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What better way to endure a wet January than taking part in Dry January?

In the 1960s, whenever a commercial flight passed over Alberta airspace, the plane would stop serving alcohol until it was safely flying above BC or Saskatchewan. This was because Alberta’s Bible-belting government was also a teetotalling one, and to the Social Credit Party airspace meant drinkspace meant sin.

Flash forward to 2013 when a British charity, Alcohol Change UK, launched its first “Dry January” campaign, asking Brits to abstain from drinking alcohol in the first month of the year. Today, Dry January has grown into a social movement that’s driven by health and financial benefits instead of religious ones.

But there are bigger shifts bubbling up from below. Before last year, if you wanted to drink to excess, you could always find a study that would claim that alcohol, taken in moderation, is actually better for your health than not drinking at all. But then last January, the World Health Organization declared that “no level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health.” Millions of people tried to interpret that as “no” not meaning “no”.

But millions more young people on their own have also started cutting back on how much they drink. This is a trend as consequential as teenagers deciding not to drive.

Maybe Dry January will provoke millions more older people not to drink either.

As this NIH fact-sheet said: “Some older people feel the effects of alcohol more strongly without increasing the amount they drink.” True that, if the first-hand reports I hear the morning after are any guide.

I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 33 years. I’m not an alcoholic, but I am a recovering addict and I believe that any mood-altering substance will eventually take me back to cocaine, my drug of choice. Actually, I’m not sure I believe that. What I am sure of is the price of being wrong would be catastrophic. So it’s not worth tempting fate.

What I have learned for sure is how much money you save when you don’t drink alcohol, especially in bars and restaurants.

So if you want to build up your wine cellar, go ahead, the way you would indulge your hobby for golf, or sailing, or botox, or fountain pens. They’re expensive indulgences you’re prepared to overpay for. That’s a different category than “a necessity of life.” Indeed, if you sign up for Dry January, which you allow to slip into Dry February which becomes Dry 2024, you’ll not only lose weight and feel better, you’ll have the money to overpay for the other delights of your life.

[This is the final OG blog of the year. We’ll pick up again on January 13th. Happy New Year to you].

Meanwhile…

1. The Creep of the Year. No, not Donald Trump. Nor George Santos. But Michelle Mone, who sits in Britain’s House of Lords as Lady Mone and who’s lied and lied and lied about her husband’s profiteering by selling faulty PPE gear to the government during COVID. Her main defenses seem to be: “It was just a little lie,” and “I’m the victim here. My life has been turned upside down.” See here. And here. And especially here (start at 6:18). She then claimed she’s being treated like Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. One can only wish.

2. Humans doing strangely amazing things. Not open-heart surgery or asteroid-hunting. But well worth your next 19 minutes, if only to reinforce your resolution not to watch so many videos next year. Plus moments you wouldn’t believe if not filmed.

3. The emotional life of populism. The new book by Eva Illouz who argues “…that populist politics blends together four specific emotions – fear, disgust, resentment, and love – and makes these emotions dominant vectors of the political process…[They]  generate antagonism between social groups inside society and alienation from the institutions that safeguard democracy.”

4. The 84 sentences that explain 2023. Plus Fantastic Fungi. Plus Know Your Enemy. And why goats are great on mountains, and why today’s food is hardly nutritious. And check out The Vertigo of Color, now on at The Met. And finally, a lovely year-end quiz from our friends at The Slow Cyclist.

5. Cooper plays Bernstein in MaestroThen, Bernstein on the maestro, Mozart.

6. If it’s 10 a.m. in Toronto, it’s…Your brain doesn’t have to remember what time it is in Tirana anymore. Just use this.

7. Take a 1,301-day cruise for just $89 a day. In the dark days of COVID, I wrote about taking a 3-year, round the world cruise. It didn’t happen because the promoters couldn’t find a ship. Now, it is, to 147 countries and 425 ports, for just US $89 a day. That’s US $32,389 per year, which is a lot less than room, board and recreation in Toronto, or a thousand other places. Here’s the story, and the ship.

Speaking of travel, here are the worst-behaved tourists of the year.

8. How to live with Alzheimer’s and not die from it. A user’s guide from Greg O’Brien. “I was the family caregiver for my parents. Now Alzheimer’s has come for me. My mother…taught me how to live with Alzheimer’s and when asked, I promised her that I would write with candor and vulnerability to destigmatize Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.”

9. Women’s work. In a word, it’s getting there. “Women’s representation in the C-suite [is] at the highest it has ever been. However, with lagging progress in the middle of the pipeline—and a persistent under-representation of women of color — true parity remains painfully out of reach.”

That’s what McKinsey says. Here’s Deloitte and Accenture.

10. The Sting. As The Washington Post noted: “Want to feel old? “The Sting,” the Paul Newman-Robert Redford caper classic, just turned 50. On the other hand, want to feel young? Sit down and watch “The Sting” again.” The Post’s point is, not just is it the ultimate buddy movie, it doesn’t feel dated like other 1970’s movies because it’s set in the Depression. Much more, because it’s that rarest of all films where two male leads are equal. But most of all, as The Post continues: “When a dubious Newman auditioned George Roy Hill for the “Butch Cassidy” job in 1969, he asked the director what his take on the script was. “It’s a love story between two men,” Hill replied. Newman was sold. Here’s more, and more, and the trailer too.

11. What I’m liking. The King’s Christmas Message. It was Charles’ second this year (and Elizabeth’s last in 2021. Her first of 69 of them was in 1952). Here also is Stephen Fry’s Alternative Christmas Message this year.

Also, Trevor Noah is a fall-over funny guy, as you’ll see in his latest Netflix special, “Where Was I”?

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