"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day."
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I've been a huge fan of Hardcore History with Dan Carlin for years. He's become the standard by which I judge all other podcasts. Detailed and intensively researched epics on ancient (and modern) history.
Preet Bharara is a fantastic listen too. Expert commentary on the political times from the US Attorney from the southern district of New York - fired by Trump for not returning an unprofessional phone call.
The Pope's Long Con is a fantastic bit too. Really deep investigative journalism published right around the time of Rep. Dan Johnson's death. Dive into some weird Kentucky political lore and the fascinatingly and pathologically bizarre history of the "The Pope".
Love this - win that breakup. It's a rare life allowance to reflect - with the partner gone, there's all this free time to think. Four of my friends broke up with long-term partners recently. All except one is taking it as a chance to reorient. The last one is still trying to get him back...that's a bad place to be usually.
I'm in Boston. It's a bit far, but I could maybe make a meetup in DC.
The little wife and I had a great time in London over the holidays, and now we're buckling down for some pretty foul winter weather - our area of New England's going to get hammered. Reports are calling it a bomb cyclone. Never even heard of that before, but we're stocked up on essentials & like...pounds of UK tea.
My grandfather had a stroke 2 nights ago, still hospitalized while he also recovers from a fever. His first stroke was in his early 70s, and it really debilitated him - he's in his late 80s now, but he's been prepared for the worst for years. It's a strain on my grandmother, but she lives in an almost literal family enclave surrounded by her sons and grandchildren. She's not prepared to be without him, but she'll never be alone.
That stage of life is so difficult for me to think about. They've been together for 60+ years, and they've faced more than I can imagine, including several death scenarios. When I put myself and my wife in that place - or my parents 20 years from now - I feel such a sense of dread...? inadequacy? something. The life experience they have is so valuable. I called my grandmother this morning before work to check on her. She's horrifically upset of course, but her outlook is...I don't know. Graceful? I don't know how to describe it, and I don't think she can either. But she feels it, lives in it, and it's not killing her to be in that emotional space. I ended that call feeling like she had reassured me. What a way to be.
That's fair; David Foster Wallace isn't lighthearted.
My wife was nervous about getting into DFW too - she studied Tense Present in undergrad and knew about the suicide and depressive substance abuse - so I started her on a BIWHM audiobook while we were on a flight 2 weeks ago. She got a taste of some of the weirder character biographies and DFW's metafictional style, which intrigued her. I think the most challenging short from that series is #6 ("soft" subscription paywall, couldn't find a .pdf).
Then I asked her to read A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which might be his funniest short piece but still hits with the hallmark agoraphobic/dissociative anxiety that's in all his stuff.
Thing is, DFW perceived broken-up types. He wrote those characters unnervingly well, and it feels like exposure if you self-identify as much as he did - makes it difficult to extricate.
Take care of yourself. Glad to hear you're coming out of it rather than heading in.
I'm rereading Infinite Jest with my wife. Her first time, and it's fascinating watching her put the world together. This is a book that's written to be talked about.
A friend organized an event last night: 9 recent-grad millennials at a Mongolian hot pot. Delicious, interesting, filling - by all appearances a wonderful Sake-liquidated time had by all. A bill for me and my wife just above $50. Even a group photo at the end of the night.
Have you read "Dark Money"? I liked it - I'll give "Democracy in Chains" a go too.
Koch funding at my alma (as I mentioned) was very contentious. There's an English department faculty member there who hosted a book club for a few months this fall semester, and I think they covered both books along with "Sons of Wichita". From what I understand, it went over about how you'd expect: very academically political, which is arguably the worst kind of political.
Fuck, this is too familiar. Maybe I'll sit down with a drink tonight and write some of my own dysfunctional Christmas tales. To be honest, that doesn't sound too appealing, so I don't think I will - hope you understand.
I'm not sure of your age, but I think you're in your 30s-40s. My wife and I are just starting our holiday traditions (both early 20s). We're a bit behind you there, but I think The Grinch is going to be part of the tradition now. We'll memorialize a few more memories on our trip to London too.
- Finding your balance and fighting for it builds inner strength, which shelters inner peace, which creates outer calm.
This is good shit. I appreciate it, truly.
The GMU Economics department is an interesting creature to me. At my undergrad university, we had two ECON professors from GMU. One of them convinced Alex Tabarrok to come to campus for a keynote and short lecture, and I got to have lunch with him. Which was wild to me because I'd spent the past two years reading his (and Cowen's) blog, Marginal Revolution
GMU is also known for its donations from Charles Koch. Without going into specifics, it was common knowledge in the ECON department at my own school that both GMU-alum professors were on accelerated tenure tracks because of the funding they brought with them from their connections to the Koch Foundation. Of course, both professors were excellent teachers in their own right, but there's a strong norm of procedural justice among academe and this violated it so badly that it was an agenda item in the faculty senate for 3 years in a row.
One of the profs wrote a letter of recommendation for my master's program, so I hope it's obvious enough that I hold no feelings either way about what choices they've made in their academic careers. But, like I said, GMU is an interesting creature. I've been speculatively following high-level graduates of the ECON department for the past 5 years now and researching alums (I'm very familiar with Cowen, Hanson, and Caplan - recommended Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids to my wife). If anything's true about that department, it's a tight network of alumni.
I've never really had much holiday spirit of any kind - was never very against it or for it. Just basically indifferent [insert sob story about growing up poor with giftless Christmases, boo-hoo] to it all in a way that I've not been very good at articulating.
I'm a terrible gift-giver. I just can't preemptively imagine what other people want materially-speaking, and I Scrooge-ishly explain that away by claiming I'm fundamentally uncomfortable with the commercialism/religiosity combo that is modern American Christmas. Sales, discounts, pre-orders, layaways - it all skeeves me out.
I'm not very festive. Christmas lights are a lot of work. I hate the combination of green and red. Christmas movies and songs are repetitive. I'm a real grouch RE: Rudolph & Co., Kris Kringle & wide-eyed children, Christmas miracles & mangers, &c. predictably.
Last week, my wife showed me The Grinch with Jim Carrey for my first viewing ever. It's been her favorite holiday movie for years, and it's the first time that I've memorably identified with a holiday movie. I watched the cartoon right after. Altogether, it was a real breakthrough, and I think I've finally found my niche in all the seasonal joy and hoopla as "a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce."
I've finally got some (anti)-holiday spirit, and it's never felt better.
We put down my childhood dog in early high school. I remember reading your original post way back when and really feeling it. My dad and I still talk about her - he's careful to not talk for too long. His eyes get watery; mine too. She was there for everything.
He's had 5 dogs since, 3 still living. None for me, life circumstances and my own fear haven't arranged for it.
My wife and I are thinking about getting a dog soon. She never had one growing up - she doesn't know what she's about to get herself in to.
I don't know what else to say except I know that pain.