Subtle Hustle

1. As reported earlier, Marcia and I returned from Spain (yet again) in the middle of last week. We spent a couple of days getting our body clocks back in order; I always find that harder when making a long trip from east to west, rather than the other way around. Then we have had several days of what passes for awful weather here (i.e. balmy and pleasant winter days in Albany, Chicago or Des Moines), keeping us more housebound than we’d like to be. The day after tomorrow, Marcia and I are hitting the road and the airways again, this time to Hawai’i’s big island for two weeks. During the first week, I will be participating in this writing workshop, and in the second week, we’ll be joined by Katelin and John for some less structured family time in Kona. When I originally retired from my President/CEO job at TREE Fund in late 2019, I had booked or been awarded positions in three writing workshop type events (most notably, Ideas Island), but as with so many other things, those events were quashed in the Anno Virum. I’m participating in the fiction component of this writing workshop, figuring that my non-fiction writing has been far more widely published (more on that below) than my stories-based work. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful for some good connections and tips on the marketing and sales side of the equation, since that’s the stuff that I hate to do for my own work, as much as I like and am good at marketing and selling other things. In any case, we’ll be getting some nice weather and good family time, so those are pluses in any equation.

2. Speaking of TREE Fund, in an unexpected turn of events, I’m working for them again in a consulting/advisory role, per this notice. My role is to assist the Board of Trustees with the search processes for two key positions, and to provide interim staff leadership until those positions are filled. It has been interesting to re-step into shoes that I thought I had set aside permanently. I know a lot of my readers here are seasoned nonprofit professionals, so if you are interested in taking a look at the two roles we need filled, either for your own purposes, or for the benefit of colleagues who might be seeking new challenges, I’d be most appreciative. One of the roles (President/CEO, i.e. my old job) is not geographically specific, and can be done from anywhere, as TREE Fund went to a remote, non-brick-and-mortar structure after I left, and after the coronavirus started running the show. The other (Operations and Governance Assistant) is a remote job, but does require at least weekly access to TREE Fund’s legal Naperville, Illinois mail drop, so there are some geographic considerations there. And since I’m working on the organization’s behalf again, I’d be remiss in not sharing the fact that Tour des Trees 2023 rider registration is now open (the peloton and crew will be going from Reno, Nevada to the California coast south of the Bay Area), and that you can support the mission of TREE Fund any time with tax deductible gifts here. I’ve always appreciated your collective support of my charitable causes in the past, and hope you might be moved to continue that trend of philanthropic benevolence as a statement of support for the current staff and volunteers, and those we hope to hire over the next few months.

3. And then speaking of my non-fiction writing, I’ve received the final galley proofs on my forthcoming book, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves, written in collaboration with my Naval Academy and Supply Corps School classmate and friend, Rear Admiral Jim McNeal. It’s nice to get to this point of the process and see just how the whole thing’s going to look in print, and I’m quite pleased at the layout and editing done by McFarland Books, our publisher. While the release date has been slipping around a bit, Amazon is currently showing it available on March 14. It may be sooner, it may be later, based on the number of times we’ve seen the date shift since submitting the manuscript last year, but given the point where we’re at with final edits and indexing, we know it’s going to be soon. (Note that the Amazon page for the book has some inaccurate holding pattern information blocks, most notably on page length, so I presume that will also be updated in weeks ahead). I’m trying to get the indexing done before we head to Hawai’i, though it’s fairly time-consuming and painstaking work, so that may be over-ambitious. That said, I’m about 70% through the 225 page manuscript, and the index I have created is already over 20 pages long, containing nearly 800 specific entries. (!!) That’s a lot of people, places, and things, and I think it all makes for a rich and well-researched text. (Of course, I would think that, wouldn’t I?)

What’s it all about, beyond the summary blurb on the websites linked above? Here is a scan of the Table of Contents (in two images over two pages, that jog in the formatting is not in the book), showing the specific stories we share at length in the text:

It was fun and interesting to write, and I’m hopeful that others will find it fun and interesting to read. You can pre-order it from the outlet of your choosing if you’d like, and Jim and I would be most grateful for such expressions of interest and support. We’re already pitching our next collaborative book project to publishers (it has to do with extreme rites of passage through history), so if you’ve got any good leads for us, holla!

Home From Spain (Yet Again)

Marcia and I made it back to our VOC digs this afternoon after a wonderful two-week trip to Spain, the foreign country we’ve visited more often than any other, except Canada. (Marcia actually spent a whole semester in Spain while in college, so it takes first place in overall time abroad for her, if not in number of trips). We spent the first part of the trip in Madrid, then went north to areas we’ve not visited before: Bilbao (and its suburb, Getxo) and Zaragoza. Then back to Madrid for a few more days, with a bus-trip over to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. We returned to some places we’ve loved before in Madrid, and also found some new favorites this time around. It’s a big, grand city, with lots to experience. And then we had a great time exploring the cultural treasures in Pais Vasco and Aragon, both ancient parts of the country with very distinctive histories of their own. We once again greeted a new year abroad, having done so before in Paris and Reykjavik. And we ate a ton of delicious food, most of it involving cod or various types of crustaceans or anchovies for me, with Marcia leaning a smidge more toward the terrestrial meat side of the equation.

I’m pretty whipped from travel and from what I think are still after-effects of COVID, and don’t really have the brain-power to write a big essay today, so will just post my photo album for now. If anything piques your curiosity there, ask in the comment section and I will be happy to explicate at more length. I may do so anyway here in a day or two, once my jets are less lagged. Marcia and I are off to Hawai’i for another two-week trip in ten days, so it feels great to be home for a spell of relative rest and relaxation. But, then, as good as it feels to be back in Arizona, we can tell that this was a great vacation, because we are already planning our next trip to Spain, rather than feeling sick of being there after two weeks. We’re thinking next time we’ll do a car journey, either from Bilbao west to Galicia, or from Barcelona around the Mediterranean coast through Valencia and Malaga. Decisions, decisions! We know we are most fortunate to be able to ponder them.

You can click on the image below of me interacting with Richard Serra’s monumental art at the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum to see the complete album. It’s a slightly bigger one than I normally post as a single album, so if you want to see the whole thing, you can click through to the second page at the bottom of the first one . . .

¡Hola, 2023!

Marcia and I greeted the New Year last night in the mobbed periphery of Madrid’s historic Puerto del Sol, which serves as Spain’s own Times Square for purposes of counting down the final seconds of one year, then welcoming the next one with fireworks and festivities. We both completed the Twelve Grapes ritual, eating a dozen green globes between the first and last tolling of Sol’s central clock tower, thereby guaranteeing us good fortune through 2023, per local tradition. It was exciting and interesting to be in the midst of such a felicitous public assembly.

This morning, we rose early and took two trains northward, one high speed to Zaragoza, and one not so high speed on to Bilbao. This is our first time in Pais Vasco, and both the countryside surrounding and the capitol city of this autonomous community are lovely on first day’s blush. We’ll be visiting Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum tomorrow, and we have two good meal options reserved to inundate in this region’s rich culinary traditions.

I’ll do my usual photo album of this entire trip when we get back, but as an interim teaser, here’s a bonus installment of my 10,000 Words series, featuring ten pictures taken during our first five days in Spain, in no particular order. We’re not even halfway through this vacation, which feels really great, for our first trip abroad in three years. We’ve got plenty more to see and learn about and eat. And then eat some more. Yum! (As always, you can click any photo to enlarge it, should you so desire).

2022: Year In Review

Marcia and I will be heading to Spain (our first international trip since COVID) a couple of days after Christmas, so today seems like a good point to sit and settle up the scores for 2022 here at my website, as I normally do at this time each year, plus or minus a few days. Unless I get ambitious, or someone I care about deeply passes away soon, this will likely be the final post of the year, for better and/or for worse.

ON THE BLOG:

In 2020, I surprised myself by publishing 147 posts, the most I’d done since the Poem-A-Day Project in 2004. Retiring from full-time work certainly gave me more time to write, as did COVID-driven cancellations of planned travel, and the need to fill socially isolated time in some satisfying and/or productive fashions. I followed that high-water mark with another 120 posts in 2021. Even with that smaller number of entries, the overall site readership trend remained positive, as I think the coronablogus effect was still in full play throughout that year. But I did seem to hit a wall at the end of 2021, tiring of some of my then-ongoing features, and noting in January of this year that I might be w(h)ithering a bit hereabouts. That did indeed prove to be the case, as this post is number 54 for the year, more than a 50% reduction in my recent annual output. But, thankfully, readership numbers didn’t decline anywhere near that level, so my per-post hits were actually higher than ever, per the chart below. I’ve operated this site and domain since 1995, but prior to 2015, I split my writing between a variety of sites with a variety of hosts, so there’s no easily meaningful visual comparison to make from those times. (Actual numbers are  edited out, as it’s tacky to share them, and the trend line is what matters to me; the light-blue pipes are total unique page visits, the dark-blue pipes are total unique visitors):

As I report each year, here are the baker’s dozen most-read articles among the new posts here over the past twelve months. So if you’re new-ish to my site, or just finding it via this post, then these are the things that readers thought were the best in the vote-by-numbers, and therefore might be the best things to explore further. There’s a bit of everything in the mix, tone-wise, which I suppose is just fine and dandy:

And then here are the baker’s dozen posts written in prior years that received the most reads in 2022, shared to the same recommended pointing reason. It always fascinates me which of the 1,200+ articles on my website interest people (or search engines) the most, all these years on since the first 1995 post on the earliest version of this website. (Note that I exclude things like the “About Me” page or the generic front page from the list, even though they generate a lot of my traffic). “The Worst Rock Band Ever” tops the leader board, as it does most every year. And once again, here’s hoping that people realize that the perennially-popular “Iowa Pick-Up Lines” post is a joke, and also, once again, it continues to befuddle me why my 1999 interview with relatively-obscure guitarist Dave Boquist appears on this “most-read” chart almost every year, receiving far more hits, continually, than my many other interviews with many other far more famous artists. Go figger . . .

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB:

See this earlier post: Best of My Web 2022

TRAVEL:

We will see 2022 off, God willing and the creek don’t rise, in the Puerto del Sol, Madrid, Spain. We leave on Tuesday, but I’ve gone ahead and penned that trip onto my annual travel map, below. While this isn’t as heavy a travel load as we once did, it’s certainly nice to see it being populated with more red lines than were possible during peak COVID years:

RECORDINGS:

See these two earlier posts:

BOOKS:

See this earlier post: Best Books of 2022

FILM AND TELEVISION:

See these three earlier posts:

AND  THEN . . . .

. . . onward into 2023, with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I don’t know whether I’ll continue to churn out the piffle and tripe at recent levels, or do more, or so less, or what direction your collective engagement with this site will take. (One of the nice things about doing this as a labor of love, and not a labor of commerce, is that the thought of less content and/or less traffic in the year ahead does not cause me any agita). But regardless of how all of those things turn out, I will forever be grateful to those of you who care enough to continue supporting my creative endeavors, right here and right now, and I wish all of you and all of yours the very best over the days and months and years to come!

P.S. As a final tease on the final post of the year, here’s one thing that I know 2023 will be bringing, if you’d like to stake your claim to a copy:

Side By Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves

Hey Oscar . . .

I posted my Best Films of 2022 list a couple of week back, here, and have been updating it as I’ve whittled down my “need to see” list. When I posted it, I also included some Oscar-linked lists based on the categories that I care the most about. I’ve been updating that list as well, but it’s long enough that it felt like it might need its own post. Which you’re now reading.

I don’t know why I still care about the Oscars, but I do. That show’s broadcast and the Super Bowl are about the only two “must-see TV” events for me anymore. The Tony’s were never my bag, as my exposure to Broadway-level theater is minimal. Since I’ve not been much of a television watcher until COVID times, as discussed here, I’ve also not been much engaged with the Emmy’s. And in the realm of my greatest cultural love, music, the Grammy’s have long been a negligible-to-laughable misguided embarrassment in my mind, much as are nominations to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

But the Oscars still seem to matter to me, as does the Cannes Film Festival, despite the myriad problematic aspects of both of those events and the organizations that produce them. Call me blinkered or blinded or Kool Aid-poisoned or whatever, but I am happy to see the films I love win awards at those venues, and annoyed when truly worthy films are shunned. There’s still some emotional and intellectual investment, at bottom line, though I cannot explain why in any particularly lucid fashion.

That said, if I were allowed to be Film Emperor for a Day and to be able to prescribe the nominees for the 2023 Oscars, here’s what I’d pick among the major (to me) categories. I wish that the Academy did not allow up to ten best film nominees each year, but since they do, I’ll go along with that rubric and fill that bucket.

Best Film:

  • Aftersun
  • The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
  • Clara Sola
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • The Good Boss
  • Official Competition
  • The Outfit
  • Saloum
  • Triangle of Sadness

Best Director:

  • Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn, Official Competition
  • Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
  • Nathalie Álvarez Mesén, Clara Sola
  • Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness

Best Actor:

  • Antonio Banderas, Official Competition
  • Javier Bardem, The Good Boss
  • Austin Butler, Elvis
  • Mark Rylance, The Outfit
  • Ralph Fiennes, The Menu

Best Actress:

  • Penélope Cruz, Official Competition
  • Rebecca Hall, Resurrection
  • Regina Hall, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul
  • Emily Skeggs, Dinner in America
  • Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Mentor Ba, Saloum
  • Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Tom Hanks, Elvis
  • Woody Harrelson, Triangle of Sadness
  • Pedro Pascal, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Hong Chau, The Menu
  • Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Dolly De Leon, Triangle of Sadness
  • Janelle Monae, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story

Best Animated Feature:

  • Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood
  • Beavis and Butthead Do The Universe
  • Mad God
  • Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
  • Minions: The Rise of Gru

Best International Feature:

  • Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
  • The Good Boss
  • Official Competition
  • Saloum
  • The Tale of King Crab

Best Cinematography:

  • Darius Khondji, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
  • Sophie Winqvist, Clara Sola
  • Larkin Seiple, Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Thirteen Lives
  • Fredrik Wenzel, Triangle of Sadness

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once
  • Jordan Peele, Nope
  • Mariano Cohn, Andrés Duprat and Gastón Duprat, Official Competition
  • Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • K.D. Dávila, Emergency
  • Rian Johnson, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  • Simon Farnaby, The Phantom of the Open
  • Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis, The Tale of King Crab
  • Emma Donoghue, Sebastián Lelio and Alice Birch, The Wonder

The yacht sequence in “Triangle of Sadness” was one of the most incredible and horrifying acts of film-making I can recall in recent years. Give those folks some Oscars!

My Top 200 Albums Of All Time (2022 Update)

Having completed my Best Albums of 2022 report earlier this month, it seems a good time to update the running list of my most-loved albums. As an orderly music nerd, I’ve been keeping lists of my favorite albums since the very early ’70s, when I was a zealous grade school Steppenwolf fan. My tastes have evolved dramatically over the years (though I still love Steppenwolf), so it’s always fun (for me) to review and update this list periodically, dropping things that haven’t aged well from year to year, and adding new things that excite me and seem to have staying power.

The fact that I’ve posted lists like this here online for so long also seems to catch the regular attention of various search engines, such that I get a lot of interesting connections and comments arising from these posts. Which is good, as I’m always happy to hear from other list-making music nerds. Well, except when their commentary is limited to “Dude, you suck, Y U NO include [their favorite album] here?!?! LULZ ZOMFG 11!1!!1!”

For many years, this was a “Top 100 List,” typed out on various typewriters and word processors and computers as my technology matured. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt entitled to expand the roster beyond the century mark, since I’ve listened to a whole lot more music now than I had when I was a whole lot younger. I also used to exclude “Greatest Hits” and other compilation or live albums as a point of principle, but I’ve gotten less uptight about that, too, since for some artists, their best work may have appeared on singles that only saw long-form release via “Best Of” collections.

So here’s this year’s update, in alphabetical order by artist name. Maybe you’ll be reminded of some old favorites and give ’em some nostalgia spins. Or maybe you’ll find something new to rock your home world. Or maybe you’ll just sigh and wonder what the hell goes on in my head to produce an all-over-the-place listing like this. It’s all good. As is the music.

  1. 54-40: 54-40
  2. Albion Band: Rise Up Like the Sun
  3. Asian Dub Foundation: Rafi’s Revenge
  4. Bauhaus: The Sky’s Gone Out
  5. Bee Gees: Main Course
  6. Birthday Party: Mutiny/The Bad Seed
  7. Black Angels: Wilderness of Mirrors
  8. Bogmen: Life Begins at 40 Million
  9. Bongwater: The Power of Pussy
  10. Bonzo Dog Band: Keynsham
  11. Bonzo Dog Band: The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse
  12. Bowie, David: Low
  13. Bowie, David: “Heroes”
  14. Bowie, David: Lodger
  15. Buggy Jive: The Buggy Jive Mixtape
  16. Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey
  17. Bush, Kate: Hounds of Love
  18. Butthole Surfers: Hairway to Steven
  19. Butthole Surfers: Locust Abortion Technician
  20. Camberwell Now: All’s Well
  21. Cale, John: Honi Soit
  22. Cale, John: The Island Years
  23. Camp Lo: Ragtime Hightimes
  24. Cave, Nick and the Bad Seeds: Henry’s Dream
  25. Chap: Mega Breakfast
  26. Christian Death: Catastrophe Ballet
  27. Clash: Combat Rock
  28. Clash: London Calling
  29. Clean: Mister Pop
  30. Cleveland, Reverend James: Sings Songs of Dedication
  31. Clutch: Book of Bad Decisions
  32. Clutch: Elephant Riders
  33. Clutch: Robot Hive/Exodus
  34. Coil: Horse Rotorvator
  35. Coil: The Ape of Naples
  36. Collins, Phil: Face Value
  37. Coup: Sorry to Bother You
  38. Coup: Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack
  39. Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People
  40. Culture: Two Sevens Clash
  41. Cypress Hill: Black Sunday
  42. Dälek: Absence
  43. Dälek: Gutter Tactics
  44. Davis, Jed: Failing Upwards
  45. Death Grips: Ex-Military
  46. Death Grips: Government Plates
  47. Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
  48. Dogbowl: Flan
  49. Dogg, Snoop: BUSH
  50. Dolenz, Micky: Dolenz Sings Nesmith
  51. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment: Surf
  52. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg
  53. Eagles: Desperado
  54. Eider, Max: The Best Kisser in the World
  55. Einstürzende Neubauten: Haus der Lüge
  56. Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Tarkus
  57. Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery
  58. Eno, Brian: Here Come the Warm Jets
  59. Eno, Brian: Another Green World
  60. Eno, Brian: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
  61. Fairport Convention: Unhalfbricking
  62. Fairport Convention: What We Did On Our Holidays
  63. Fall: Hex Enduction Hour
  64. Fall: The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click)
  65. Fall: Imperial Wax Solvent
  66. Family: Bandstand
  67. Family: Fearless
  68. First Aid Kit: Palomino
  69. First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
  70. First Aid Kit: Ruins
  71. Fleetwood Mac: Future Games
  72. Fleetwood Mac: Bare Trees
  73. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
  74. Focus: Live At The Rainbow
  75. Funkadelic: Maggotbrain
  76. Gabriel, Peter: Peter Gabriel (III/Melt)
  77. Gang of Four: Entertainment!
  78. Gang of Four: Songs of the Free
  79. Genesis: Duke
  80. Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
  81. Good Rats: Tasty
  82. Grateful Dead: American Beauty
  83. Grateful Dead: Workingman’s Dead
  84. Hall, Daryl: Sacred Songs
  85. Hall, Terry and Mushtaq: The Hour of Two Lights
  86. Hanslick Rebellion: The Rebellion is Here
  87. Hitchcock, Robyn and the Egyptians: Element of Light
  88. Human Sexual Response: Fig. 14
  89. Human Sexual Response: In a Roman Mood
  90. Hurray for the Riff Raff: Life On Earth
  91. Hüsker Dü: Zen Arcade
  92. Jarre, Jean-Michel: Equinoxe
  93. Jazz Butcher: The Wasted Years
  94. Jesu/Sun Kil Moon: Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
  95. Jethro Tull: Songs From the Wood
  96. Jethro Tull: Heavy Horses
  97. Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick
  98. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures
  99. Joy Division: Closer
  100. Juluka: Scatterlings
  101. Kamikaze Hearts: Oneida Road
  102. Kaukonen, Jorma: Quah
  103. Keineg, Katell: Jet
  104. Killdozer: Twelve Point Buck
  105. King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black
  106. King Crimson: In The Court of the Crimson King
  107. Korn: Untouchables
  108. Korn: The Paradigm Shift
  109. Kraftwerk: Minimum-Maximum
  110. Kurki-Suonio, Sanna: Musta
  111. Lateef, Yusef: Eastern Sounds
  112. Lateef, Yusef: The Complete Yusef Lateef
  113. Laurels, L
  114. Led Zeppelin: IV (Zoso)
  115. London, Theophilus: Bebey
  116. Magma: Üdü Ẁüdü
  117. McCartney, Paul: McCartney III
  118. MED, Blu and Madlib: Bad Neighbor
  119. Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell
  120. Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime
  121. Mitchel, Joni: For the Roses
  122. Mitchell, John Cameron and Stephen Trask: Hedwig And The Angry Inch
  123. Modern English: After the Snow
  124. Modern English: Ricochet Days
  125. Mos Def: The Ecstatic
  126. Mould, Bob: District Line
  127. Napalm Death: Time Waits For No Slave
  128. Napalm Death: Utilitarian
  129. Napalm Death: Apex Predator — Easy Meat
  130. Napalm Death: Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
  131. New Order: Movement
  132. New Order: Power, Corruption and Lies
  133. Nyman, Michael: A Zed and Two Noughts (Original Soundtrack)
  134. Palmer, Robert: Pride
  135. Phair, Liz: Exile in Guyville
  136. Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon
  137. Pink Floyd: Animals
  138. Pink Floyd: The Wall
  139. Presley, Elvis: Peace In The Valley: The Complete Gospel Recordings
  140. Prieboy, Andy: One and One Makes Three
  141. Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet
  142. Public Enemy: Apocalypse ’91 . . . The Enemy Strikes Black
  143. R.E.M.: Life’s Rich Pageant
  144. Renaldo and the Loaf: Songs for Swinging Larvae
  145. Replacements: Let It Be
  146. Residents: Animal Lover
  147. Residents: Demons Dance Alone
  148. Residents: Wormwood
  149. Richman, Jonathan: It’s Time For . . .
  150. Richman, Jonathan: Ishkode! Ishkode!
  151. Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St.
  152. Rundgren, Todd: Healing
  153. Run The Jewels: RTJ4
  154. Sepultura: Roots
  155. Simon & Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence
  156. Simple Minds: Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call
  157. Snog: Last of the Great Romantics
  158. Snog: Lullabies for the Lithium Age
  159. Sparks: A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  160. Special A.K.A.: In the Studio
  161. Specials: More Specials
  162. Steely Dan: Aja
  163. Steely Dan: The Royal Scam
  164. Steppenwolf: Gold: Their Great Hits
  165. Swans: Filth
  166. Swans: Holy Money
  167. Talking Heads: Fear of Music
  168. Tastee, Gay: Songs for the Sodomites
  169. Television Personalities: Closer to God
  170. Ten Years After: Cricklewood Green
  171. The The: Soul Mining
  172. This Heat: Deceit
  173. Tosh, Peter: Mama Africa
  174. Tosh, Peter: Equal Rights
  175. Tracey, Stan Quartet: Under Milk Wood: Jazz Suite
  176. Tragic Mulatto: Italians Fall Down and Look Up Your Dress
  177. Tsukerman, Slava et. al.: Liquid Sky (Original Soundtrack)
  178. Utopia: Swing to the Right
  179. Various Artists: If You Can’t Please Yourself You Can’t, Please Your Soul
  180. Various Artists: The Harder They Come (Original Soundtrack Recording)
  181. Wailer, Bunny: Blackheart Man
  182. Wall of Voodoo: Happy Planet
  183. Wall of Voodoo: Seven Days in Sammystown
  184. Wasted: We Are Already in Hell
  185. Weasels: Uranus or Bust
  186. Weasels: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow
  187. Who: Who’s Next
  188. Who: Tommy
  189. Wings: Band on the Run
  190. Wings: Venus and Mars
  191. Wire: The Ideal Copy/Snakedrill
  192. Wire: It’s Beginning To And Back Again
  193. Wishbone Ash: Argus
  194. Woods Band: The Woods Band
  195. XTC: Black Sea
  196. XTC: English Settlement
  197. Yes: The Yes Album
  198. Young, Neil and Crazy Horse: re-ac-tor
  199. Zappa, Frank and the Mothers of Invention: One Size Fits All
  200. Zappa, Frank: Joe’s Garage, Parts I, II and III

The longest-running entry on this list, easy. Thankfully, I don’t have to listen to it on 8-track tape anymore.

Gimme The Keys

1. I’m down to my last dose of Paxlovid this afternoon, hoping that the COVID Crud will lift in full around the same time that I stop taking these large and awful-tasting pills. I certainly feel better today than I have for most of the past week, and remain thankful that whatever combination of natural immunity, vaccination, medication, prior exposure and/or dumb luck meant that it never felt like anything more than a severe and tenacious cold with some really heinous body aches thrown in as a bonus.

2. It’s a good thing that those body aches abated a bit over the past 24 hours or so, as I had to use them muscles today to do some (gasp!) snow removal work. We woke up yesterday morning to a dusting of the white stuff, but it didn’t take anymore than a broom to get it off the ramps and walks into and out of our house. Then last night, we had a crazy spot of weather for about a half hour, a true thunder-blizzard, with frequent lightning, little hail stones, wind, rain, ice, snow, frogs, locusts, and God knows what else falling out of the sky. Even the weather map wasn’t quite sure how to label the storm path, so it just put two storm paths one on top of the other (click to enlarge):

Is it hail? Is it a thunderstorm? Is there water, or ice, or rain? Yes, on all counts.

When I got up this morning, I was surprised to see that we had probably three or four inches of accumulation. I was also surprised to see that sometime during the night, conditions must have adjusted to create a perfect flocking scenario, with every branch on every visible tree looking like the white stuff had been professionally laid on by an ambitious interior decorator hoping to create the perfect Christmas scene. Just a bit early there, son. But don’t bother trying again later, please and thanks. Here are some photos I took from inside the house, while the stuff was still fresh, and before I had to go out in it:

And here’s one more, taken yesterday morning. The flocking isn’t quite as good, but it does capture the holiday spirit nicely, I think:

3. Speaking of holiday spirit, a friend of ours asked me last week to create a fun and festive Christmas playlist for a party, which we were supposed to attend, before the plague caught and hamstrung me. I agreed to undertake the task, in part because it was a favor to a friend and I am altruistic like that, and in part because I’m a selfish pig, and I absolutely hate most of the Christmas music pap that gets shoved down our throats every year, so if I could do my part to control my audio field at an event, then Hey Nonny Nonny, I’m on it. (See here for more on my issues with modern American Christmas music. Spoiler: The title of the post is “Grinching“).

Since it was a party, I figured I couldn’t go hard into the sorts of historically accurate symphonic and choral works that are more in tune (ha ha) with the liturgical meaning of the season, so instead I went for a diverse collection of quirky subjects and styles, while hewing to the mission statement that it have something to do with the December holiday season. Sure, some of the usual suspect songs ended up in my mix, but I tried to make sure they were offered in versions that everybody’s not heard 7,000 times already since American Christmas Consumer Season began, in early October.

Because I have caved to streaming, I can now share that mix with you, dear readers, so that perhaps you will also be able to also curtail the usual crap in your own sonic spaces, ho ho ho. Here ’tis:

Best Television of 2022

As I sit here at my computer this morning, hacking and sniffling through day four of my current COVID bout, it seems like a good time and place to make another list because, hey, that’s how I roll at this time each year, sick or well. So shall we reflect together, y’all and I, on what we watched on the idiot box this year? Let’s give it a go, I say. Or maybe that’s the drugs talking . . .

I must point out up front that this is one year-end list that I wouldn’t, and couldn’t, have meaningfully prepared prior to the Anno Virum. In the ’60s and ’70s, I assume I was a fairly typical television-watching kid/teen from a fairly typical television-watching family, not much outside the mainstream, keeping reasonably well abreast of and casually consuming then-popular shows, either in real time or in syndication, or both. But some time in the very early 1980s, I generally stopped watching broadcast or cable television shows, and that remained my norm pretty much right up until 2020, with only a few notable exceptions.

I was down with Twin Peaks and Seinfeld in the ’90s, yeah. And I watched Daria and Strangers With Candy in their entireties. Breaking Bad caught and held my attention, though Better Call Saul did not. A few other relatively short-lived comedies worked for me, most notably My Name Is Earl, Malcolm in the Middle, Beavis and Butthead, In Living Color, Flight of the Conchords, and Schitts Creek. But beyond that, I can’t recall having many “must watch” shows from about 1980 to about 2020, when the rest of the world was losing its collective mind over things like The Sopranos and The Wire and Lost and Mad Men and Six Feet Under and The X Files and 30 Rock and The West Wing and Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones and on and on and on.

Marcia and Katelin watched a lot of those shows (along with some reality TV stuff), but during their TV time, I’d typically be at my computer, writing, or listening to music, or mucking about in various online communities, or doing volunteer/board stuff. We were always big on movie rentals, in both pre-streaming days and in the modern paradigm, and I would watch films on television regularly, and sports, but just not TV shows. Then, of course, the plague arrived, bringing lockdowns and social distancing in its wake, and Marcia and I adjusted our home-life schedules accordingly to have more together-time, including watching television shows that I would likely have skipped in pre-isolation days.

While the most-restrictive periods of our COVID era have mostly passed (this week’s personal sickness and isolation notwithstanding), we’ve kept going with our television watching together, such that feel like I’ve actually experienced enough to have valid opinions on what moved me most in 2022. I didn’t keep track in real time of what I was watching, the way I do with music, and books, and films, but looking at a few online resources, I think I watched at least one full season of 27 different shows this year. I know we sampled and bailed on probably a dozen others beyond that.

I note that we’ve just begun the as-yet-incomplete third season of South Side, which I adore, so that will most likely get added to my top of the pile list once it runs its course. I also note that I’m not including the great Yellowjackets, because most of its debut season premiered and aired in 2021, though we did get a few episodes last January. As a preamble to my Top Ten of 2022 list, here’s my honorable mentions list of ten shows that engaged me enough to make me keep watching, and which I enjoyed well enough, but not to a point that makes me want to laud them as the best of the best of anything:

  • 1899 (Season One)
  • Beavis and Butthead (Season Nine)
  • Disenchantment (Season Four)
  • Los Espookys (Season Two)
  • Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (Season One)
  • The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (Season One)
  • Only Murders in the Building (Season Two)
  • Resident Alien (Season Two)
  • Rick and Morty (Seasons Five and Six)
  • Undone (Season Two)

And then here are the ten best serial things I watched in 2022, counting down toward what I deem to be the very best the year offered:

#10. The English (Season One): This one had some structural flaws (too episodic in its first installments, with some confusing relationships between cast members), but once its pieces finally clicked about four episodes in, the climax and denouement were worth the bumpy early ride. Outstanding performances in the lead roles by Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, with some fun guest stars popping up in various episodes as well.

#9. Shoresy (Season One): Shoresy (the character) was a one-note comedic part in the hilarious Canadian comedy Letterkenny, so when a spin-off series about him was announced, I was skeptical that it could work. But, happily enough, it did, adding some back-story depth to a caricature of a character, putting together a fun new ensemble cast, and creating a series story arc that actually made you care how it turned out.

#8. Solar Opposites (Season Three): Justin Roiland’s Solar Opposites looks, sounds, and feels a lot like its creator’s other great show, Rick and Morty. I like both of them a lot, but this year Solar Opposites seemed to edge ahead of its older sibling in terms of lasting quality entertainment value, in large part because of the increased number of episodes prominently featuring modern TV’s greatest supporting character: The Pupa.

#7. The Tourist (Season One): As I was working on this list, I noted that The Tourist had been renewed for a second season. Enhhh . . . I’m not feeling that, and I think they should have left this alone as a limited-release series, given how incredibly the first block of episodes ended, and how crazy the ride to get there was. Dark, dark, and dark throughout, even though you’ll find yourself giggling every now and again, nervously.

#6. What We Do In the Shadows (Season Four): As with Shoresy, I was highly skeptical that this series, based on a film that I love, could have had lasting entertainment value. And, as with Shoresy again, I was wrong. The core ensemble cast here makes the whole thing work brilliantly, and regular on-screen or behind-the-scenes guest involvement from the original film’s Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement are always welcome.

#5. Our Flag Means Death (Season One): Taika Waititi on the list again with a fabulously over-the-top and outre pirate serial based on the true stories of Stede Bonnet, once known as “The Gentleman Pirate,” and Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard. Yeah, all the expected pirate tropes are here, but beyond that, well, to its great credit, it explicitly goes places that a century’s worth of sweaty sailors at sea sagas have typically ignored.

#4. Somebody Somewhere (Season One): I’m not sure why we started this one, as it lacks the usual links or tags or stars or topics or buzz that normally catch my attention. But, boy, I sure am glad I tuned in, as this was the most wonderful, laugh-out-loud, cry-in-your-beer, life-affirming, tragicomedy of errors I’ve seen in some time, with a great cast bringing a vibrant collection of quirky characters to life, full of heart and soul.

#3. Reservation Dogs (Season Two): It’s a Taiki Waititi hat trick in my top ten, this time with the great Kiwi writer-director-actor co-creating an Indigenous American dramedy with Seminole-Muscogee writer-director Sterlin Harjo. Once again, core cast is key, along with a patient writing and directorial style that spools out stories in dribs and drabs over time, rather than showing or telling everything up front, or all at once.

#2. Severance (Season One): Great concept, great cast, great visuals, great show! It’s science fiction on one level, sure, but like Patrick McGoohan’s great The Prisoner (one of my all-time favorite shows), it’s often what’s not shown, or what’s not explained, that creates the deepest dread, and spawns the most suspense. Season One’s ending was incredible, with a crucial reveal and a cliffhanger knit together just perfectly, just so.

#1. Atlanta (Seasons Three and Four): While Severance‘s Season One ending showed how to best set up an ensuing season, Atlanta‘s series finale showed up to best wrap up an insanely brilliant television program at the peak of its powers. Oh, I’m gonna miss Earn, Alfred, Darius and Van, for sure, but Donald Glover has been such a genius creator over the years that whatever he give us next, I known it’s going to be grand.

As noted above, I deeply dug the first two episodes of South Side‘s latest season this week, and I’m also looking forward to getting into the new Sherman’s Showcase series soon. Was there anything else out there that I need to see before 2022 runs its course? Or, probably more relevantly, was there anything else out there that I saw and forgot about, but will be reminded of as soon as I post this article, and Marcia or Katelin or John refresh my memory. There may well be edits. Hold onto your popcorn and milkshakes accordingly . . .

You want perfect television? This here’s perfect television. Get on it!