So, I’ve been a bit — OK, more than a bit — distracted lately finishing this and doing lots of that and traveling with family, and I’ve been tinkering with the idea of Hall of Fame e-book that I would sell for charity. I’ll get back to you on that one later … maybe you would volunteer to help e edit it.
In any case, in the last month or two, I’ve come across a bunch cool things. I turned forty-eight, and one my fears of growing older is losing joy for things. I’ve noticed that does pop up from time to time. I don’t love football like I once did, for instance. I’m not entirely sure why. I mean, yeah, there’s the NCAA and Roger Goodell and concussions and domestic violence and the persistent buzzkill that is my Cleveland Browns, and I’m sure all of those things contribute. But, man, I used to love football. I lived for football. Baseball always mattered to me, I thought about it all the time, but football (especially Cleveland Browns football) that was breathing, that was eating, that was life.
It’s not life anymore. I still like football. Still like writing about it. Don’t love it. And I was wondering lately — is that where everything’s going? Will I stop loving music as much? Will I stop loving movies as much? Will I stop loving books and stories and spaghetti and Diet Coke and card tricks and even baseball as much as I once did?
I don’t know the answer. I do know that lately I’ve run across some stuff I absolutely love. So the jaded thing hasn’t settle in just yet.
I like Richard Linklater’s movies well enough. Really liked Dazed and Confused. Thought the first Before movie — Before We Got Old, I think it’s called — was good. School of Rock is a thoroughly underrated pleasure.
Still, I went into Boyhood somewhat skeptical. The idea of filming a movie over twelve years seemed compelling to me, but often the trouble with movies like that is they’re gimmicky. There’s no depth. The movie has one trick and it plays that trick again and again and again. Hey, look the kid’s older. Hey, look the kids even older.
I saw Boyhood was getting all these breathless reviews, but there were others who thought the movie dragged on and didn’t really have a larger point.
Then I saw Boyhood.
Man, I loved Boyhood.
I’m not going to give a full review here because there are other things I loved that I need to get to but this was my favorite movie experience in years. It was my favorite anything in years. It was mesmerizing to me from absolutely the first minute. I don’t know any of these people, obviously, and yet I know all them. It showed the good nature of the villains, and the selfishness of the heroes.
There’s one scene I’ll mention. One of the boy’s stepfathers, an abusive alcoholic, is at the dinner table drinking, mainly to prove that he’s the master of the house. At one point he says to the boy, “You don’t like me much, do you.” The boy won’t even look at him, and the man muses, “Yeah, I don’t like me much either.” It’s just the tiniest bit of humanity before the man loses his mind again. The whole movie does that, I think, it projects little moments of humanity, and shows that life isn’t easy, and it’s too short, and all you really can do is try your best. So, so good.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
I used to read so much more fiction. I think it’s a timing issue There are so many non-fiction books that I have piled up — just finished Lawrence Wright’s “Thirteen Days In September” which was terrific and I’m reading Jean Edward Smith’s books on Grant and Eisenhower more or less at the same time — that unless it’s something that jumps right off the bookshelf, I tend not to look at much fiction.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin did not jump off the shelf. I was given a bookstore gift card for the holidays, so I was buying books for the girls and for Margo. Storied Life looked like a good book for Margo. Quirky thing about a small town and an independent bookstore and a cranky owner and a late-life love affair. Seemed like a book club kind of thing. Right up Margo’s alley.*
*She made me watch Downton Abbey a week or two ago; I won’t put it on this “love” list but I can see why she likes it.
In any case, I was getting ready for bed one night, and the book was on the nightstand and I thought, “Let’s see what this is.” I’ve heard before that cliche about books you can’t put down. I’ve never really had that happen, though. Yes, some books do demand you to keep reading, but sooner or later there’s a dead spot and you can put the book down and pick it up later. I read the Storied Life of A.J. Fikry until three in the morning, and when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I kept it by the bed so I could finish it the next morning.
Man, I loved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
The wonder for me of The Storied Life was not the actual story. It was a sweet little story. The wonder for me was not the beauty of the prose. It was certainly wonderfully written, but this wasn’t the gorgeous writing of DeLillo or Chabon or McDermott, not the multi-layered writing of Auster or Patchett or Roth. The wonder for me was in the sheer joy of reading that was expressed on every page, in every paragraph, in every sentence, you hear a voice saying, “Isn’t reading the greatest thing ever? Well, isn’t it?”
So, not that you would care, but I briefly jumped away from my iPhone obsession and got a Galaxy Note 4. I really liked the Note for many reasons but there were a couple of work quirks that made it impractical so I went back to the iPhone, the giant one, the iPhone 6+.
Man, I love these giant phones (though the word “Phablet” is one that that die anytime it likes).
I had all the same worries about the giant phone that I heard from other people — that I wouldn’t be able to carry it in my pocket, that it’s too big to use one-handed, that I would just look plain stupid holding up one of these enormous phones to my ear. None of these have actually caused any problems for me. My pockets are big enough, the one-handed thing isn’t really an issue and I look stupid holding ANY phone to my ear so a big one makes no difference.
The advantages: There are a lot of them but the biggest is that I can now actually see stuff on my phone. I have spent the last few years holding my cell phone about 4 inches in front of my face, looking sideways through my glasses, squinting like mad. Now THAT is a stupid look. This giant iPhone is fantastic..I can actually read stuff on it. I pumped up the type on messages to near-maximum, zoom in everyplace else, it’s like carrying a highway billboard around. I love it.
I should add that the iPhone 6+ costs like a bajillion dollars and I have had to endure plenty of “Really? You really need that? What’s wrong with your old iPhone?” heckling, which I answer mainly by clicking on my email app and saying, “Look how big the type is!”
This is obviously related to the big phone category, but for a long time I rebelled against big text on my phone or my computer or anything else because I I felt really foolish and and blind old looking at super-sized words. This was an incredibly pointless demonstration. I am kind of blind, and kind of old and, heck, just now I boosted the font here on this blog post I’m writing.
I love, love love big text
All Blacks Rugby Team
Yeah, I saw Invictus. Other than that, I really had never seen, heard about or thought about New Zealand’s All Blacks Rugby team. Rugby has just never quite penetrated my world. Then, a while ago, I watched them on TV.
Man I love the All Blacks. They’re like … I don’t know even know how to describe them. I’m pretty sure that if the All Blacks played the Seattle Seahawks, the earth would open up and we would all be swallowed whole. Except for the All Blacks who would somehow start a new, more powerful civilization.
Lake Street Dive
I wish I could find the Tweet from the Brilliant Reader who turned me on to Lake Street Dive. They’re a Boston band with like this kind of jazzy, bluesy, indie, alternative, lounge-y sound that is just utterly fantastic. I’ve got a blog post (or article, not sure yet) coming about how my friends are trying to turn me into a Wilco fan, and how ridiculously difficult it is for some of us middle-aged shmoes to incorporate newer music in our lives. But Lake Street Dive has somehow made its way into my playlist. “Bad Self Portraits” is the album I’d start with if you feel like exploring.
Man I love Lake Street Dive. That just make me so happy.
People always told me that there is nothing quite like rooting for a team that is desperately trying to keep from being relegated. I didn’t really appreciate it until last year, when I went to do a story on Burnley — the smallest town to ever have had a Premier League team. It was one of my favorite writing experiences of recent years. I’m trying to get a return trip, though I’m not sure NBC is looking for a second Burnley story just yet.
Anyway, I’ve been keeping pretty close tabs on the Clarets and it has been so much fun watching them fight for the right to stay. They are currently one point out of relegation range, 17th in the league, it’s going to be spectacular watching them fight for this all year long. The Chelsea-Man City battle is fascinating, Southampton’s brilliant season is super fun, lots of great stories.
But, yep, man I love Burnley.