The Year in (A Book) Review, 2013

It’s time for the yearly tradition of trying to get this blog post out before the end of January.  That hasn’t worked so well this year, but at least it’s out now.  Contain your joy, if at all possible.

I’ve found it instructive, at the end of the year, to look back on the books that I’ve read over the past year.  This is the second year I’ve done this – deliberately, and writing about it, anyway – and like the last year’s list, this is hopefully not just a list of bestsellers from this past year, although some of them are.  Not all of these were published this year, but some of them were.  What they have in common is that I discovered them this year, and they were the most memorable books or the books that I am most likely to recommend.  This generally biased towards books that are somewhat more obscure.  It wouldn’t do me a lot of good to recommend anything by William Shakespeare – if your English teacher couldn’t make you read it, I can’t imagine that some random guy that has a infrequently-updated blog would be able to.  Likewise, it wouldn’t do anyone a lot of good for me to recommend Malcom Gladwell’s latest book, either: if you’re willing to read a lengthy discussion of books published in 2013, odds are good you’ve already made up your mind about Gladwell. 1 That opinion, whatever it is, is unlikely to be influenced by some random guy with a blog.  All that to say:  I’m trying my best to take these books seriously  My opinions, well, not so much.

Without any further introduction, let’s jump into the list, starting with fiction:

Dave Eggers, The Circle.  If Eggers hasn’t shown up before on lists of my favorite books, it’s only been because I haven’t been writing the lists for a long enough period of time.  Although he’s probably best known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (published in 2000), I’ve enjoyed some of his recent works even more. Zeitoun, the true story of a Syrian-American’s experience of staying in a post-Katrina New Orleans, paints a portrait of Muslims in post-9/11 America that needs to be far more widely-read than it probably has been.  His most recent novel before The Circle was A Hologram for the King, which probably conveys the despair and drudgery of a dead-end IT job better than just about any experience short of actually having the job.  It’s well worth a read, too.

Back to The Circle:  as the story begins, we’re following the story from the perspective of Mae Holland, who has just started working at The Circle, a technology company that seems to be Google, Apple, and Microsoft all rolled into one.  As Mae’s career progresses, what she first saw as beneficial technology starts to seem more and more an invasion of privacy, and eventually she’s faced with a scenario in which privacy, as we currently understand it, becomes nonexistent.

This is easily the most terrifying book about big data, which is a buzzword you’ll be sick of in another year or so if you’re not already.  The picture that Eggers paints, though, is more frightening than what has been discussed so far:  most companies are enraptured with the idea of big data because they think they’ll be able to make money off of it.  The antagonists (or heroes, depending on how you feel about privacy, I suppose) of Eggers’ novel are far less interested in ending privacy for profitable reasons, and far more interested in ending privacy for ideological reasons.

I’ve read most of the books that Eggers has published, and The Circle strikes me as his first book that is philosophically conservative:  if there are lessons to be learned from Mae, the most obvious one has to be that we can’t always anticipate what the unintended consequences of our actions will be.  Following on its heals would be the observation that humans aren’t always right, or good, and our good intentions do not guarantee right decisions.  Our inventions – even those that are intended to be good – are easily corruptible.  Those are all profoundly conservative points that I wouldn’t expect from Eggers, but truth isn’t beholden to political or philosophical boundaries, I think he’s right.

It’s going to be interesting to come back to this novel in 20 or 30 years:  not only will our conceptions of privacy have changed but Eggers seems more willing than most authors to tie his stories to a particular time and place.   Consequently, the setting of The Circle really only makes sense to people that have heard about companies like Apple, Google . . . and, presumably, whatever startup is going to come after them.

*****

Kent Haruf, Benediction.  Haruf is one of those writers whose work doesn’t attract a great deal of attention, and I’m always puzzled as to why this is. Haruf has a stark, minimalistic way of constructing sentences that matches his what I imagine his fictional town of Holt, Colorado, to be like.  Benediction is Haruf’s fifth novel.  All of his novels have been set in Holt, and every one of them is an absolute treasure.

The plot, like the plot of most of Haruf’s work, is straightforward and almost incidental to the actual material of the novel, and describing the plot does little to explain the appeal of the book.  The owner of the local hardware store, Dad Lewis, is dying.  He has to come to terms with this, as do several other characters, as the life of the town continues.  Haruf wields this minimal plot with great effect, as it’s primarily a way for both his fantastic prose, and for him to describe characters that feel more real that most people that I actually know.

The value that I’ve found in Haruf’s work – and what sets it apart from so much other fiction on the market – is not that it describes amazing situations, or describes something fantastic or supernatural.  It’s that it describes completely ordinary situations in a way that makes it clear how sacred and special everyday events and people are.

I have very little doubt that if I’m still writing these lists when Haruf publishes his next novel, whatever it is will be on this list, as well.  All of his novels are fantastic, and I expect that reading this one will make you interested in reading all of the others.

*****

Bill Buford, Heat.  I’ve got a weak spot for books that are about food – I read cookbooks for fun, and it’s taken a considerable amount of discipline not to put any cookbooks on this list. 2  Collections of recipes by themselves aren’t really much fun, but Heat is neither an essay about food or a collection of recipes. It’s Buford’s memoir of the adventures that resulted when as a middle-aged adult, he became fascinated with what happens in a professional kitchen. (Buford’s background, prior to these adventures, is that of a writer, and not a professional chef.)  The book starts with a wine-infused dinner party with Mario Batali, and before long Buford is working in the kitchen in one of Batali’s restaurants in New York City.  By the end of the book, he’s an apprentice to a butcher somewhere in Europe.  Everywhere he goes, he cooks, learns, and writes about the experience.

Heat has probably been my favorite book about food since I ran across Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal a couple years ago, which is also a gem.

It also convinced me that as much as I love cooking at home, and as much as I love food, I have absolutely no desire to be a professional chef.

*****

Tyler Cowen, An Economist Gets Lunch. This is the sort of book that would result if the guys that wrote Freakonomics were foodies.  Cowen is an economist by trade, and a food enthusiast by hobby, and the combination of these topics results in a bunch of advice on how to track down the best food for the least amount of money.  This is full of quirky observations, stories, and advice on how to track down good food whether your in the U.S. or somewhere abroad.

A good percentage of Cowen’s advice seems to be what will seem like common sense, once you think about it.  If you’re anything like me, though, the beauty of the book is that most of what will seem obvious in retrospect will not have been something that you had not thought about before you opened it.

*****

Chuck Klosterman, I Wear the Black Hat.  I ran across Klosterman’s football essays on grantland.com awhile back, and started picking up his books as a result, and I’ve enjoyed every one.  I Wear the Black Hat is probably my favorite one yet – it’s a series of essays on, of all things, villainy and it’s relationship to evil.

There’s a excerpt of his latest book on grantland.com that you should go read.  If that can’t convince you to read the book, there’s probably not much else I can say.

*****

Jonathan Franzen, The Discomfort Zone.  Franzen is justifiably well known for his last two novels, but his nonfiction has attracted comparatively less attention.  The Discomfort Zone is, unlike his other books of essays, a memoir, and it’s probably the most accessible Franzen book if you’re looking for a place to jump in.

One of the reasons that this is particular book is interesting to me:  for the last couple years, I’ve been dividing most novels into “books that are written with an awareness of New York City” and “books that would be the same if New York City did not exist.” Jonathan Safran Foer would fall into the first category, for example, while Kent Haruf and Wendell Berry would fall into the second.  Franzen’s fiction has seemed to be written with the pessimistic and cynical self-awareness, for lack of a better term, that seem to be hallmarks of the writing that happens in NYC, but his fiction has (for the most part, up until now) been consciously set in the midwest and seems at home there, as well.  The Discomfort Zone is a memoir of his boyhood, which – no surprise here – is in the midwest.

*****

Daniel Taylor, The Myth of Certainty and Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today.  Both of these books deal with epistemology and the relationship it has to theology in general and Christianity in particular, although the approaches that Willard and Taylor have are almost entirely different:  Willard emphasizes that Christianity is something that we must know to be true instead of just believe to be true.  Taylor, on the other hand, discusses how it’s possible for Christianity to work even if we aren’t entirely sure that we’ve got all the specifics right.

I can see the value in both these approaches, but I’m not at all sure how to reconcile them in a coherent way.

*****

Charles Mann, 1491.  When I was in elementary school, history was taught with the assumption that not much of importance had happened in the North America until Columbus showed up.  There were maybe a few Indians that showed up occasionally, but it was never mentioned that North America was, y’know, populated, or that the people that were here before Columbus were doing anything like building a civilization.

I’m not sure how much of this was the reluctance of white people to own up to the fact that other white people were behaving badly, or how much of it was skimmed over to avoid discussing genocide with 8-year-olds, or how much of it was just not discovered yet.  In any case, Mann’s 1491 is a compilation a considerable amount of the new evidence that per-Columbian America was far more interesting than was previously thought.  The population was greater, the level of civilization was higher, and the environment had been modified by the indigenous people and was not the pure wilderness that our teachers assumed it was when talking about Lewis and Clark.

These new discoveries are not without controversies, as everyone involved seems to have an interest in proving the virtue of their ancestors, using (alas) the standards that we have in society today.  Some discussions about whether or not the indigenous people in the 1400s were (or would have been) environmentalists are admittedly useless, but Mann has written a compelling book here that is far more interesting than the topic would have you believe.

*****

Paul Tough, How Children Succeed.  Tough’s 2012 book has been making the rounds among educators, at least as far as I can tell, and (in more ways than one, perhaps), it’s finally the response to Herrnstein and Murray’s 1994 book The Bell Curve that no one has produced until now. Tough makes the case that levels of determination and curiosity exhibited early in life have more to do with success than pure intelligence, and explains why this is.

The observation that talent is overrated and hard work is underrated isn’t a bad lesson to hear at any point in life, frankly, but how to teach these things – specifically to younger children – is, of course, a larger and more complicated question.

*****

Beryl Markham, West with the Night.  This is probably the oldest book on this list – it was first published in 1942, and went out of print shortly thereafter.  However, it was rediscovered in 1982 and has had something of a comeback since then.3 There’s something of a puzzle of how Markham could have turned out a book like this:  it’s beautifully written, and she never wrote anything else that came close to it.  There’s something of a controversy over whether she wrote it, or her third husband wrote it, or one of the writers with whom she had an affair (one of which was Saint Exupéry, who became known for his own aviation memoirs)  wrote it or helped edit it. (The general consensus, if there is one, seems to be that her third husband helped edit it, and the prose was inspired by Saint Exupéry).  It’s difficult to see how any of this controversy makes her any less interesting, and regardless, the book is still fantastic.

This has probably become my favorite aviation memoir since I ran across Ernest K. Gann’s Fate is the Hunter, and I anticipate that it’ll stand up to being reread well.

  1. Incidentally, the variety of opinions on Gladwell consistently amaze me: I frequently run into opinions of the overly-educated that denigrate Gladwell for being “only” a journalist and bemoan the (to them, obvious) fact that someone who doesn’t do any original research cannot be admired in any capacity.  I run into other people that think that he’s brilliant, and feel that because they’ve read a Gladwell book, they are now brilliant, too, and as a result they are qualified to speak as a public intellectual.  I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, and I’m surprised that so few people seem to take Gladwell’s writing as I can only assume that he means it to be taken:  firmly middlebrow, and with equal goals of education and entertainment. []
  2. Perhaps I should have. I tend towards the sort of cookbooks that have essays about the recipes and explanations for what the author was trying to accomplish and how they did it. []
  3. Odd bit of trivia:  West with the Night was re-discovered because it was mentioned in one of the letters of Ernest Hemingway, in which Hemingway said that she was a better writer than he was, in addition to being “high-grade bitch,” which, c’mon, totally sounds like something that Hemingway would say. []

Bad advice from the useless bibliophile

I have no idea what your New Year’s Resolutions are, but if your house is like most houses that I’ve been in, I can offer some suggestions.  In most of the houses in which I am a guest, I look around and think “Yes, yes, this is very nice house, but what they really need around here is some more books.”  I do not say this out loud, because most of the time I wish to return to the house, but this is probably my most common thought, typically followed by  “Stop apologizing that your house isn’t clean.  It is, and I wouldn’t care even if it wasn’t.”

So, in the odd event that you have decided to ignore resolutions about venus factor diet, exercise, finally purchasing healthcare, or watching all the stuff that’s been piling up in your Netflix queue, and you’ve decided that what you really need to do is to own more books, however, then please allow me to help.  What we don’t want, here, is for you to walk into a bookstore without a plan, or you might end up accidentally purchasing all of the Twilight books or one of those enormous coffee table books that your Aunt Fran gave you last Christmas when she couldn’t think of anything else.

Books, obviously, can say things to you when you’re reading them.  The problem with a book – assuming, of course, that it’s not an electronic book – is that when it’s lying around, it’s saying stuff about you.  If you’re the sort of person that is willing to leave a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey on your living room table, this says something about you. 1  Somehow, this sort of statement is far more disturbing than being the sort of person that just wants to read it. 2

So, with all that in mind, here’s some unusually unhelpful book-buying advice:

Cookbooks:  You should have some cookbooks lying around in order to give the impression that at least some of the meals that you eat at home do not come from the Chinese take-out place that’s just down the road. The type of cookbook you buy, of course, can make a difference: if you buy one that features the right sort of ethnic food, it can make you seem adventurous and exotic.  Thai and Vietnamese cookbooks are good for this, particularly if you’re trying to give the impression that you’re a world traveler.  The cookbook, let’s not forget, is substantially less expensive than the plane ticket.  Or you can get a copy of The Joy of Cooking which is probably the cookbook that your mother had around the kitchen when you were, let’s face it, much younger than you are now.  Owning a copy of this doesn’t commend your sense of adventure, but it says that you like comfort food and you want to cook like your mom did when you were growing up. 3

Anything by Julia Child is excellent, as long as no one expects you to actually cook from it.  French food is never out-of-style, and if you buy a used copy, you can tell your impressed guests that you got it from your grandmother.

Cookbooks featuring celebrity chefs, while less useful for actual cooking, can be a better conversation piece.  Pay extra for a chef that your guests have heard of.  On the other hand, I would avoid cookbooks featuring celebrities that are not known for being chefs.  If your kitchen has a cookbook that features Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, this gives the impression that you’re far more interested in being a rich person than you are in cooking good food for your guests.  While this may be true, it’s best to avoid this impression.

Biographies: Whose biography you’re willing to read – or at least purchase, and leave on the living room table, to give the impression that you have read – can say a lot about you.  Nelson Mandela?  Fantastic.  Thomas Jefferson?  Great.  Snooki?  No, no, not good at all, and you should not leave this on your table. 4

Sports biographies can also be interesting, although there are compelling reasons to avoid books by or about superstars:  I think we can all hazard a guess that a book about Alex Rodriguez might have interesting parts, and while it might have parts about baseball, the parts that are interesting are not going to have anything to do with baseball, and the parts about baseball aren’t going to be remotely interesting.  On the other hand, I think that we can safely assume that a book by Peyton Manning would likely have no interesting parts at all.

If you’re going to purchase sports autobiographies, I’d recommend that you procure ones by more obscure players such as Nate Jackson or Dirk Hayhurst.  It makes you appear to be a more serious sports fan than you probably are, as presumably you wouldn’t buy an autobiography of someone you have not heard of.  And should you actually decide to read them, these books are substantially more interesting.

P. G. Wodehouse: I do not know anyone whose library would not be improved by swapping out all of their Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks novels with a bunch of Wodehouse.  You may not have heard of Wodehouse, but you’ve probably heard of his most famous creation:  Jeeves.  The stereotype of the supremely competent British butler stepping in to save the bumbling rich guy wasn’t a stereotype before Wodehouse invented it.  The resulting books are one of the rare finds in literature: books that English professors will tell you are wonderful that are actually fun to read.  No one understates incompetence as elegantly as Wodehouse, and his books can be just as fun as modern American humor, but bring a bunch of class to the table, as well.  And looking like an Anglophile is always fun, and in the right company, can give the impression of culture and sophistication.  Cultivate a British accent for bonus points, here, and use it whenever you discuss Wodehouse or quote Winston Churchill.

Will Wodehouse books make you cultured?  Well, no, not really, but neither are a lot of things that aren’t nearly so much fun as reading Wodehouse.  But they are the sort of books that cultured people read when they’re not trying to be cultured, so they make you appear as if you’re cultured, but not working hard to give the impression that you are.  For many of us, that’s close enough.

Malcolm Gladwell:  This isn’t really a genre, at least not for another 20 years, but Gladwell, along with the guys that are writing Freakonomics, are probably the best-known practitioners of the subcategory of non-fiction that is designed to appeal to geeks.  Having geek non-fiction scattered around your house can be useful as bait, as it will allow you to determine who is likely to be an interesting party guest and who would likely be happier troubleshooting your  wireless printer.

Overall, books like this can be invaluable to have scattered around the house during a party, as the wireless printer guys will get themselves stuck reading them, and are therefore far less likely to hold all the dinner guests hostage by telling long stories that conclude with lines like ” ‘Ah hah,’ I said to myself.  ‘Then it occurred to me that there was probably a bug in the compiler!’ ”

You don’t want to sit through one of these stories.  Trust me.  I’m one of the people that likes to tell them, and I’ve found that telling them is only a good idea if you do not wish to receive any more dinner invitations from anyone present.

Religion:  If your idea of a deeply meaningful religious book is The Secret, then I’m not sure you’ve been paying attention, and this is probably all we need to say about that. Let’s move on.

Politics: If you have biographies by any television or radio talk show hosts, or any political book in which the person writing it has put a picture of themselves on the cover, then the best thing that I can recommend is small controlled fires, set well before your dinner guests arrive.

Books of Essays: It can be awfully impressive to leave these sitting around, but there’s an element of risk if you are ever asked to discuss anything in these books, as we both know you’re not going to crack the cover on any of these things.  Less risky options are essays that do not generally make reference to much outside themselves, such as a collection of Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Woebegone” monologues. 5  They’re fun to read, to boot.  Essays in which other books are discussed can be more risky, as you’ve got substantially more homework to do if anyone wants to discuss the book with you.  If you actually read the book, then you’ve got a larger problem of suddenly wanting to read the books that it discusses, and eventually your house may look like two bookmobiles had a head-on collision in your living room.  Be careful.

Novels: Here we must tread carefully, for selecting books from this genre can be fraught with peril.  Here are some ground rules:  (a) if everyone has familiar with it, then it won’t impress very many people, and (b) if no one has heard of it, people may not be really impressed, either.  You’re looking for something that something that people have heard of, but they’re not sure why, and they certainly don’t own a copy of it themselves.  Dan Brown?  Possibly not the best choice.  John le Carré?  Better.  Something you’ve heard them discuss on Morning Edition?  Even better. 6

This rule changes somewhat if we’re talking about classics, because if no one has heard of it, then it’s not really a classic.  There are also classics that can be interesting to read (and here I’m thinking of anything by Dostoyevsky or Jane Austin), and those that are the exclusive domain of graduate students in the English department (and here I’m thinking of something like Moby Dick).  If you’re going to have a copy of Moby Dick around, I’d recommend using it for English graduate student bait.  Encourage these people to talk to the folks that are troubleshooting the wireless printer.

*****

So, good luck impressing your friends!  Next time we’ll discuss the sort of books that you should buy if you’re actually interested in reading them.  There’s a surprising amount of overlap.

  1. I’m not entirely sure what. []
  2. And seriously, don’t bother to read it.  It’s terrible. []
  3. I own a copy, which says more good things about my mother than it does about my culinary prowess. []
  4. I’ve got to assume that this has not sold that well, as I can’t imagine that the intersection between the group of people that are Snooki fans and the group of people that regularly purchase biographies is not a large demographic. []
  5. This also makes you appear to be a NPR listener, which certainly gives a classier impression than the Blue Collar Comedy channel that we both know is on your XM radio. []
  6. If you paid attention, you can even discuss the book without having read it! []

The Huntsville Brewery

Nearly everyone that I know that considers themselves to be any sort of foodie has various ticks, for lack of a better word, that they’ll use to judge a restaurant or food that’s in an area. If you walk into a place that has your entree out in less than 5 minutes, for example, it’s a pretty good bet that no one in the kitchen had to do anything to it other than throw it in the microwave.  Additionally, I’ve always thought that the quality of the restaurants in a town can be judged by how busy the local Olive Garden is: if it’s busy, this is generally a bad sign.  If the staff has to run out of the establishment and physically drag people into it, this is generally a good sign that there are better restaurants elsewhere.1 Of course, it’s possible to have fantastic restaurants with a clientèle that’s not willing to go to them, but – to borrow a point from Tyler Cowin’s excellent book, here – this sort of thing is less sustainable than you might think.  Counterintuitively, It’s probably more important for a restaurant to have quality diners than a quality chef, at least at the beginning.

As you might expect that we don’t generally frequent our local Olive Garden, and you’d be right.  Nothing against Olive Garden, per se, but most of the time, we’re looking for places that aren’t just thawing frozen dinners shipped in from somewhere in the Midwest, and generally this means that we’re avoiding nationally known chains.  Supporting locally owned places, will – if we look years down the road – contribute to a more interesting restaurant and food culture in Huntsville than we would expect to get if we all spent all our time eating at the culinary equivalent of big box stores.

All that to say:  it’s worth supporting locally owned restaurants, and so we’ve been one of the enthusiastic early adopters of the latest one to pop up – eventually, it’s going to be a brewpub, though the brewing part is not operational just yet.  So what we’ve got now is a bar and restaurant that has good Cajun food, and a good beer selection that will eventually be great.

As an added bonus, they’re located in the building that housed 801 Franklin, which Huntsville foodies may remember as one of the nicer fine dining spots downtown, at least prior to the arrival of James Boyce.  It’s nice to see this building back in action.

Anyway, the name of the place is the Huntsville Brewery.  Here’s their Facebook page. Other than that, they don’t have a website yet as far as google.com and I have been able to determine.

They’ve been open less than a week, so there are still some kinks in the works: not all the beer taps are hooked up yet, and they do not yet have anything in the way of wine or a full bar, though both of those are on the way.2 The waitresses are still trying to get their bearings, and as a result of new taps being hooked up, we saw a couple people get the wrong beer. After watching the staff troubleshoot these problems, though, I’m confident that they will be fixed before too long. The food was fantastic – I got a chicken salad, and my wife got corn fritters some boudin sausage balls, and we split a piece of chess pie for dessert.  Service was great, and the atmosphere is nice.  They’ve got St. Bernardus Abt 12 on draft, and so far as I am concerned, if that’s in place, very little else is necessary.  This is going to be a good place.

The closest comparison to an existing Huntsville bar is Below the Radar or possibly The Nook, which I’ve discussed here before. The Huntsville Brewery will have two things that the Nook will not, though, and they are: (a) a kitchen in the building, which lends itself to better – or at least more consistent – food, and (b) a brewery located in the building, although due to local laws about restaurants and breweries, is apparently still a few months down the road. 3  According to the staff, a restaurant has to be established for a few months before they’re allowed to start brewing.  It baffles me that there is actually a law in place for this, but it would not be the first weird thing in Alabama law that I’ve heard of, so . . . well, draw your own conclusions. The brew house is located in what used to be the private dining room of 801 Franklin, so if you’re looking to have a private party, this isn’t the place to do it.  That seems to be about the only thing that they don’t have, though.

Still, it’s already better than the Olive Garden.

*****

UPDATE: I went back a few days later (11/22) for lunch, and here are a few more thoughts:

  • The prices are such that this place fills a needed niche in the downtown food scene.  Right now, downtown a substantial number of very nice places that more formal and correspondingly on the more expensive side, but the number of places that have good food at prices that are more reasonable seems seems a bit low.  This helps.
  • They’re continuing to hook up beer taps, and the selection is already a lot better.
  • Wait times are not great:  they’re still getting a handle on what’s going back in the kitchen, and so we waited just over 30 minutes for entrees to show up.  This isn’t really a problem in the evenings, but for a “Oh, I’ve got to get back to work” lunch, this isn’t great.  The owner came out and apologized for the wait, though, and explained that they were expecting that to get better.
  1. The number of rules about this sort of thing is considerable, and if you’re interested in being better at tracking down good restaurants, I’d recommend that you pick up Tyler Cowin’s excellent book on the topic. It’s fantastic. []
  2. When we went tonight, they had only received their liquor license about 6 hours earlier. So perhaps we should let this slide. []
  3. I believe that Below the Radar was going to attempt to do this at some point, but last I heard, that part of the venture still hasn’t really gotten off the ground. []

Contemplating the Stars

We’re rolling to the end of another Southern League baseball season here in Huntsville, and – as seems to be an annual tradition, here – there’s also been the typical hand-wringing that attendance isn’t what it should be, typically followed by speculation that we may lose the baseball team entirely.

It’s easy to see why this has become an annual discussion, if you’ve ever been to a Stars’ game: attendance is typically fairly small, and the majority of the fans that are there are not really paying attention to the game. It’s been a long time since the Stars’ were ever in the Southern League Championship, and I think it’s been a couple years since they’ve had a winning record. There are major league teams with great farm systems, but the Brewers, alas, are not one of these teams.

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