And I would just like to end 2008 by saying…

…that I would have had much more to say about recent days and the end of the year and all that if:

1. I didn’t have a writing project due today — namely, the submission of a proposal for Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, the deadline of which is midnight EST. That has now been sent in. (The subject of choice is Radiohead’s Kid A.)

2. I wasn’t STILL suffering from what I am now convinced is a frickin’ sinus infection. I’ve been getting sorta better over the last few days but no matter how much temporary relief I can find, my left nostril in particular thinks it’s really funny to stay clogged and gunky most of the time. Thanks pal. This is why I’m taking you and the rest of me to the doctor on Friday.

So. I’m about out of here to a get-together with friends to see out the year. Many friends have had great years this 2008, others have had abjectly awful ones, most of us are somewhere in between. I’d say mine was pretty good and I’ll leave it at that because I see no reason to crow about it further when others have had it far worse than I.

Roll on 2009 — more thoughts, plans and things hopefully tomorrow as I try and while away the hours hoping for some kind of nasal relief. Now stop reading this and celebrate, like I’m about to do. Talk to y’all soon!

Posted in Life. 2 Comments »

My sis under the archway at home

Taken after we got in from some drinks with our cousin and his wife. Good times, and a lovely image. Am still getting over my cold, thus the nonblogging, really. But maybe more after I get back down south tomorrow.

Last night at dinner

My cousin George’s son Owen and my sis, striking a pose.

Dinner was great and Xmas itself has been a treat. Gifts were great etc. I am however fighting a stuffed nose that just won’t relent, which is somewhat irritating, so I will take it easy on further thoughts today, especially since there are phone calls to make and all. But I hope your day has gone well so far if you celebrate!

The last few days summed up

And I might as well start with that photo (taken at my sis’s birthday party — the hat was one of the gifts). Followed by:

Enjoying Xmas Eve at home. More tomorrow, maybe. Hope you’re all good.

Chilling in SF is the way to go…

…at least for me right now. Blogging to be very sporadic while I relax with family and friends in the run up to Xmas but keep an eye on the Flickr stream and occassional crosspists from there to here. Hope everyone’s doing well, more posts when I’m home for Xmas itself if not sooner!

My 2008 best-of music list…

…does not exist.

I have been asked a few times now by various outlets I write for for a top ten list or the equivalent, as part of their overall surveys, and I’ve been extended an invitation, as per the past few years, to submit a ballot to the Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll. As I’m about to leave in a few hours for my holiday break up north, I wanted to get that all done and dusted before I went, though all I’m submitting is this following collection of reflections, and no actual choices on the ballot.

The fact that I’ve left the ballot blank for both singles and albums this year does not mean that I found nothing to like about music this year. Far from it — in comparison to the earlier part of this decade, where a combination of internal and external events left me feeling somewhat disenchanted about the role music played in my life, for the past few years I’ve felt newly reenergized, happy to engage with what’s out there in a fashion that felt less strenuous and more personal to me than it previously had. I’ve mentioned this before in some past essays and year-end summaries, so I won’t fully go over it again here. But to quote my essay in last year’s Idolator Pop Critics Poll, talking about the frustration of creating a ballot then:

….this was me looking at everything that can now be heard, could be heard all over the place, at any time, and realizing how divorced I am from the effort of ranking in general, accelerating a long-held tendency. I heard more music from all over the place this year than ever before and most of it I only heard once before moving on to the next album or song or mix. The big hit singles hit me not with repetition but with generalized and often anonymous osmosis, from being out and about and getting a snatch of a song here and there [and often that was enough — like hooks have been so relentlessly perfected that one or two listens are all that’s needed], rather than trying to actively pursue them or to subject myself to the kind of reigns of aural tyranny that made things like that OneRepublic song omnipresent in recent months. To create a list out of all that seems increasingly close to futile (and if I solely listened to music via my computer, would have done all the work for me)

Aside from the OneRepublic reference — I suppose Katy Perry would do just as fine for this year’s prime example — that pretty well describes my listening year in 2008 as well. Still, I submitted a detailed ballot then, so why not now?

Two things are at the root of it — one, touched on at the conclusion of last year’s essay, lies in the immediacy of events. This year was a year for political junkie behavior on my part, thanks to the astonishing combination of factors going on with both the presidential race and numerous other political campaigns involving people and issues across the country and then, even more overwhelmingly, the past four months of economic grinddown. There was a lot of waffle and foolishness out there, of course, and there’ll be all the more to come, but amid all the chaff of stupidity to be found there was enough wheat for someone with my interests to have a hell of a feast. Given all that — and given the fact that I know people going through insanely tough, often heartbreakingly sad times due to these last few months in particular, and that the next year may be one of the most unsettled ones I’ve ever lived through — the ballot I really sweated over, talked a lot about, was the one cast back in November, from national to local issues. There was no way a ballot about music could compete for my attention or interest.

The second thing, however, might have happened anyway regarding the state of things. My self-applied canard for some time has been an emphasis on process over product, on the experience of enjoying something in the moment, whether it is music or books or whatever else might be out there. This seems to have grown ever since I made the choice to work on cooking at home more, certainly it makes sense as a follow-on, since preparing food is by definition an evanescent event, a temporary pleasure not meant to last in a permanent form.

Tying in with that sense of skipping around music, of admitted breadth over depth, may seem, literally, shallow. By no longer living fully inside an album, I may lose on one front but I feel I have gained on others. Those two albums I did truly live inside for stretches at a time were, admittedly, the least surprising choices — Portishead’s and the Cure’s. But these were, generally speaking, expected pleasures, not shocks and surprises — and I received plenty of those throughout the year. Some I talked about in reviews and posts here and there but a lot I chose simply not to address, I didn’t feel any sort of compulsion to do so. This in part ties back in to what I was noting earlier about where most of my attention lay this year, very much not in the musical realm. But in part, I felt that, simply, I don’t always need to go on about ‘this new great song’ or whatever. That may sound defeatist, perhaps — after all, I’m theoretically known as a music writer, therefore why not regularly discuss the subject at hand when I am shocked/surprised/etc. But there is I think something quite simply enjoyable about enjoying music without having to analyze or encapsulate — a statement of the blatantly obvious, perhaps, but this helped in reclaiming some private space for myself as listener rather than as interpreter.

Trying to organize all this experience into a ballot, with preset places and choices and splitting hairs and all that’s gone into past ballots, seems secondary to requirements to me now. It’s an itch that I choose not to scratch simply because I don’t feel that itch in the first place. Now there’s no reason why it might not return at some point — circumstances change, new ways of addressing the subject suggest themselves. And of course my commitment, my joy, in so much listening remains strong.

But this was a year to do so without trying to sum it all up with a ballot or listing or ranking, without trying to reduce my listening down to brass tacks in such a fashion. Now wasn’t the time. And I’m very happy with that.

New day rising

Taken yesterday on the way in to work. A lucky chance. I’ll have more to post later today!

Fusilli Pasta With Kale Pancetta And Oregano

This is an adaptation of this recipe, which as you can see is for a different kind of pasta. But fusilli is what I had, so hey! Pretty tasty if understated.

After the storm

This was the first of a series of photos I took today en route home — gotta say I almost love my iPhone just for the on-the-fly camera stuff alone (then again I think I’ve said that before).

Clouds and skies like this make me think of the second half of Slowdive’s Just for a Day or early Verve. No bad thing at all.

The rest of the photos follow:

Caldo verde for a third time

So this time around the kale was chopped much more finely, but I think I had too much water in the broth. Even so, still very tasty, with the oil mixed more properly this time!

Now you might ask, why all the focus on this one dish? Easy — consider how all my various entries I’ve made on food over time have all seemed like one-offs. In a number of cases they are, but it’s more accurate to say that one’s work with a recipe is always subject to revision — on the one hand you might want to perfect the approach to an ingredient or an overall mix, on the other hand you might just want to aim it more towards one’s own particular taste. Recipes and what you cook aren’t necessarily fixed in stone, and sometimes require improvisation and experimentation.