The Monthly Memo — January Edition


The New Monthly Memo

It's been a while since I sent out the Monthly Memo. The most recent previous edition is from November(!). I have been busy in that time, though, and I would like to introduce the new Monthly Memo. 

I have spent the past two months building out a dedicated Monthly Memo website (link below). At that site you will find all my previous Memos, now as blog posts. In the future I will use that site primarily as a blog and archive. For the most part the blog will be my sounding board in a way that my Medium website never was.  

You will also see a new feature, which I want to highlight here specifically: the Monthly Memo Book Club. Briefly, here's how the Book Club will work. Within the first week of every month I will send out a link to a book. At the end of every month (before the next book is sent out) I will post my review of the book. I will go over what I liked, didn't like, critiques, and questions. Unlike the other posts on the website, Book Club posts will be open for comments. I am hoping that we can all have some interesting discussions about the books we'll be reading. Click below to learn more. 

Thanks for reading!

Read more at The Monthly Memo

Grace Closed

I follow Chicago's fine dining scene closely even though I can't afford to eat at most of the restaurants I admire. The city used to have two 3-Michelin starred restaurants: Alinea and Grace.

In December, Grace closed after a dispute between the chef, general manager, and owner sank the business. For those who don't care much for fine dining and the Michelin-starred world the loss of Grace looks like just another brown-nosed restaurant going under. But in Chicago especially, which has had to claw its way to culinary respect, this is a major blow. This is a move only a second class city would make. 

Losing Grace hurts Chicago's reputation, prestige, and reputation as a city that can go toe-to-toe with New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco -- and, occasionally, edge them out. Chicago doesn't deserve this loss. But here we are.  

Not Grace. This one hurts.

When 42 Grams closed in June, I was surprised but not especially sad. When Tru followed in October, I was sad but not surprised. The former never entirely stirred my heart, and the latter was a massively expensive 20-year-old restaurant whose days had long been numbered.

But Grace? Grace was special in a different way.

Perhaps that was because most of us knew chef Curtis Duffy’s story personally, immortalized on film in For Grace, Kevin Pang and Mark Helenowski’s heartbreaking 2015 documentary. A small-town kid from Ohio, Duffy overcame his father’s murder of his mother, and his father’s subsequent suicide, when he (Curtis) was 19 years old. He escaped through cooking, exhibiting unusual talent and drive while working his way to the top of Chicago’s food chain at Charlie Trotter’s, Alinea, and Avenues...

From the beginning, it was a great restaurant. I was there on opening night and it already felt like a classic. You could feel the stress of Duffy’s and Muser’s ambitions, but also the pride, and periodically, the joy. And night after night, for five years, the staff in the kitchen and the dining room edged ever closer to perfection. It was only a matter of time before it landed three Michelin stars—one of only 14 restaurants in America with the honor. In 2014, it did.

Read more at Chicago Magazine.

Around the Web

How David's Ankles Could Bring Him Down from the New York Times Magazine

The Next Steps for NeverTrump from The Atlantic

Why All Beer Used to Taste Like Smoke from Atlas Obscura

This Debt Scam Victim Fought Back With a Vengeance. from Bloomberg

A Severed Arm is Touring Canada and it's Metal as Hell from Vice

Spies, Dossiers, and the Insane Lengths Restaurants Go to Track and Influence Food Critics from Washingtonian

The Secret Life of 'Um' from The Atlantic

Why Big Tech Should Subsidize Local Journalism from Wired

Americans Played the Atomic Bowl in the Nuked Remains of Nagasaki from Paleofuture

Prime Cut
The best of the best

Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.

What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”

“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”

The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”

He sees it as a multifaceted mission: convincing the world that faith and science coexist and complement each other; dispelling the notion that the church has sought to muzzle scientific advancement, perpetuated by some high-profile historic cases like the travails of Galileo and Giordano Bruno at the hands of the Inquisition; and being part of the conversation within the global scientific community.

Searching for the (Star) Light at the Vatican Observatory from The New York Times