The winter that won’t end

I know, I know, it’s Canada and it’s still March. I have no right to expect warm weather, or even decent weather. But usually by the time Spring has officially sprung things have started to turn to the brighter & warmer. This year, though — nyet. Rainy, grey, cold.

Back in February, when I was lamenting this particular winter, I detailed how I was pushing myself to get up and out of the house. “Lord knows, I can’t keep drowning myself in TV,” I said. But then I proceeded to drown myself in TV.

Luckily, there remain plenty of TV shows of superlative quality. I finished both seasons of Slow Horses, the first season of The Last Of Us, and the second season of Only Murders In The Building. I’m in the midst of watching the latest seasons of The Bad Batch, The Mandalorian, Yellowjackets, Party Down, and You. The final season of Succession starts tomorrow, and we haven’t even started the new season of Ted Lasso yet.

And in a purchase that combines two of my other favourite media (movies, books) I recently picked up Heat 2 (amazon) which apparently covers both the period immediately after the movie Heat concludes, and some origin story behind the movie’s characters. I’m pretty excited to read it.

Is there a second edition?

While going through my books to see which one I’d like to read next, I happened across something I bought years ago, but never cracked: The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. Here’s the blurb:

A cultural history of the last forty years, The Age of American Unreason focuses on the convergence of social forces—usually treated as separate entities—that has created a perfect storm of anti-rationalism. These include the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, with more political power today than ever before; the failure of public education to create an informed citizenry; and the triumph of video over print culture. Sparing neither the right nor the left, Jacoby asserts that Americans today have embraced a universe of “junk thought” that makes almost no effort to separate fact from opinion.

Sounds interesting, but here’s the problem: it came out in February 2009, when we were still naively optimistic about the internet and George W. Bush was the dumbest, worst president we could imagine. Reading it now, in a Trump/truther/QAnon-riddled world, I imagine it will seem more quaint than informative.


When I made my list of favourite movies of 2021, Dune (imdb | rotten tomatoes) made the cut. I mentioned that I’d never read any of the books, even though my dad loved them. I decided to change that, and bought — and read — a copy of Dune (goodreads) in February. It was pretty good too — a dense little sci-fi switch-em-up amidst nonfiction.

I also grabbed the second and third books in the series — Dune Messiah and Children Of Dune — for later. Maybe they’ll be a palate cleanser when I finish The Lynching (goodreads) in a week or so.

Wine Girl

Book #3 down, and I’m not even out of January. The latest was Victoria JamesWine Girl (goodreads) which was a very compelling but tough read. I thought it would be more about wine; it ended up being more about her very difficult childhood and experiences — both brutal and educational — in the restaurant industry.

As for what’s next, I’ve decided to switch it up a bit and finally read Dune, which my dad was a huge fan of. I watched the (new) movie with him while I was home at Christmas, and it made me want to delve into the real thing. Given the length and density I reckon this will slow my rate somewhat, but that’s okay.

The second symphony

Near the beginning of the pandemic I backed a new kickstarter project by someone I’ve followed on Twitter for quite a while named Matt Brown. I used to listen to mamo, a podcast he co-hosted. I know he lives in Toronto, maybe even roughly the same area as me. I know we’ve traded tweets a few times. I know he works for TIFF. He’s in that sphere of people I feel like I know, but we wouldn’t recognize each other on the street. Or he wouldn’t recognize me, certainly.

Anyway, he launched a kickstarter to self-publish a collection of essays about Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie I very very much liked. I backed it, and the book arrived in the fall of 2020. Because I’ve been sucking so hard at reading I left it in my living room, not in the study with the rest of the books, a victim of my best intentions to read it “next” despite my throughput being zero.

But this year, with my love of reading feeling renewed — I’ve now finished two books in three weeks, as many as I’ve read in the past two years combined — I’ve read Brown’s book The Cinema Of Survival this week and really liked it. You can read reviews and buy it here, or buy it non-Amazonly here.

[A side note: I’ve never really embraced Goodreads, but it made me think of an earlier book-sharing site which Amazon bought and folded into Goodreads called Shelfari. I don’t know why it popped back into my head, but it did.]


Cover photo from the kickstarter page

Cover photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash


After several years of reading few books, if any, I’m making an effort to get back to it instead of spending endless hours reading only feeds & tweets.

Since wine seems to be my current obsession, I’m leveraging that to keep up my momentum. I’m currently reading The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace (link), and have a few more — Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson (link), Wine Girl by Victoria James (link), and Wine & War by Don Kladstrup (link) — lined up. I might even break open Wine Folly (link) for reference a few times, as I’ve also signed up for WSET level 2 and plan to go for level 3 after that.

Or maybe I’ll alternate wine books with others…I have plenty of non-fiction, and a few fiction, in the backlog of books sitting patiently in boxes in the study while we think about how we want to redesign it.

This isn’t some I-must-improve-during-COVID thing, mind you. I don’t buy into that. I just forgot how much I miss reading books, and am figuring out that the perpetual social scroll isn’t always the most helpful activity. Plus, Lindsay’s voracious appetite for books lately has inspired me (and, probably, shamed me just a bit) so I’m easing into it, tentatively aiming for a book a month this year. Wish me luck.


Cover photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

All shows must die

More than eight years ago, when brother #2 was visiting, he saw an ad for a new HBO show that got him really excited. It was a TV version of a book series he’d been reading for years, but I’d never heard of. The book series was called A Song Of Ice And Fire. The TV show would be called Game Of Thrones.

It quickly became my favourite show. Not the best, mind you — it was always only high-production-value fantasy escapism — but my favourite. I’d anxiously await new episodes, re-watch every new episode the next day, and consume reviews, critiques, and podcasts about it. I ended up reading the books, and — once the show caught up and passed the books, and diverged from them to a yet-unknown degree — felt the same mild thrill of discovery as everyone else watching.

It ended last night, obviously, with more of a whimper than a bang. The last two seasons, as have been well-documented, felt rushed and absurd, given neither the room to breathe nor the grounding in brute reality afforded the earlier seasons. I still felt compelled to watch, and was engrossed in every second, but it didn’t resonate with me, didn’t affect me the next day. No character was developed in these final two seasons, and ultimately the characters were what drew me in.

That said, if they decide to make a spin-off series about Robert’s Rebellion, I’m cancelling all of my Sunday night plans for three months.

Cover photo by David Stillman, used under Creative Commons license

The best of everything from 2018

As is my annual wont, I’ve collected and curated lists of my favourite consumed media from the year. All listed alphabetically, unless otherwise specified.


My favourite albums of 2018

Freedom by Amen Dunes

I guess I’ve been out of the loop by not listening to (or being aware of) Amen Dunes before, but this album grabbed me and kept twisting all year. Sounds desperate and struggle-y but joyful and determined at the same time.

7 by Beach House

Nothing new from Beach House here, but a standard-issue Beach House album is still miles better than almost everything else.

God’s Favorite Customer by Father John Misty

I’ve always been hit and miss(ty) with FJM, with the last album a few years ago only offering up a couple of songs I liked, but this one went a little beyond that and kept luring me back.

Nearer My God by Foxing

I went from feeling like I should like Foxing’s last album and not, to assuming I wouldn’t like this one but then totally getting into it.

With Animals by Duke Garwood & Mark Lanegan

I remain a sucker for Mark Lanegan’s voice no matter what he does (he also guested on Neko Case’s album below) but this dark, brooding, electronic-tinged collection des dirges became my go-to focus/chill music this year.

Pissing Stars by Efrim Manuel Menuck

Speaking of electronic-tinged, this dronier, lighter (in musician count, if not in subject matter) offering from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor member swings from soft to intense to nuts in the space of a song.

Kin by Mogwai

Because I’m Dan and this was Mogwai.

I’m Bad Now by Nap Eyes

Probably less catchy than their sophomore album, but also more mature. They continue to blend elements of bands I don’t really like into something I love.

Hell-On by Neko Case

Neko Case, goddamn hero. Putting out an album after all the personal trauma she went through is remarkable; that it’s this good is amazing. Or maybe that’s what made it possible? Either way, the chorus of “Winnie” might be the most thrilling few seconds of any album this year.

Messeducation by St. Vincent

When you’re an Annie Clark-level genius you can take one of the best rock albums of last year and turn it into an album of stripped-down piano renditions that often sound like they’re sung by an unstable cabaret singer, giving it this whole other layer of broken-down, surging fragility that maybe only her voice could manage.


My favourite songs of 2018

  1. Amen Dunes . “Miki Dora”
  2. Beach House . “Pay No Mind”
  3. Boy Genius . “Souvenir”
  4. Car Seat Headrest . “Famous Prophets (Stars)”
  5. Neko Case . “Winnie”
  6. Father John Misty . “Mr. Tillman”
  7. Foxing . “Lich Prince”
  8. Duke Garwood & Mark Lanegan . “L.A. Blue”
  9. Albert Hammond Jr . “Dvsl”
  10. Laura Jean . “Girls On The TV”
  11. Efrim Menuck . “A Lamb In The Land Of Payday Loans”
  12. Mitski . “Washing Machine Heart”
  13. Mogwai . “Donuts”
  14. Nap Eyes . “White Disciple”
  15. Parquet Courts . “Total Football”
  16. Pusha T . “If You Know You Know”
  17. Saba . “BUSY / SIRENS”
  18. St. Vincent . “Pills (Piano version)”
  19. US Girls . “Incidental Boogie”
  20. Young Fathers . “Turn”


My favourite movies of 2018

I have all but abandoned my film obsession of past years, and as such can only offer the following nine films (versus my usual ten) which I would even consider for barely scraped together a best-of list. Note that I haven’t yet seen The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, The Death of Stalin, A Fantastic Woman, Free Solo, The Hate U Give, Hereditary, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, A Quiet Place, Roma, Shirkers, Sorry to Bother You, A Star Is Born, Three Identical Strangers, or a host of others.

22 July

I’m a sucker for Paul Greengrass’ style and have always admired how he handles volatile topics, but I still wasn’t sure how this one — about the slaughter of dozens of kids in Norway by a right-wing nutter a few years ago — would come off. I needn’t have worried though.

Avengers: Infinity War

It’s difficult to thread together story lines and characters from a dozen different superhero movies into a coherent, entertaining flick, but the Russo Brothers did it again. Even if it did take 2.5 hours.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Almost as much gimmick as movie — choose-your-own-adventure is something Netflix can entertain where others can’t — but it works within the frame of Black Mirror’s underlying thread of technological dread. Great soundtrack too.

Black Panther

The hype was real. A vehicle for propelling ahead the MCU, but also a visually striking and clever extravaganza.

Call Me By Your Name

Such a lush, emotional, honest love story. It left Lindsay and I both very tingly afterward. It also made me want to move to Italy immediately.

First Man

A straight procedural with an ending we all know — Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon — that was somehow riveting, thrusting us right into these claustrophobic and disorienting compartments. Damien Chazelle is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors.


Our favourite film by far at this year’s TIFF, Girl was an intense examination of puberty, transition, and obsession. It was also a masterclass in performance by a first-time actor.

I, Tonya

Last year we watched an HBO miniseries that made us feel sorry for the Unabomber. This year we watched a movie that made us feel sad for Tonya Harding. Really good use of the present-day interview method, and some absolutely staggering performances from Margot Robbie and especially Allison Janney.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Still on the topic of obsession, Maggie Gyllenhaal nailed it in this small, quiet film about a teacher fascinated by the innate talent of a student, with threads of regret, maternalism, and ennui running throughout.

The Post

Again, no surprises with the story here, but gets bonus points for being extra-relevant in a time when the press is under direct attack by the sort of politicians who recognize it as a potent defense against totalitarianism.


My favourite TV shows of 2018

Granted, we haven’t watched The Deuce season 2, Handmaids Tale season 2, or Mr. Robot season 3, nor any of Atlanta, Sharp Objects, Better Call Saul, or The Americans, and we barely started Barry.

Big Mouth

Maybe the best analysis of puberty, combined with the most LOL-worthy moments of any show I watched this year. Very extreme at times, but always kind of sweet and silly in the end.


Pulpy and over the top, but the pivot into an attack on Trump-style capitalism and cronyism is an interesting one. And anything with that cast, pulpy or otherwise, is worth watching.

The Good Place

Cleverly hilarious, but also a thoughtful examination of philosophy, humanity, good vs. evil, merit, attraction, the idea of soulmates, Ted Danson dancing, and Janets.


We watched the first four episodes of this at TIFF and got hooked on the story and Sam Esmail’s style. (So many staircases!) We signed up for Amazon Prime largely so we could finish watching the season when it came out.

Killing Eve

We just started watching this while on Christmas vacation. The characters, the dialog, the fashion, the style, the locales…we were captivated right from the get-go. Sandra Oh’s a national treasure.

Last Week Tonight

Consistently the funniest and most insightful show on TV.

Making A Murderer

Somehow I was just as sucked into season two as season one, even though nothing really happened. I figure it was force-of-nature Kathleen Zellner.

Silicon Valley

Still and always, a bundle of huge, uncomfortable laughs mixed in with tech/business stuff that hits a little too close to home sometimes. Jared is straight-up one of my favourite characters on television.

Wild Wild Country

An absolutely bonkers tale of a cult taking over a mass of land in Oregon, the townspeople who fight back (but who don’t come off nearly as well as they think they do) and a power-hungry second-in-command who sends the whole thing spinning off the rails. High, weird drama.


An blend of documentary and recreation of events stemming from CIA experiments with LSD in the 1950s. I don’t usually love it when shows blend the two styles but it worked here. Technically this aired in December last year but I didn’t see it until 2018, so.


My favourite books of 2018

I definitely did better this year, reading seven books, vs. three last year (and none at all the year before). Listed in the order in which I read them.

Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded by Simon Winchester

I’ve had a lifelong curiosity about massive disasters, so I picked this up at a used bookstore in Halifax last Christmas and read it in January. Can’t say it was a masterpiece but I learned a lot.

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

An impulse buy from Book City, I read this on one trip to Ottawa and back and felt better-armed for having done. It’s helpful and instructive to recognize the warning signs of encroaching tyranny — it’s not some well-marked monolith that appears suddenly — in these times. I’ve read too much about the rise of fascism in the 1930s to feel at ease right now.

October by China Miéville

It took me over a year to read this — I kept pausing to read other books — as it’s so dense, despite Miéville’s narrative skill. I can say this: it’s as gripping as the tale of ten months of hundred-year-old Russian political intrigue can be made to be.

Disrupted by Dan Lyons

The story of a late-career writer who got wrapped up in the latest tech boom (and called bullshit on the whole thing) this book reminded me of my own experience — albeit as a much younger employee — in the dot-com boom 18 years ago.

Child Of God by Cormac McCarthy

God, Cormac MCarthy books are bleak. But God, do I ever love them.

Around The World In 80 Wines by Mike Veseth

This was a gift from Lindsay that made me want to quit my job and become a wine + travel writer. I learned a bunch too, like why a lot of famous Port producers have British names.

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

Any Americans who are actually concerned about the safety, soundness, and good functioning of their country and government shouldn’t read this book. Or, you know, maybe they should.


My favourite meals of 2018

Man, we ate well this year, but surprisingly more so abroad than in Toronto.

Toqué, Montreal

One of the best tasting menus I’ve ever experienced, and maybe the best wine pairings too — there’s a reason why Toqué is one of the best restaurants in Canada.

Taste at Rustic, Dublin

One of a pile of amazing meals we had in Dublin, this Japanese-influenced place followed a visit to a lovely wine bar, and came out of nowhere with sticky pork and chicken karage and Wagyu beef and the like. There was also a cocktail called the Three Sisters so good I ordered it twice.

Chapter One, Dublin

We ducked into this Michelin-starred restaurant for lunch, and had one of the meals of our lives. The food was stellar, the wine pairings immaculate, and the service impeccable to the point of being absurd.

Maison Publique, Montreal

In what was effectively our goodbye to Montreal and Lindsay’s old neighbourhood, we made our final trip to this favourite restaurant. They sent us off with a bang, top bottles of Canadian wine, and ice cream with sparklers.

Alexander, San Francisco

After a conference in San Francisco I had a solo meal at the chef’s bar at Alexander’s in San Francisco. The kitchen kept sending over fun little treats like Hamachi and scallop crudo, the steak was phenomenal, and the Sommelier led me down more than a few intriguing paths.

Treadwell, Niagara on the Lake

On a quick jaunt down to Niagara I introduced Lindsay to this place, my favourite in the town. It was a spectacular meal; we had such trouble deciding between dishes we ordered extras, and my pork dish was mind-blowing.

M’eat, Toronto

A new addition to our neighbourhood this year, this place uses an entire animal at a time. They also, we learned on our first visit, prepare it perfectly: our steak was outrageous. So were the duck tataki, beef carpaccio, venison tartare…and on it went.

Taiko, Amsterdam

We spent a good chunk of our brief time in Amsterdam this year at this long, luxurious, Asian-inspired meal. There was a dish called a cappuccino of cepes (aka porcini mushrooms) that was absolutely otherworldly.

Ekstedt, Stockholm

The first Michelin-starred stop on our Scandinavian trip started with diced reindeer heart boiled in just-melted butter and poured into a taco, and it only got better from there. The hay-flamed beef was one of the best bites of anything I’ve ever had. All the wines were impeccable. Astonishing.

SK Mat, Gothenburg

After traveling west to Gothenburg we had a full eight-course tasting menu for Lindsay’s birthday, along with her dear friend Tess, at another Michelin-starred joint. We had the premium wine pairings too, obviously, so by the end of the meal things were a bit hazy, but I remember a particularly good Grenache Blanc.

Honourable mentions: a visit to Jacobs & Co. where I tried a 1929 Don PX; 400 Coups in Montreal where our adventurous wine orders led to the sommelier pouring us several bizarre digestifs; our second-to-last visit to Maison Publique in Montreal with Sara & Mark; an unreal breakfast at Meet Me In The Morning in Dublin; and Lindsay’s first visit to Patria.


My favourite (new) beer of 2018

Listed in chronological order. To the great surprise of no one who knows me, my list was dominated by sours, porters, and stouts.

Le Trou du Diable Le Coq

Boxcar Social’s bottle list is always good for a few finds, and I’d somehow never tried this TDD sour before. Among all the other great beers we tried that night, this one stood out.

Burdock Auko

Lake Inez’s bottle list is similarly impressive, and this sour aged in cab franc barrels blew us away during an equally impressive LI meal, offsetting the spicy dishes perfectly.

Dieu du Ciel Péché Termopilas

As with last year, one of the best beers I drank all year came from a little grocery store in Montreal, in the annual Péché Mortel variety pack. This was like a lighter, more subtle version of the standard Péché, and almost as perfect.

Thornbridge Brewery Cocoa Wonderland

I tried this near-perfect porter whilst sitting in a little booth at Against The Grain in Dublin, noshing and playing board games with Lindsay after a museum adventure.

Oast House Toasted Walnut Bourbon Porter

I’ve always had a fondness for Oast House’s browns and porters, but this one was killer. The toastiness tamped down the bitterness of the walnuts which usually turns me off, and the bourbon barrels did the rest.

Blood Brothers Black Hand

I was kind of surprised I’d ever had this one before given how much I love Blood Brothers, but I guess maybe I’d tried all their other stouts while somehow missing this one? Regardless, this one’s an amazing example of a simple yet well-executed stout.

Rodenbach Caractère Rouge

Back on the topic of amazing bottle lists, we have The Wren and their deep, wide list. Lindsay and I often share bottles so we can sample more, and one of the best of the year was this special variant of her favourite, Rodenbach.

Gueuzerie Tilquin Stout Rullquin

And now, the ultimate beer list: at Akkurat in Stockholm they have a bottle list the size of a phone book. We delved deeply, and found an aged vintage of the original Gueuze Tilquin, but because it’s been one of my favourite beers for many years, I didn’t include it here. But almost as good was this sour stout collaboration between Tilquin and La Rulle.

AleSmith Hawaiian Speedway

Having travelled across Sweden to Gothenburg, we found ourselves at a cool little spot eating delicious doughy pizzas and picking beers off what might have been the best pound-for-pound draft list I’ve ever seen. This tropical stout was just the best of an amazing lineup I sampled over two days.

Four Winds Pomona

The list ends where the list began: the Boxcar Social Summerhill bottle list. Lindsay and I grabbed this big bottle of sour while we waited for some Yeah Yeahs pizza to come sliding through the wall. It was gorgeous.


My favourite moments of 2018

  1. Seeing Frightened Rabbit with Mike & Heather on their 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight. Just months, it turns out, before singer Scott Hutchinson took his own life.
  2. Yelling “Pa’lante!” along with Hurray For The Riff Raff at the Opera House.
  3. Short rib and well-aged Ontario reds at Brian & Mandy’s place in Niagara.
  4. Celebrating my brother’s upcoming career move with Dom Perignon.
  5. Watching a play written, directed, and performed by women in Dublin the night before Ireland voted yes.
  6. Lying in the grass in St. Stephen’s Green with Lindsay on a perfect day.
  7. Walking the beach in Pugwash after T&K’s wedding, not knowing how badly my face was getting sunburned.
  8. Dinner with my mom and a bunch of extended family during a quick visit to Toronto.
  9. Celebrating my mom & dad’s 50th wedding anniversary at the farm, surrounded by friends & family.
  10. The day my contractor told me he was done renovating the kitchen and bathroom.
  11. Tasting whisky and artisanal chocolate outside on a patio at SF MOMA.
  12. Having my ass kicked by St. Vincent at the Sony Centre.
  13. Seeing GY!BE play the “Sad Mafioso” portion of “East Hastings” live at The Phoenix.
  14. Meeting Nils Edenloff from the Rural Alberta Advantage at a cheese & beer tasting.
  15. Slipping into a Beach House trance at the Sony Centre.
  16. Lunch on the patio at Two Sisters in Niagara on the Lake, the perfect remedy after a stressful drive.
  17. The day Kramer first came up the stairs to hang out with us.
  18. Every moment we spent in our suite at the Conservatorium hotel in Amsterdam.
  19. Lindsay, Tess, and I devouring Bubbies (mochi ice cream treats) in a loft in Gothenburg.
  20. Meeting a Constantine at a friend’s poetry reading.


Cover photo by David Stillman, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo from the Loop Gallery site

I wanna be your

Thursday night we braved the mid-November snow and went west, arriving at the Loop Gallery on Dundas just in time for readings from the latest installation in Vallum’s Chapbook series. Lindsay’s friend and collaborator Zach was one of the readers, from his latest poetry collection Ladybird Bug Boy.

Also reading — sort of — that night was Steve Lambke, a local musician and member of The Constantines, one of my all-time favourite bands whose song “Hyacinth” is on my best-songs-of-all-time list. I introduced myself and told him I’d seen him open for …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead at The Horseshoe back in 2001. And then I think we both felt old. Anyway, Lambke was there to read, to his own music, from The Weave: A Work In Progress by Thurston Moore and John Kinsella. Yes, that Thurston Moore: guitarist for Sonic Youth, who also has an entry (“Theresa’s Sound World”) on my list of best songs of all time. Tenuous third link: Thurston Moore figures in the lyrics of one of my favourite Sleater-Kinney songs, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and S-K also have a song (albeit a different one, “Turn It On”) on my all-time-fav list.

Anyway, after the event four of us grabbed dinner across the street at Enoteca Sociale. We shared chicken liver mousse w/ apple preserve & grilled focaccia, some cheese, and some salumi. For mains I had the orecchietti w/ butternut squash, prosciutto & fried sage; Lindsay had the special, a hazelnut and ricotta pasta in mushroom broth. For dessert I had a chocolate terrine w/ salt and olive oil; Lindsay had cannoli.

It felt like a Honda tauntaun ride across town to get there, but what a fun evening.


Cover photo from the Loop Gallery site