Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Eleven

On the eleventh day of Gheorghemas
Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Eleven books for reading

Ten (plus one) Months of Gheorghness
Nine cheers for Mike
Eight Miscellaneous Items - Probably for Next Christmas (or for yourself, or perhaps a fellow GTB'r right now, just cuz)
Seven (Give or Take) Voters (Should Be) Voting
Six Simpler Memories
Five shows to binge watch on TV
Four Random Thoughts
Three Punk Rock Playlists 
Two Digits Throughout History 
And the debut of Mac McFis-ty

Since this post goes to eleven (and some Gheorghies are watching Stranger Things) I'll start by revisiting my son Ian's Halloween costume. He looks almost as much like Eleven as I resemble Brad Pitt (when I face-swap with Stacey).

My annual book list also goes to eleven this year. It's no secret that I love to read, and I still get very excited when I'm in a good book . . . but I will readily admit that as I get older, it's harder for a book to engrave itself in my memory.

Can you read too much?

One thing inevitably reminds me of another, and I end up in a byzantine labyrinth of free-association. I think this may be a consequence of getting old. The same thing happens to me with movies and TV and stand-up comedy. And it happens with music, which drives me crazy.

Music doesn't have the same effect on me as it did when I was young, which is probably a good thing, as when I was young, music often drove me to violence, moshing, fisticuffs, warped and distorted ideas, capricious moodiness, and a general fanatical weirdness that is no longer age-appropriate.

But I miss that mainlining of emotion, the wild highs and lows. It happens occasionally, when I've had too many beers while cooking dinner and Google Play music tosses out a Liz Phair song that hits home, but it's rare. Normally, music evokes a much more manageable emotion: nostalgia. Nobody gets hurt and it's fun to have those moments, but it's not exactly The Cult at Hampton Coliseum, when I lost a pint of blood fighting for Ian Astbury's razor sharp tambourine in a mosh-pit (my friend John also had a grip on the tambourine, and he had to go to the ER for stitches . . . our blood was thin because we had been drinking with Whitney since 9 AM).

I have a hard time listening to new stuff, unless it's very different from what I used listen to. Which is why I listen to a lot of jazz and electronica, which is why my wife and kids often find whatever I'm listening to unbearable . . . although I did have a nice run this year: I totally dug the new Tribe Called Quest album, and this alerted me to the fact that I never listened to their first album, Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm . . . I started my Tribe Called Quest fandom with Low End Theory and never went backwards.

So I got a little bit of that "It Feels Like the First Time" feeling, and it felt good. But mainly, I've heard too much, seen too much, consumed too much, and while it's made me intelligent and well-versed it has also made me a bit calloused and jaded and rather cavalier. Everything reminds me of something else, or a combination of several things . . . Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman.

Whitney would attribute this to my mental age (91) and he's probably right . . . but that's another post.

The music metaphor also describes much of my reading.

According to Sentence of Dave, I read over forty books this year . . . which is fairly typical. If you project that over my life, it ends up being too many books, many of which are derivative. If were pressed, I could only recount a few in detail. The one surefire winner on this year's list is Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I reread it when we traveled to New Mexico, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. So that one holds up.

As for the rest, who knows? I'm not sure that reading strengthens my mind. My brain is all clogged up, full of junk, it's a demented, disorganized, jumbled mess. Judging by the amount I've read, I should be smarter or have a better memory or be a better writer or something. I understand reading a book is a major commitment, and there's a good chance that you won't remember the details in ten years. Still, the process is meditative, and according to a recent study, book readers live longer than non-book readers. So while I can't assure you that these books will change your life, or that you'll remember them, they still might be worth reading.

This post is long enough, and I'm tired from our family vacation in Vermont, and so instead of providing blurbs, I've simply linked the titles to the Sentence of Dave summaries of each book.

Or just trust me, and take a couple of these titles out of your local library. That's what I do. What have you got to lose? True, the previous borrower may have taken your copy into the bathroom and perused it while taking a huge smelly dump . . . but you could exact vengeance on the next borrower and do the same thing . . .

Confession: while I try not to take library books into the john, I certainly stain a few pages of every book I check out with various foodstuffs.

Happy reading!

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark For the Ivy Leagues by Jeff Hobbs

Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather

The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols

Roadside Picnic by The Strugatsky Brothers

But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

The Nix by Nathan Hill


mayhugh said...

I usually have a broader overlap with Dave in the reading department. I have only checked off two of the books listed here (Weapons of Math Destruction and Seinfeldia) but looking to read Klosterman's next.

Tie in to reading and TV - I am halfway through TV (The Book) by Alan Sepinwall (writer of The Revolution was Televised) and Matt Zoller Seitz. The book is essentially a glorified ranking, with some short essay (1-10 pages) justifications, of the 100 best TV shows of all time. Everyone has their own favorites - these two like Cheers a little more than I do and Lost a little less. Many of the shows are obvious staples of most men aged 30-50, but there are some they name that I am going back to watch now. First up, Freaks and Geeks (halfway through the only season), and then I suppose I will finish out Twin Peaks (which I only made 5 minutes into Season 2 when I first watched). The book itself is a good read, with some good insights and in-episode examples of characters or plotting that work as a microcosm for why the show was, in their opinion(s), "great".

rob said...

pleased to know i'm not the only one with an aging, failing brain. i think mine's related to excessive twitter use. or something.

Shlara said...

I'm completely convinced that the older I get, the dumber I get.

zman said...

I watched about 6/9ths of Freaks and Geeks based on Dave's reviews and it's fun but I got distracted by other stuff and haven't gone back to it. Meanwhile, I'm watching Peaky Blinders season 3 (finally) with zwoman and I might have to just watch ahead of her. It's too good to watch only 1 or 2 episodes a week.

Dave said...

wow-- just saw that font trainwreck at the end . . . sorry! i will definitely read TV (The Book) and zman, get to the end of freaks and geeks, it has a serendipitously perfect last episode . i felt especially dumb tryin gto start back up at school today.

mayhugh said...

90% of the time I end up watching ahead of the wife. It's not purely a volume issue, though I can usually watch more on any given week. It's also a matter of distraction - I devote all of my attention to a show. if I miss a line, I rewind. My wife is constantly getting up, texting, asking questions, playing with our cats, etc. She turns a 45 minute show into an hour and 10 mins.

Whitney said...

I am the same, Senor Mayhugh. I don't do well with people who are content half-watching a show (although I always seem to end up with them). They always seem to miss the key parts of the show/movie, too.

mayhugh said...

Yeah, I don't get it. I have to be in on the ground floor of all of the action and can't watch thinking I am potentially missing key details.

We group-watched the first episode of Westworld while visiting relatives and there were massive distractions (side conversations, getting up and getting food, etc.) and one of the participants asked 40 minutes into the show "Wait, are those things supposed to be robots?"

zman said...

zwoman drinks a lot of wine and wine makes her pee, so Sunday night TV shows always require multiple pause-this-while-I-pee breaks. It's a distraction but she pays close attention when she isn't peeing.

Mark said...

All of our wives should watch TV together. My wife is constantly perusing FB/Instagram, getting up for wine, texting. It's maddening.

rob said...

whole lotta tasty college hoops on this evening

Mark said...

Setting my morning alarm for the first time in 13 days. Bumming dome.

TR said...

When I lived w/ Spoid for one year in Manhattan, he insisted I watch Freaks & Geeks. He loved Martin Starr's character. He also loved the nerdy kid in Road Trip, a sneaky fun rewatchable movie. Turns out he had an affinity for any nerdy characters in any movie/show. Go figure.

rob said...

he really loved boz from riptide

zman said...

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I agree with Trump--at least on this one thing.


Danimal said...

Was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I heard DT chime in on this. The decision making that allowed the move get to where it did - it's a head scratcher. "Hey R's, on our first day let's blow-up the ethics watchdog...who's going to care about that? Or, "that won't make us look bad". It is beyond idiotic to me.

TR said...

Zman just got on Rob's naughty list.

rob said...

i agree with trump, too, but he's getting credit for a reversal that was already going to happen. gop leadership knew almost instantly that they'd fucked up and were taking steps to unwind the decision before lord tinyfingers weighed in. as with the entire electoral process, the media is that dipshit's best friend.

zman said...

At least he wasn't like "Awesome, I don't want an ethics watchdog watching over me!" Like, for example, your man Goodlatte from the Old Dominion.

TR said...

I'm six episodes into Stranger Things and think it's bad-ass. I had to admit to my wife last night that I Netflix-cheated on her w/ that show. The ability to download Netflix material to your iPad for a flight is a game-changer. At least for me. Not sure if the feature has been in place for a long time. Makes me want a new iPad.