The GOAT Farm Class of 2018

The GOAT Farm Class of 2018

The thing about inventing an imaginary honor society that doles out imaginary annual awards is that you can’t just in media res things and hope that the imaginary audience is following along. There’s got to be a preamble. A clarification of the rules. An explication of the acronyms. An attempt to impose some sense upon all of the nonsense.

So in case you haven’t read The GOAT Farm’s Inaugural Post/Ceremony— and also in case you did read it, two years ago, and somehow didn’t memorize its vagaries— The GOAT Farm is a pop culture hall of fame with a pastoral aesthetic. Inductees must patiently endure a five year waiting period between when they were first experienced and when they are GOAT-eligible, which is why all of today’s honorees are from 2018. The only judge is me.

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2022 Anticipation Index

2022 Anticipation Index

January is traditionally the time for high hopes and grand plans and lofty ambitions. The time to be briefly convinced that all of the empty days unfurled before you hold nothing but promise, to most fully perceive the potential in this latest quirk of the Earth’s axial tilt. But the concept of anticipation hovers a little awkwardly around the edges of this particular New Year. It is, after all, somewhat complicated to feel true excitement for things that are question marks.

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Books I Loved In 2021

Books I Loved In 2021

I am an enthusiastic practitioner of the art of looking backwards, of cataloguing all of the things I have experienced for an archive nobody ever asked me for and making conscientious notes for a test I’ll never actually have to take. These habits only really serve me well one time of year, and thankfully that time is now, because it is Best Of season. All across the internet, and probably also between the pages of plenty unseen diaries, lists assessing the sundry offerings of 2021 are being compiled: the best memes, and the best tweets, and the best of everything else.

I come to you, predictably, with my list of Best Books. Except I feel uncomfortable with the word “best”, for fear of offending all of the many other deserving books I read this year, so instead I am going with the more explicitly subjective qualifier of “Books I Loved.” Love, of course, is always complicated, and so it means different things for different titles. Some of these books made me laugh and some of them made me cry and one of them made me cry because of all the laughing. I was educated, entertained, and enraged at various points during my reading year, which is I think all I can really ask from a bunch of words on a page.

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March 2021 Review

March 2021 Review

If you are looking for a way to make time feel like it is passing exponentially faster, try committing to the idea that you will write recaps of what you did each month. Somehow all 28 days of February passed without me ever stopping to take stock of my consumption habits, and before I had reconciled myself to that, suddenly March was over as well. I’ll blame it on the homogeneity of pandemic life, where one day tends to blur into the next without the structure of our old way of life to differentiate between them.

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The GOAT Farm: 2021 Book & Music Inductees

The GOAT Farm: 2021 Book & Music Inductees

A few weeks ago, that most-cherished traitor, Tom Brady, won his seventh Super Bowl ring, and in the wake of all the nonsensical sports talk radio debates that have continued to rage since then (“okay, so he’s the Greatest Quarterback Of All Time, but does that make him the Greatest Athlete Of All Time? Where does he rank next to MJ, next to Serena, next to Michael Phelps?”) I have been thinking a lot about the general concept of “greatness”. What it means, and how we recognize it, and why, as a society, we can’t seem to stop having discussions about it.

Human beings have a natural inclination to commemorate greatness. We diligently keep track of historical records. We rank the accomplishments of one legend over another and engage in endless arguments over which one of them was the best. Entire award shows are predicated on this concept– the Grammy’s, the Tony’s, the Academy Awards. Buildings have been built, from Cooperstown to Canton to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for the sole purpose of enshrining the moments, careers, and people that we believe deserve to be remembered.

I don’t have a television special or a physical museum or anything half so grand, but I do share in that same compulsion to document whatever greatness I believe I’ve encountered. Enter: the GOAT Farm. A metaphorical grazing ground I’ve just established for all of the books, music, and assorted pop culture ephemera that have made my jaw drop and my eyes widen in wonder over the years; the art that I consider to be among the Greatest Of All Time. I think keeping a running record of all the things you’ve loved is just another way of being able to look back upon your life and understand yourself better, the ways you’ve been shaped and influenced and changed, maybe without even having realized it at the time.

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January 2021 Review

January 2021 Review

If you’ve ever read my newsletter the evening coat you’re already aware that I derive an inordinate amount of satisfaction from the act of distinguishing the months from each other as they pass, of celebrating their seasonal virtues and idiosyncrasies, and feeling grateful for how all of it put together gives life the kind of texture and meaning it might otherwise lack.

Maybe it’s the writer part of me, but I find it helpful to think of the year as a twelve chaptered book in which each one does its part to advance the plot. Obviously the author of this book tends to be wildly experimental in style, with a penchant for circuitous narratives and unresolved subplots, leaving plenty of room for digressions and asides, but David Foster Wallace did a lot of these same things and is heralded a genius for them, so it must still be a method of storytelling that is worthwhile. To try and make sense of my personal edition of 2021, I’ve decided to compile my own version of a Cole’s Notes for each chapter, which I will now present to you here.

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Books I Loved in 2020

Books I Loved in 2020

Have we ever needed a quote to be true more than this one? Housebound, locked down and ~isolating for much of the past year, books were in many ways our single means of escape, our one opportunity to have meaningful life experiences outside of our steadily narrowing worlds. But this is pretty grandiose talk from someone who wasn’t an especially prolific reader in 2020. Books remained a significant part of my life, but I fell short of a lot of my literary goals. Plenty of books were returned to the library unread, and the majority of the year’s most discussed titles never made it to my shelves. I truly had nothing but time, so that’s no excuse. Let’s blame tiktok and instagram.

But even if my final tally number was disappointing, a handful of books still managed to leave lasting impressions in my brain and on my soul. Some were novels I was able to devour in a matter of days, others required more time to understand and to savour. Some were memoirs, some were journalistic investigations and some were, at their core, just old fashioned love stories. One was a novel I know I’ll think about regularly for the rest of my life.

Right now I have no idea what 2021 will hold for us, if we’ll be able to have real adventures on our own or if it will still be safer to live them vicariously. Either way, I hope I remember that it’s books, and not the instagram search bar, that never fail to provide the most rewarding and immersive escape.

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Destination By Imagination: 7 Books That Take You Somewhere Else

Destination By Imagination: 7 Books That Take You Somewhere Else

“The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page.”

So says St. Augustine, prolific writer, philosopher and one time Bob Dylan muse, and so echo countless travel bloggers with aesthetically pleasing Instagram grids. Unfortunately, global circumstances being what they are– with borders closed, planes grounded, cruise ships stranded indefinitely– it is not exactly the most relevant attitude to take right now.

So, I propose an alternative thesis: “Books are the world, and those who don’t read stay only in one place.”    

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“Let’s Stay In”-gredients: Everything You Need For A Solid Night At Home

“Let’s Stay In”-gredients: Everything You Need For A Solid Night At Home

To put it mildly, 2020 has had some twists. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer have assumed places of reverence in our supply closets and in our hearts. Crossing the street to avoid your neighbors when out for a walk is now considered to be the height of politeness. When our friends and family go to the grocery store we wish them luck like we’re Colin Firth at the beginning of 1917, sending soldiers off on a perilous, uncertain mission. We take our yoga classes on Zoom.

Another strange thing, in an upended world order comprised entirely of strange things: the weekends now belong to introverts.

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The Art That Changed My Life: On The Goldfinch, grief & my grandfather

The Art That Changed My Life: On The Goldfinch, grief & my grandfather

Before and after. Everything is before and after. And the middle is The Goldfinch. 

I started reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch the night before my grandfather suffered a major fall that put him in the hospital. I finished it two and a half weeks later, on the morning of his funeral. 

Each of the days in between felt slow, suffocating in their sad sameness. I remember them now as a blur of anxious interactions with doctors and nurses, brief bursts of futile optimism and long hours of reading by his hospital bedside. I remember a numbness so deep I suspected it might be permanent. To feel anything at all during that time took intentional prodding. I listened to music too loud. I took showers too hot. And I read The Goldfinch

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