I occasionally make a more serious attempt to put a halt to my daily beer habit. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I’m not. A few years ago, I stopped for a few months. Occasionally, I stop for a few days or a week or two. Last summer, I didn’t drink any beer for the month of July. At one point, I decided to try a non-alcoholic beer for the first time. It was an IPA from Surreal Brewing Company, and it was the worst thing I’d ever put into my mouth. Worse even than the Greek lasagna my mom made when I was a kid and we ended up all having McDonald’s for dinner.
After that NA IPA experience, I swore off all NA beers. And after July came and went, I resumed my nightly beer habit. Until this month. At the beginning of the year, I developed my 21 for 21 list. At #11 on the list is a commitment to go beer-free for three months. I started January 1. Today is the end of my first month. Except for one beer I had the first week of January while waiting for some pizza, I’ve had no alcohol this month. But I did return to exploring NA beers and here’s what I’ve discovered. The hoppier the beer, the worse it is. Some pilsners and lagers are remarkably close to the “real thing.” But those IPAs and similarly hopped beers are just ghastly. Horrible. There are no words that really describe just how bad they are. I also found a stout that was a reasonable facsimile of the real thing. My favorite so far — Bitburger’s NA Pilsner. I really can’t tell the difference.
But next up … no NA beer in February and March. And then we’ll see where I want to go with this.
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GameStop and the hullabaloo of the last week. I find this whole thing fascinating. The “masters of the universe” have engaged in legalized gambling on the stock market for decades. They have strategies and tactics that guarantee that they will make money no matter what direction the market goes in. Hedge funds are some of the most vile of these people. They are opaque, control billions and billions of dollars, and manipulate the market however they can to ensure their profit.
Investing is a zero sum game. So, if those guys win, the rest of us lose. And that’s basically what happens over and over and over again.
That some nobodies, guys in their basements, ladies on their phones, and all sorts of common folk found a hole and leapt into it to knock the “masters” down a peg is a thing of beauty. I do have a small worry that this is kind of like Pandora’s Box, and the people behind this may have opened up something that will spread and create much larger problems for all investeors. But I’m still thrilled, at this moment, with what they did. Here’s my prediction. The regulators will figure out a way to outlaw what they did, while continuing to allow the legalized gambling and manipulation the big guys engage in every single day.
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I had a bit of an epiphany a couple of days ago. Why do I write stories? Why do I keep plugging away at novels, novellas, and short stories? Well, I can’t really say that I’m plugging away a lot as I still struggle with it, but I do keep trying. The question is … why? Because I want to make people feel.
There are a couple of recent situations that have reinforced this. First, Trent Lewin read The Irrepairable Past and wrote a wonderful review about how it made him feel. Whenever I read that review, I am reminded of what it is I’m trying to do when I write. Which ties into the second thing…
A friend asked me for some book recommendations. He is a relentless reader, easily reading more books in a year than I probably read in three. He is a history teacher so a lot of what he reads is non-fiction to fuel his interest in that topic. He also reads a lot of Eastern European and Russian novelists. Because of his typical reading, I was reluctant to go where I wanted to with my recommendations, but I did anyway.
I offered to him my holy trinity of books: Everything Matters, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and The Book Thief. I also offered him a few books about the Iraq War, and also The Final Salute, an absolute gut punch of a book that tells the story of a couple of officers who are responsible for notifying the next of kin about a combat death. And finally, I recalled another book I wanted to recommend to him. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.
He recently finished Everything Matters and The Art of Racing in the Rain, and is now on to The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. While he has read these books, he has texted me his thoughts and feelings, and it’s clear that these books have moved him just as they moved me. These are the books that have left me in tears, the books that have left me spoiled when it comes to reading fiction. I want that feeling every time I read a book now and, unfortunately, that kind of feeling doesn’t come often enough when I read.
But … this is why I write. I want to write something that helps or makes readers feel something. The thing is that even though the parts of those books that made me cry were the “sad” moments, the sadness was sweetened by something in the way the writer told the story. There was more there than just the sadness of a death or some other trauma. These stories go into things much deeper than just a death. They left me, amidst my tears, feeling such a sense of hope and renewed purpose in my life.
This is why I write these days. I want that feeling for my readers. I only hope that I achieve it every now and then. Trent’s review gives me hope that I might be able to.
Here is the quote from Everything Matters that I’ve shared on this blog before. It is my favorite from any book I’ve ever read. It says everything that needs to be said about life.
Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you’ve got — your wife’s lips, your daughter’s eyes, your brother’s heart, your father’s bones and your own grief — and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.