Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: new york review of books

The Memory Chalet

The Memory Chalet book coverTony Judt was an eminent historian. He wrote acclaimed books, he wrote for the New York Review of Books, he was a university professor. He was an intellectual, but in the best possible sense of the word. He was a public intellectual. In 2008, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehig’s Disease. By October 2009 he was paralysed from the neck down. He died in August last year. Read the rest of this entry »

The Organist Entertains

Elthel Smith at the organ, record sleeveApologies for my protracted absence. After hitting something of a brick wall, I’m now overwhelmed in terms of subjects I could blog about. There is all manner of subjects cluttering my brain/stimulating my brain, depending on the time of day/my general disposition/etc/etc. Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of the printed word

I’ve been absolutely demolishing books lately. Not literally, of course. I mean, book-burning is kind of frowned upon, isn’t it? No, I’ve just been reading and reading and reading. I guess it is the one plus-side to a niggly, long commute. I suspect that a number of truly wonderful books for Christmas has helped too. As has finally addressing the many unread books already occupying the ever-decreasing shelf space. And, er…me buying some more.

Or maybe it is just a phase. I do always read. A lot. But the medium isn’t always the same. Sometimes I just have to read a newspaper every day. Other times I realise I get most of my news online (although it’s not the same), or find my brain rotting from reading the free newspapers handed out in London and decide enough is enough.

Other times I’m all over magazines and, for want of a better word, journals. There is some fantastic magazine design out there – Wire magazine, in particular, and the late, lamented Plan B. There’s also some genuinely great writing hiding away in your old periodicals. The New Yorker is always a wonderful, informative and luxurious read. The New York Review of Books is similarly brain-nourishing. But it’s not all about mags from the Big Apple – how about When Saturday Comes and World Soccer, for pretty much peerless football coverage? Or Private Eye, still great after all these years?

But then, after a while, I realise that as immediate and bite-sized and shiny as magazines are, it is a good book that I really crave. A book that demands to be read, to be devoured. The sort of book that leaves you with a sense of loss when it’s over, because you just can’t read it anymore, that the story of those characters (real or imagined) has now finished.

And in an age of iPhones, iPads and all that jazz, and working in a role that falls directly under the banner of, ahem, ‘new media’, it’s interesting to me that all of this ‘old media’ still brings so much joy. These print formats are still vital to me. There is nothing quite like the feel, touch, smell, experience of books, magazines and newspapers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love computers and would be lost without the internet. But nothing will replace flicking through a newspaper in a pub, or a magazine in the garden on a sunny day, or an old book, curled up indoors on a winter’s night. Long may these simple pleasures last.

Image from Jasoon via Flickr

Ten little things that helped make 2009 a good year

We think in generalities, but we live in detail.

Alfred North Whitehead
English mathematician & philosopher (1861 – 1947)

The web and the wider world are full of ‘best of’ lists, looking back at the past year and indeed the last decade. However, I thought I didn’t have a whole lot worth adding to the more general debates, such as best albums, best films, best sportsmen and women. Does the world really need another end of year/decade review?

So…instead I’ve decided to compile a list of some ‘little’ things I’ve enjoyed this year. Maybe this will offer a tiny insight into my world, and hopefully prompt some thought on those little things in life that make the world a more enjoyable place. Life is all in the details.

1. The seaside

This year I’ve been to the seaside several times with my Significant Other, and had a wonderful time on every occasion. In the UK we’re really lucky in that you are never that far from the sea. Maybe there is some primal pull, but more likely it’s great to regress to being a kid again, with ice creams, crazy golf, dashing around the arcades, skimming stones and fish and chips on the beach. We realised that we can jump on a train and in an hour or so effectively be on holiday, if only for the day. A great way to ‘get away from it all’, and cheap too!

2. Actually going to the football

I used to go to games all the time years ago, but I think following a team week-in, week-out is probably a young man’s game. Saying that, there’s nothing to stop me going to see a match from time to time, and I’ve got back into that this year, again accompanied by my ever-supportive Significant Other. We live close to Charlton Athletic, who late last season started giving tickets away as they hurtled towards relegation. This season has been far better for them, and popping down the other week on a whim and catching a game was a lot of fun.

3. Piccolo coffee

I was never a big coffee drinker. But this year I’ve fallen for the trendy coffee brigade’s fancy drinks. A piccolo is kind of like a very strong, yet miniature, latte, essentially an espresso topped up with a little milk. I’ll often grab one from a little coffee stall near work, generally at lunchtime, to kickstart my afternoon. It is absolutely delicious, and a welcome change from the luke-warm, sugary, whipped cream abominations from the big chains. I’m on course to become a coffee snob!

4. Scoring baseball

More to come on this soon, folks, I promise. But generally speaking, I had real fun following this year’s MLB season. Even though the Mets were beyond rubbish.

5. Staying in on a Saturday night

I used to get rather jittery staying in on a Saturday night, worried I was at home while everyone else was out having fun. No more. I think I’ve finally hit full-fledged Grumpy Old Man mode, and so can’t abide jostling crowds and overpriced drinks in trendy bars, or nightbuses home from dingy nightclubs. Also, I’ve loved spending some time with my Significant Other, a takeaway and some crap telly. Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor, Match of the Day, bed. I never thought this would be my idea of bliss!

6. Spicy chilli peanuts

My snack food of the year. I’ve bought a big tub of them for Christmas, and can’t see it lasting long. Plus, I can kid myself that peanuts are a healthier option.

7. Cain’s Mild

My drink of the year. A classic beer from a Liverpudlian brewery. Full of flavour, but low in alcohol, so I can drink plenty of it without falling over. Coveting a can of mild, again, suggests I am now truly an old man, in heart, mind and increasingly in body. This is not a bad thing. I think I’m actually growing into myself.

8. The New York Review of Books

On the surface, this is a periodical with a load of book reviews. But really, they are just a launchpad for articles on much wider issues, so an issue might throw up some interesting perspectives on all manner of things – the fall of the Berlin Wall, Theodore Roosevelt’s environmentalism, the new ballparks in New York, prison reform, schooling…you name it. It is refreshing to see such a wide range of issues covered, and for writers to be given the room to cover them in sufficient depth. Plus, it makes me feel a bit cleverer for reading it.

9. QI

It’s bloody brilliant, isn’t it? And like number 8 above, I feel a bit cleverer for watching it. You can never have enough trivia stuffed in your brain, as far as I’m concerned.

10. Listening to Christmas songs

I love Christmas songs. Big Rock Candy Mountain feeds my addiction with some weird and wonderful efforts, but I’m just as happy with the more mainstream fare. Phil Spector’s Christmas album is probably one of the best (not just Christmas) albums ever. Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You is my number one guilty pleasure. To me, that song is perfect. It’s a shame that in just a few days I won’t be listening to these songs for another year…

So, what little things made your 2009 a good one? I’d love to hear about whatever helped make your year.

Photo from kevindooley, via Flickr