Book Reviews: Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon


AuthorMichael Chabon
TitleManhood for amateurs : the pleasures and regrets of a husband, father, and son
Narrator: Michael Chabon
Publication Info: HarperCollins, 2009
Summary/Review:

This book collects together essays by author Michael Chabon about being a husband, father, and son.  Particularly his efforts to avoid the cliches of masculinity in these roles.  I can relate to his sensitive and introspective thoughts on fatherhood.  One particularly interesting essay discusses the loss of wildness in childhood (much like the concerns of Free Range Kids’ Lenore Skenazy).  This goes beyond children being able to wander around outside though as Chabon discusses how fart jokes in children’s books and movies have allowed adults to gentrify what once was a means for children to rebel against the grown-up world.  Other essays are less relatable such as the uncomfortable reminiscences of his early sexual encounters with much older women.  The essays are good and bad, but the good outnumber the bad and they all offer something worth reading.

Favorite Passages:

“A father is a man who fails every day.”

“Make all families are a kind of fandom, an endlessly elaborated, endlessly disputed, endlessly reconfigured set of commentaries, extrapolations, and variations generated by passionate amateurs on the primal text of the parents’ love for each other. Sometimes the original program is canceled by death or separation; sometimes, as with Doctor Who, it endures and flourishes for decades. And maybe love, mortality, and loss, and all the children and mythologies and sorrows they engender, make passionate amateurs–nerds, geeks, and fanboys–of us all.”

Recommended booksAmerican Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent, Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy and Lost In Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia by Mark Salzman
Rating: **1/2

Photopost: Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed


On Friday night, my son Peter & I (at his request) visited the Museum of Science to the see the special exhibit Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed.  The exhibit included a wide collection of Mayan artifacts, recreations of Mayan art and architecture, videos of archaeologists describing their discoveries, and some interactive activities.  For example one could create a name in May glyphs or a stele proclaiming the date of one’s birth.  I’ve always been fascinated by the Mayan ballgame and was intrigued by the section on the how the game was played, which included video of variations on the game still played in Mesoamerica today.

It was a fascinating exhibit, and even my 7-year-old thought it was really good.

Photopost: Samuel Adams Brewery Tour


I’ve lived in metro-Boston for close to 17 years, 8 of those in Jamaica Plain, and I’d never taken the Samuel Adams Brewery Tour. I decided to address this omission on a recent Friday when I’d taken a day off from work. I don’t know what the brewery is like in the high season, but on a random Friday afternoon in snow-encrusted Boston, there were still more than 30 people in my tour group.

Those in the know that while Samuel Adams is advertised as a Boston beer, the majority of the beer is brewed at contract breweries out-of-state. The Jamaica Plain facility is primarily a research and development facility with small batches brewed for local clients (such as Doyle’s Cafe). Thus the brewery is pretty small and the tour rather short in distance. Our guide offered a wealth of knowledge on the brewing process, passing around hops to rub into our hands and samples of malts to chew on. We also saw the big tanks that the beer goes through in the brewing process.

Not much happening there, so we went to a tasting room to sample some fresh Samuel Adams beers. The beers on tap included the flagship Boston Lager, Cold Snap white ale, and Chocolate Bock. After generous samples, we were invited to visit the gift shop where more beer was on sale, including unique brews not available elsewhere. I will have to not wait so long for my next visit, or at least swing by the gift shop when looking for a special beer.

Related Posts (Samuel Adams beer reviews over time):

Book Review: Night of the Humans by David Llewellyn


Author: David Llewellyn
TitleNight of the Humans
Narrator: Arthur Darvill
Publication Info:  Bath, [England] : AudioGo/BBC Audiobooks, p2010
Summary/Review:

This Doctor Who New Series Adventures joins Amy and the Eleventh Doctor early on their travels as they’re drawn to an enormous pile of space junk known as The Gyre where they encounter noseless humanoids with Arabic names known as the Sittuun, who’ve also been shipwrecked.  The villains of the piece turn out to be primitive humans who believe they’re on Earth and condemn those who say differently as blasphemers. There’s also a shady character named Dirk Slipstream who is very Douglass Adams.   The book takes advantage of its medium in creating settings and characters that would not likely translate well to a low-budget television show, but the story didn’t hold my interest too well.  The audiobook is narrated by Arthur Darvill even though his character Rory doesn’t appear in the story.  He does enjoyable impersonations of Karen Gillan and Matt Smith, though.

Rating: **

Book Review: Cheesemonger : a life on the wedge by Gordon Edgar


Author: Gordon Edgar
TitleCheesemonger : a life on the wedge
Publication Info: White River Junction, VT : Chelsea Green Pub., c2010
Summary/Review:

Edgar wanted so much to gain employment at a San Francisco worker’s cooperative that he applied for a job in the cheese department despite not knowing much about cheese.  This memoir/manifesto tells of his two decades learning about cheese, visiting farms, attending conferences, and dealing with customers.  Edgar draws on his past in punk rock to explore the community and ethics of the cheese world.  This may be the least pretentious book about cheese possible, and I enjoyed reading Edgar’s stories and opinions.  I’m also hungry for some cheese.

Recommended booksCoop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Rating: ****

Book Review: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin


AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
TitleA Feast for Crows
Narrator: John Lee
Publication Info: [Santa Ana, Calif.] : Books on Tape, 2006
Summary/Review: The fourth book in A Song of Ice and Fire is a departure from the style of the earlier books, as it focuses on stories of only some of the major characters, while characters like Daenerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Davos are not featured at all.  This leaves room to explore the Greyjoy/Iron Island and Martell/Dorne story lines in greater depth than ever before.  More familiar characters appearing in this book include:

  • Cersei, using the deaths of Joffrey and Tywin, and absence of Tyrion to consolidate power as Queen Regent.
  • Brienne and Podrick, continuing their search for Sansa and Arya in the lawless lands of Westeros.
  • Samwell, Gilly, Maester Aemon, and Dareon travel to Oldtown so that Samwell can train to be a maester.
  • Arya takes on a new identity in Braavos.
  • Jaime grows distant from his sister/lover and tries to reestablish himself as a military leader despite his missing hand.
  • Sansa adjusts to her new life in the Vale disguised as Littlefinger’s daughter.

In some ways, this book seems to restarting the story.  It also seems to be dragging its heels at points. But mostly it continues to tell a complex and epic tell in interesting ways.

Rating: ***

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Boston 375 Colonial Ale


Beer: Boston 375 Colonial Ale
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source: Growler
Rating: *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments: On my recent tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery, I picked up a growler of this beer not widely available elsewhere.  It is a cloudy, dark brown beer with a big, bubbly head.  It has a sweet yeasty aroma with maybe a hint of orange.  The flavor is of sweet cream and a nutty smoked taste with a medium mouthful.  The head dissipates quickly and leaves behind no lacing.  This is a tasty beer and one that does Boston proud.

 

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Rebel IPA


BeerSamuel Adams Rebel IPA 
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source: Draft
Rating: ** (6.6 of 10)
Comments: Rebel IPA is amber-colored with a good-looking head, but not much visible carbonation.  The aroma is piney, and the flavor offers spicy grapefruit with an apricot aftertaste and a medium mouthfeel.  The beer leaves lovely lacing on the glass.  I’m not a fan of overly hoppy beers, and there seems to be an arms race to make the most bitter beer these days, but Samuel Adams has done a great job of extracting the best from the hops in this nicely balanced beer.