Holiday stew

Hey folks, Mike’s filling in for me today:

Happy New Year from The Row.

Happy New Year from The Row.

Well, the holidays. They’re just about over. And as much as I’ve enjoyed them this year (a whole lot), I’m ready to move on. We’re feeling a little splintered down here on the Row in Breezy (these are from Marcus, from Printers Row Wine Shop, his new nicknames for Printers Row and Chicago, respectively). So splintered, that a splintered blog post seemed in order. So I give you … bits and pieces:

  • We’ll inevitably see lots of health-oriented news items associated with New Year resolutions, replete with video footage of folks in gyms on treadmills. And you may be tempted to try to turn over a new leaf. By all means, go forth and exercise, and do bad things only in moderation, but before you go out and load up on vitamins and supplements, heed the advice in this article: The best way to live longest may be to do … nothing. I’m on board!
  • So about this social media stuff. Like just about everybody I know, I do it without knowing what I’m doing, or why, exactly. One thing I’ve finally sworn off: Attempting to make a political statement or have political discourse via Facebook or any other SM (or should that actually be S & M?) platform. I’ve found it impossible to do so constructively. Social media and other Internet technologies are termed “interactive,” but they are so in only the crudest of terms. They’re essentially I say what I want and I’m absolutely right and you’re absolutely wrong and then you say you’re absolutely right and I’m absolutely wrong.For the record, I’m not against the technology. It’s always easy to blame ills on technology –- been that way since the printing press was invented. The telephone, too, was thought a threat to family life when it came on the scene. It’s the bad behavior that’s the problem (although I grant, social media technology makes bad behavior easier and more tempting than ever. Don’t Ask Me How I Know). It has always been thus — it’s the behavior, stupid. Before there was social media there were listservs and flame wars. Before (and still now) listservs and flame wars there were bumper stickers.

    But there are some collective bad behaviors that are somewhat unique to social media. The instant righteousness and condemnation by what are essentially e-mobs is one of them. And I think this opinion piece at Big Think, about that PR executive’s very troublesome tweet that made the news, is worth reading.

  • In the “Hell Freezes over” department, George F. Will, conservative columnist (and Urbana, Ill., native and University of Illinois Laboratory High School graduate), took on the subject of mandatory sentencing and how it has damaged countless lives and our society. It’s really good, I hope you’ll read it, and Mr. Will, thank you.
  • In the shameless plug department, Beth has already written about our friend Audrey Petty’s High Rise Stories,  collection of residents’ accounts of life in Chicago’s bygone housing projects. Well, Audrey was one of the Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoans of the Year in 2013. And George Saunders (a great fiction writer), appearing on Meet the Press (see it here, at minute 2:24) last week, praised the book and urged President Obama to read it. (Thanks to Audrey’s loving husband Maurice Rabb — a computer scientist and no slouch in his own right — for that little clip).
  • Still in the plugging friends mode: Our friends from The Row — Seth and Bess — moved to New Orleans a few years back. They both worked up the courage to pursue their dreams. Bess has built a successful private practice in counseling. Seth opened a specialty butcher shop that’s a big hit. And you can read all about the shop — Cleaver & Co.  Oh, one other thing, Seth and Bess just had a their first child, Tally, a girl born with fullest head of hair I’ve ever seen on a newborn. Congrats kids.
  • And in the dreaming of sunshine, summer and the crack of the bat department, there is bad news and good news. The bad: Paul Blair, one of my favorite all-time players, who simply glided around center field for championship  Baltimore Orioles teams, died last week. I don’t recall ever seeing a better centerfielder.The good news: The White Sox are having a terrific off-season (and boy, did they need one).

Here’s to a new baseball season, a brand new year. Frankly, I won’t miss ’13 — this one has been tough for us and a lot of people, but hope springs eternal. And I’m reminded of the last paragraph from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” by Robert M. Pirsig:

Trials never end, of course. Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live, but there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through. We’ve won it. It’s going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things.

Happy New Year to you all.

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14 Responses to “Holiday stew”


  1. 1 susan nelson December 30, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Such a great entry, Beth!

    Happy New Year to you and Mike. Surely 2014 will be better. At least I hope so, too.

    I have a question: What is the topic for our first meeting in Memoir Writing II? I decided to ask you instead of calling around.

    Let’s hope we get through this cold snap soon.

    Thanks so much for your caring guidance of our class and for your thoughtful posts.

    Best, Susan

    • 2 bethfinke December 31, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Thank *you*, Susan, for leaving comments on the posts Mike and I (and other guest bloggers) write here – it always makes us happy to find comments on our blog posts. The next Monday memoir-writing class starts this coming Monday, January 6. There is no assignment for that first class, but if people have written something over the break they want to share, I ask them to bring that along to read aloud. Otherwise we just catch up with each other and, if there’s time, we can do an in-class assignment, too. Looking forward to being with you all again…

  2. 3 Janet December 31, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Thanks Mike and thanks Beth…I’m looking forward to a good new year in the Row…it’s windy but it’s home. Looking forward to 2014! XO

  3. 5 Rick December 31, 2013 at 5:18 am

    And happy New Year to both of you, your new neighbors (at times) from a bit north of the Row. R & D

  4. 7 Don Horvath December 31, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Happy New Year to you, Beth and Whitney. Let’s hope the Sox can catch lightning in a bottle again.

    Thanks for all the great blogs in 2013 and here’s to a happy and healthy New Year, whether or not any of 2014 is spent in the gym.

  5. 8 Judy December 31, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I enjoyed seeing you quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a favorite that I am reading again, thirty years later!

    • 9 Mike January 2, 2014 at 12:38 am

      I’m about to read it again. I loved it a couple times over long ago. That last paragraph has always stayed with me, as have many other passages.

  6. 10 Cara December 31, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Happy New Year Beth! It was great “meeting” you and I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I’m glad that the 2013 is going out quietly. Here’s to a better 2014 for all of us!!

  7. 13 Nancy B January 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Great topics, Mike. I loved the article from Avi Roy and the phrase “naive interventionism”. Makes me think of the supplement industry….people in the south pacific use kava kava and get relaxed, people think it is a great idea, concentrate it, put it in a pill and give people liver failure. Europeans use borage as a bitter green in food for nutritious benefits, it gets put in a pill and causes liver failure. Many examples of that in the supplement/drug world. People are taking supplements to get the good stuff that is in wine…..I’ll just drink the wine thanks!
    Happy new year and thanks for a great post, as usual.

    • 14 Mike January 2, 2014 at 12:40 am

      Nancy–thanks! Miss you guys. And you’re dead on about the supplements. It’s so seductive, though, to think that kind of thing would work. But yeah, best source of resveratrol is wine, by far:)))


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