For various reasons, it’s been tough to enjoy reading or talking about comic books recently. So this week – little to no comics talk. Instead, here are some non-comics-reading ways you can spend your free time, if you’re looking to step away from comics for a while. (For those looking for comics talk, I’ll hopefully have some for you in a couple weeks.)
Run or Bike More (Along a River If Possible)
My brother and I are planning to run the Milwaukee Brewers Mini-Marathon this August (provided it fires), so I have been running a lot over the past couple months. As of the week I’m writing this, I’ve worked up to a schedule that theoretically includes 15 miles of running per week, though I’ve actually been running more than that.
At first, running was a bit of a chore. But now that I’ve worked at it for a bit, and I’ve learned that I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, I’ve really started to look forward to my morning runs. One of the reasons my wife and I moved back to the Midwest was to put ourselves near some proper nature again, and there’s not much that beats running to the banks of the Mississippi River in the morning, sitting for ten to fifteen minutes, and then jogging back.
But what’s really gotten me going is the feeling that, even after running six or seven miles, I could now run even more. My body seems to have both recognized and absorbed the work I’ve put in, and it now wants me to keep pushing things further.
Relatedly, I just purchased a new-to-me bicycle and took it for a spin to the Mill City Farmers Market this morning. It’s been forever since I owned a newish bicycle (my old one slipped gears nearly every time I rode it) and lived near such luxurious stretches of bike path. Both running and biking have done wonders for my morale over the past couple months, and they’ve given me a lot of time to brainstorm writing ideas or just think through everything going on in the world these days.
Cook Yourself Some Proper Food
Having just read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, and having previously enjoyed his book Cooked, I’ve been a) thinking more about what and why I eat and b) cooking my own food more often. To that end, I purchased How to Cook Everything: The Basics for myself last year, and I’ve been making at least one recipe from it each week.
This week, I bought some locally-sourced brats, bread, potatoes, and sauerkraut from the farmer’s market and used How to Cook Everything‘s mashed potato recipe (it really does give you the absolute basics) and this brat boiling recipe to create a nice German-style meal. My wife Kat (who you might know from previous posts) bought us some beer from a local brewery, and we had a fantastic, mostly-locally-sourced lunch.
Prior to reading Cooked, I hadn’t cooked much “involved” food because I felt it took too much time and effort. But the time involved (especially for something this simple) is actually miniscule, especially when you factor in your return on investment. I spent maybe an hour going to the farmers market and back (by bike) and maybe a half hour cooking our meal – which will end up being two meals, because we had enough brats and potatoes left for dinner. In return for my money and time, I got some delicious sausages and potatoes, as well as the satisfaction of having cooked them myself!
My favorite thing I’ve cooked recently, though, is a pizza using the How to Cook Everything pasta sauce recipe and this sourdough pizza crust recipe. That recipe requires some actual forethought, because a sourdough starter requires a day and a half to get “ready,” but boy is it awesome to be able to build and bake your own pizza. I recommend trying out a mix of smoked gouda and mozarella as your pizza cheese – I’ve really been digging that combination.
Read More “Actual” Books and/or Listen to Podcasts
The quote-unquote “actual” book industry hasn’t yet made me question my interest in the printed word (though if this year keeps on track, it’s only a matter of time), so I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. Some recommendations from this year so far include:
- The aforementioned In Defense of Food
- Born to Run
- A Memory Called Empire
- Talking to Strangers
- Our Towns
- The Water Dancer
Also, if you do start cooking more this year, you can use that time to listen to podcasts! I wrote a bit about five podcasts I use to stretch my thinking here.
Join an RPG Group
Typically, part of the reason I love comics is the chance they give me to bullshit about stories, characters, and other narrative-related things. (I even convinced my friends to do a podcast with me just so I’d have somewhere to engage in this mode of bullshitting.) Currently, however, there is no bullshitting to be done about comics. Or at least, it doesn’t feel like there should be, until we finish having some of the more serious discussions we’re having.
To that end, I’ve been grateful to find a new avenue to engage in narrative bullshitting – by joining a Dungeons and Dragons campaign! At the time of this writing, I’m about to join up with a group doing a one-shot set on Ravnica, a Magic: The Gathering plane that I quite enjoy. I plan to play as an Izzet Goblin, and if you know what that means, hopefully you know how much fun I intend to have.
While you may not want to join a Dungeons and Dragons group, per se, I’d highly encourage you to join an RPG group of some kind if you’re looking for a way to exercise the part of your brain that craves narrative. I’ve both played in and led RPG campaigns before, and both are an absolute, enthralling hoot if you play with the right people.
Make Your Own Comics
And finally, I’d encourage anyone who’s even thought about it before to use this moment to make their own comics. Over the past couple weeks, it’s been quite discouraging to learn what absolute tools and/or garbage some notable comic creators are. I’m currently finding it hard to look at some of the books in my collection, and I’m honestly still trying figure out what to do with them. I know for a fact that I’m going to sell, give away, or just trash some. I don’t know what I’m going to do with others.
But I’m heartened by the certainty that new stories will take those comics’ place. And that they might be created by me or you or someone else who has realized, in this moment, that comics can do better. And that anyone who did not or does not understand that has always been doing it wrong.
That wall of text above is it for this week. I’ll catch you in a couple, when hopefully I’ll feel like talking about comic books again.
P.S. – If you want to do something more productive than the above, I’d encourage you to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well. Their work is currently much needed.