Monday, June 5, 2023

May consumption diary


So I heard 'Give Me Back My Man' for the first time in May 2023. The B-52's had always seemed a novelty act to me. 'Love Shack' being trashed in the Fat Ladies Arms when I was 18 probably didn't help. But holy hecka, this song. It's like the sort of thing I'd go crazy over if you said it was the Bush Tetras or something similarly obscure. But the B-52's?

Blink 182 was wrong. I guess finding out bands you'd dismissed your whole life are actually amazing is growing up.


Boxer by Ryan Pinkard (non-fiction, physical book, 2022)

I love Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series. I pitched to write the book on Monster Magnet's Powertrip back in 2018, but didn't make the cut. Hard to know whether it was their view about the potential audience for any book about Monster Magnet, or their view about the version of the book I pitched (with two sample chapters), or both. 

Boxer is one of my favourite albums. I trashed it during my year of a million words (2008), when I wrote most of my first book, A Man Melting, and book and album have become entwined since then. Pinkard's book is a pretty straight-forward account. There's one intrusion of the "I" voice in a footnote during the book, and an I-forward epilogue... I guess I still prefer these pocket-sized books to be more than biographies of an album thanks to the challenge of having less words to play with.

As another aside, it did make me feel bad for falling out of live with The National after High Violet. The reason Boxer was so important to me in 2008 was because it was such good writing music, and I was writing a lot. The album was a grower. While I'm probably still right that The National haven't gone far enough into new territory in the last 15 years, I haven't listened to new albums 5, 6, 7, 8 times in close succession. It doesn't help they got super popular and it kinda feels too true-to-label, normcore, beardy dad to like The National... I always think of the kid in the Seattle grunge doco, Hype, who has cotton buds (or cigarettes?) stuck up his nose and bemoans everyone is starting to like the bands he liked so now he needs to find something else.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (novel, audiobook, US, 2001)

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace (short fiction, audiobook, US, 1999)

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility - Edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lutunatabua (non-fiction, audiobook and ebook, 2023)

I'm a Fan by Sheena Patel (novel, audiobook, UK, 2022) - I was not a fan.

M Train by Patti Smith (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2015)

Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser (novel, audiobook, US, 1997)

To read Millhauser is to flirt with fables and the fantastic, but never quite cross over. It's fascinating. I think I prefer his shorter works, where you spend more time - proportionately - on the knife's edge.


The nuclear family is going to Europe in three weeks. We're trip-stacking (wife is going for a conference in UK and site visit for work in Portugal; we're meeting friends from Germany in the Algarve who we haven't seen in person since our co-honeymoon in NZ; then taking the kids to meet their cousins in Italy and connect with that part of their whakapapa)... but it still feels WRONG. Like, our household carbon will be about 4x higher this year than last year because of this trip. And it's insanely expensive. Like, double what it might have been five years ago.

The cognitive dissonance is worse than normal since I just audited an Australiasian version of the Carbon Literacy Trust's carbon literacy training, AND had to do an exercise on household carbon footprints for my DBA.

But it does provide a nice break between finishing up the last of my papers for my DBA and going full thesis (or pulling the pin if I can't face my own research project when I get back).

The challenge is the opportunity cost of doing another 2 years on my doctorate is writing any more fiction.

I've toyed with ways to combine the two (sci-fi futuring workshops... deconstructing the lone hero narrative... using cathedral thinking to drive a story...) but it feels like taking a baby elephant to calf club day.

I have three novella (or long short story or short novel) projects I want to finish (the short novel I wrote last year that centres around the COVID mandate protests at parliament, but continues forward in time multiple years), a story about climate refugees reshaping life in Māori Hill for the better (a kind of reverse prepper manifesto), and something that I might publish under a pseudonym so better not say much more about it (coded message for future sleuths: books read this month and last month are part of the inspo, but it's an idea I've had for years).


Woman at War

Bo Burnham: Inside and Inside Outtakes - couldn't get past 10 mins when it first came out, perhaps because it was "too soon", but genuinely very good. 

Succession - Season 4

Avatar - rewatched, this time with kids. Best parts: all the things that made sense on big screen 3D but not so much streaming on Disney+

I think you should leave - Season 3 - I gobble up each new season in 90 mins then wait 18 months of more, tided over only by the NBA x ITYSL memes on Twitter

The Pez Outlaw

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Ugly Delicious - Season 1

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker

White Men Can't Jump (2022) - turrrible. 

The Gone - Season 1 - turrrible title, decent Kiwi-Irish crime noir