What I’ve consumed: November ’22
Movies I have a highbrow list of movies to watch almost five hundred movies long. In the last month or two I’ve consumed — with the help of my Cinema Paradiso DVD subscription service — Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, A One and a Two, The Last of the Unjust, The Arbor, Drive my Car, and The Wall. These were all worth my time, but the ones I consumed with pleasure were firmly middlebrow: The Stranger (Netflix), Cruising, and, in theatre, the remastered Avatar, which never fails to amaze me.
Audiobooks I have five more hours to go with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which has the magic ingredient that makes me love any book: casual wisdom sprinkled throughout. I’ve heard people criticize Mantel for writing in a confusing, unclear style. That may well be the case for the text-based version, but I’m happy to report that I’ve experienced no such issue with the audio. Make sure you download the version read by Ben Miles. Miles does a fantastic job with characters’ voices, and he doesn’t make the saliva noises that other Wolf Hall narrators get dinged for in online reviews.
TV Andor is the best TV show since Game of Thrones. This is a Star Wars series for grown ups—no fluffy characters, no light sabers, no stupid “force.” The show, rather, is about the sausage-making of rebellions: cutting deals with shady oligarchs; experiencing the cold grip of a heartless bureaucracy; fearing fellow rebel factions. It is hungry to explore morally complicated scenarios, such as: Is it okay to let allies die for the sake of a greater good? I’m reminded of Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, who reported from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. Orwell shows us a side guided by enlightened principles, but also hobbled by petty factional squabbling. Books The book I’m writing has a parenting theme, so I am reading several parenting-related books, including Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat and Chris Bachelder’s Abbott Awaits, which is a funny and sometimes moving series of wry vignettes about the banality of parenting.
I also have next to my bed Nick Hayes’s The Book of Trespass. Hayes calls for a right to roam across England, where the land is largely owned by the rich, who have made nearly 92% of it inaccessible. You may well know that I’ve written a similar book for an American audience (This Land Is Our Land), so he’s preaching to a fellow apostle of the amble, but I think he’s done things that I didn’t do in my book. He does a better job shining a light on the dark side of landownership. Many English estates were built with slave-trading wealth, on lands that were stolen from commoners. Given that history, Hayes asks us to question if we should feel so submissive and deferential to landowners when they ask us, “Are you lost?”—a euphemism for “get the hell off my land.” Podcast highlights Adam Buxton interviews Richard E. Grant WTF - Marc Maron’s interviews the recently deceased comedian, Gallagher. I thought Maron was a bit too feisty, but it made for a train wreck that was fun to listen to. The Unspeakable — I found Meghan Daum’s conversation with Richard Reeves fascinating and eye-opening. Reeves is an author who talks about the crisis in masculinity and why boys are struggling in school, which had me reflecting on why I may have been a “late bloomer” in school, leading to an early state of educational disenchantment. Ezra Klein Show — Klein talks with Bill McKibben, who updates us on the politics of climate change. It’s surprisingly upbeat. The Rewatchables — The crew is doing a “Naughty November” theme, reviewing old erotic rewatchables such as Cruising, Blow Out, American Gigolo, and Body Heat. Social Media I am happy to note that I am not regularly on any social media channels, save Facebook, which is getting increasingly lame and clunky. I used to follow academics on FB, but they've either jettisoned themselves off a sinking ship or the algorithms have removed the interesting stuff from my feed. The only political writer (who isn't writing for a paper of any kind) who I continue to get good content from is Dan Conover. Facebook must think I’m the dumbest guy alive, as their ingenious algorithms continue to force-feed me Johnny Depp trial reels, soccer highlights, and Edmonton Oilers updates—none of which I have any interest in. It has succeeded in introducing me to GoodGameBro, a professional gamer who shows videos of his Madden matchups, which I enjoy. Maybe I am dumb? I communicate with my sports teams on FB, and it’s hard for me to post a simple update on my softball team’s page, no matter the browser I’m on.
(This is what I get when I want to send a FB message to my softball team. Good luck with your 3-D metaverse, Facebook.) Miscellaneous I once told myself I’d never watch another football game because of CTE, but every Sunday I scramble to find a way to watch the Buffalo Bills, who are suffering from an identity crisis of being both terrific and terrible. Tim Kreider is my favorite essayist, and he has a terrific newsletter called “The Loaf.” Send me your newsletters recommendations if you know of any, because I’d like to get better at making no money by giving away content. What I’m not consuming I’ve written my share of long-form journalism, so I find it interesting to note that I am reading almost no long-form journalism. Maybe it’s just me (or my defunct media radar system), but it just feels like there’s suddenly nothing worth reading, apart from the odd Op-Ed or 800-word news article. Where are the funny, confessional essays? The game-changing investigative revelations? Are these writers all hanging out in podcast studios, or saving their best stuff for books? Is it that writers are all at once realizing there’s no more money in the game, so… what’s the point? Or maybe these long-form pieces are still out there, and I’m just too time poor, too cash-strapped to buy print, and too deficient in attention span to imagine getting through a twenty-minute article on my phone. The one big exception is a stimulating piece from William Deresiewicz on “art in the age of wokeness.” To be consumed…. My daughter is not only sleeping much better, but she’s headed to nursery soon, so I will soon have an extra twelve hours a week for writing, reading, and getting things done. I am no doubt suffering from delusional overexcitement, as I just bought a pile of books that’ll probably take me a year to get through, even with the extra time. I am nevertheless happy to have on my to-read shelf… Breath by James Nestor Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit The Scottish Nation: A Modern History by T.M. Divine SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times by Leon Kass John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves Of Boys and Men: Why the modern male is struggling, why it matters, and what to do about it by Richard Reeves 36 Islands: In Search of the Hidden Wonders of the Lake District and a Few Other Things Too by Robert Twigger Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet by George Monbiot The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber