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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

With less than 7 hours to spare here are my top albums of the year. Overall a somewhat disappointing music year, but still plenty o'favorites. My top 2 techinically released late last year though I wasn't able to get either delivered until this year hence 2008...deal with it :-)

Top 10 Albums of 2008

10.
The Black Angels
Directions To See A Ghost

9.
Lucinda Williams
Little Honey


8.

Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes

7.

Moondoggies
Don't Be A Stranger


6.

Okkervil River
The Stand Ins

5.

Gary Louris
Vagabonds/Acoustic Vagabonds

4.
Damien Jurado
Caught In The Trees

3.
Black Mountain
In The Future

2.
A.A. Bondy
American Hearts

1.
Travis Tooke
Artichoke

Just Missed
Avett Brothers - The Gleam II, Black Keys - Attack & Release, Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago, Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark, Grand Archives - Grand Archives, Raveonettes - Lust, Lust, Lust, Retribution Gospel Choir - Retribution Gospel Choir, Ryan Adams - Cardinology, Sun Kil Moon - April, Throw Me The Statue - Moonbeams

Best Live Album
The Thermals - Live At The Echoplex 12/07/07

Best Soundtrack
Juno

Best Reissue
Whiskeytown - Stranger's Almanac, All of the Replacements albums

Best Live Shows I Saw This Year
Damien Jurado @ Triple Door
Cave Singer @ The Moore
John Vanderslice @ Bumbershoot
Old 97's @ Bumbershoot
Lucinda Williams @ Bumbershoot
Colin Meloy @ The Showbox

Most Disappointing Albums of the Year
Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark, Ryan Adams - Cardinology

2008 Mixtape
1. Counting Crows - "Hanging Tree"
2. British Sea Power - "Waving Flags"
3. Black Angels - "You on the Run"
4. Raveonettes - "Aly, Walk With Me"
5. The Muslims - "Bright Side"
6. Moondoggies - "Changing"
7. Black Mountain - "Evil Ways"
8. Ryan Adams - "Magick"
9. My Morning Jacket - "I'm Amazed"
10. Magnetic Fields - "California Girls"
11. Damien Jurado - "Coats of Ice"
12. Grand Archives - "Torn Foam Blue Couch"
13. Throw Me The Statue - "About to Walk"
14. Avett Brothers - "Murdered in the City"
15. Gary Louris - "True Blue"
16. A.A. Bondy - "There's a Reason"
17. Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"
18. Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"
19. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - "Rattlin' Bones"
20. Roadside Graves - "Far and Wide"
21. Travis Tooke - "Would You Burn?"

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Final 2008 Movie List

Here's the full list of movies I saw for the first time this year. Not quite as many as last year mostly thanks to my new obsession with catching up on TV series on DVD.

Best new movie I saw: Burn After Reading
Best old movie I'd never seen: Blue Velvet
Best TV Series on DVD: The Wire
  1. Lost Highway*
  2. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
  3. Juno*
  4. Sweeney Todd
  5. American History X
  6. Rescue Dawn
  7. Blue Velvet*
  8. Semi-Pro
  9. Short Cuts*
  10. Lust, Caution
  11. Michael Clayton
  12. Shopgirl
  13. Eagle vs. Shark
  14. Secretary
  15. American Gangster
  16. There Will Be Blood*
  17. Harold and Kumar Escape From Guatanamo Bay
  18. Bubble*
  19. Iron Man
  20. I'm Not There
  21. Inland Empire
  22. Cloverfield
  23. Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  24. Encounters at the End of the World*
  25. Deliverance*
  26. Cassandra's Dream
  27. The Man on the Radio in the Red Tennis Shoes
  28. In Search of Kennedy
  29. Dan in Real Life
  30. Some Assembly Required
  31. Melvin Goes to Dinner
  32. Helvetica
  33. Fitzcarraldo*
  34. In the Shadow of the Moon*
  35. The Savages*
  36. Be Kind Rewind
  37. The Fog of War
  38. Step Brothers
  39. Hellboy
  40. The Dark Knight*
  41. Batman Begins
  42. Burn After Reading*
  43. Aguirre, The Wrath of God
  44. Persepolis
  45. Dr. Strangelove*
  46. Eagle Eye
  47. Eraserhead
  48. Orgazmo
  49. A Dirty Shame
  50. W
  51. Nashville*
  52. Monster Camp
  53. RocknRolla
  54. Role Models*
  55. The Ten
  56. Surfwise
  57. George Washington*
  58. Gonzo

* - Highly recommended

Previously: 2007 movie list

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Final 2008 Reading List

Ladies and Gentlemen, I humbly present my final 2008 reading list:
  1. The Best American Non-Required Reading 2007* - Various
  2. This Is Your Brain on Music - Daniel Levitin
  3. Hellfire* - Nick Tosches
  4. The Nimrod Flipout - Etgar Keret
  5. Shortcomings* - Adrian Tomine
  6. McSweeney's #25 - Various
  7. Kafka - R. Crumb & David Mairowitz
  8. The Worst Hard Time* - Timothy Egan
  9. The Fermata - Nicholson Baker
  10. The Call of the Weird - Louis Theroux
  11. Y: The Last Man, Volume 1: Unmanned - Vaughan and Guerra
  12. An American Dream - Norman Mailer
  13. My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead - Various
  14. Y: The Last Man, Volume 2: Cycles - Vaughan and Guerra
  15. Rock On - Dan Kennedy
  16. The Raw Shark Texts - Steven Hall
  17. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 3: One Small Step - Vaughan and Guerra
  18. Knockemstiff* - Donald Ray Pollock
  19. A Voyage Long and Strange* - Tony Horwitz
  20. All the Pretty Horses* - Cormac McCarthy
  21. McSweeney's #24 - Various
  22. Candy Girl - Diablo Cody
  23. Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me - Various
  24. Snuff - Chuck Palahniuk
  25. Y: The Last Man, Volume 4: Safeword - Vaughan and Guerra
  26. Maps and Legends - Michael Chabon
  27. The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs
  28. The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman
  29. Bastard Out of Carolina* - Dorothy Allison
  30. Y: The Last Man, Volume 5: Ring of Truth - Vaughan and Guerra
  31. The Sandman: Doll's House - Neil Gaiman
  32. The Mulching of America - Harry Crews
  33. Y: The Last Man, Volume 6: Girl on Girl - Vaughan and Guerra
  34. Bad Behavior* - Mary Gaitskill
  35. End Zone - Don DeLillo
  36. A People's History of American Empire - Howard Zinn
  37. Y: The Last Man, Volume 7: Paper Dolls - Vaughan and Guerra
  38. Y: The Last Man, Volume 8: Kimono Dragons - Vaughan and Guerra
  39. Y: The Last Man, Volume 9: Motherland - Vaughan and Guerra
  40. The Moviegoer* - Walker Percy
  41. Indignation* - Philip Roth
  42. The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
  43. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction* - Ivan Brunetti (ed.)
  44. The Best of Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl
  45. The Moon is Down - John Steinbeck
  46. Consider the Lobster* - David Foster Wallace
  47. The Lottery* - Shirley Jackson
  48. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores - Vaughan and Guerra
  49. Bright Lights, Big City* - Jay McInerney
  50. Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joan Didion
  51. Speaking With the Angel - Nick Hornby (ed.)
  52. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction Vol. 2* - Ivan Brunetti (ed.)
  53. The Point - Charles D'Ambrosio

* = Highly recommended

Previously: My 2007 reading list, My 2006 reading list, My 2005 reading list

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The Point

Book #53, also clocking in as the final book on my reading list this year, was The Point by Charles D'Ambrosio.

D'Ambrosio is one hell of a writer and this is the only one of his books I hadn't read yet, so it was a pretty easy selection. The stories don't disappoint, especially the first few. I'd recommend one of his other books as a starting point, but when you can't get enough this one will be there for you.

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An Anthology of Graphic Fiction Vol. 2

Book #52 on my reading list was An Anthology of Graphic Fiction Vol. 2 a comic collection edited by Ivan Brunetti.

I finished Vol. 1 of this series in October just in time to pick up this one. Vol. 2 builds on the momentum from the first book, bringing together some of the finest works from all kinds of comic genres spanning the 1900's. If you were going to teach a Comics 101 class these two books would make a great start for required reading.

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Speaking With The Angel

Book #51 of my reading list was Speaking With The Angel, a short story collection edited by Nick Hornby.

My standard review for short story anthologies is that they're usually a mixed bag: a couple of gems, a bunch of so-so stuff and a few stinkers. This is one of the rare collections though that's pretty darned solid throughout. I had a few faves, Hornby's "NippleJesus", Dave Eggers' "After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned" and Roddy Doyle's "The Slave", but even Colin Firth's piece is surprisingly good (who knew he was a writer?).

Why I Read this One
Main thing that drew my attention on this one was the quality of writers included (including Eggers who is a fave and an early work from Zadie Smith). Hornby also is a voracious reader and his "Stuff I've Been Reading" column in The Believer is always intriguing so that also increased my faith that he'd put together a great collection.

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Book #50 (woot!) on my reading list this year was Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Lazy I know, but it's tough to beat this synopsis from Powell's both for explaining what the book is about and why I read it:
"Universally acclaimed when it was first published in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem has become a modern classic. More than any other book of its time, this collection captures the mood of 1960s America, especially the center of its counterculture, California. These essays, keynoted by an extraordinary report on San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, all reflect that, in one way or another, things are falling apart, "the center cannot hold." An incisive look at contemporary American life, Slouching Towards Bethlehem has been admired for several decades as a stylistic masterpiece."

This is the first Didion book I've read. I wasn't sure quite where to start but since I've read a lot about 60's San Fran (Kesey, Merry Pranksters, Hell's Angels, etc) this seemed as good a place as any. Some of the essays feel a bit dated now but overall it was an interesting read, especially the titular piece.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Bright Lights, Big City

Book #49 on my reading list this year was Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City.

If you had to pick just one book from the 80's to stick in a time capsule it'd probably be this one. Yuppies? Check. Cocaine? Check. Michael J. Fox? Check. It's also smart, dynamic (2nd person!) and a great read.

Why I Read This One
It's a book that pops up frequently in discussions of the best novels of the past 25 years. I'd avoided it a long time due to the movie, which is odd since I've never even seen the film and shouldn't harbor any ill will towards it. The thing that finally pushed me over the precipice was McInerney's associations with Raymond Carver who he studied under and who blurbed BLBC as a 'rambunctious, deadly funny novel that goes right for the mark - the human heart'. Anyone who's alright with Carver is alright with me. Didn't hurt that the two other blurbs on my copy were Richard Ford and a comparison to Catcher in the Rye.


Wikipedia
Salon interview
Fan page
EW's 100 New Classics

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores

Book #48 on my list this year was Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores, which is unfortunately the last of what was a quite entertaining The Last Man series. Wikipedia has a good overview here and a there's a nice long piece on IGN here (both are full of spoilers).

Why I Read This Series
I think my interest in this series originated from a review I read in Entertainment Weekly. That lead me to looking up more online where I was impressed by the rabid fans and the consistently glowing reviews from other sources I respect (Jonathan Lethem, NPR, Time, Salon, etc). Once I read Vol. 1 I was hooked.

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 7
Volume 8
Volume 9

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The Lottery

Book #47 on my reading list was the short story collection The Lottery: Adventures of the Daemon Lover by Shirley Jackson.

You may be familiar with "The Lottery" from high school English. It's often taught during short story writing 101 and has become one of the classics of the genre. Why? Because it's awesome. Jackson's stories fall somewhere between Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King and the Salem Witch Trials. They're creepy, goth-ariffic and distinctly Shirley Jackson.

Why I Read This One
I picked this one up at a booksale after reading We Have Always Lived In the Castle last year. I'm always looking for good short story collections and the combo of having enjoyed WHALItC, my memory of reading "The Lottery", and her rep as a short story auteur made this one a no brainer.

And for good measure the tuneage that was stuck in my head as I wrote this (a classic in it's own right):




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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Consider The Lobster

Book #46 was David Foster Wallace's excellent essay collection Consider The Lobster.

I really, really enjoyed this one. Top to bottom the essays are smart, insightful, funny and thought provoking.

How I picked this one
I'd heard the buzz around Wallace for years, occassionally catching one of his always wonderful smaller pieces in magazines such as Rolling Stone but sadly never getting around to picking up one of his books. I wish I could say I was a long time fan, but the truth is that when he tragically passed away in September his name popped up again and I finally got around to bumping this one to the top of my stack. Turns out I've been missing out for a long time and DFW was every bit the writer people said he was. I'll definitely be picking up more of his works soon (maybe Infinite Jest?) though it's depressing to know there won't be any new ones.

Further Reading
"Consider the Lobster" essay <-- highly recommended
Excellent tribute from Rolling Stone

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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Moon Is Down

Okay, first off I am pathetically, woefully, embarrassingly behind on my book blogging. It's sad I know. I will try to catch up rapidly over the next few days so expect the posts to be short, sweet and not particularly insightful. Then again if you're here for insightful you're probably in the wrong place...

Book #45 on my reading list was John Steinbeck's The Moon is Down.

Quick, name five John Steinbeck books. Did you name The Moon is Down? I didn't think so. Know why? Because it's not one of his best. It's still Steinbeck though and The Moon is Down definitely has its stellar moments especially early on. I wouldn't start here if you haven't read Steinbeck before but if you're a fan it's a nice treat.

A co-worker recently asked my how I select the books I read. I muddled my way through an answer but the more I thought about the question the more I realized it's difficult to explain. I find I'm never at a loss for reading material and that one book just leads to another and another eventually piling up faster than I can read them but how that happens I suppose is a bit of magic. Anyways, I realized that how I select my books might be an interesting topic to speak to here (what with this being a personal blog and all) especially since most books already have a gazillion well researched reviews and synopsi (is that a word? if not it should be) you can find on the internets elsewhere.

Wanna hear it? Here it goes. This particular selection hit my radar for two reasons. Firstmost is that I really like Steinbeck, in fact I might even put him in my top 10 or so (ever-evolving) favorite authors. I've read a lot of his more popular stuff so I thought this might be a chance to get off the beaten path so to speak. The second reason this one piqued my interest is that it was referenced in Norway's Resistance Museum which we visited a couple of years ago. The story is set in what seems to be a Nazi occupied Norway (though that's never explictly made clear in the novella) and centers around the people's resistance to the occupying army. The book caused a bit of an sensation during the war, even inspiring it's own military operation. It also won Steinbeck Norway's Haakon VII Medal of freedom.
"The people don’t like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who
win the battles and the free men who win wars."

Did I say this was gonna be a short post? Sigh.

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Gonzo

Film #58 for me this year was Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

My NetFlix rating: 3.5 stars
Jamie says: Fascinating look into a fascinating life. Putting "Fear and Loathing in America" at the start was especially brilliant.
RIYL: Fear and Loathing, Bukowski


Official site
Rotten Tomatoes reviews
Wikipedia

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

George Washington

Film #57 for me this year was George Washington.

My NetFlix rating: 4 stars
Jamie says: What all indie films should strive to be
RIYL: Me, You and Everyone We Know, Stand By Me


Official site
Rotten Tomatoes reviews
Wikipedia

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Surfwise

Film #56 for me this year was Doug Pray's Surfwise.

My NetFlix rating: 3.5 stars
Jamie says: Them Paskowitz's is some strange cats. And the cameo from The Flys? Too cool for school.
RIYL: Documentaries, way down down down in this Subbacultcha


Official site
Rotten Tomatoes reviews
Wikipedia

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