Let me be the last person to wish you a happy New Year! Not that I don’t like New Year’s (It’s my favorite holiday for many reasons), I just don’t know how late into January you’re allowed to wish someone a happy New Year, and since we’re already two weeks into our failed resolutions (don’t deny it), I figured I’m probably the last person to wish you one. 

Anyways, what were we talking about? Let’s get on with the newsletter…

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Fiction: Comic Books (Just, all of them)

Ok wait. Don’t hit the close button or swipe away from the screen just yet. Hear me out. I used to think comic books were silly and dumb. After all, I write stories, I don’t draw them. I do letters, not pictures. 

But, man, I was missing out. And you might be, too, if you don’t read a comic series every now and then.

It’s an entirely different form of storytelling and yet every bit as imaginative and engaging as a regular novel. It’s a complete story—character development, setting, plot, everything—just as deep and serious as the Lord of the Rings, but without any words. Ok, yes, there are a few words, but the impressive part is that you “read” the story more from the drawings than the written dialogue. 

It’s awe-inspiring how an artist can create an entire story through just a few lines and colors. Every ink blot in its perfect place, there for a reason, contributing to the tale’s development.

If you’ve never read a comic before, understand that it’s not all just superheroes, monsters, and women who I assume need a daily chiropractor treatment with all the back pain they must suffer (and maybe some pants, too). There’s a comic for every genre—in fact, there’s probably more comic book genres than fiction book genres as artists seem to toss out traditional structures and blend genres together.

I hadn’t started reading comics regularly until this year (wait, no, last year now…2019) and it’s been fun. Plus, the comic book community is amazingly friendly and fun. Seriously, give it a try. Here are a few to get you started:

Joyride:

Three teens on the verge of adulthood decide that earth sucks (don’t we all?). So, what do they do? Steal a spaceship to see the stars. There’s also an alien who looks like ET’s estranged uncle, a robot, and a lot of space dance parties. This short comic series (3 volumes) perfectly captures the restless rebellion of youth and combines it with space travel adventure, humor, and a good old fashioned sci-fi plot to tie it all together. While it isn’t one of the deepest storylines, it’s very lighthearted and enjoyable. Plus, the graphic novel versions come with music playlists that you can queue up while you read and they’re spot on. More on that in the café vibes section…

Descender:

If Joyride is all about the excitement and fun that space brings, then Descender is its galactic opposite. Dark, brooding, and heavy, Descender is a space opera about a young boy-robot fighting against (or bringing about?) the end of humanity. The story, character development, and universe building are gripping and immersive, but just wait until you see the artwork. Beautiful, messy watercolors and a style that you don’t see often in comics that are usually solid colors with thick clean lines. If you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica, Mass Effect, Star Wars, or any type of brilliant space opera, really, you’ll love this series.

Coda:

Alright, let’s get back down to earth for you fantasy types. My wife and I only recently started reading Coda, but we love it so far. It’s set in a medieval (with a drop of victorian era? The barest hint of steampunk?), semi-post-apocalypse world where magic is more or less a black market currency. The main character, whose name no one actually knows, is on a search across the land for his wife who’s been taken by orcs. It has lots of action, magic, moral dilemmas, just the right amount of wit and humor, and a five-horned unicorn with a pottymouth.

Headlopper:

I realize my hypocrisy when I say there’s countless comic book genres out there, and yet I only really talk about two—space sci-fi and medieval fantasy—but, just trust me. Go to a comic book store or browse around online and you’ll find a comic for every occasion. There’s even one about ramen recipes and a more serious one I read recently about living in Iraq during the multiple regime changes and wars.

That being said, here’s my last comic recommendation for today, and it’s another medieval fantasy. Headlopper is the funniest comic I’ve read—extremely witty, absurdist, and smart. This is a comic for when you’ve had a bad day and just want to sit on the couch and let your mind go with a feel good laugh along with some action and enough plot to keep things moving.

Norgal the Headlopper is a Nordic Viking whose only job is to…well…he’s a warrior whose trademark skill is lopping off heads. He travels the fictional land of Venora with Agatha the blue witch—or, at least, her magical talking severed head—and has all sorts of adventures.

That’s enough recommendations for now. There are plenty of others. Modern day, historical, action, drama, you name it. I could ramble on for days about different comics, and I’ve only just started my comic reading career a few months ago…  

Nonfiction: The Art of Stillness

Toning it down from comics, The Art of Stillness is a (really short) book from famous Times magazine and travel writer, Pico Iyer. It’s a very pleasant read that reminds you of the importance of stillness—just sitting and doing nothing in the quietness of the world. As someone who lived in a downtown apartment in New York City and travelled the world nonstop for a living, Iyer knows the importance of slowing down and appreciating the moment. The serene, empty, beautiful landscape photos that sit between each chapter alone invoke deep breaths every time I see them, and the chapters are short enough that you can read one in five minutes before starting your work day. Each one is just a few paragraphs that tell a story about stillness, from Japan to California, Tibetan monks to US Marines who do yoga to stay sharp. Great book to start the year off. 

Café Vibes: Colleen Green

Not to get back into comics, but that Joyride playlist I mentioned earlier is how I discovered Colleen Green, and I’ve been listening to her song “Whatever I want” nonstop. With head-bopping beat, fun electric guitar progressions, and heavy distortion paired with her smooth but energetic voice, she really reminds me of the late 90s to early 2000s west coast punk rock culture. Maybe if Lana Del Ray was a little less melancholy and became the lead singer for Weezer. 

When I’m in the mood for something lo-fi and a little punk-ish, I turn to her. I haven’t found a Colleen Green song I don’t like yet. 

January Drink Menu: Screwball Whiskey

I’m a big fan of sippin’ whiskeys and I’m an even bigger fan of peanut butter. However, when my local watering hole was doing free tastings of this thing that they called peanut butter whiskey, I was extremely skeptical. Those just aren’t things that you’re supposed to combine—like putting applesauce on a feral cat, or chili on a cinnamon roll (ok, that second one is actually pretty tasty, the first one, not so much).

But, let me tell you, this stuff was great. I don’t know what it is about the liquor market lately but more and more distilleries seem to be making high quality flavored liquors. Gone are the days of Malibu, 99 Bananas, and the crappy flavored vodkas of your college past. Today’s flavored liquors are actually fantastic both to sip on their own, or as a unique ingredient to your next cocktail.

I’ve been using Screwball to make peanut butter hot chocolate for the holidays, mixing it with different cremes like Baileys or Jackson Morgan’s Banana Creme, and even making some wacky whiskey cocktails…have you ever had a peanut butter flavored Manhattan? I didn’t think so…

So, it you want to add some fun and color to your happy hour, give Screwball a try (and drink responsibly).  

(The featured picture this month: I was in Lisbon recently, one of my favorite parts of Southern Europe when I’m feeling a little touristy. Their street art is a step above the rest. In fact, their value for any type of art is simply inspiring.)

Cheers,

-Liam Brodentel

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