Friday, December 31, 2010

At year's end

So 2010 is nearly one for the history books.

While I'm tempted to say good riddance, that wouldn't be a fair assessment of these last 365 days. Yes, there was the car accident and the months-long lingering tightness in my neck and upper back, and there was the stressful couple months at work when the future seemed very much in doubt. Although neither of the source issues are entirely finished, I'll be more than happy to put those things behind me and feel like the worst is over. Those things aside, 2010 offered pleasures that I didn't anticipate, and I feel as though I should let them take precedence in remembering the year.

I was able to travel to places I never would have expected visiting at this time a year ago. I saw several terrific concerts, including some I never would have expected to be a reality. I finally attended a playoff game for my favorite baseball game. I became an uncle. All that stuff and more surely outweighs the bad, right?

I'll be going over the highlights of 2010 in the coming days. I don't know that anyone reads this anymore--I just keep plugging away more for my own benefit anyway--but if you are there, I encourage you to join me in spirit and reflect on the best parts of the year that comes to a close this evening.

And of course, let's have a happy 2011.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stalling tactic

Working on wrapping stuff for the end of the year, some for this.

One thing that won't be making that list but which somehow seems to sum up the year is Das Racist's "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell". Do I like it? I don't think so. But there's also something about it. I dare you to keep it out of your head. (Not listening doesn't count.)

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm so tired

While I have something I'd like to write about today, consider me fried after all the travel and long work days. The song title of this Beatles cover pretty much says everything.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The return

Technically speaking, today has only been 23 hours long for me as I traveled from the Central to Eastern time zone. It's seemed like anything but a short day. In fact, it's felt endless.

In anticipation of the early hour at which we'd be rising for my brothers and I to catch flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and my parents to begin making the drive home, I went to bed around 11:15 last night. About a half hour later I hears this horrid sound like a chainsaw. Oh wait, that's my cell phone vibrating because someone is calling. It's my mom wondering if I or the brother sharing the hotel room with me lost a gift card for a gas station in their room. Um, no. And also, what are you doing up, let alone calling at this hour?!

My brother set the room's alarm clock to go off at 5:10 a.m. I set a wake up call for 5:15. Good to go, right? I slept fitfully all night and at one point rolled over to see that the clocked displayed 4:22. I tried to get some more sleep. When I next awoke, I laid in bed just trying to rest and not get up. After awhile I thought that it was unusual that we hadn't been awakened. I looked at the clock to find that it was 5:42. The plan was to leave the hotel at 6:00 for my brothers' 7:30 flight and my 8:00 take-off. I informed my brother of the time and leaped out of bed to get ready in a hurry. Seeing as we were about a half hour from the airport, being deliberate was not an option. That was quite a way to start the day.

We encountered no problems catching our flights, and by 11:20 a.m., my plane had brought me back to Columbus. I hopped into the car of the person picking me up and was promptly taken to...the university's gym to keep stats for four college basketball games. This two-day tournament is long enough without getting up before the sun rises. It was sure to be a bruiser with how the day began.

To top it all, some things were goofed up on the final game, although I'd like to point out that they weren't my fault despite the inclination to suspect they were. (I was more tired in the middle of the day.) So that kept me around even longer. Finally, around 10:30 p.m., I walked through the door of my apartment.

I have four more games to work on Wednesday--that's what day it will be, right?--so hopefully I won't be carrying the wearying effects of travel or an intense amount of time spent with family for nearly a week. After all of this, I look very much to bringing this year to a quiet close at home and doing the same to start 2011.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

On the way out

Up late trying to figure out how to pack everything in the carry on bag and messenger bag. I'm returning with more than I brought, and I even mailed some stuff home. Looks like maybe I should have sent another package to be safe.

Anyway, while I prepare to hightail it out of Texas on an early morning flight, here's a picture of my nephew bundled up to go out on a chilly night. And yes, he's wearing a hat I knit for him. I've been told these fit him better than any others.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The focus of attention

Hotel to condo, condo to hotel. That's pretty much been the routine since I've been down here. That was broken up today by a trip to church for my nephew's dedication.

Basically, though, what I'm saying is that I'm not doing anything worth writing about or having more than a couple free hours at the end of the day to do any heavy duty blogging.

So a photo of a not quite six-week-old will have to suffice.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Texas

While it's tempting to write about the dysfunctional aspects of the holiday and the circumstances surrounding this one in particular, I'm going to resist the impulse. I could be less than charitable about some things surrounding this whole trip, but it doesn't feel proper to do so on this day of all days.

All in all, it was a good Christmas, if somewhat confining. On the scale of Christmas drama, this one would have to fall toward the bottom end. For those who know me, though, I do have some stories to tell, though.

I hope you've had a safe and merry Christmas. Now could someone bring the sun out down here in Texas?

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Friday, December 24, 2010


Three or five years ago I first saw the logo for fast food franchise Taco Bueno. I became kind of obsessed with it. The word bubble with "bueno" in it looks like something that anyone could have (and might have) whipped up in a pinch on MS Paint. It fascinated me because it looks so unpolished. Surely something like that would never pass muster with test market groups.

Yet that logo is what had me wanting to go to the restaurant and determined to get to one this time while down here in the Dallas-Fort Worth. Readers, today was that day.

Basically Taco Bueno appears to be similar too but a step up from Taco Bell. (Granted, I don't know how many years it's been since I last set foot in a Taco Bell.) I went with a simple and straightforward order--three beef tacos and a drink--and was able to sample one of my brothers' orders of monkey bread. Yes, monkey bread!

The food was fine for the kind of place that it is. The meat wasn't greasy, especially when compared to what I recall Taco Bell's offerings being. (This is a big plus.) Some extra fixings--jalapenos and a few different kinds of salsa--are a nice touch. I didn't peruse the menu too closely, but it seems like they have a wider variety than their Mexican fast food competitors.

The closest Taco Buenos to my home are in Columbia and Blue Springs, Missouri and Conway, Arkansas. So not very. Dumb as it sounds, I was legitimately excited to be able to get to one of these restaurants today. (I figured my mom would not be too keen on the idea.) I'm surely more fixated on this franchise because it's inaccessible to me on a daily basis but that's okay. I can order a t-shirt from their online store, and if I'm ever in the vicinity of one, I can know that it's worth a visit.

And it's all because of that crazy logo.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Into your arms

Sleep acquired, ears popped. It's amazing how much better I feel after eliminating the lack of those two things.

Today was mostly spent at my brother and sister-in-law's condo. The main item on the agenda was holding and playing with the baby. My nephew is about a month old, and as the first on my family's side, he is certainly going to get a lot of attention. After all, he's the primary reason why we've all made the trip this holiday season.

I get the impression that my sister-in-law is surprised that my brothers and I have not shown any hesitancy to hold or play with the baby. Sure, none of us have any significant experience with infants, but who wouldn't want to have fun with a cuddly little one? (Yes, I know some people don't want to have anything to do with babies.)

My nephew was remarkably quiet all day long, perhaps because he had a fresh lap and set of arms ready for him when whoever had him was wanted or needed to give him up for awhile. He slept most of the time when I held him yesterday, but today he was alert and responding. Of course he's adorable. My mom keeps talking about how cute he is. As if she'd say otherwise.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Travel day

Little sleep, up very early, and kind of grouchy throughout the day. Me, that is, not the nephew pictured above, whom I met today.

The flight went to Dallas-Fort Worth went smoothly. I don't fly very often--the last time was around Thanksgiving 2007--but one thing I've noticed is that I usually have problems with my ears. They don't pop on descent, so I walk around all day (and sometimes subsequent days) with impaired hearing and feeling generally unpleasant. The weird thing is that my ears usually pop all the time when I swallow. Not since the plane landed. It's really irritating.

I could have used more time to take it easy/recover from traveling and a lack of rest, which didn't improve my mood. Hopefully a good night's sleep--and popping ears--will put me more in the Christmas spirit.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


While walking to the arena for tonight's hockey game, I heard Survivor's "Burning Heart" from Rocky IV playing outside a restaurant/bar. I LOVED this song in junior high. It feels like it's been about that long since I heard it. (It truly may be 15-20 years since it has caught my ears.)

In college I hosted an '80s pop showcase--The '80s Fallout Shelter--on the school's radio station. None of that stuff was getting played on the radio at the time, so it was fun to dig up the one-hit wonders, lesser remembered singles, and big hits to play over the airwaves. It wasn't nostalgia exactly, and even if it were, how can you really understand that at 20?

Honestly, I'm still too young to feel that shock of time's passage and exclusive fondness for something from my youth, but hearing this song in passing tonight, it had the strange effect of cutting through the years and taking me back even though I wasn't in that mindset when the tune hit me. Such things are called throwbacks for a reason.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Songs of the season

Getting ready for Christmas. If you liked this song, there's a box set of Sufjan Stevens' annual Christmas EPs out there. Plus, today two of this year's entries were let loose on the web.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Old tech

I'm trying to take care of things that need to be taken care of before heading out of town for the holidays. One of those was paying the electric bill. I couldn't find the most recent one, but I had November's handy. I know, I'll just call the toll-free number on the previous month's bill to get the total due.

The number is for billing and outage or service inquiries, so you'd think you could get billing information. Problem is, the only options available had to do with reporting an outage from my phone number. I hung up before someone at AEP thought I didn't have electricity.

All right, there's another number for pay by phone. Surely that will give me a total due. I called that toll-free number and entered my account and phone numbers. Then the automated system directed me to enter the amount I wanted to pay. I wasn't given an option to check what balance is due. So that wasn't any help either.

Finally I went online, registered with the site, and got the answer I was looking for. I suppose most inquiries like this are handled online anymore. I haven't done anything like checking bill totals in a long time, but when I did, I used to do it by phone. Clearly that's old technology, but it could still stand to be useful.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Giving back

"I hope (this article) is an incentive for people who see it (to) start knitting," Hackett said, "because I won't be around forever."
It seems like there's one of these people in every community. Lucky for us.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Deep breath

Tick, tick, tick. So much to do, so little time to do it. I don't know where all that time has gone. This is feeling like a lost month in a lost year.

Maybe I'll feel less hurried once I get to the airport next week and hop on a plane to Dallas. At that point the tasks at hand will be done or they won't. Either way, they will have been dealt with.

I know that the holidays are typically a busy time and December is always jammed due to what I do. For whatever reason it feels like it's reached critical mass this year in particular.

Will it all work out? Probably. It's getting there that is the difficult part.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sleigh Bells ring

I'm getting crushed in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the year, so bear with me as I tread water here for another day.

One of the things I'm doing of my own accord is processing the year in music. So how about featuring a band with a name that is seasonally appropriate? Sleigh Bells are one of the trendiest 2010 acts. On first spin their debut album didn't exactly make sense to me, and even at its tight 32 minutes, Treats can feel like an endurance test.

This is a LOUD record meant to be played LOUD. You practically feel as though you're getting tinnitus listening to it at a safe level. Even if you play the embedded clip with the volume turned down low, it will still sound like it's blowing out your speakers. It was produced as though everything was in the red, which certainly gives it a distinct sonic texture, but it can be wearying to the ears. I kind of felt like it was giving me a headache first time around.

As I've listened to the album, its pop charms have emerged from the distortion. I'm still not sure Sleigh Bells are all they're cracked up to be, but there's something endearing about how catchy and completely obnoxious their music can be.

If anything signifies this group being oh-so-2010, they've even managed to be featured in a car commercial.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Where is my time going, and am I using it wisely?

I can't really say if I am--regardless, the crunch is on--so while I attend to pressing matters, here's a male Australian knitter putting his time to much better use.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I can't explain why, but disturbing I find this.

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Monday, December 13, 2010


While I try to locate the motivation to do anything in this cold weather, why don't you check out some yarn bombing New Zealand-style? I especially like how they've decorated that row of busts.

Follow the links for more information about those responsible and photos of their handiwork.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday

This morning I dragged myself out of bed to go to church. What with it being the Christmas season, I felt like I needed to make an extra effort, especially since I've been bad about attending all year. (I blame my failure to get to the services in part on the sleeping problems I've had for most of the year, but maybe that's simply a way of justifying it.) I expected to see a snow-covered parking lot, but nope, all we were getting was rain.

About midway through the service the rain changed to snow. It was coming down steadily when I carefully made my way to the car across the quickly becoming slick pavement and asphalt. As I drove to my next destination--the movie theater--I got stuck behind someone driving about 10 miles per hour. I'm all for being careful, but the roads were totally clean. Plus, not that many vehicles were on the streets yet.

By the time my showing of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had ended--the film was tedious, by the way--the car required a decent excavating. With it being around 12:30, traffic was heavy and slow-moving on the snowy streets. Not that I had plans to go anywhere else, but this sealed the choice to hole up at home for the day.

Watching football and napping, with an emphasis on the latter, gobbled up the majority of the day. It is one of the pleasures of living in a cold weather state during winter that watching sports all day long on the weekend isn't something to feel ashamed about doing. I imagine it's harder to justify doing this when the weather outside is hospitable.

The TV remained on to watch the season finale of The Amazing Race. The global game show is easily the pinnacle of reality TV fare, and it's the one program of these I'd be interested to appear on. While it must be exhausting to run around the world and be thrown into stressful situations, how else could one get the quantity of experiences and passport stamps that the participants get while doing it on someone else's dime?

The Amazing Race
is certainly molded as much as any reality TV show, but I appreciate that its intent isn't to show people at their worst. Sure, sometimes the contestants display cultural insensitivity and tempers flare. For the most part, though, this is a relationship program in the form of a game show travelogue, and those partners who remain patient and good-humored tend to perform better. (I think the producers learned a lesson several seasons ago when they cast a couple in which the husband seemed verbally abusive. People will get testy under the circumstances, but that extreme kind of reaction has virtually vanished.)

The snow has returned, I think, and is to continue to some degree through the night. And that was Sunday.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Talk of the season

OK knitters, have you had this conversation or had it play out in your head? You have, haven't you?

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Friday, December 10, 2010


Food is more than its flavor or caloric value. It can be, perhaps most powerfully, a time machine. (Here's where I'd talk about Proust for a bit, but I've not read any.)

For some reason I've found myself getting a few items that I haven't purchased and eaten in who knows how long. For that matter, I shouldn't be buying and eating them, but that's not the point of this piece.

What did I buy? Pringles. Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. Andes Creme de Menthe Thins. (See, I told you it was junk.)

Pringles don't even come close to being the ideal potato chip--they're classified as potato crisps--yet there's something tempting about them. (Probably it's all the sodium.) I remember that we had them around when I was a kid. I want to say that I associate them with my maternal grandmother, but that could be memory playing tricks on me. Crazy as it sounds, the can itself may be part of the appeal. I can recall them being reused for craft projects and possibly other purposes.

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes--the vanilla kind--are seasonal treats that I also remember from my childhood. They're also ridiculously good, at least if one doesn't have them in a year's time.

Andes Creme de Menthe Thins were among my mom's favorites when I was growing up. Around this time of year they were usually around the house, and it wasn't out of the ordinary for us each to get a box of them at Christmas.

I'll know that I'm indulging some junk food nostalgia if I go out and buy Zingers (if they're still available). I associate the Snoopy-promoted snack cakes with my maternal grandmother, perhaps because her house is where I remember having them. If I get myself a Life Savers Sweet Story Book, an annual stocking stuffer, then there's no doubt this time of year and the available sweets are stirring up the past.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

You've got mail

Do you let the amount of e-mail in your inbox--OK, inboxes--get out of control? Of course you do, or so I assume is true for everyone.

For no particular reason I decided the time had come to clear out my main Gmail account. (I have five e-mail accounts: work, movie blog, knitting blog, regular Gmail, and regular Yahoo. Sue me.) It's become fat from an increased amount of promotional/retail e-mails that I should have but didn't delete as they arrived. I wasn't in any danger of reaching capacity. I just wanted to tidy it up.

So how many e-mails hit the electronic dumpster? Somewhere around 3700, or nearly half. An overwhelming amount were solicitations to buy whatever was being sold, yet it wasn't that many places. Yikes.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010


This afternoon I had reason to walk the main drag of the city where I formerly resided. I lived about a block from it from 1995 to 2007 and worked near it until approximately the same time. I'm not up there very often any more. I was startled to see how much it's changed.

I needed a new battery for my watch, so I headed straight to the jeweler that had done the job a few times through the years. I went to open the door to the business. It didn't budge. I took a couple steps back to look at the overhang. Their name was still on it, but apparently they closed shop as the space was now occupied by the wares of another business.

I'd spotted another jeweler sign across the street a ways, so I popped in there in the hope that this place could do the job. Nope, it was strictly a jewelry repair shop. The proprietor pointed me toward a clock store a couple blocks south.

So I hoofed it to my third destination, noticing along the way how many of the businesses were different from when I lived in the area. That diner has gone through two changes. There's a new chocolaterie. Hmm, that coffee shop wasn't there, and the one up the street has changed hands since I lived here. That's to say nothing of all the other new storefronts and sellers that I passed when making my way to the my first stop.

In the three and a half years since I lived there, this stretch has almost completely transformed. Sure, some places are the same, but I'd wager that more than half, if not 75% are not what they were when this was my neighborhood.

What a bracing reminder of how much changes and how fast time passes. On one hand it doesn't seem like it was that long ago that I lived there; on the other, it seems like a lifetime ago. The new face of that street certainly emphasizes the latter.

If I think about it, the same is true of where I live now. A bank is being built across the way. New restaurants have opened in the shopping plaza, and a car wash is now nearby. These changes are probably as dramatic as those made to where I used to call home. The difference is that I've witnessed this slow but steady shift in the landscape.

I can't say that I have any great observations other than it is an eye opener to realize how much our settings change and how readily we adapt to them, even if we aren't aware of it.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

One for the coffee table

Wiped out after a long day, but here's something that might be of interest: the most expensive book in the world.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

A hairy matter

The other day I was in the university's gymnasium and noticed a picture that shows a wide shot of the basketball court when the team played in the national championship. I am in the picture shooting video of the action on the floor. Of course, what stands out the most to me is HOLY CRAP, I WAS BALDER UP TOP EIGHT YEARS AGO THAN I'M SURE I REALIZED AT THE TIME.

I'm sure it's thinned up there even more in the intervening years. It depresses me to catch a glimpse from my behind because it reinforces what I know but sort of refuse to acknowledge. After all, looking at myself in the mirror from the front I can convince myself that there's more there than there is. OK, it's petty and vain to gripe about losing one's hair, but it still bothers me. (And why do none of my brothers seem to be having this issue?!)

A couple months ago I gave fleeting thought to shaving it all off. That certainly isn't going to fly in these winter months, and from this vantage point, the idea now seems like a bad one best deferred.

What's the hang-up exactly? After all, I just went the last eight days without shaving and growing a salt and pepper beard that didn't look very good but who cares because I don't feel like shaving. (It was removed tonight in anticipation of having a television taping on Tuesday. I'll look that bad in real life and not give it a second thought, but I'm not immortalizing it on a tape.)

The issue is probably that I feel it makes me seem older than I am. Growing up I was always older in attitude than most of my peers even though I was younger than them, so I suppose there's some humor in this hair situation. Still...ugh.


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Day by day

Today's entry is in response to this post about holiday decorations and one's favorite as a child. That's an easy one.

My favorite Christmas decoration from my childhood was a felt Advent wall calendar. The big white rectangle had pockets for each day across the top and bottom. A big green tree in the middle was dotted with beads for hanging the daily ornaments. Even though us kids knew what ornament was in each day's pocket after so many years (or could peek), it was always fun to go through it day by day.

With three brothers there was always a certain amount of competition for who would get to take out each day's piece. I don't remember how that was resolved. Through the years the beads seemed to have more trouble holding onto the loops used to attach the ornaments to the tree, or maybe it was that we got taller and thus were more likely to brush them off when passing by.

There must be something intrinsically appealing about Advent calendars. In my high school German class I remember that we were excited to see what was behind the door each day of the culturally specific calendar. Imagine high school students being interested in something like that!

I've had pleasant reminders of these old calendars with the holiday update of iPhone game Angry Birds. Unlike the regular game, you can't unlock levels as you complete them. Instead, a new one is available each day leading up to Christmas. Rather than working through them all in a few days or a week, there's a new little thrill each day. I'm like a kid all over again.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

With a capital a

Knitting is for Pus****? So says this crochet art installation.

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Friday, December 03, 2010


Packed in a four film day and don't have much energy for writing tonight. How about I tip you off to what was clearly THE viral video of the day instead?

This video teeming with stars, mostly of the former variety, lipsyncing to "Let It Be" blew up in my Twitter feed all day long. It's certainly funnier if you know who most of these people are, but it's still plenty strange even if you don't recognize a high percentage of them. The humor--and I can't tell if it's supposed to be funny--comes from the pile-up of absurd and unexpected celebrity appearances. Enjoy.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Deck the halls

I've not been one for decorating for the holidays. It's just me at home, and I don't have people over very often. Nevertheless, a year (or two or three) ago I bought a string of colored lights that I (pathetically) draped over the blinds by one of my sliding glass doors. It added a splash of color to my place and made it feel a little more seasonally appropriate.

Last year I bought a small fake Christmas tree. I couldn't find any colored lights, so I added the string I had to the white ones that came on the tree. My apartment seemed slightly more Christmas-y.

Here's the thing: I never put away the Christmas tree. It's siting in the exact same spot where I set it last December. I haven't been plugging in the lights all this time, but the tree has been there in its prominent spot atop a short bookshelf by the TV.

It's not like I didn't think about taking it down. In fact, it occurred to me to do so on a few occasions, but due to the need for folding up the branches so it can fit back in the box, I just never got around to it. Honestly, the tree kind of became invisible to me after awhile. I knew it was there, but I didn't really see it.

Tonight the tree is lit up. It does give me a good feeling to see it, weird as that may seem. This time I'll try to put it away. I might need to give myself until February or March, though.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Among the things I need to do before the end of the year is determine my picks for the best films and albums of the year. The former is a professional obligation; the latter is personal choice.

In this age of digital music and iPods, I'm becoming aware that I don't tend to listen to albums as thoroughly as I once did. The ability to carry around hundreds of albums in your pocket provides so many options at your fingertips that there's always something else to hear. At one time I would have been likely to listen to a new album over and over for awhile. Now it seems like I'll rip it to iTunes, listen to it a few times, and then let it settle into the untamed mass of music on my iPod.

I've started relistening to albums that I'm certain are up for consideration as my favorites of 2010 and have been pleased to discover nuances that my few earlier passes through them didn't reveal.

For instance, I liked Arcade Fire's The Suburbs when it was released this summer, even if I did feel it tended to be a bit same-y from song to song. Listening to it a couple of times this week, I've been struck by how wrong that impression is. Yes, the songs sound of a piece, but each is distinctive. As a whole it works phenomenally well. Why have I not been listening to The Suburbs more since its August release? That's a question I hope to be asking myself as I dig into the year's other albums that I've enjoyed and then more or less set aside.

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