Note 21: Like waking up from a particularly weird nap...
Getting back to Living in the Future.
I had a whole Note three-quarters of the way finished this morning about how we’re in a new era, all the Trumpy stuff that I wouldn’t have to think about moving forward, and a handful of items that we can get back to work on (responsible energy/climate change, scientifically-informed policy-making, etc.). I junked it, given that’s not where my head and heart is currently at.
I spent most of this morning with the transition on the television in the background. I watched Trump depart the White House and give his farewell speech before boarding Air Force One to Florida. I saw folks file in for the Inauguration on Capitol Hill. I was surprised to see that nice lady from the remake of that Streisand/Kristofferson movie sing the National Anthem (though she left out the two most important words at the end - “Play Ball!”), as well as Jenny from the Block belt out “America the Beautiful”. When Garth Brooks showed up for “Amazing Grace”, I wondered if the Chris Gaines version might have been more to my liking (as well as wondering how many Snowflakes were triggered by his mere presence on that stage).
Interspersed between conference calls, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a morning. I don’t have too much to say that other folks aren’t saying better (or louder) other than to remark that the transition from 45 to 46 felt a lot like waking up from one of those naps on a weekend, where you fall asleep to whatever Afternoon Movie that the local broadcaster is airing, and you wake up after it’s dark outside after having experienced an entirely different genre of strange dreams than you get when you go to bed for the night.
After some early thrashing, 2021 will end up a drastically different year than any since 2001. It’ll be nice to be able to take some things for granted again - such as the federal scientific establishment being back in good hands - but I’ll have to recalibrate a few things, such as my stance toward those in power. I spent the past five years being staunchly opposed to the general Trump program, but also I’ve vowed to not surrender my raised eyebrows and side-eyes to the Biden administration. That said, I’m looking forward to arguing about useful stuff like policy again, and not whether a President can self-pardon. (I’m honestly surprised Trump didn’t pull that trigger just to see if he could get away with it - what did he have to lose?)
And on Chicago’s North Side, the Age of the 2016 World Champion Cubs is ending rather abruptly. Bamm-Bamm (Kyle Schwarber) is off to play for the Nationals, alongside gunslinger Jon Lester. Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini are off to San Diego. (I hope they visit the USS Midway.) While some elements of the World Series core team are sticking around for another year (Bryant, Rizzo, Baez), it’s clear that one era of Cubs baseball is ramping down as another era is ramping up. I don’t know what that means for the next few seasons, but I’ll be around to root for the old guard and new fellows who don the Cubbie Blue.
When I see something odd and novel, I like to joke that this is an example of Living in the Future (or its cousin, “This is the future that liberals want”). There are lots of things to commend about Living in the Future, but it comes with the obligation that for Better or for Worse, you must bury the Past - whether you want to or not - to make room for what’s to come.
There’s been a lot of excavation these past few weeks. I don’t entirely know what to make of what’s to come, but I’ll be as powerless to avoid experiencing the next era as I did living through the last one. It’s an interesting melancholy to be feeling, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to this song this week:
It really captures the qualia of the moment.
After a couple of weeks working through my comic book backlog, I’ve finally finished my first novel of the year. It’s a book that I started last year, but failed to hook me, and this week, I finally put it to bed. Before I get into my review, I’ve noticed that the biggest impediment to reading long-form text again isn’t desire or time - it’s damn podcasts.
I’ve mentioned before that I have fifteen podcasts that I follow. Some publish once a week, others daily. Regardless, there’s always something new to listen to and I usually have an episode piped into my ear canals when I’m walking, doing chores, or working. The new skill that I’m having to learn in 2021 is knowing when to hit pause on the audio and start reading the written word. It’ll be interesting to see of the four political shows I listen to now, how many will make it to the end of the year. Andrew Sullivan’s Dishcast and French & Isgur’s Advisory Opinions might be the first victims on the chopping block.
Without further ado…
Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross: I’ve been a fan of Charlie Stross and his “Laundryverse” for the better part of two decades and I’m always happy when he releases new entries into his saga of the descent of Britain (and the rest of the world) into CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. This latest novel departs from the main storytelling trunk to tell a standalone heist story in a UK where the Black Pharaoh serves as the country’s Prime Minister, and all that entails (as well as lots of entrails).
Given its reliance on new characters, this story didn’t “hook” me as quickly as past entries, so I had to power through the first fifth or so until the object of the heist became clear: a cleverly-constructed concordance to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Once we got to that point, I had my bearings as a reader and we were off to the races.
Overall, I enjoyed the book (4/5 stars) and I appreciated that Stross was also able to inject some of the lessons he learned from his time with the Merchant Princes into this story to weave an interesting tale. It wouldn’t be the book that I recommend to introduce new readers to the Laundry, but it’s a lot of fun for folks who have been hanging out there for some time.
(For new readers interested in the Laundryverse, you can read “Overtime” online. It’s a fun story of an office Christmas party gone very wrong. If you’re feeling especially feisty, check out “Equoid” - also online. I guarantee that you’ll never look at unicorns the same way again.)
At this point, I’m 1 book ahead of schedule (6 of 100), so I’ll need to step it up in the next week to stay on track!
Apologies to all of you CMDRs who were looking for something more this week than a fellow just marking time. There’s lots going on around here that is in a pre-commentary phase at the moment, but I’ll see what I can surface next week - after I take another nap (and hopefully don’t accidentally wake up in the alternate universe where the second Trump term is just getting started).