a few calories, so it’s no magic bullet for weight loss, but the medical/ psychological benefits of regular walking are abundantly proven.
- Boring, you mutter in May. That’s easy: vary your routes, give them names.
- I’m betting that one day in June, you’ll rise for your pre-breakfast constitutional and suddenly, irrationally, feel wonderful and marvel: “I’ve walked 175 times!”
- A dose of the flu? Walk. You shouldn’t overstress your poor sick body but half an hour of slow meandering is no stress at all.
- It’s early August and pouring icy rain? Walk. Keep adding layers until you’re toasty warm, wear a raincoat. A day in that downpour would be silly; half an hour, a cinch. Imagine the hot shower afterwards!
- By September, your friends look at you with new eyes. “Walking is easy,” you tell them, and you’re entitled to tell them, having 300 walks to your name.
- In October, you find you’re enjoying your strolls (hey, they’re no longer strolls but proper semi-brisk walks!) so much, that you contemplate longer hikes. If you’re going to increase your duration, go ahead now, make each one an hour, but still remain wary. The most important aspect is regularity.
- Come December, when planning summer holidays, you search for walking tracks. Nothing too serious, mind, just enough.
- Christmas Day is a test. So busy! Okay, up at 6:30 and get it done. You’re especially, delightfully hungry at the Christmas table.
- For some reason, the final days of 2018 walking stress you out. You’ve invested so much emotional capital into this one act. But you’re looking at anywhere between 500 and 750 kilometers under your shoes over the year, so just keep it up those final few days.
- You won’t want to rise on New Year’s Day, 2019, feeling empty. Just keep walking, no need to call it anything like a Big Year, just call it “my daily walk.”
- Of course, given the uplift in your physicality over 2018, given your raised confidence, you might, just might, order a Christmas bike in preparation for a Cycling Big Year!
The Dying Detective by Leif G.W. Persson, tagged as quintessential Scandi-noir, was a fabulous read. And what did I adore most? The book’s incredibly complex, tortuous plot, that’s what drew me on. Amongst the book group tackling The Dying Detective, I’m betting over half of them shall decry the plot machinations, but, hey, I lapped them up.
Ancillary but vital thought: my unpublished mysteries, two in a possible series, attracted a little agent/editor interest but never got published, and I’ve always felt it’s because my plots are super-dooper gnarly. A new seed: let’s publish them and be damned. Those that loves plots, like me, maybe they’ll fall for my books.
Crowdfunding fascinates me, and I’ll need some financing for at least one of my Big Years, so I went onto Kickstarter and ended up supporting a new wearable, the Moment, and soon enough, my wrist was graced with one. Check out the website – it’s an intriguing concept that gives you tactile buzzes for different occurrences.
My Kickstarter experience was delightful. What’s most interesting is that if you’ve got something to sell, a high bar is set in terms of interaction with your funders. I was smothered with love from the Moment team, thoroughly enjoyed it.
One year soon, before too long, I’ll allocate a year to go see each of the fifteen crane species. It’s a daunting project of ill-shaped intent but its persistence inside my head confirms its reality.
In 2015 English author Horatio Clare took a commission to search for a bird even rarer than the most threatened crane species, namely the Slender-billed Curlew. In fact, although once common on a European migratory path, it was last sighted in 1999! So Clare’s quest turns out to be to talk to those who last saw it (or thought they saw it) in Greece and Bulgaria.
In Orison for a Curlew, Clare does a wonderful job of capturing the sadness of the extinction, or optimistically the near extinction (might it still be found in remote Siberia?), of the Slender-billed Curlew, and what this means to him and maybe to humanity.
I wish I had seen one or heard one of these beautiful, delicate birds. A world in which only the robust survive is a dulled and blunted planet; all crows, no colour. But if the reaction of those who did see it . . . is a guide to what it feels like to glimpse one, then perhaps it was better not to have seen it. . . . Perhaps it will live on for many years in unconfirmed sightings. I hope so.
What questions will I ask of the elusive, mythical cranes?