the best of 08 the music edition

Well, here it is. What everyone has been on the edge of their seats waiting for, my top eight music picks for Ought 8. I was surprised by how many sophomore albums ended up on my list, 'cause usually the second albums out tend to suck it. I also had a pretty tough time narrowing it down to only eight—there were a lot of great albums that came out this year.

8) Port O'Brien | All We Could Do Was Sing: And sing really, really well. Continuing in the tradition of their debut, this Bay Area band sings whale songs and modern day sea shanties while rocking it pretty hard. The lead singer, Van Pierszalowski, spends every summer working on his dad's fishing boat in Alaska and so the ocean has had a big influence on his music. You can hear it in every warble, strum and hand clap this quartet produces. And it makes you want to sing along.

7) Right Away Great Captain | The Eventually Home:
I discovered this guy's debut album, The Bitter End, about a month before he put out his sophomore effort and had a hard time choosing which of the two I thought was better. Eventually I settled on this one because it was a little less, well, bitter than the first which was all about a break up from a former lover. In this side project, the lead singer from Manchester Orchestra, Andy Hull, brings a stripped down, mellower sound with beautiful lyrics and a melancholy aesthetic.

6) Carolina Chocolate Drops | Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind:
There's a lot that can be said about this debut from this trio from North Carolina. And 'meh' is not one of them. For this album is awesome. Awesome in that banjo pickin', harmonica playin', blues singin' way that music from the Appalachian states is awesome. These kids are young too, in their late teens and early 20s, but sound like they lived during the Great Depression. Some of that may be due to the one old guy in their midst, Sule Greg Wilson. Wilson, 'A dancer, multi-percussionist, string player and author who learned to play the bones on his daddy’s knee, Wilson first picked up a banjo in the early 1980s.' *

5) Frightened Rabbit | Midnight Organ Fight:
Straight up rock from some dudes in Scotland. This album, in my opinion, far surpassed their debut, The Greys. Plus, did I mention they're from Scotland? And therefore have Scottish accents? Enough said.

4) Wolf Parade | At Mount Zoomer: Fans of Spencer Krug and Co. waited a long time and two Sunset Rubdown (his side project which was apparently more important over the past few years than his main project) albums to finally, finally get Wolf Parade's sophomore effort. And I, for one, found it well worth the wait. This album rocked. Full of epic songs, this is one of the few albums produced in the last few years that is meant to be listened to in its entirety. It's no wonder these kids from Montreal are indie rocks new kings.

3) The Rural Alberta Advantage | Homelands: Another Canadian band brings the sounds of the windswept lands caught between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains that give TRAA a seat at the table with bands like Neutral Milk Hotel.

2) Elliott Brood | Mountain Meadows: There's no one in this trio named Elliott, Brood, or Elliott Brood, but somehow the name conjures up everything their music sounds like. Somebody else said it and I agree, country music is still alive and well, it's just coming from Canada these days. This album is a follow up to their debut, Ambassador, and is surprisingly another rare exception to the sophomore album rule. For this one is way more outstanding than their first.

1) Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago: If you've talked to me about music at all this year, then my number one pick for the year won't come as any surprise. No other album even came close to Justin Vernon's homage to Wisconsin winters and broken hearts. Never has one man's experience of love lost so touched just about every part of my soul.

Honorable Mentions go out to: Blitzen Trapper | Furr, Thao | We Brave Bee Stings and All, Centromatic and South San Gabriel | Dual Hawks, Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes and The Uglysuit | The Uglysuit

* from their website

in which we bake cookies and don't burn down the house

A decided that he wanted to give people cookies for Christmas and since he doesn't have a kitchen, he decided that he would kidnap mine and use it for what God originally intended kitchens are used for—baking.

After going round and round about what kind to try to make (there are a TON of cookie recipes out there people), I finally convinced him that since neither one of us were bakers, we needed to keep it simple. So, we landed on chocolate chip and rum balls. But they ended up being bourbon balls because I didn't have any rum. Nor did I want any.

I was really expecting unmitigated disaster and maybe a small fire or two, but we ended up with fairly edible cookies and did not cause the oven to explode without even having to break out the fire extinguisher. I was honestly surprised by how easy it was. But don't think this means I'm gonna suddenly become a baker or anything, ok?


the best of 08 - the movie edition

I didn't find very much out of Hollywood this year to be all that worthy of my time or money, but there were a few that I enjoyed quite a bit. Again, some of these may not have come out in '08, but that's when I discovered them, so that's when they count.

8. Burn After Reading | The Cohen Brothers: These guys can do no wrong. Everything they do is at the worst mildly entertaining, and at the best provides a pretty fantastic movie-going experience. Continuing with their theme of comic, bumbling criminals who should've just left well enough alone, Burn After Reading deals with the needs of one aging woman who will do anything to get the plastic surgery she wants in order to keep bringing the men to her doorstep. I usually don't laugh out loud at movies but this one had me almost in tears. Despite the mild bits of overacting by Clooney and Pitt, the rest of the cast was outstanding.

7. Iron Man | Jon Favreau: I'm kind of a sucker for comic-book-turned-into-motion-picture movies, and my bar is pretty low on what I think makes a good one. However, I would have to say that this has to be one of the best of the bunch. The set-up was a little overly long, but they didn't stray too far from the original story line and Robert Downey, Jr was fantastic as millionaire playboy turned savior of the world. He had the perfect mixture of charm and sleaziness in portraying a man whose motivations were originally based on money, but became solely based on redemption.

6. There Will be Blood | Paul Thomas Anderson: Anderson has a lot of stellar movies on his CV, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, but this one knocks him out of the ballpark by a long shot. Daniel Day Lewis performs perfectly as a man who uses the appearance of having a strong religious faith in order to make his fortune and ends up killing the one man who could've possibly saved him from himself. It's also a pretty excellent documentary on the Dust Bowl era and the struggles of a nation to save itself from destruction.

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford | Andrew Dominik: This movie was simply breathtaking. Beautifully shot and directed, it brought to life the inner workings of one of the most brilliant criminal gangs in American history and the man who ended it for all time. Even at such a young age, Casey Affleck has to be one of the best actors on the planet. Here, he does a stunning performance of sycophant turned destroyer. The only thing that ruined it for me, just a little, was the always annoying Brad Pitt.

4. Gone Baby Gone | Ben Affleck: Surprisingly, Ben Affleck is a great director. Better than he is in front of the camera anyway. He does a stellar job with this gripping tale of a low life, drug dealing mother trying to find her kidnapped child. And Casey Affleck gives another great performance as the private director struggling to find the truth amid the people of his hometown neighborhood who curse him for making their problems public.

3. Persepolis | Marjane Satrapi: The autobiographical graphic novel that this movie was based on deals with one woman's childhood in 1970's Iran, the revolution that occurred then and the havoc it wreaked in everyone's lives. Somehow the less-than-sophisticated, black and white drawing style gives the perfect voice to Satrapi's irreverent sense of humor in chronicling her country's struggles with a very horrific ordeal. It's a heartbreaking and touching story that leaves you with a strong belief in the ability for humans to not only endure, but overcome. And it translated surprisingly well to the big screen.

2. Wristcutters, A Love Story | Goran Dukic: In this strange, magical tale, people who commit suicide end up in a sort of way station (or purgatory if you lean that way) where they suffer through lives much like the ones they tried to escape on Earth. They have jobs, shitty apartments and toll through the boring days trying to survive the crushing loneliness. One kid refuses to take it lying down and goes on a quest to find the woman he loved (who's dumping him for another guy caused him to kill himself in the first place) when he learns from a recent immigrant that she might have committed suicide shortly after he did. Gorgeous and brilliant.

1. The Dark Knight | Christopher Nolan: In the history of Hollywood, it's a well-known fact that the sequel is rarely anywhere near as good as the debut—the first trio of Batman movies is a concrete testament to this fact—but The Dark Knight is a rare exception to the rule where not only is the follow-up as good, it far outshines it. This is due in large part to an excellent script that pulls no punches and offers lots of fast-paced, exploding action, but, if we're being honest, most of the credit should go to Heath Ledger's awe-inspiring performance as psycho criminal, The Joker. Usually, there is a strong willing suspension of disbelief that is necessary in order to watch the make-believe comic book worlds come to life on the big screen, but that was not the case here. Nolan and Ledger made it entirely believable that a man would go crazy and try to destroy the world. Maybe that's one of the after effects of 9/11 (that we can believe more easily terrorist actions on American soil), or maybe it was just a really well-told story, whichever, together the two made this an awesome movie-going experience.

Honorable mentions:
Rocket Science, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, 3:10 to Yuma, The Darjeeling Limited and Howl's Moving Castle


it's that f@&king cold

One of the cans of Coke I had in the garage got so cold it exploded through the package and burst its top. I'd heard of this happening, but have never witnessed it. I'm just glad that no one died because of my addiction.


the best of ought eight - the words edition

It's that time of year again when everyone and their dog starts compiling their year-end best-of lists. Since I hate to be left out of the fun, I've decided to do the same. This year, I'm doing the top eight in three different categories, books, movies and music. Some of the chosen ones may have been published/produced/released in years other than '08, but since this is the year I happened to find them, this is when they get counted. I know, it's very solipsistic of me. Deal.

First up are the top 8 books that I read this year. See if you can figure out was unwittingly a theme.

Best Books of 08

8. Freakangels | Warren Ellis:
I'm a huge fan of the graphic novel (or comic book if you must), especially well written and well drawn ones. I'm also a huge fan of Warren Ellis. He's a brilliant man. In this series, he tells the story of 12 kids who were born at the exact same time on the exact same date and possess uncanny abilities that the rest of the human race don't. When the kids were 17 they got together and ended the world in some way not yet explained, and now they're trying to make good.

7. Ender's Game | Orson Scott Card: This series has been out for a very long time and for some reason, despite its popularity, I completely missed it. In a world where people have to petition the government to have a third child, the human race finds itself fighting an alien race for its very survival. Will it find salvation in a twelve-year-old boy who was born a Third?

6. World War Z | Max Brooks: Zombies! I love me some zombies. Mr Brooks uses a journalistic documentary approach to tell the story of the last war (hopefully) that humans will ever fight. Against zombies. It's much more brilliant than it sounds. Well written and highly imaginative.

5. The Hours | Michael Cunningham: I had to wait a long, long time before I read this book so that the movie would vacate my brain. Not that I didn't like the movie, because I did, very much, but I wanted to make sure my brain could be as untainted as it possibly could be. I'm happy with my decision as I think I fell in love with the characters reading this as I did watching it.

4. The Pesthouse | Jim Crace: In an America that is slowly dying from some unexplained disease, its citizens have reverted back to the ways of simpler times as the knowledge of technological things has also disappeared they are left to fend to themselves without the benefit of hospitals, computers, cars or even super markets. Rumors have spread far and wide about life being better in Europe so many of the people undertake the arduous journey to the east coast to buy passage on one of the many fabled ships arriving every spring. This is the story of two such travelers who meet on the road, fall in love and try to make a stand together.

3. The Yiddish Policeman's Union | Michael Chabon: In a fictional America of the not-so-distant-past, the Jewish citizens have been exiled to The Last Frontier where they have established an uneasy peace with the natives of that land. On the surface, this is a story of one tired, lonely, alcoholic police detective who is just trying to solve a murder of one of the community's most famous denizens. Beneath that are political, socio-economic, religous undertones that give this tale a very biting edge.

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns | Khaled Hosseini: Hosseini shines again in this follow-up to his brilliant debut, The Kite Runner. Here he continues his history of his homeland, Afghanistan, but this time it's through the eyes of two very disparate women who come to find their lives and fates entertwined. It was terrifying and hopeful, heartbreaking and joyful all at the same time. He has a way of showing the basest of human beings and their horrible actions against members of their own species and shining a light so brightly through their victims that it makes you almost willing to forgive everything we've ever done to each other.

1. The Whole World Over | Julia Glass:
Glass is one of those rare authors who can make the lives of ordinary people seem somehow extraordinary and beautiful. In this go-round she once again details the lives of a New York family and their struggles to co-exist through life's ordinary trials as well as its extraordinary ones.

Honorable mention shout outs go to:

Complete Stories | Flannery O'Connor
Man Gone Down | Michael Thomas
Daughters of the North | Sarah Hall


the baby jesus is weeping

This is what it looks like when Christmas suffers from a terrible, debilitating case of morning sickness.

In other news I supported the economy today. Old Navy, Target and the art supply store.

And, there may be evidence that life on other planets is possible. Because of sugar no less.


teal gallery opening

Ann and Dylan drove all the way up to Breckenridge from Santa Fe on Friday to help me celebrate the first ever gallery opening where some of my art work was being featured.

This was a VIP pre-opening where only the artists and special guests were invited to come see the new space, so not everything was quite...finished. As you can see, my paintings were still sitting on the floor. But that's ok. The gallery is pretty great, located on highly visible Main Street and has a really nice, open layout. The official opening is on the 20th, so I might go back up and see if things got put in their proper places.

The other good thing to see is that the owner has a really good eye for what makes good art. There wasn't really an uninteresting piece in the bunch and she's also chosen a wide variety of styles that should appeal to a pretty diverse crowd.

We only stayed for about an hour and a half before we were all ready to escape the need to engage in small talk with a bunch of people we didn't know, nor were really all that interested in meeting. I really suck at parties and small talk situations so I was extra glad to have Ann and Dylan along, otherwise I would've just stood in a corner, shivering with fear.

It was really great of my two friends to make such a long trek for just me. I can't say how much that meant.

Thanks to Dylan also for bringing his camera along as I left mine in the car. Without it, there'd be no actual photographic evidence. Other pics are up here.


schuba's chicago il 11 28 08

I cheated a little bit this week and used a picture that I took while on T-giving break in Chicago. Forgive me, it's cold here in northern Colorado. I used a pencil this time and my camera is refusing to take a clear pic, but other than those minor issues...


As you can see from the pic, I love to read. I would typically rather buy a book than check it out from the library, mostly because if it's any good there are pretty good odds that I'm going to want to read it again and again. I've lost count of how many times I've read The Lord of the Rings since my dad first gave it to me 26 years ago and most of the other books on my shelves I've read at least twice if not more. Occasionally, I get a book that I just don't really care for and I never really know what to do with it. I absolutely refuse to throw a book away, I don't care how much I hate it. Donating it to the library is always a pretty good option if it's still in good shape, but I can be pretty hard on books as I tend to carry them with me wherever I go until I'm done with them. Lately, I've had a really bad track record at picking good reads and so I've stopped buying new ones, figuring I should stop wasting money. Then, a few months ago, I discovered BookMooch, an online service where users trade books by mail, which allows you to get rid of books you don't want to keep and get ones that hopefully you might. At any rate, I almost never leave the house without a book in tow and I'll never really be able to understand people who say they don't like to read.

This is all a really long intro to say that Kate tagged me with a meme today and I figured I'd better get on it before I completely forget to do it. I copied her idea for a photo also (sorry Kate, I'm feeling wholly unoriginal today).

Here are the rules:
Go to your nearest bookshelf. On the top shelf (or highest shelf with books) what book is fifth from the right and why did you love it? Now go to the bottom shelf (or lowest shelf with books). Tell us about the fifth book from the left.

1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | Jonathan Safran Foer
This is one of the first books that I read that dealt with the aftermath of the tragedies of 9/11 in a way that wasn't cheesy or fraught with overdone emotions. This is also the only book in my memory that I've ever read once and then went straight back to the first page and read it again. It sounds really trite to say, but this book made me laugh and it made me cry and I honestly loved every second of it. Foer has a way with words and the ability to tell a story unlike anyone else on the planet. Truly life changing.

2. Kansas Impressions, Photographs and Words | Wes Lyle and James Fisher
A friend found this at a flea market and gave it to me as a parting gift when I left home. Published in 1972, it contains a plethora of great black and white shots of Kansas in all of its glory. Whenever I'm feeling particularly homesick for the wide open spaces of the Great Plains, I crack open this book and let it soothe me. Most people find it hard to believe that I could ever miss one of the flyover states, but it's true, I miss it greatly and often.

As part of the whole meme thing, you're supposed to tag others to do the same thing, but I'm not so good at following the rules, so if you read this and want to play along, feel free.


becoming sasquatch

In response to some minimal pressure from M5K, I've decided to start Winter Beard '08. I've also started a new blog that will chart the growth in all of its splendor and glory.

Come. Join in on the fun. Beginning Dec 7th. The day that lives in infamy. For many reasons.