On sobriety

Today’s my 100th day without a drink. I got off the sauce because I wanted to see how much it was affecting my reading. Feel free to laugh at that notion.

I wasn’t drinking heavily — just 2 to 2.5 oz. of gin in a 6-oz. G&T — but I was drinking often: four or five nights a week (always at home, with my wife). At the time, I was doing most of my reading in bed before turning in, and wondered if I was short-changing my books and myself by dulling my brain beforehand.

Like an alcoholic, I started out with a “one day at a time” perspective, seeing if I could go a week without having a drink, then two weeks, then a month. Unlike an alcoholic, I had no history of blackouts, no increasing tolerance to booze, no craving for same, no desire to drink alone, no embarrassing behavior at parties, no boozehounds in my family history, and no pints hidden in the toilet cistern. I’ve never once thought, “Tough day at the office, time to have a drink.”

I should note that this isn’t the first stretch I’ve been on the wagon. In college I didn’t drink until my senior year. In the past, I ascribed that to my “being a drama queen,” but I recently came across a much better term for it in Michael Dirda’s memoir, An Open Book: moral vanity.

I didn’t drink back then so I could consider myself “pure” or unsullied or somesuch idiocy. It wasn’t enough not to drink; I had to be a martyr to the rest of the clear-thinkingly besotted population. I was not a joy to be around, as you can imagine.

I realize now that I’d have had a lot more fun during those years if I’d gotten tanked with my pals every so often. I might have managed to get some of my worst behavior out of my system if I’d bothered to drink and party like everybody else in college. Instead, I held onto some ugly traits for years after.

There’s very little vanity to my sobriety this time around. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed by my dry status. I’ve avoided talking about it unless someone offers me a drink. For years, I’ve (truthfully) told people — a la Ron Swanson — that the only things I drink are water, black coffee and gin. Cutting that down to water and black coffee loses some of its charm.

I’m sure I’ll get crap about this from work-related pals when we’re at trade shows. I haven’t really had to go on the trade show circuit since I got off the sauce, but I have three big shows in September and October. I’m interested to see how I’ll deal with that. Most of those people know me in the context of a casual drink after (and/or during) a trade show. Of course, they also know me as the weird thinky guy who writes editorials about the Talmud, so they likely won’t find my motivation that unfathomable.

But I’m sure you’re wondering, “How’s it treating you, old boy?”

Booze-free for a hundred days, I find that my reading has grown subtler and more intricate. I also find that I’m making much more time to read, since I’m no longer having a G&T and watching TV. I’ve finished 13 books of wildly varying lengths since I made that choice. I seem to remember them all pretty well, too. Overall, I’m sleeping better, but there are some non-booze factors that play into that, too.

Also, I’m healthier. Early this year, my urologist told me that I could reduce my susceptibility to flare-ups of prostatitis by quitting alcohol, caffeine and spicy food. I said, “That’s crazy talk! This isn’t the time for rash measures!” But I haven’t had any degree of prostatitis — which dear Lord is no fun — since going on the wagon. So let’s go eat Mexican and wash it down with coffee!

Besides getting more and better reading in and not feeling like I’ve been walloped in the nuts, the best part of this whole process is reassuring myself that I don’t have a drinking problem. After all, I was able to stop drinking cold turkey and never found myself regretting that choice. It seems that having 4-5 drinks a week was more about my tendency to build up habits and routines than it was about a drinking habit.

The worst part of this experience has been the realization that most people are even more boring than I thought.

Finishing the Dance

I first encountered A Dance To The Music Of Time in the mid-’90’s. A Borders bookstore had opened at the West Belt Mall in Wayne, NJ, and as was my wont, I inspected the fiction section — or was it “literature”?

At the time, my points of reference were the beginning of the G’s, where I’d look for Williams Gaddis and Gass, as well as David Gates, and the late P’s, where I’d check the selection of books by Richard Powers and Thomas Pynchon. It was in the latter section that I discovered Anthony Powell. University of Chicago Press had recently released a four-volume, slipcased edition of A Dance To The Music Of Time.

In college, I focused on “the encyclopedic novel” for my literature degree. I had a vague idea of what that term meant, and wound up conflating it with “really long novels with which I could impress/cow my contemporaries.” As such, this 12-novel cycle looked like it was right up my alley. Still, I’d never heard of Powell and the internet in that period wasn’t as awash in fan pages for obscure artists as it is today.

Further, I don’t recall there being any “flap copy” or anything else involving a plot description on the slipcase, which was shrink-wrapped to prohibit singleton sales. So I had nothing to go by, in terms of knowing what this series was about. The case was adorned with Poussin’s eponymous painting of the Dance, and the spine of each volume was a detail of one or another face of the dancers. I knew nothing of Poussin back then, still a year away from reading Arcadia for the first time.

The dance to the music of time c

Sixty or so dollars was a large sum to me in those days, so I held off on buying the Dance. It slipped off my radar shortly after. When Powell died in 2000, I read up on the Dance a little. I considered tackling the series, which is a sort of roman a clef of British literary & society life through the eyes of a crypto-Powell narrator over the span of half a century, but never got around to it. I noted at the time that it seemed like a book to tackle in my 40’s. I used to say that about Proust when I was young, but I got around to him before turning 35, and should’ve done so sooner.

It wasn’t until last December, when U of Chicago Press announced that it had released all 12 novels as e-books, that I returned to the notion of reading the Dance. Like a good drug dealer, the publisher was offering the first e-book free. I had just finished My Year Of Gin, in which I would try a bottle of a new (to me) boutique gin each month of the year. I had planned to write about the project, but both overachieved (in terms of bottles) and underachieved (in terms of coherence), and so scrapped my chronicle of the project. You can, however, find photographic evidence here:

A Dance To The Music Of Time, it seemed to me, would make for a fine followup. The two projects were of a piece with what I now realize is a life of dilettantism. Why not give my amateur passions some degree of structure by organizing them around the calendar?

And so I decided to read one book of the Dance each month throughout 2011. Besides allowing the pace to mirror the seasons themselves, around which each novel was (subtly) organized, I was also protecting myself from burnout. I know myself well enough to know how easy it would be for me to roll through 3 or 4 of the books in the first 6 weeks of the year, before allowing the distractions and derailments that characterize much of my life to lead me away.

This morning, I finished reading the last of the 12 books, Hearing Secret Harmonies. My wife still asks me, “So, is it good?” and I don’t know exactly how to answer her.

I certainly enjoyed reading the novels, and I’ll be the first to admit that Powell’s prose can be quite tortured at times. I was also amazed at the reticence to reveal anything about the narrator’s own life or feelings, to the extent that one never learns Jenkins’ children’s names nor much about the books he writes over his 70 years (his volume on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy notwithstanding).

At times, the sheer volume of coincidental meetings can be maddening (coincidence being the author’s point, I know). Another type of coincidence, during a bombing raid of London, strains all credulity. But then, perhaps that’s because my own life doesn’t have much room for chance meetings nowadays. In the early books, bumping into old friends takes the place of the narrator having to commit any real activity. While the stories and the interrelations of his friends and acquaintances are engaging, I found the “autumn” novels — those covering WWII — much more entertaining, because the narrator was largely removed from his society surroundings and had to become much more of a participant in the world. Paradoxically, the level observation is much sharper in these books than the preceding ones. There’s a wonderful comedy of manners of Jenkins’ superiors at dinner, highlighting the absurdities and hierarchies of military life. (There’s also a great moment when Jenkins, who remembers everyone over the years, encounters his brigade from earlier in the war, and discovers that his old cohort has no recollection of him whatsoever.)

I think Jenkins also undergoes a maturation process during the war novels. By book 9, The Military Philosophers, his literary persona really blooms as his military duty begins to draw to a close. There’s a wonderful passage where he realizes his assignment has taken him to Cabourg, the town that Proust fictionalized into Balbec. Maybe it’s a sort of clue into the roman a clef of the whole Dance itself, but it’s also some of the most gorgeous writing in the books.

As I look back over the scope of it all, a story beginning in 1920 or thereabouts, carrying on to 1971 (the year I was born, coincidentally enough), and flashing back to Jenkins’ childhood in the naughts, I’m struck by the vividness of so many minor characters. Just like life, I didn’t think much of some of them at the time and miss them now they’re gone. (Speaking of which, Powell is merciless in his characters’ ends. So many figures are simply reported dead as the years carry on. I was under the impression that the whole cycle of novels would revolve around the four schoolboys introduced in the first book, and then found myself thinking, “Well, they didn’t actually show us [x]’s body, so maybe he’s still alive and will be back in a later novel…”, as though Anthony Powell was writing The Fantastic Four or something.)

But I won’t write too much about the goings on of the Dance. I do think it comprises a wonderful tapestry of the transformation of a certain class in British society throughout the century, but it’s also the sort of thing that no one (I know) reads anymore. In harmony with my college self, that’s probably a big part of why I stuck with this project all year.

Just as Jenkins sees patterns and echoes throughout the generations (and there are plenty of echoes in the last novel), I know there are echoes of myself from that pretentious college kid to this pretentious trade magazine editor. But there are also substantial changes, both internal and external. That Borders was demolished a few years ago, before the chain itself went under. Pynchon and Powers? I don’t read them much anymore.

I’m not sure if I’ve changed all that much since beginning A Question of Upbringing last January. It’s been a complex year, and I think reading The Leopard had more of an effect on me than these 12 novels. Perhaps I’m underestimating. After all, the clarity of the first 800 words or so of this piece — written in the morning after finishing Hearing Secret Harmonies, driving my wife to the bus stop, and walking the dogs in a frosted-over field — and the sense of bliss I had all morning long could be telling me that I’ve been feeling a subtle anxiety about completing the Dance. Maybe my hesitance and depression of these past few months has stemmed from an anxiety about coming to the end of something so long and continuous. (Everything after Anatomy of Melancholy was written following a long day at the office.)

Unrequired Reading: April Link Showers

Bizarre! I was just settling in to collect my May Twitter-links for a big Unrequired Reading when I discovered that last month’s load o’ links never went live! So here’s all of April’s great stuff! I’ll post May’s tomorrow!

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It’s time for another month’s worth of Twitter links, dear readers! If you want to follow along, I’m at twitter.com/groth18!

First, the retweets:

RT @mookiewilson86 (paul raff): David Koresh had a better homestand than the Mets.

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RT @ESQStyle Esquire Style: And the best-dressed male guest at the #RoyalWedding is… not David Beckham.

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RT @felixsalmon (felix salmon): Wherein Martin Amis blathers on for 4,000 dutiful but unnecessary words about Christopher Hitchens.

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RT @kylevanblerk (Kyle van Blerk): Client request of the year.

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RT @simondoonan (Simon Doonan): Creative factory: Simon Doonan, My Faves!

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RT @GreatDismal (William Gibson): “WE HELPED YOUR GRANDAD GET LAID” #daytonbootsvancouver

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RT @mattzollerseitz (Matthew Zoller Seitz): “‘After Hours’ exists to prove that ‘Taxi Driver’ actually displayed some restraint. @notjustmovies

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RT @JPosnanski (Joe Posnanski): In honor of touching CNN story, I write a little more about Nick Charles and a moment I’ll never forget.

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RT @asymmetricinfo (Megan McArdle): Why Europe won’t develop as an independent military power

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RT @kottke (kottke.org): Hilarious fake TLC promo

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RT @kylevanblerk (Kyle van Blerk): Bored at work. Photoshopping Bieber’s head onto things.

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RT @questlove (?Love of The Roots): Man. Not even “OJ Guilt” is the proper colloquialism for what I feel after eatin Cinnabon.

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And now, the links!

NBA Action: Bet On It! #IhadSpursandMagicinthefinals

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Ah, #vodka, with your “marketing gimmicks that make getting drunk seem like a gateway to fame and fortune

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The bowling alley of the #Frick: it’s no basement of the Alamo, but still.

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There’s now a computer as dumb as my boss. #thatswhatshesaid

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Joe Queenan goofs on the #gehry glut.

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Is anyone at the #royalwedding sporting a monkey-tail beard?

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Via @khoi, abandoned Yugoslavia monuments of awesomeness.

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Xanadu comes back to life! (Will #MichaelBeck and @olivianj be at the opening?)

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Xanadu: More of disaster than @XanaduMovie? #likedecoratinganuclearreactor #bringbacktheAlexander’smural

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In the movie, I see Billy Bob Thornton as the local, and Pesci as the mobster: #greateststoryever #trustme

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Tefillin: it’s like Jewish blood pressure.” Go, @MitzvahTank! #areyouJewish?

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Will nobody think of the #pistachios?!

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#AllStarSuperman never should’ve released the sun-eater from captivity:

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The Walk of Shame goes #StreetStyle, via @sartorialist

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So VCs are like the AIDS activists of our time?

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I’m all for taking advantage of gorgeous chicks, but sheesh! #modelscam (via @felixsalmon)

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#HaroldBloom and his “elite Europhile glasses” #agon

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Eat lead! #staedtler and #fabercastell at war

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Every so often, I remind myself why I find contempo literary fiction useless and stultifyingly dull

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Go read this #BenKatchor interview! Nownownow! #CardboardValise (just plow through the “what is comics?” section)

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@felixsalmon delivers a (much appreciated) Jonathan Franzen smackdown

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@witoldr on the secret language of architects.

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This #Houdini article escapes from the need to write in complete sentences. #escapeartistry

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I guess I oughtta get around to reading #GeoffDyer sometime, huh?

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In honor of tonight’s season 2 premiere of #Treme on #HBO, check out this interview with #WendellPierce (#BunkMoreland)

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#ChrisElliott has a DAUGHTER on SNL? #igrowold

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Dali makes aliyah!

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Ron Rosenbaum implores us to visit (Joyce’s) Ithaca (but not much else). (I admit I’ll likely skip #Ulysses)

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I’m awfully happy with my @allenedmonds, I have to say

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I look down on my wife. #shekicksmeintheshins

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#Starbury = Jim Jones?

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Is it good or bad that my TV/movie/prose diet is so similar to that of #StevenSoderbergh? #MillersCrossing!

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25 years ago: Graceland and the Gatwick Baby

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“People who drink coffee are different in many ways from those who don’t drink coffee” #whataboutgin?

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Geoff Dyer on being allergic to David Foster Wallace’s writing (his compare/contrast w/Federer is great)

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“You look into the fiery furnace and see the rich man without any name” #wallstreet

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Neat video of @billy_reid at home.

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@simondoonan on camp: “I am not the brightest Art Nouveau lamp in the room…” #needIsaymore?

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NOLA: The Big Hypothetical

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Fun interview with Glenn O’Brien, onetime Warhol employee and current #StyleGuy for #GQ: #howtobeaman #glennobrien

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Ah, get back to me around yer 20th reunion, ya young bastid.

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Neat take on Android, Google’s business model, and moats.

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Authors and broken promises. #Icantgetstarted

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I would prefer not to poke you. #groupmeh

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Um, the good news is that “cancer” doesn’t exist (the bad news is that it’s more complex than anyone thought) #uhoh

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Would it have more success if it were called a “scrodpiece”? #probablynot

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“It’s still real to me, dammit!” #soareconcussions #andearlydeath #wwe

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When Antonioni met Tarkovsky: #shakeitlikeaPolaroidpicture

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RPG = Rocket-Powered Genius (of design) #rocketpunchgeneration

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@rupaul answers all questions, except, “What’s up with the mustache?” #dragrace

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@david_j_roth speaks truth to pizza (I still don’t understand how @pizzahut stays in business here in NJ.)

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Is there a Damien Hirst level to unlock? #jeffkoonsmustdie

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By @mattnycs: Vote for the man in the small hat: a rabbi runs for office … in Uganda: Parts I and II #really

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Hot chicks with (old) douchebags: #Iblamesociety #Ialsoblamehotchicks

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No Shakespeare in Topeka? #talentnotgenius #billjames

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#Koppenburg: why I don’t bike. #whoneedstheexercise?

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Accidental Mysteries: masked #seenandunseen

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GREAT piece by @comicsreporter on a trip to the #centerforcartoonstudies

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Because, as we know from #chrisrock, books are like Kryptonite to… certain people: #padandquill

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The Perplexitude of Hilfiger

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Proto-Facebook

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Darkness at Noonan: #tomgoestothebar (happy 60th, Tom Noonan!)

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And I close this month’s edition with a non-link:

“I used to believe that worry was a talisman against something bad happening to you.” thx for the wisdom, @ConanOBrien (& @MarcMaron)!

Who Am I?

I’m the guy who realized how much he sounded like Ron Swanson when he explained to someone yesterday, “I only drink three things: water, black coffee, and gin. You may think I mean that’s what I like to drink, but that’s not what what I’m saying. I’m saying I only drink water, black coffee and gin.”

Ronswivel

Unrequired Reading: The Februariad

Here’s your monthly dose of Unrequired Reading, dear readers who are too lazy or otherwise uninclined to follow my twitter feed at twitter.com/groth18

My dogs would get so confused on these awesome staircases.

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Nothing about how Craigslist enables Arab protestors and revolutionaries to get laid? #noitdoesnt

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Great pix from Sept. shuttle trip in honor of my production manager, who bailed on our current ish to watch the launch.

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Simon Schama on Helen Mirren. Well, not ON Helen Mirren, but you know. #IneverdidseethatMazurskyversionoftheTempest

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Sadly, I’m sure there’s a novel/screenplay about a romance between a mope and a fluffer.

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So it’s better to shoot at civilian protestors with 7.62s, not .50s?

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“Exotic Superfluid Found in Ultra-Dense Stellar Corpse”: the title of the new Orb record? #littlefluffytweets

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Glad to find out street heroin and my G&Ts both have quinine: always important to stave off malaria. #themoreyouknow

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I’d be afraid of the NJ version of this #50moststylishnewyorkers list.

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Gator and the Berra. #NYY #louisianalightning

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Don’t bet against the Tic-Tac-Toe Chicken. #starbucksduanereadeorcupcakes

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Profile of Al Goldstein: the (not-)new pornographer.

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Greatest. Memo. Ever. #weneedtosolvepakistanbeforelunch

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@simondoonan: not exactly a fan of Fashion Week (but hilarious). http://slate.me/gLK6Jz #nyfw

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tl;dr?

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There really should be a Yinka Dare award, too. #nbaantiawards

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Great Michael Caine interview. Get Carter was #badass

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“Alcoholic hospice”? I used to joke about drinking with careerist determination, but wow.

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Ahoy-ahoy! #thatisall

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If only Bill Murray had missed out on The Man Who Knew Too Little, too… http://bit.ly/fCEPi9 #billmurray #castingdirectorofbabel

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To Mr. & Mrs. Ball, a son: Curve. #intheloop #greatestmovieever

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That’s it! No Ferrari for me! #okayidriveasubaru

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KenJen on #Watson: very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman.

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Michael Lewis (satirically) on who’s to blame for the financial crisis: #blamecanada?

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It’d be funnier if the greys just took off like rockets: #judginggreyhounds

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Did NYC consult @dandrezner for the zombie invasion section? #apocalypselaw #escapefromnewyork

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West Egg. 8-Bit. Great Gatsby video game. #gatsbyfornes

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Great piece by Adam Kirsch on literary criticism. Go read it! #notbookreviews

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Sartoria Rossi: or is it Satori Rossi? #beitalian #iwishicoulddressthiswell

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@nealstephenson on the development of the Rocket #ficktnichtmitderRaketemensch! #youdroppedthebombonme

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Valentine’s Day special! Here are the best NYC restaurants in which to stage a breakup! #noromance

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Fun story of SEO abuse on Google. #jcpenney #seohack

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Not on the menu @ Veselka: Ron Rosenbaum on cannibalism in the Ukraine c.1932-3 #noendtoevil #ieatcannibals

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Schizo NYC from @jeremoss: Two-Face, Composite Superman, or Ultra The Multi-Alien? #splitcity #uglierbytheday

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“Yoga in bed” is a euphemism, right? #clydefrazier #whatrhymeswithtantric

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Ouroussoff fluffery on new Gehry bldg. Was this actually written by a computer using random samples of O’s prose?

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Important lesson – never marry a chemist: #whenxiaoyemetthallium

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I’d wear Jesse Eisenberg’s costuming from Social Network before I’d be caught dead in Sorkin’s sack suit #badfashion

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Richie Rich: explosion on the runway. http://bit.ly/gyAz2R #nyfw

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My old man swears he once reached a polar research base with his HAM setup: #wb2zvs

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Not quite as implausible as Jews In Space, but it’s close: Jews In Syria! (neat story, trust me) http://bit.ly/gkOntd

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Neat @nicknotned (Nick Denton) Atlantic Wire interview about his news consumption habits.

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Covering J.G. Ballard #jgballard

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Real question is: Can a novel be “philosophical” without being dreadfully dull? #doubtit

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Metropolitan or Gossip Girl? or … #whitstillman #gossipgirl (I’m a Metropolitan man)

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Queenstown, where I heard the voice of God (also, where I bungee-jumped) http://nyti.ms/dSZiHx

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Greatest. Band name. Ever. #drteethandtheelectricmayhem

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Clive James on roman policier: #okaytheyrecrimenovels

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The honey badger doesn’t give a shit: #randall

Honey badger remains b-a-d-a-s-s (I can’t even survive drinking half a 40 of King Cobra). #honeybadger

In this almost empty gin palace . . .

I planned to try out 12 new (to me) gins in 2010. I was going to write about one each month and add a “My Year of Gin” feature to my blog. I gave up on that idea pretty quickly and decided to sample a whole bunch over the course of the year:

ginyear

If you click through to the flickr page, you’ll find notes (and links) on all them. In addition to these bottles (please note that not all of them are empty; I’m not that much of a lush), there are a few I haven’t tried yet, including the “high test” version of Old Raj (110 proof), Blue Gin, and North Shore No. 11. Also, I had a very nice G&T during my November trip to New Orleans using Right Gin, which I haven’t picked up a bottle of yet.

No, I don’t have any resolutions for 2011. Why do you ask?

What It Is: 7/5/10

What I’m reading: Once I was done reading financial filings, press releases and analyst reports for my Top Companies ish, I was able to kick back, relax and celebrate the July 4th weekend by re-reading Heart of Darkness!

What I’m listening to: Night Work (Scissor Sisters), We Are Born (Sia), a new Mad Mix I’m putting together, and Big Boi’s Mixtape for Dummies.

What I’m watching: Jaws, The Sixth Sense, a documentary about plate lunch diners in southern Louisiana, and some Yankees baseball.

What I’m drinking: No. 209 & Q-Tonic, after an aborted attempt at making a G&T out of Ransom, an Old Tom (malted) gin. Blech.

What Rufus & Otis are up to: Well, Ru didn’t have a good weekend. He’s terrified of fireworks (and thunder, but we haven’t had that in a while), so he spent much of Saturday and Sunday nights curled up in the back corner of my home office. On Sunday, a late-day walk home from a neighbor’s party left him with a little blister on a front paw-pad, so he’s limping all over the place today. I bandaged it up, but that just makes him look more pathetic. Otis, on the other hand, got to take a solo trip to the Ridgewood dog park on Friday, where he met The Big Dog. He had an okay time, but consecutive days with “chasing squeaky tennis ball” sessions left him with a little tear on his carpal pad (the paw pad further up on the “wrist”, which they use for braking). I’m just a bad dogfather, I know.

Where I’m going: Portland, OR next week for the annual meeting of the wonderfully named Controlled Release Society (get yer mind outta the gutter; there’s nothing tantric about it).

What I’m happy about: I managed to finish that July/August issue in time and managed to squeeze a 30 Rock joke into my editorial (how an earlier feature went over about as well as NBC’s Salute to Fireworks). And getting out to see my pals John & Liz for a July 3rd party. And being rewarded for a 40-minute traffic jam on the way home on the NYThruway that evening; it turned out to have been caused by a bus fire. By the time we passed it, the bus had been so thoroughly scorched that its entire skin was gone. I haven’t seen any news items on it, so it’s likely no one was hurt; that means I’m allowed to consider it awesome.

What I’m sad about: The sight of a limping dog; Sia’s decision to cover Madonna’s Oh Father instead of its Like a Prayer companion song, Dear Jessie; my 68-year-old, somewhat-invalid neighbor’s accident that left her Saturn SUV rolling down the hill in the woods behind her house on Saturday morning. (She had gotten out of the car to move her walker, but left it in drive. She wasn’t hurt, and the Saturnstopped after 25 or 30 feet when it ran into a fallen tree.)

What I’m worried about: Today’s trip to the endodontist, in which I get to cap off 6 months of heavy duty work-stress by getting assessed for a root canal. Go, me!

What I’m pondering: Whether I should let my Sports Illustrated subscription lapse. I got a few renewal forms in the last month or two, and it occurred to me that I barely get around to reading SI or the ESPN mag nowadays. I still dig sports, but I’m more likely to read New York, Monocle, or the Paris Review when I’m in my, um, favorite reading location.

What It Is: 6/7/10

What I’m reading: Pattern Recognition

What I’m listening to: Around the World in a Day, Wake Up the Nation, and The Finest Thing

What I’m watching: Extract and In The Loop

What I’m drinking: Budweiser Select 55. Don’t judge me. I was at an impromptu crawfish boil. See?

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What Rufus & Otis are up to: Gallivanting with their pals Ruby & Willow while we were away for the weekend in Louisiana (see the pictures!). Also, getting used to their new beds. Rufus is settling into his, but Otis has never had a new bed before, and is unaccustomed to its thickness. He tends to slide off of it, like a fat guy trying to get on an inflatable raft.

Where I’m going: Chicago & Madison, WI for a client’s press event. For two-and-a-half days. The last day will include a three-hour bus-ride to Madison, and a Madison-to-Milwaukee-to-Newark flight home.

What I’m happy about: Not dying from eating a bad crawfish.

What I’m sad about: That only two of my friends sent me this Slate story about gin the moment they saw it. I expected at least a half-dozen of you to forward that to me.

What I’m worried about: Well, I was worried about my eyesight, because I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my contacts in the past few weeks. If I read on the computer or the iPhone for a little while, I found my eyes just couldn’t focus well. Only this morning did I discover that my optometrist, or the contact lens company, sent half of this year’s lenses in my standard prescription, and the other half with a stronger prescription. So, for 6 weeks, I’ve been using lenses that are too strong for my eyes. Grar.

What I’m pondering: How much my life has changed since I first read Pattern Recognition. I wrote about it in the very early days of this blog (Feb. 2003), and was pretty dismissive. Now I find it much more fulfilling, even if one of my earlier critiques holds up (the McGuffin is still too similar to that of his second novel). I’m no longer so sensitive about its 9/11-ness, and my own awareness/interest in fashion and corporate brands has helped inform this re-reading of the book. The really jarring thing this time was the first chapter or so, which felt embarrassingly like “SF writer not quite ready to downshift into a here-and-now setting.” The opening descriptions feel like they’re from another novel, before he got the hang of writing about “the present.” But I’m much more forgiving, this time around.