The Best Albums of 2012 (So Far)

A Belated Best Of

Floral HeadphonesIt’s a bit late, but I’ve decided to finally throw together my “best albums of 2008” list. I spent too long thinking about it, and then spent some time procrastinating after that, and now it’s March of 2009 and I feel a bit silly. To make up for that, I’ve dug up representative videos for each album, some of them offical and some of them fan made (but interesting). All of these albums are still in heavy rotation on my iPod. 2008 was a good year for music.

2008 was also a good year for buying music on Amazon Mp3, which has become my digital music destination of choice simply because of the daily deals they have. For example, the newest Lily Allen album was $3.99 on the day it came out. I’ve also bought several pretty great albums for $1.99 a pop when they were on sale. Everything in the list below is available on the site, and a decent number of the albums are less than $10 to purchase.

My list and a collection of music videos follows after the jump…

Continue reading “A Belated Best Of”

Goodbye, Weekend / Have Some Music Videos

I spent most of this weekend a) trying to keep theleetworld.com from melting after the site made it to the front page of digg (and a bunch of other huge sites) and b) looking at places to live.

For right now, the site seems to have stopped melting, and as for places to live, Tim and I came up with a good top 5 list. Roommate #3, Trey, hasn’t had a chance to look at the places yet, but if he doesn’t manage to do it tomorrow, he’s just going to have to trust us, because we need to get our applications in pronto.

Other than that, I’d like to share the following two music videos I just came across:

Goldfrapp – A&E

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Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!

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52 Books and a “Best-of” List

As you may know, I spent 2007 reading constantly, my goal being to read 52 books (or more) over the course of the year. I’m glad to say that I successfully reached my goal – my final count was 53 books! I’ve been meaning to write a post about this all week, but I’m only just now getting around to it.

Here are some numbers for you: 11 of the books I read were audiobooks. 5 were graphic novels. 15 were library books. Terry Pratchett was by far the author I read most, with a total of 10 books by him on my list. Lemony Snicket comes in second with 4 books.

I rated every single book I read on a scale from 1 to 10, but I rarely rated anything lower than a 7, although two books did get a 6 rating (Humpty Dumpty: An Oval and The City of Ember). I definitely started a number of books that I never finished, however, and a lot of those would have gotten a 6 or below, which is part of the reason I stopped reading them.

I discovered a number of great authors that have become some of my favorites, including John Crowley, Tim Powers, John Scalzi, and Charles Stross. I also finally finished White Noise by Don Delillo, which I first tried reading back in 2002 on the plane to London – this was the third time I tried!

The full list of books I read is available on the “Books Read in 2007” page, but I’d also like to pick out a sort of loose top 10 of the books I read this year. Each book’s page has a short review that I wrote when I finished reading it.

Last Call by Tim Powers Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco Night Watch by Terry Pratchett Pattern Recognition by William Gibson On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers Old Man’s War by John Scalzi A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore Glasshouse by Charles Stross Little, Big by John Crowley Firethorn by Sarah Micklem

1. Last Call by Tim Powers
2. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
3. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
4. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
5. On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
7. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
8. Glasshouse by Charles Stross
9. Little, Big by John Crowley
10. Firethorn by Sarah Micklem

Honorable mentions go to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by you-know-who, It’s Superman! by Tom De Haven, and the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket.

Other Great Albums of 2007 (A Few Late Additions)

After reading through the various year-end lists, I tracked down a few of the interesting-sounding albums I hadn’t had a chance to listen to yet, and I discovered a few gems that I’d like to recommend as a sort of coda to my top 10 list:

Iron And Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

1) Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

The Iron and Wine cover of “Dark Eyes” from the I’m Not There soundtrack is one of the standout songs on that album, so I decided to give Iron and Wine another listen-to, despite the fact that their Postal Service cover from the Garden State soundtrack was a bit mopey. This album is uniformly great, and if I had started listening to it earlier in the year, it would easily have been in my top 10 list. Rootsy, organic, full of beautiful harmonies and melodies, and highly recommended.

Battles - Mirrored2) Battles – Mirrored

My first exposure to this album was the video for Atlas, which I saw on Subterranean, i.e. the one hour a week (including 20 minutes of commercials) when M2 plays interesting music videos. The video is fairly minimal – just a shot of the band playing in the odd glass cube pictured on their album cover – but it fits the music, which is (mostly) instrumental rock, most of which is also very minimal, and generally composed of repeated percussion and industrial sounds. I’ve been drawn to more and more instrumental music in the past year or so, just because I find it hard to listen to vocal music when I’m reading (even though this was not an issue in my younger years when I had more brain cells…) Anyways, this one has really grown on me, much like similar music by Liquid Liquid did a few years back. “Atlas” and “Race: In” are the standout tracks here, although the band’s sound is a bit abrasive and may not be to everyone’s tastes.

LCD Soundsystem - 45:333) LCD Soundsystem – 45:33

This is actually a re-issue of an iTunes exclusive in a CD form. The new version splits up the formerly 45 minute first track into six parts (essentially the “movements” of the song) and adds on three bonus tracks (two b-sides and a remix). As you might imagine from my top 10 list, I’ve become a huge fan of LCD Soundsystem thanks to their second album. Much like the Battles album, this is primarily instrumental music (kind of a departure for the band), and I actually prefer it for reading because it’s a bit more soothing whereas the Battles album is more up-beat and rock-and-roll. Maybe I’ll use it for walking music when it isn’t so cold outside…

My Favorite Albums of 2007

Alright, in order for an album to end up on this list, it had to be an album that I find myself listening to regularly, even though time may have passed since it was released. I have several pretty great albums on my iPod that will end up on other end-of-the-year lists that haven’t quite grabbed me like the ten below.

This list isn’t perfect, of course, especially because I also limited myself to albums released in 2007. I guess including The Beatles album is kind of fudging things a bit, but it was a pretty amazing compilation that totally redefines what you can do instead of a vanilla “greatest hits” album.

Radiohead - In RainbowsLCD Soundsystem - Sound of SilverI’m Not There (Soundtrack)The Beatles - LoveQueens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is IsField Music - Tones of TownIdlewild - Make Another WorldCaribou - AndorraRyan Adams - Easy Tiger

1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
2. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
3. Various Artists – I’m Not There (Soundtrack)
4. The Beatles – LOVE
5. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is
7. Field Music – Tones of Town
8. Idlewild – Make Another World
9. Caribou – Andorra
10. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger

To see what some of the professionals think, I recommend the AV Club Best Music of 2007 list. Much better than Pitchfork (even though I’ll read that one, too).

This was pretty exotic stuff for a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana.

!/images/dead.jpg!

Lately I’ve been able to get myself to devote more time to reading. Usually only on the weekends, though. That seems to be the time that I’m most able to free myself up and branch out. Weekdays mostly consist of either vegging out or falling instantly asleep when I come home from work.

Of course, there is the odd weeknight where I go to the local laundromat and do a few very necessary loads – I got a good chunk of reading done at one this past week, although I’d be much happier if I could convince my cat(s) to never pee on my bed again, thank you very much.

Hopefully the new (bigger) litter box that now lives in the other room will help with things. I’ve also been cleaning the thing out pretty religiously, since a dirty litter box was probably the most likely cause of my recent problem.

But, back to the real subject, the reading… it’s been nice. It’s probably easier to devote more time to reading because I’m not currently caught up in any long runs of TV shows. Sure, I’ve got two sets of Smallville to watch, but I’ve been more leisurely about that; it’s a good show, but I’m not super hooked yet. (And, really, I’d like to back off on my TV show obsession at least for a short while. It is so very time consuming.)

All digressions aside, I’m currently reading a book called “Dead Until Dark”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0441008534/ by Charlaine Harris. It’s actually part of a series of books about a southern girl and her vampire boyfriend – I’d heard about it before, but my interest was piqued because Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under, is apparently developing a new show for HBO based on the books. Now that I’ve read a good chunk of the first book, I can see how it might be right up his alley. The title of this entry, by the way, is a quote from the book that particularly struck my fancy.

In fact, thanks to a cool Movable Type plugin called “Media Manager”:http://www.majordojo.com/projects/MediaManager/, I’ve got a list of books on the right-hand side of this site. The previous version of this page had a “currently reading” list thanks to an older version of the plugin. The new version, though, is pretty nice, and adds a lot of cool features. It did take a little bit of fiddling to get the plugin set up, right though… It assumed some things about my MT setup that caused problems until I did some digging and pinned them down.

In other news, I haven’t made any headway on the grad school applications. I’m not sure if I’m just procrastinating, or actively trying to talk myself out of the whole thing. And… if I am trying to talk myself out it, why exactly would I do that? Especially considering that tonight I sat down and started a new short story. I didn’t start writing it because I felt pressured to, or because I thought I should write something to use for the application… I just… had an idea and sat down to write. I didn’t write very much before I stopped, but there seems to be something key here that I’m not really grasping.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a writer… almost on an instinctual level, I _have_ to write, I need it. I can distinctly remember how good it felt to let the whole world fall away and just write and write when I sat down and wrote my plays. It was one of the most satisfying (or maybe it was the most satisfying) feelings i’ve ever had. For some reason, though, I’ve put a number of obstacles between myself and writing. Somehow it’s much easier to live my boring work-a-day life and watch tv shows instead of writing.

Then again, though, that was always the point, wasn’t it? Working on computers comes easily, almost too easily, and always has. I’ve got a knack for programming, and math and logic. That, however, seems to be one of the main reasons that I wouldn’t want to devote my life to working on computers. It’d be like sleepwalking all the time. Writing, though, is a challenge, and isn’t even really easy to get myself to do, but when I do sit down and get going with something that I’m writing, I feel awake and fully present…

To end, a mini review:

!/images/weather_man.jpg!

I watched a movie recently called “The Weather Man”:http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0384680/. I enjoyed it, although it was what the critics like to call a “downer”. I’d recommend it, though. One of the main points that the movie makes is that part of really growing up and being an adult is doing the things that are hard to do.

The whole movie is about Nicholas Cage’s journey of self discovery, and the interesting thing is that he doesn’t change that much in the course of the movie, but that is at the same time part of the revelation. He is who he is, and he can only change so much of his life. Realizing that helps him move forward and come to terms with certain things that have been troubling him. The movie does not have what you could say is a happy ending, but his character seems to have just that little bit more peace and self-understanding when it comes to a close.

bad news, good news

so… today, first thing after i get up and have breakfast, the maintenance man comes over and knocks on my door and tells me that my landlord is trying to get a hold of me because i never paid my pet deposit…

whoops!

see, i forgot to pay it for a few months, and then i realized that i had forgotten about it and she had never called me on it, so i decided to see how long i could get away with not paying it. and then, i forgot that i even had that hanging over my head anymore.

so, naturally, just when it so happens that i have less than no money and a growing credit card debt, she realizes that i never paid it…

she was at least nice enough to let me pay half now and half on the 15th, so i was _only_ out another $125 today.

the good news?

i finally sat down to begin calling “every temp agency in the austin area”, as I have threatened for at least a week. when I called the very first one on my list, she asked me to come in for an interview tomorrow. the job involves working in a Microsoft Call Center for 3-4 weeks, would pay $9/hr, and starts sometime after the 15th. i like temp agencies. they’re very good about being straight-to-the-point. now i just have to do well at the interview tomorrow, and i might be able to take home a paycheck sometime this month.

the other good news is that “my portfolio site”:http://portfolio.unsquare.com is coming along nicely. in fact, it’s almost done (but for the web part, as of 2pm). i’ve tricked it out using fun things like PHP and “mod_rewrite”:http://www.alistapart.com/articles/succeed/ so that the navigation is as seamless as possible. the site is so far the sexiest i’ve ever made…

not bad, so far…

this morning i drove down to georgetown and talked with a guy in the career services office. he was actually pretty helpful – i’ve got a list of all the temp agencies in the area now, as well as a number of other places to look and possible leads to research. he also gave me some excellent pointers on my resume, which i’ve updated *yet again*… sometimes it feels like i need a different resume for every job that i find.

not surprisingly, getting out of bed at 9am for once felt kinda nice, as did having something to do. and i also got to see some of my friends at the sig house, so it was a pleasant little trip all around.

when i got back and plopped down in front of the computer to dig through craigslist, i found not one but two freelance writing jobs listed there that actually sounded interesting – one writing scripts for short educational cartoons, the other being a “ghost writer” for a website. i’m also going to start checking out the listings on the “writer’s weekly”:http://www.writersweekly.com site more often…

Structured Procrastination

Good article, found on “John Perry’s website”:http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~john/procrastination.html

bq. “Procrastinators often follow exactly the wrong tack. They try to minimize their commitments, assuming that if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done. But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation. The few tasks on his list will be by definition the most important, and the only way to avoid doing them will be to do nothing. This is a way to become a couch potato, not an effective human being.”