1. In New York, we could only buy wine and spirits at liquor stores. In Iowa, we can buy it pretty much anywhere: grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores, wine stores, wherever. Quality varies widely, needless to say. We rank the wine shopping hierarchy in Des Moines as follows:
Ingersoll Wine & Spirits > Hy-Vee > Dahl’s > Wahlgreens > Quik Trip > Casey’s > Kum & Go
2. Heresy alert: Critics around the world are falling all over themselves to praise Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ new disc, Push the Sky Away, as a moody, atmospheric masterpiece. But me? I think it’s slow, boring, and proves just how important ex-member Mick Harvey was to the Bad Seeds.
3. My other biggest musical disappointment in 2013 is Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse. I adored their last two albums (see here, here, here and here), and their 2012 EP State Hospital boded well as a preview for the new disc, but it really fell flat for me upon arrival. I read one review that compared the new record to Coldplay. I wouldn’t argue with that assessment, though I consider it a terrible insult.
4. Those disappointing albums notwithstanding, I think 2013 has been an absolutely stellar year for new music, with a dizzying array of career highlights from a wide range of performers. I suspect all of the following albums will feature on my “Best Records of the Year” survey when I write it in December, with either the Wire or the Bowie disc in the top spot:
Wire, Change Becomes Us
Karl Bartos, Off The Record
Clutch, Earth Rocker
David Bowie, The Next Day
Che Guevara T-Short, Everyone That’s Dead Was Obviously Wrong
The Weasels, AARP Go The Weasels
Pere Ubu, Lady from Shanghai
5. Grand Mal’s Binge/Purge is one of my favorite records from the time I spent in mid-1980s Washington, DC’s musical underground. You can nab a copy here. Don’t be put off by the heinous album cover, a poster of which used to adorn my bulletin board at the Naval Academy, much to our visitors’ horror.
6. Still the best children’s book ever: Jerome.
7. Still the most terrifying version of the tired Charles Dickens classic: Richard Williams’ A Christmas Carol (1971). See especially 5:58 and 16:40.
8. As a native South Carolinian, I am very good at cracking pecans by hand. There’s some brute force involved, but also some finesse, and it is deeply satisfying to end up with two perfect pecan halves in hand without any mechanical assistance. I bought some pecans at our indoor Winter Farmer’s Market a couple of months ago, and one afternoon was particularly pleased by the perfect pecan I extracted. I went to the living room to show Marcia and share my accomplishment, hand held out in front of me. Before I could say a word, she grabbed one of the pecan halves, popped it in her mouth, and walked away. Show Off FAIL.
9. How much money do state and federal governments spend on signs that are essentially universal, such as “No Littering” or “Bridge Freezes Before Road” or “Keep Right Except to Pass.” How about we save a ton of tax dollars and eliminate all of these and other stupid signs by just having acceptance of a driver’s license include a signed attestation the the recipient understands that all bridges freeze before all roads, that littering is a no-no, that the left lane is reserved for passing, etc.
10. This post cleared about half of my office whiteboard.