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20 october 2016

It's common enough to see coyotes here in Texas. My partner keeps a horse at a stable out south of Fort Worth, and frequently sees coyotes at dawn and dusk, even occasionally in the daylight. I used to live in a house that backed onto a railway, and I'd see coyotes ambling up and down the embankment: they clearly used the right-of-way as a path between their various habitats. (Appropriately, a roadrunner used to nest in the scrub near the tracks, but Looney Tunes action was lacking.) Coyotes are a frequent sight – and of course even more frequent sound – in the twilight all over the Dallas metro area, and somehow one assumes they would be. This is not quite the desert southwest (the ancestral range of the coyote), but in August it feels like it, and one gets the impression that Dallas and Fort Worth were built over coyote habitat, incorporating it into their sprawl.     read more

19 october 2016

Samuel Beckett's Endgame should be a frustrating, depressing experience. Many times, I imagine it is; a lot of things can go wrong when producing the play, and even in reading it, you may just begin in the entirely wrong mood. But approached in certain frames of mind – or perhaps without any frame of mind, ready for anything – the play can be a strangely uplifting experience.     read more

18 october 2016

Atypically for a Montalbano story, "Sette lunedi" – "Seven Mondays" – begins from the perspective of the perpetrator, not from Salvo Montalbano's. The perpetrator, in this instance, snares a fish from a live tank, after hours at a fancy restaurant, and shoots the fish in the head. Our heroes seem to be dealing with a maniac, possibly a religious maniac, who has set them an elaborate puzzle – and failure to solve it within those seven Mondays may be disastrous.     read more

17 october 2016

To write about Gavin Smith's global history of beer, I thought it appropriate that I should pour myself a beer. The one I had in the fridge was a can of Firestone Walker 805. I must say, that in this day and age when beer cans tell you the life story and historical antecedents of the drink inside, a can of 805 is rather mysterious. It's just a black can with the name of the beer in silver, announcing its Californian origins. Google must be invoked to determine what kind of beer this is. Come to find that it is a blonde ale, a little dry, a little bready. It does not have the Pine-Sol-like attack of the hoppy American ales of the 2010s, and it doesn't have weird fruit flavors, and it isn't very dark or very light or very weak or very alcoholic, either, coming in at 4.7% by volume. In other words, Firestone Walker 805 is somewhat typical of beer for most of its history: a way of turning grain and yeast and water into a liquid food that won't kill you, will nourish you a little, and will make you slightly delighted.     read more