Asparagus season
23 May 2024 | 4:45 pm

There is an asparagus farm a stone’s throw away from our house, and every spring, I’m so thankful that it’s there.

I didn’t grow up eating asparagus; it wasn’t something that was easily put in a curry—at least, not in my grandmother’s recipes—so I came to the vegetable later in my young adulthood. I can’t say I was immediately smitten with it; it was only after trying fresh, local, in-season asparagus, lightly roasted, that I truly began to appreciate its virtues.

Asparagus season in Ontario is short, and while we sometimes seek it out at other times of the year at the grocery store (usually imported from elsewhere), the majority of our asparagus consumption happens in May and June when we can take the short walk to the farm down the street. The woman who runs the farm stand starts recognizing me after my first few visits of the season, and is enthusiastic about their crop every year.

Mostly, we just prepare the asparagus by roasting it—with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper—or by grilling it on the barbecue. Occasionally, we add some grated Parmesan when we are roasting to add a little bit of umami to the side dish.

We’ve also discovered a few recipes that we like that feature asparagus—mostly in stir fries and dishes of that sort. Yesterday, we had an asparagus pasta dish with lemon cream sauce. And after asking on Threads and Mastodon, I’ve been sent a few recipes for asparagus soup, asparagus tahini pasta, and asparagus-egg salad, too.

I didn’t mean to write a vegetable appreciation post, but let’s just say that I’ve been inspired by this bunch of asparagus on my kitchen counter. If you’re anywhere that it’s in season, go seek some out. And if you find any good recipes, please do share! We’ve still got a couple more weeks of asparagus season left, leaving time for a few more visits to the farm.

A poem

For My Wife, Reading in Bed
John Glenday

I know we’re living through all the dark we can afford.
I’ll match your inward quiet, breath for breath.
Thank goodness, then, for this moment’s light
What else do we have but words and their absences
and you, holding the night at bay
— a hint of frown,
those focussed hands, that open book.
to bind and unfasten the knotwork of the heart;
to remind us how mutual and alone we are, how tiny
and significant? Whatever it is you are reading now
my love, read on. Our lives depend on it.

It’s possible to have strong, lasting regrets about a life choice while ferociously loving—and caring for—the fruit of that decision.”R.O. Kwon on the parents who regret having children. A powerful, sobering essay with some deep personal stories. Worth a read whether you have kids or don’t.

A beautiful rumination on walking: The Ambling Mind:

To walk, then, is to inhabit a fitting scale and speed. It is the scale and speed at which our bodies are able to find their fit in the world, and the world rewards us by spurring our thinking and disclosing itself to us. Perhaps this is the deeper fitness we should actually be after.

I dream of one day writing one sentence as masterfully and evocatively as any sentence Wesley Morris has ever put to print. This passage, from a conversation about Challengers, is a perfect example of his virtuosity:

If sports are vital to our cultural health, it could be because, as you surmise, they’re philosophy-proof. But also perhaps because they’re philosophy-ridden: a proving ground and microcosm of so much that defines us as a species — how do we collaborate, strategize, obey, perceive, communicate, conform, transcend, sacrifice, strive, pay attention (but not too much attention), fail, recover, lose again, compete; how do we believe in each other and in ourselves. And sometimes — usually, in a few sports — the avatars within that microcosm are gorgeous and weird.

Zadie Smith muses on ethics and morality and voice:

To send the police in to arrest young people peacefully insisting upon a ceasefire represents a moral injury to us all. To do it with violence is a scandal.

I’ve always had an issue with the do what you love” rhetoric. Joan Westenberg sums it up succinctly:

The passion economy is a scam. It shifts the burden of financial stability onto the individual, letting corporations off the hook. It romanticizes the idea of turning hobbies into income streams, glossing over the realities of burnout and exploitation.

Paul Ford writing about anything is a delight. This piece on generative AI is worth a read:

What I love, more than anything, is the quality that makes AI such a disaster: If it sees a space, it will fill it–with nonsense, with imagined fact, with links to fake websites. It possesses an absolute willingness to spout foolishness, balanced only by its carefree attitude toward plagiarism. AI is, very simply, a totally shameless technology.

Two excellent celebrity profiles that I’ve recently enjoyed: Albert Brooks (didn’t know much about his career before reading this), and Daniel Radcliffe (been a fan of his since Swiss Army Man).

I didn’t eat an avocado until I was an adult, but the humble fruit has now taken over all our diets, including that of infants learning to take their first bites.

I haven’t been following the Kendrick-Drake beef, but I really enjoyed this ranking of great diss tracks through hip hop history.

Tim Hortons is brewing an idea of Canada that no longer exists.

Straight men still find it strange to say I love you” to their friends—even though it’s so important to let those we love know that we do.

Anyone in France want to get a hold of a sheet of these scratch-and-sniff baguette stamps and send them to me? I’m happy to pay for the stamps and postage for sending them my way.

Set of four stamps from France featuring an illustration of a baguette wrapped in a bow

I just miss humans driving what I see, no matter how quirky the content ends up being.” Like Cassidy, I miss the days of human curation, when people I know and admire would share things that piqued their interest. It’s what I try to do here; please share with me if you’re doing the same!

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On poetry
8 May 2024 | 6:53 pm

In middle school and high school, I fancied myself a poet.

I would carry a notebook around with me and scribble down thoughts and verses and turns of phrase that would delight me. In the evenings, after I had done my homework and had dinner and come home from the jamatkhana, I would take those scribbles and turn them into stanzas that I thought meant something, that made my heart sing.

I would read poetry collections whenever I could. For the most part, the nuance and symbolism would escape me—I read some of these when I was a pre-teen with very little life experience—but I would be enthralled by the way the lines danced on the page and the lyricism of the words. My school librarians knew of my interest, and did their best to recommend things that I would enjoy; I devoured their recommendations and kept coming back for more.

Occasionally, I would share what I wrote: in class during poetry modules, or at open mic afternoons, or even in the school newspaper. In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t very talented, but I received praise and commendation, so I kept writing. I am so grateful for the teachers and other adults in my life that encouraged me to keep going.

Looking back at those days—and on the days when I performed spoken word poetry, much after high school—I realize now that my writing wasn’t very good. I was a good mimic, and could replicate the styles and themes of the poetry in the books that I read, but I lacked the virtuosity to have a voice of my own, to really tell a story through poetry.

I don’t write anymore, but still keep a digital journal of the verses and turns of phrase that excite me. I don’t craft my own poems, but still devour poetry collections whenever I can get my hands on them. (Our local library system isn’t the best at acquiring newer ones.) I don’t fancy myself a poet anymore, but instead a lover of the form.

Some time ago, someone asked me why I share poems on my website and newsletter when poetry is so easily accessible everywhere else. One reason is because of the deep love I have for poetry, and a desire to share that love with others. Another is because certain poems give voice to things I am thinking or feeling and need to be shared. Yet another is because I think there is an urgency to poetry as a way of telling the story of our time, and that poets are the record-keepers of our era that need to be heard.

And one other reason is because I once fancied myself a poet, and this is my small way of feeling like that—through the words of others—once again.

A poem

Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America
Matthew Olzmann

_ –Southern Pines, NC_

Tell me what it’s like to live without
curiosity, without awe. To sail
on clear water, rolling your eyes
at the kelp reefs swaying
beneath you, ignoring the flicker
of mermaid scales in the mist,
looking at the world and feeling
only boredom. To stand
on the precipice of some wild valley,
the eagles circling, a herd of caribou
booming below, and to yawn
with indifference. To discover
something primordial and holy.
To have the smell of the earth
welcome you to everywhere.
To take it all in, and then,
to reach for your knife.

Mandy Brown knocks it out of the park, again:

Capitalism needed to disparage women’s talk in order to bring itself about because women’s talk–that is, talk that is liberatory, reciprocal, and mutual–is a powerful antidote to the violence, oppression, and theft that capitalism ushered in. That same disparaging force is at work today, in the forces toiling feverishly to restrict reproductive rights and to reinforce the gender binary–because the gender binary is a load-bearing pillar of capitalism. But as the edict to prohibit babble” attests, only by isolating women, by preventing them from talking, from sharing their experiences with one another, from acting in concert, can that pillar be defended.

Heat Death of the Internet: exactly what using the internet these days feels like.

What if the tools we use are actually shaping our culture, or at least influencing it? What if the structure and organization and permissions of Teams is actually reducing our willingness to communicate, rather than making it easier?” We use MS Teams in the Ontario Public Service (though my department still uses Slack, for now) and I’ve always found it alienating. Martha Edwards ruminates on why that may be.

The sur­prise of middle age, and the ter­ror of it, is how much of a per­son’s fate can boil down to one mis­judge­ment.”

I do a ton of cooking for the family these days, and on the hardest, longest days, it takes a lot to step into the kitchen:

Many people talk about the joys of cooking on the good days. It’s an idea that’s easy to love: We celebrate a birthday by baking a cake; we gather with friends and family around a holiday roast. We toast a friend’s promotion with a fancy charcuterie board. But fewer people talk about cooking on the bad days—specifically why it’s worth cooking at all when you’re having trouble finding the will to get dressed in the morning. And this is the question I’ve been trying to answer for myself lately.

This is fascinating: an old chemotherapy drug, Cyclophosphamide, has now enabled more patients than ever to get bone-marrow transplants by reducing the number of markers that need to match between donors and patients.

The full two seasons of Freakazoid! are now available on the Internet Archive. I remember loving this show when I was younger; I wonder how it holds up now.

Motown Junkies is a blog where Steve Devereux is reviewing the entire Motown singles discography in sequential order from the beginning. This is phenomenal stuff.

My media diet for the past two months.

I grew up loving Johan Cruyff (probably because my dad was such a fan) so this sticker art tribute to him made me smile.

I’ve spent a lot of times on trains in the past decade, but since I’ve only been getting electronic tickets since then, I’m jealous of these gorgeously-designed vintage Japanese train tickets:

Well designed train ticket from Japan

Famous paintings recreated using only emojis.

A deep dive into one of the few cakes I don’t actually like: How Black Forest Cake Conquered the World.

This is exactly how our cat would answer this question:

Comic strip asking a cat for its simple pleasures and the cat responding chaos and destruction and naps

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Media Diet: March and April
29 April 2024 | 10:38 pm

A quick look at the movies, television shows, and books that have captured my attention over the past two months.

The Holdovers
Let it be said: Paul Giamatti is a master of his craft. Even when he plays an inherently unlikeable character (which he often does), he’s able to infuse the character with enough grace and warmth that you can’t help but root for him. This is, in fact, what The Holdovers does best: show a world that is unlikeable but embed in it a sense of grace and warmth that makes you hope that everything is going to be okay. It’s a curmudgeonly-heartwarming film, and we don’t always get too many of those these days, so I cherish this one.

Harry Sylvester Bird
I understand the importance of satire, and for the most part, I enjoy it as a method of elucidating things that need skewering in culture. But this novel—where a young white man is convinced he’s a Black man in the wrong body—didn’t quite hit the mark. The book doesn’t quite make the satire biting enough, and there are long passages where the plot feels almost too earnest rather than satirical. It is gorgeously well-written, but by the end, I didn’t feel like the absurdity of the premise had paid off.

Anatomy of a Fall
The truth is that I’m a sucker for a movie about storytelling, and Anatomy of a Fall is exactly that: an exploration of the stories we tell to make ourselves palatable—to define us as guilty or innocent, depressed or elated, loving or enraged—to others and to ourselves. I’m also a sucker for a courtroom drama—even though the French justice system seems very strange and foreign in this film—so I was thrilled that this movie spent half its time in the machinations of the trial. And that fight scene. Every movie argument (or even argument in real life) should be this well written. The violence of those words shook me; I’ll be thinking about this whole film for a long time.

American Fiction
This is not, as the trailer would have you believe, a satire about the publishing industry. It is instead a warm and vivid family drama disguised as a social commentary. It is in those delicate family drama moments that American Fiction shines, and Jeffrey Wright deftly exudes tenderness from beyond his gruff exterior. Cord Jefferson’s script adeptly infuses humor within the drama, and the movie moves quickly, lingering only on what is necessary. I’ll be returning to this one again.

All Joy and No Fun
Having a child is exhausting, and to be honest, not always the most fun. Jennifer Senior captures that sense of no fun” perfectly by breaking down just what makes parenting so grueling, while also acknowledging the rewarding aspects of the journey as well. One of the rare parenting books that focuses on how the parent feels, All Joy and No Fun reminds that it doesn’t have to be this hard, and that we can bring back some fun to the process. Not all of the book is revelatory, but it was definitely validating for someone like me who struggles every day with the more challenging parts of parenting a toddler.

60 Songs That Explain the 90s
I’ve been listening to this show for years and it released its final episode in March and all I can say is that this is one of my favorite podcasts. Come for the reminiscence of songs that shaped your youth, stay for the amazing audio essays Rob HarviIla weaves into every episode. I only dream of being able to write like Rob; that he can tell such vivid stories while tying in important historical pop culture is a sign of genius.

We document our family vacations extensively, with photos and videos capturing the awesome and the mundane. Looking back at this documentation, what stories will my daughter have to tell about the places we’ve been and the things we’ve done? How will she fill in the gaps and remember or imagine what wasn’t captured in a photo or video? Aftersun gutted me, not just because it was a heart wrenching film about a father and his daughter and the beauty of their intimacy, but because it reminded me that no matter how much we document, our memories will be built on the moments we didn’t capture, on the way we felt then and feel now that we can look back on what was. This goes on my list of all-time favorite films, easily.

RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 16
Whomever picked the queens for this season should be applauded: this was a dynamic group of contestants who each had something special to bring to the cast. The changes to things like the lip sync tournament for eliminated queens, and only bringing back a final three for the finale, kept the series feeling fresh. And the final three felt correct. Sure, I was hoping for a Sapphira win, but Nymphia is a worthy winner. One of the better seasons we’ve had in a while.

Holding Pattern
Jenny Xie’s debut is impressive, though ultimately not what I had hoped it would be. Exploring ideas of family, intimacy, and feeling stuck” in life, there’s a lot to like here. The pervasive exploration of touch and shared experience is interesting; I only wish she had dived in deeper into some of those themes. The plot meanders a bit and many of the characters remain unexplored and unfulfilling, but the prose is evocative. An enjoyable read, but you can’t help but wish it was a little bit more than what it ended up being.

Smart Brevity
There are important nuggets of wisdom in here, but nothing that I didn’t already learn in my corporate communications class in university: keep things simple, clear, concise, and write from an audience-first” perspective. The examples in here are helpful, but this book mostly reads as an ad for Axios and AxiosHQ more than anything else.

Drag Race UK vs the World, Series 2
Like the rest of the world, I’m not pleased with the way this ended, even though I called it several episodes into the series. It’s clear that production had a heavy hand in determining some of the decisions made during the run of this show, but it remained entertaining nonetheless with a fantastic group of queens (La Grande Dame and Marina Summers being among my favorite queens to ever appear on a Drag Race franchise) and some good challenges and fantastic runways. I’m not sure how long the vs the World” format will continue with Global All-Stars on the way, but this was a great addition to the franchise.

Surprised it took me this long to watch this movie: it seems like it would be right up my alley. And yes, much of it was catered to my tastes: gorgeous animation, a story centered on family, fun and quirky characters, etc. Sadly, the story lags a bit at times and doesn’t resolve that effectively, and other than a few notable exceptions, the music didn’t resonate as much as I thought it would. A pretty solid Pixar movie, but not among the greats.

Poor Things
I can understand the accolades for this movie. It is impeccably shot, delightfully whimsical, and meticulously crafted. Emma Stone is incredible; this might be her best performance of her career. I should have loved this movie a lot more than I did; I didn’t because I couldn’t get past the idea that, at least for the first part of the film, the male characters were infatuated by, in love with, and having sexual relations with a character who was essentially a child. Everything else the movie did was clouded by the distaste that left in me.

The Great British Bake Off, Season 14
After more than a dozen seasons and several spin-offs, this show risks being repetitive; there’s only so many times you can watch someone make a genoise sponge. It doesn’t get repetitive, however, because the contestants are always so lovely and vibrant—and ever so nice to each other. No cattiness like other competition shows, but instead a niceness that exudes from every character; it’s easy to be engrossed and root for them all.

A few albums I’ve really been enjoying recently:

  • Kacey Musgraves, Deeper Well: Not as strong as some of her earlier albums, but still hauntingly beautiful.
  • Ariana Grande, eternal sunshine: Best album since sweetener? Actually, probably even better. Been playing this on repeat; meshes perfectly with my vibe these days.

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