the Tournament of Books started today! a play-in round, a rare 3-way contest advancing one book to the main bracket: Ilze Hugo’s Down Days, Hari Lunzru’s Red Pill, & Gish Jen’s The Resisters. they all seem interesting, though not sure I’ll add any of these to my TBR 📚
Saturday’s beer: Buffalo Bayou Brewing’s Figaro, Figaro Figaro Fiiigaaaro
I don’t think I’d have picked out the fig flavor if I wasn’t looking for it, but gotta love a Belgian quadrapel, anyway 🍺
Saturday’s beer: Celis Brewery’s Coffee Porter
Fifty Fifty Brewing’s Donner Party Porter
Cheers to this winter weather, and here’s hoping our power & internet come back before we have to start eating each other
Texas Beer Company’s King Grackle Strawberry Chocolate Stout
No actual chocolate-covered strawberries this year; this will have to do
oof, another Liverpool collapse. they’re largely the same players as the last couple of seasons, but for some reason they just aren’t the same team anymore 💔⚽️
beautiful frozen rain like this contributed to our power being out for six and a half hours yesterday. an unnerving lesson in what we take for granted every day (heat, lights, Netflix)
finished a couple of good books recently, both contenders in this year’s Tournament of Books: Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu, and A Children’s Bible, by Lydia Millet. they’re both weird, even somewhat surreal, but touching & thought-provoking. recommend x2 📚
I don’t know if the ideas in this post can or will be put into action by journalists, but boy they sound good
Effective today, you are no longer political reporters (and editors); you are government reporters (and editors).
Saturday’s beer: Oskar Blues Brewery’s Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy
Not a can design worth writing home about, but very smooth, and rich enough to make the wait till Saturday worth it 🍺
…also always a sucker for prog-rock bombast:
In these scorched and pitted times, as the world smoulders, there might be nothing less trendy than an hour-long psychrock epic by a band of Canadian grandmasters. Then again, there might be nothing we need more.
listening to the brand-new album The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings 🎵 their style isn’t usually my thing, but somehow they’re one of my favorites
Saturday’s beer: Modern Times’ Black House, Vanilla Latte edition
Dark & smooth, like I like my… beer 🍺
finished The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker 📚 if I’d known this book was about the themes and situations it is, I don’t think I ever would have read it. but I’m glad I did; it was really good! perfect characterizations, good story & pace, just excellent
got a little choked up more than once today, but the good faith, professionalism, & sincerity on display in Jen Psaki’s day-one press briefing might be the highlight of the whole day. long may it reign
something special to commemorate a beautiful inauguration day: Destihl Brewery’s Dosvidanya
goodbye and good riddance, you monster. may we never hear of you again outside of arrest reports and sentencing news
please note that, per ISO, the idiom “can of worms” has been deprecated in favor of the more tactile, visceral, and just plain gross “bag of worms”. usage remains the same.
thank you in advance for your cooperation
- the management
watched The Night is Short, Walk on Girl last night 🎥 (HBOMax recently added some good anime features). it was great: funny, sweet, and very weird
Saturday’s beer: Lagunitas Brewing’s Willetized Coffee Stout (2020)
I thought this would be good when I picked it up, and it’s even better than expected. just excellent. 🍺
finished Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner 📚 I don’t read much memoir, but really enjoyed this! as a member of the tech industry, it was fun & interesting to read this wryly observed outsider’s view. I nodded a lot while reading this; recommended.
we don’t see this every day in central Texas
Saturday beer: The Bruery’s Partridge in a Pear Tree
tasty, solid quad. here’s to the new year 🍺
Like many, I’ve long wanted to read more. Even my love of browsing bookstores was getting cramped by the guilty knowledge that I had more books waiting patiently on shelves at home than I would ever get to. But now, at the end of this year, I feel I can claim victory. I did it: I read more.
One boost was the daily reading habit I started last year, which has been great. I set a fifteen minute timer, and don’t allow myself to read that particular book outside the daily dose. This keeps me from cheating and going longer, which I think helps me keep the habit: I know it’s only ever “just” 15 minutes, and done. By a quick review of my Goodreads list, I got through some seventeen books this way in 2020. (Granted, some of those were the shortest and fastest reads – comics and graphic novels. No apologies.)
Being locked down due to the pandemic probably didn’t hurt the amount I was able to sit and read, although switching to full-time remote work did cut down on commute audiobook time.
Book clubs definitely helped. The computer book club I ran (until I stepped down in October) prompted me to get through five books, and the Tournament of Books’ virtual Camp ToB was a fun way to go through six really enjoyable reads that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. I struggle with book clubs sometimes, resenting the obligation of having to read something, but it’s fun in small doses (and the ToB online community is a surprisingly good one).
I had also set an ambitious Goodreads reading goal for this year: 50 books. And I made it! As mentioned, some of those were quickies, but some were not, e.g., Emma (476 pages), Madame Bovary (411), The Paying Guests (564), and that’s not even getting into those computer books, like Coders at Work (632).
But I’ve decided that the numbers of books, and their page-counts don’t matter. Is this because I participated in a writers’ novel swap group, and so read several full-length novels without even getting credit for them in my Goodreads count? Yes.
Errr, no. No, that’s not it, really. As I said to start, I’ve wanted to read more, and to my own surprise, I’m actually doing it. I enjoy it, and I’m actually prioritizing doing it, and it’s happening. Having a quantifiable goal in Goodreads, and a tracking app that makes a satisfying ding! when I read each day, and following along with a book club, those are all things that helped me build the habit of reading back into my life. I’ll continue with those practices as far as they’re still fun, but the reading is the thing.
P.S. Gretchen Rubin has announced regular, daily reading as her “Happier” podcast’s 2021 goal. Last year they encouraged listeners to walk 20 minutes in ’20; this year their suggestion is to read for 21 minutes in ’21. See her blog post for details, hints, and tips. Maybe I’ll up my daily timer…
read: Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. though written 40 years ago, long before the internet, let alone social networks, this short book is profound and eye-opening. took me a while to get into it, but well worth it 📚
this, from a social epidemiologist predicting post-pandemic life, is what I’ve been thinking, too. maybe streaming services won’t kill movie theaters, after all
This future, Christakis predicts, will not come until society has had time to distribute the vaccine… But the vision he lays out for 2024 and beyond is one filled with experiences pined for in isolation: packed stadiums, crowded nightclubs and flourishing arts.
slowly making my way through Postman’s amazing Amusing Ourselves to Death. On the bombardment of isolated “news” stories from around the world:
You may get a sense of what this means by asking yourself another series of questions: What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime, and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO… the CIA…? I shall take liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them.
You may, of course, cast a ballot for someone who claims to have some plans, as well as the power to act. But this you can do only once every two or four years by giving one hour of your time, hardly a satisfying means of expressing the broad range of opinions you hold. Voting, we might even say, is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent.
The last refuge, of course, is giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into – what else? – another piece of news. Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing.
holiday movie-time continues: 🎥 watched Serendipity last night (not my favorite but my wife loves it; gotta like Cusack, too), and Netflix’s Klaus tonight, which was really nice. a very different Schwartzman character than we’ve been watching in Fargo S4 😆
Saturday beer: Buffalo Bayou Brewing’s Feliz Navidad
The ancho chile isn’t a flavor I’d want all the time, but it’s good tonight 🍺
the whole family watched Die Hard tonight, a first for all of us. well written, funny, and clever. verdict: yep, it’s a Christmas movie 🎥