Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code

Consuming films like Coca-Cola


The conclusion of two books: Sculpting in Time and Just Keep Investing.

On Sculpting in Time I will say that it is an incredibly unique perspective and view of cinema—recognized by Tarkovsky as a wholly artistic pursuit and a unique medium focused on the compression and rhythm of time. And these are accurate, and well thought out, though perhaps a bit dated these days, as the cinema has receded into the narrative over form in greater and greater strides over the last few decades. This has caused more than one person to lament lately about the state of content, but thankfully Tarkovsky precedes that view and entirely rejects it.

He concludes the book with a look at the responsibility of the artist. The responsibility is, of course, to represent one’s own personal vision faithfully. But, there is also a responsibility to create true art, even when it is challenging, rather than popcorn movies for pure consumption:

People cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume films like bottles of Coca-Cola. The contact between film director and audience is unique to cinema in that it conveys experience imprinted on film in uncompromisingly affective, and therefore compelling, forms. Th e viewer feels a need for such vicarious experience in order to make up in part for what he himself has lost or missed; he pursues it in a kind of ‘search for lost time’. And how human this newly gained experience will be depends only on the author. A grave responsibility!

I found it interesting, when talking about Stalker, how bothered he was when people asked him what the mysterious “Zone” at the center of the film was:

People have often asked me what the Zone is, and what it symbolises, and have put forward wild conjectures on the subject. I’m reduced to a state of fury and despair by such questions. The Zone doesn’t symbolise anything, any more than anything else does in my films

I wonder what he would think about Star Wars and Marvel movies, where every offhand storyline requires a huge backstory and every plot thread needs resolving.

Just Keep Investing more or less reiterates the title over the course of many chapters. It’s good advice though.


I saw an interview with Karim Lakhani about the future of AI. I think in many ways it represents well the popular view, and presents a nuanced vision for what’s to come. One thing that gave me pause was when Lakhani pointed to AI as a place to substitute whenever one is doing tasks that require thinking. This is a useful starting point, but I think that it hides the technology and makes AI feel too much like magic.

Final Note

I was reminded of this excellent quote by Oliver Burkerman (in Four Thousand Weeks) from this week’s Marginalian:

Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved “work-life balance,” whatever that might be, and you certainly won’t get there by copying the “six things successful people do before 7:00 a.m.” The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control — when the flood of emails has been contained; when your to-do lists have stopped getting longer; when you’re meeting all your obligations at work and in your home life; when nobody’s angry with you for missing a deadline or dropping the ball; and when the fully optimized person you’ve become can turn, at long last, to the things life is really supposed to be about.