June

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“Language Alters Our Experience of Time” by Panos Athanasopoulos (The Conversation) [contains Arrival spoilers]

This is a fascinating explanation of how language shapes our conception of time. Athanasopoulos categorizes languages into “future-in-front” or “future-is-behind” patterns. These patterns, which employ a vertical time axis, are further juxtaposed with languages like Mandarin Chinese, which employs a horizontal time axis (such that “last week” is expressed “up one week” and “next week” is expressed “down week”). Subtle differences in linguistic conventions can even influence the way we experience the passage of time (for instance, whether we judge time as a distance–a long or short period–or volume–a big or small period).

Athanasopoulos claims that our individual conceptualizations of time are flexible; hence, learning a new language with a different temporal construct enables an individual to perceive the passage of time in a novel manner. This, of course, has wider implications, suggesting that learning a new language may grant access to an entire new set of mental models.

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross

From The New Yorker’s music critic, this is an account of the composers and musicians who defined twentieth century music and an exploration of the cultural and historical contexts that inspired them. This is not a musicology of the bestsellers of the century per se, but of the mavericks who defied conventional composition. The Rest Is Noise is particularly compelling in how it juxtaposes these composers with major societal factors of their time (like totalitarianism in World War II or racial inequality in the United States at the turn of the century).

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Science Solved It (Motherboard)

Motherboard’s newest podcast explores mysterious and once-unsolved phenomena that have since been explained scientifically. The inaugural episode features “the bloop,” a mysterious and incomprehensibly loud sound captured by underwater microphones in the Pacific in 1997. I was fascinated by the bloop as a child.

My favorite episode of this season features the Marfa lights, a pattern of mysterious glowing lights visible (and frequently spectated) in the desert east of Marfa, Texas.

May

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Kids In The Street by Justin Townes Earle (Bandcamp)

Of Justin Townes Earle’s recent releases, I may prefer Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, but Kids In The Street remains my favorite album released this month. It strikes me as more sanguine and even more cheerful than the several albums that preceded it, which is presumably reflective of Earle’s maturity, sobriety, and marriage. My favorite track is “Maybe a Moment,” which he calls his “best Bruce Springsteen impersonation.”

 

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“Watch the Hands, Not the Cards–The Magic of Megabrew” by Chris Herron (Good Beer Hunting)

Chris Herron (of Creature Comforts in Athens, GA) explains why Wicked Weed was a smart and important acquisition for AB InBev, whose focus currently is to mitigate the threat of craft beer to its legacy brands (think Budweiser, Bud Light, and so on).

(Thanks, Will.)

Imbibe: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar by David Wondrich

This is a James Beard Award-winning exploration of 19th century American cocktails through the lens of Jerry Thomas, considered the father of the American bar. Wondrich establishes that cocktails are largely an American invention and consequently are among the first crafts in which Americans could claim international excellence. Imbibe includes a somewhat chronological reproduction of Thomas’s recipes which reflect the evolution of early American cocktails.

Proof: The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers

From Wired’s articles editor, this is an entertaining investigation into the basic science behind fermented and distilled drinks, explaining the roles of yeast and sugar, the processes of fermentation, distillation, and aging, and the physiological effects of alcohol. It’s particularly interesting that Rogers chose to emphasize the disparity between Eastern and Western fermentation strategies.

April

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“Chris Schooley of Troubadour Maltings” (Good Beer Hunting)

This Good Beer Hunting episode features Chris Schooley, a maltster and former coffee roaster attempting to establish a niche market for malts. Schooley’s hope is that brewers will approach malts with the same excitement and intrigue that are often reserved for hop varieties.

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Schooley at this year’s Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle (I’ve known of him from his Firestarters column in Roast, a favorite source of inspiration to me as a coffee professional). This interview is fantastic and I’d recommend it to anybody with more than a casual interest in beer or coffee.

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Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske and Georgette Moger-Petraske

This is a collection of cocktail recipes and wisdom from the late Sasha Petraske, the famed New York City bartender behind the legendary cocktail bar Milk & Honey. Each recipe follows a short anecdote from friends, bartenders, and business partners of Petraske’s plus stunning minimalist illustrations by Studio Lin.

I can’t publish the recipe here, but my favorite drink from this collection so far has been the Bicycle Thief, a slightly bitter and very refreshing fizz inspired by the film of the same name and containing gin, Campari, grapefruit, lemon, simple syrup, and club soda.

Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Questlove

I admire Questlove for reasons that have as much to do with his writing as his skill as a musician. (See his series in Vulture on the recent history of hip hop, beginning with “How Hip Hop Failed Black  America.”) This beautifully designed book is a compilation of interviews with world renowned chefs exploring creativity in cooking and culinary philosophy.

March

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Mariachi Static by Izaak Opatz

This is an album of lovely “dirt wave” folk from a songwriter who spends most of his time cutting trails for the National Park Service. He’s formerly of the alt-country group the Best Westerns. I’ve struggled to listen to anything but this album lately. My favorite tracks are “Everything (But One Thing),” “Arm’s Length Away,” and “One Way Or Another,” but every song is fantastic.

 

“Getting Fermental on Fermentation with Lucia Solis” (Opposites Extract)

While esoteric to anybody who isn’t in the coffee industry, this is an interesting debate and discussion on the topic of fermentation practices in coffee production. Washed coffee in particular undergoes an intentional fermentation process post-harvest which helps separate sticky fruit material called mucilage. Usually this process is carried out by wild yeasts and bacteria, but the practice of using specific yeast and bacteria cultures has shown promise in experimental trials. Continuing this practice will be beneficial in promoting quality consistency and price stability.

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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist explores the ingredients used to create the world’s most significant fermented and distilled drinks. The book is presented as a list of these most ingredients, starting with the basics that comprise our most familiar beverages (such as agave, barley, potato, wheat) and continuing to the more obscure or exotic ingredients that often flavor them (clove, elderflower, wormwood). Each entry is, more or less, a brief examination of the ingredient in terms of the spirits derived from it alongside its biology and historical significance.

“An Absurdly Complete Guide to Understanding Whiskey” by Jake Emen (Eater)

Hyperbole aside, this guide provides a nice rundown of the major factors that determine a whiskey’s flavor. Emen specifically discusses aging and warehousing conditions, barrel types and sizes, ingredients, and distillation techniques.

February

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Twin Solitude by Leif Vollebekk

This is a hauntingly beautiful album from the Quebecois songwriter. Twin Solitude is more ambient than North Americana or Inland, turning away slightly from Vollebekk’s earlier, more Dylanesque instrumentation.

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“The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond” by Klaus Schwab (World Economic Forum)

Schwab writes, “The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.”

Schwab predicts that modern computer systems and digital connectivity combined with emerging technologies will usher in a Fourth Industrial Revolution characterized by “a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.”

This kind of revolution would seriously disrupt the way we live and work. What is this likely to mean for food and beverages? More and better integration with technology as we’ve seen at Atlanta’s Huge Cafe? More self-service or partial automation, which could both alter and reduce the role of bartenders and baristas? Or more coffee served by robots a la San Francisco’s Cafe X, eliminating human service altogether?

The Advanced Genius Theory: The Life of Pablo and Kanye West by Ryan Bassil (Noisey)

Bassil offers an alternate response to the question of whether Kanye West is a genius. Invoking a theory originally conceived to explain the later work of Lou Reed, Bassil suggests that Kanye West is actually becoming an “advanced genius,” transcending his earlier work by not creating more of the same but not creating the exact opposite either.

“The Turning Point I Feared” and “Make or Steal” by James Hoffman (jimseven)

There are two common avenues of growth in the specialty coffee industry (though this applies to many other industries too): by capturing a greater market share by taking customers from competitors or by growing the industry and welcoming entirely new customers. Hoffman warns against the former and advocates the latter, claiming that growing the industry and making space for oneself is a slower but more sustainable route.

“Conscious Consumerism Is A Lie” by Alden Wicker (Quartz)

Here’s a compelling opinion piece on why voting with your dollar is perhaps admirable but inconsequential in the face of systemic moral hazards and environmental threats. Wicker argues that conscious consumerism fails to achieve its big picture goals and instead deplete’s consumers buying power and political will while diverting our attention from more meaningful issues. The more I reflect on this argument, the more important it seems.

“Weird Twitter: The Oral History” by John Herrman and Katie Notopoulos (Buzzfeed)

This is an amusing and interesting glimpse into the loose-knit online community of pseudonymous comedians known for their brand of surrealist, sometimes absurdist humor.

“How Netflix Is Deepening Our Cultural Echo Chambers” by Farhad Manjoo (The New York Times)

Manjoo observes that with the growing popularity of content streaming, our viewing habits are becoming more personalized and therefore television shows are becoming less ubiquitous. This is lessening the role of TV in unifying us in shared cultural experience. Despite charges of TV’s banality, broadcast TV as cultural unifier is likely to be seen as a distinctly mid- to late-20th century phenomenon.