Fitler Square Decoration

October 2020 Update

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography, Reading | 0

The centerpiece of October was out annual Staycation. For the past few years, Holly and I have taken off for the Philadelphia Film Festival. We combine that with trying new restaurants, visiting museums, going for walks, and other fun things.

Of course, things are different this year because of the pandemic. I wasn’t sure if there was even going to be a film festival, or if we would take some time off regardless. But in mid-September, the Philadelphia Film Society announced they would be holding a mostly virtual festival. Soon after, a schedule came out, and we decided to take the week off.

Most of the films were available streaming. Some films were offered at a drive in, but we stuck with the streaming option since we don’t have a car. I doubt we would be all that interested in going to the drive in anyway.

Although I missed seeing the movies in a theater, I did appreciate the convenience of being able to stream them. The weather was pretty miserable most days so we also appreciated not having to go out if we didn’t want to.

The films were released on a scheduled day at a specific time, but they were then available to stream afterwards, some for 72 hours but most for the remainder of the festival. Having that flexibility was great. If there were 2 films we were interested in scheduled at the same time, we had the option of watching one at the scheduled time and one later.

Neither of us had taken any significant time off from work during the pandemic. In fact, we hadn’t been off for more than a long weekend since winter break in December. Staycation provided us a much needed break.

Thanks to the festival being virtual, we saw more movies than we usually do. We saw 22 films. Last year, we had seen 16.

The selection of films this year seemed particularly strong. Of those 22 films, there were only a couple I didn’t like.

Picking favorites is always difficult since the films tend to be rather diverse which makes comparing them difficult.

Of the narrative features, I would say that The Ties, Minari, Sound of Metal, Pink Skies Ahead, The House of Us, Preparation to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, and The Big Hit were among my favorites.

Forced to pick one, I would go with The House of Us.

Of the documentaries, Banksy Most Wanted, Beethoven in Beijing, MKL/FBI, and 40 Years a Prisoner were the standouts.

Forced to pick one, I would go with 40 Years a Prisoner. Not only was it excellent, but it also dealt with some local history.

Assuming that this time next year, we’ll have a vaccine for the Coronavirus and the pandemic will be under control, I’ll be curious to see what the festival will be like. It would be nice if the Film Society comes up with some kind of hybrid model in which some films are shown in the theater and others are available streaming.

Of course, we also had to adapt our eating plans for Staycation. Although restaurants in Philadelphia have been allowed to have outdoor seating and limited indoor seating, we have been too cautious to take advantage and have been relying on takeout and delivery. We did not let our guard down during our week off but did order out more in keeping with the spirit of Staycation.

One of the reasons we try a lot of different places during Staycation is because we spend a lot of time in a different part of town due to where the theaters are. The theaters aren’t that far from us so there’s no real reason we can’t get to that are more frequently, but since we have so many good restaurant options closer to us, we don’t often wander very far.

This year, we didn’t try any new places since the array of takeout and delivery options was basically the same as any other time during the pandemic.

Despite the strange circumstances, we still enjoyed our annual week off, but we’re certainly already looking forward to a more normal Staycation next year.


I already posted a few times about October’s photography exploits, including photos from a rather nice walk we took during Staycation:

I didn’t post all of my photos from our Staycation walk. I wanted to focus on the autumn colors we had seen along the Schuylkill River. Here are some different photos from that outing with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Building Reflection
Building Reflection
Fitler Square Decoration
Fitler Square Decoration

I still have 2 rolls of film that I haven’t posted about, and I hope to get to those soon.


Short Stories

October was a busy month for reading short stories. I really enjoyed 3 of the stories from the October issues of the New Yorker: Joseph O’Neill’s Rainbows, Roddy Doyle’s Life without Children, and Curtis Sittenfeld’s A for Alone.

I have read and enjoyed Joseph O’Neill’s work before, including his stories The Poltroon Husband and The First World, and his novel, Netherland. I should make an effort to read more of his work since I’ve enjoyed everything so far.

I also continued reading The Story and Its Writer and finished Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Sarah Orne Jewett’s A White Heron, Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace, and two Kate Chopin stories: Désirée’s Baby and The Story of an Hour.

I had read A White Heron, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and The Story of an Hour before but didn’t remember much from any of them since that was back in college.

I particularly liked The Death of Ivan Ilych and A White Heron. I had never read any Tolstoy before so this was a welcome introduction.

Short Stories Read in 2020

So far in 2020, I’ve read 49 stories that I have enjoyed.


October was a busy month for books as well. If self-isolation has been good for anything, it’s been a boon to reading.

I continued reading more Shakespeare. Not sure why I got it into my head I wanted to revisit his works, but I feel committed to working my way through his plays. I’m not intending to read everything but only the ones I know I like and ones that I’m curious to read.

In October, I read both Romeo and Juliet and Love’s Labor’s Lost. I had never read Romeo and Juliet before and was surprised how much I did not like it. The love at first sight premise didn’t work for me nor did the intensity with which they were suddenly in love.

I also read Love’s Labor’s Lost before but didn’t remember much of it. I found it entertaining and funny enough but can’t say that I loved it.

I’m glad I already know I like a lot of Shakespeare’s plays. I actually haven’t like a lot of his early works I’ve read recently. Along with the two I read this month, I wasn’t much of a fan of The Taming of the Shrew which I read at the end of last year. I did like Richard III and Titus Andronicus.

Back in the summer, I attended a virtual short film festival provided by the Philadelphia Film Society. As part of that, I watched and enjoyed The Old Guard, so much so that I read the first volume of Greg Rucka’s and Leandro Fernández’s graphic novel it is based on. The second volume recently came out so I read that. Although I enjoyed it, I didn’t like it as much of the first volume. As is often the case with any superhero type stories (not that I read or watch a lot of them), I usually like the first installment that focuses on the origin story but then start losing interest beyond that.

I’m not sure why, but I decided to read Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, perhaps because I’ve been on a bit of a Thomas Pynchon kick and, supposedly, Mumbo Jumbo is one of his favorite books. I have a habit of buying too many Kindle books when they are on sale and have quite a backlog. Mumbo Jumbo is a title that’s been lingering in my virtual collection for quite some time.

To say the least, Mumbo Jumbo is quite a wild book. Because of the various footnotes and images, I would like to read it again some time in print. I enjoyed it, but it seems like the kind of book that loses something with the Kindle experience.

For our Staycation week, I wanted something that is more of a page turner, and I chose well with Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven. Holly had read it a couple of years ago and raved about it. In fact, she liked it so much she had read it a second time right away. I had seen the movie version way back when—probably close to 40 years ago—and remembered liking it. It made such an impression that I actually remembered quite a bit of the story as I read it.

Finally, I read The Silence, the new Don DeLillo book. I’m glad I got it through the library and did not pay for it. Not that it was bad, but it was incredibly short. Seemed more like a long short story than even a novella. It felt more like the opening for a book rather than a book itself.

October 2020 Reading Update
October 2020 Reading Update

Books Read in 2020

So far in 2020, I have read 35 books:

This Creative Midlife Posts in 2020

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