When I read Anna Karenina, the character that stood out the most to me, and that had the most impact, apart from Anna Karenina herself, was Konstantin Dmitrich Levin. I think all of the characters were constructed and explored really well, but Levin in particular was given a lot of depth.
One of the main things I remember about Levin, even several years after reading the novel, is how, despite being a well-off landowner, Levin yearned for a simple life of honest labour. There is one part of the book where he helps his muzhiks with the harvest, wielding a scythe alongside them in his fields. To him, it was satisfying work, but not only in the physical sense of “a good day’s work”, but also in a psychological or spiritual sense.
I’ve heard that Levin was the character that Tolstoy most identified with, or that was most closely modelled on his own thoughts and beliefs. In War and Peace the equivalent most Tolstoy-esque character is Pierre Bezukhov. It is not surprising then, that this yearning for a simple and honest life is also experienced by Pierre.
[Warning: spoilers ahead. Please note, also, that I haven’t quite finished War and Peace yet, so please don’t spoil the ending for me.]
Last week-end, I finished playing Mass Effect 3. It is the final instalment in a trilogy of video games, which I would attempt to summarise here except that I’m not sure where to start, and I’m sure there are better explanations already on the internet. In basic terms, it’s a game in which you play as a character named Shepard, who has to save the galaxy from various evils.
It is very much like a “choose your own adventure” book but in game form — at various points in the game, you have to make decisions that will affect what happens next or what happens further along in the game. Even when your Shepard talks to other characters, you choose between different dialogue options to shape your character as more friendly (paragon) or mean (renegade). I suppose this makes it very easy to become personally invested in the game, as it feels like a unique experience shaped by your own choices, which are likely made based on what you would do if you were in Shepard’s situation.
This morning on the news, there was an interview with a small business owner. The news I watch is fairly objective and informative, but they seem to really like doing these random interviews with random people. Usually I see these at the start of lockdowns in different cities around the country.
There was one time they interviewed a celebrant to ask her about how many weddings had to be postponed because of lockdowns. Another interview I saw was with a winery owner who talked about the impact of reduced tourism on his business. The other day they spoke with a bakery worker who was willing to give up his savings in order to help save the business.
In these interviews, the interviewer asks the usual questions about how the people are dealing with the situation, whether they had been able to receive government support, what their outlook for the future is like, and so on. I sort of get the feeling that these are just fluff pieces to break up the dreary headlines.
Last night I sat down at the piano for the first time in about 1-2 months. Before that, I had been practising less and less due to a combination of being busy with other things and being lazy. Last night I decided that I had to recommit.
I’m certainly not at the stage of being able to return to piano after a long absence and pick it up again easily. Indeed, I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to that stage, since I don’t have a natural aptitude for music, but I’ll be darned if I don’t try. I hadn’t even looked at sheet music in these last several weeks, so I had to start from the start, playing scales to become reacquainted with the notes.
What I realised last night — or re-realised, because this is certainly nothing new — is that I need to be more consistent with my piano practice if I want to improve and be able to play with any level of proficiency. It’s a thought that has been gnawing away at me for a while, but I’ve been sweeping it under the proverbial rug instead of doing something about it.
It’s been a bit of an odd day. I was going to write about something quite different, but the way the day has turned out has got me feeling like writing about it.
About a month ago, I got a flat tyre on my bike. It had happened before, and DL helped me replace the inner tube, and it was all good for several rides before it went flat again. It was a bit unusual because I had cycled in to work with no problems. I locked my bike up in the allocated cage in the car park, and didn’t notice anything amiss. Yet, when I returned to my bike later that day, the front tyre was completely flat, and couldn’t be inflated.
Annoying, yes, but not a major problem. I caught the train home that day, and figured I could replace the inner tube again — perhaps there was a tiny rock or bit of glass lodged inside the rim, and it would be a simple fix. However, week-end after week-end passed, and it was either raining (I don’t have enough space in the garage to do work on the bike inside), or I was too busy/tired (or both). So I put it off, and ignored it, and thought about it, but didn’t do anything.
I remember there was a time in my university days when I had this realisation that I could no longer say “see you tomorrow” as a standard thing when leaving for home. The chance of seeing someone on any given weekday during semester depended on what classes were on, when we were going to have our lunch breaks, and which buildings they would be in during the course of the day.
During uni, I still hung out with several of my high school friends, even if they were studying different courses. During high school, it was just about certain to see each other each day and the next, so it was easy enough to say “see you tomorrow” at the end of any day, Monday to Thursday. Hence the change during uni made an impression on me.