The Friday High Five
New adventures, making our own destinies, and a preview of the future
Every Friday I share 5 things I enjoyed this week. Also, high fives are inherently cool, and I think we can all agree Friday is the bestest day. Hence the Friday High Five. 🙏🏻
I’m still rather salty about the Lions losing last weekend, but I’m just trying to live my life now.
My Favorite Thing This Week Was…
Preparing for a New D&D Campaign
There’s no way to say this without sounding super dorky, but given the subject matter, that hippogriff is already way out of the barn: One of my favorite things is to sit by myself, pouring over ancient manuals and searching for fun ways to torment my friends.1
Remember that scene from The Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf looks at maps and leafs through piles of aged papyrus? Preparing for a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign is basically like that. There are maps to review. Enemy movements to consider. Old texts to parse, ones that would be nigh-indecipherable to anyone not already enmeshed in the hobby. And from the pile, a spark of insight. Aha—this is exactly what I was looking for.
Going all Genesis on a new D&D campaign is not a Mandalorian-approved way. Players don’t care about gods and politics and millennia of lore. They might get there, if the game is interesting. But all they really want is to engage in something fun. Mystery, exploration, combat—these things might be on Yoda’s list of Jedi no-nos, but they are crucial for a new D&D campaign.
So we’re going to start small and see what happens. A treasure-laden dungeon. A party of desperate ne'er-do-wells. What else do you really need?
I’d been quietly despairing that there wasn’t room in my life for more D&D, and then I came to the sudden epiphany that I had plenty of time, actually. It was sort of like when Marty McFly realized he had a time machine and could easily save Doc Brown by going back to the future a bit earlier than planned. Weekends are precious and often claimed, and nights are uncertain. But given we’re all working from home at least some of the time—why not play over lunch?
So that’s the plan. Mondays from 11:30-1. It’s the best thing to happen to lunch since the brown paper bag.
Other Things I Enjoyed This Week
A Trip to the Library
As is my habit, I wandered the stacks aimlessly. And was quite content in doing so, until the loudspeaker announced they were closing in 15 minutes, like it was a Target or something.
I’d yet to find a single book when the edict came over, and I briefly panicked that I’d leave empty-handed. Which is silly, really—the library has thousands upon thousands of books. But sometimes finding just the right one(s) is tricky.
I realize the books are free and there’s no harm in checking out ones you aren’t sure you want to read, actually. That’s just not how I library.
I ended up with 4 books.
2 books on life in the Middle Ages, as potential references for the D&D game.
A collection of Philip Roth stories. I’ve never read Roth but know he’s widely considered a Great Writer, and sometimes that’s enough.
A book by Jerry Seinfeld that compiles a ton of his jokes and observational humor from across his career.
I’d take a picture but the books are in the other room, which is at least 20 steps away.
The Crown: Season 6
Big fan of The Crown. Which is funny, because I can’t stand the royals and the way people—Americans especially—fawn over them. Didn’t we fight a war to free us of such tyranny?
The Crown is just great drama, period. Wonderfully made, powerfully acted. We’ve reached the weird stage of the biopic wherein the historic events are ones I can remember. In this case, it’s the shoe I’ve been waiting to drop since I realized Diana was going to be part of the show—her death, and the events leading up to it.
It all has this strange sense of destiny. Choices clearly define a path that ends in tragedy, like something out of a Greek myth. But it’s only clear in retrospect, and observed at a distance. And that’s life. I could never have predicted my own story would lead me to where I am, writing this at this moment. But looking back at the milestones that brought me here, it seems completely natural. It seems preordained.
My favorite thing about The Crown is how it humanizes the broad sweep of history. I will miss it, when we finish this final season.
True Detective: Night Country
Night Country was on my High 5 last week but I don’t care. It’s too good to leave off.
Without giving anything away—there’s a question hanging over this season that will ultimately decide what this season is, exactly: Just how supernatural will Night Country go? It’s a question the show-runners are clearly cognizant of, a line they habitually toe. The premise—scientists at a remote Alaskan research facility suddenly vanish—begs for some sort of other-worldly hijinks, otherwise the payoff might fall flat.
It’s a slippery slope. Night Country clearly evokes The Thing, if in no other way than darkly claustrophobic arctic aesthetics. But if the mystery’s resolution involves aliens or like, ice zombies, we’ve lost the plot.
I don’t know how the show will resolve this tension, but I’m enjoying the ride while it lasts.
Enola Holmes 2
This movie seemingly came out like 5 years ago. My brain still hasn’t totally adjusted to the Covid time warp effect. Suffice it to say, Enola Holmes 2 has been on my list for a really long time.
A funny thing happens once your kids become older teenagers. The movies you’d typically watch as a family—your Pixars and the like—suddenly become hideously out of fashion. What’s the opposite of being en vogue?2 It’s like that.
We watched the first Enola as a family and loved it. But when it came time to watch the sequel, my kids were never available. After at least a year of waiting, my wife and I finally broke down and watched it ourselves. I guess this is what an empty nest feels like?
Real talk: The last Pixar movie I saw was Soul, which came out in 2020. According to Wikipedia, there have been 4 Pixar films since Soul. I can’t say I’ve missed them. It’s not that I don’t consider Pixar a quality studio. It’s just that if my choice is Lightyear or Bullet Train or even Uncharted, I’m probably not watching the animated one.
Anyway—Enola Holmes 2 is a fun diversion but nowhere near as good as the first one. Love the evolution of the characters, but the story was just okay. If you haven’t seen it yet, you probably don’t need to.
These ancient D&D manuals usually date to the late 70s and early 80s, which means that technically, I’m more ancient than they are. I try not to think too much about the ramifications of that sentence.
The opposite of En Vogue is clearly TLC.