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Best of 2017

It’s that time again.  I may do a few edits if I come up with more ideas, but here’s my first cut for the albums I enjoyed most this year, in no particular order:

The Feelies – In Between
Juana Molina – Halo
EMA – Exile on the Outer Ring
Destroyer – Ken
Girlpool – Powerplant
Lee Ranaldo – Electric Trim
Bob Dylan – Trouble No More
Arto Lindsay – Cuidad Madame
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
Mary Halvorson – Paimon

My big live show was Radiohead.


Best of 2016

Another year gone by!  We lost a lot of talented folks as 2016 progressed, starting with David Bowie, then Prince, and Leonard Cohen, among many others.  As always though there’s plenty of good music coming out, and here’s what I liked best (at least as it stands today!).  No particular order.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Steve Lehman – Sélébéyone
David Bowie – Blackstar
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Murray / Allen / Carrington – s/t
Drive-By Truckers – American Band
Miranda Lambert – The Weight of these Wings
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Wussy – Forever Sounds
Heron Oblivion – s/t

Most memorable live shows were a jazz series at the Old Church this fall – Steve Lehman Trio, Rudresh Mahanthappa Quintet, and Dave Douglas

Some bests – 2014 & 2013

Seems like I missed posting a music ‘top ten’ last year, so I’ll make up for it now with 2 yearly lists. It’s all a bit arbitrary of course, but these are ones that seemed memorable given all I listened to!

2014 Music

TV on the Radio: Seeds
Wussy: Attica
YOB: Clearing the Path to Ascend
Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal
St. Vincent: St. Vincent
Witch Mountain: Mobile of Angels
Sun Kil Moon: Benji
Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Laura Marling: Once I was an Eagle
Arca: Xen

Best live music this year:
Lots of things at Pickathon at the beginning of August – Son Little, Barr Brothers, X, Parquet Courts & more

2013 Music

Bill Callahan: Dream River
Grant Hart: The Argument
The Knife: Shaking the Habitual
Yo La Tengo: Fade
Nick Cave: Push the Sky Away
Dawn of Midi: Dysnomia
Ceramic Dog: Your Turn
Quasi: Mole City

Best of 2010!

It’s that time again – to look back and sum up some of the best books and music that I found during the past year. So here are some lists:

Best books I read in 2010 (publication date in parens). In order read.
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) – her memoir of her early days in NYC with boyfriend Robert Mapplethorpe.
Natural-Born Cyborgs by Andy Clark (2003) – philosophical arguments about how we’ve been extending our capabilities with non-biological tools for a long time already.
The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin (1974) – a sci-fi look at a kind of anarchism.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002) – the prize winning novel
The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2010) – engrossing story of the folks who figured out the mortgage mess first and placed their bets on the blow-up.
Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas (2010) – a novel about stories and plots.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell (2010) – a historical novel set in the lone trading colony of Japan in the early 1800s.
The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (2007) – perhaps the best book I’ve found thus far about the possibilities of changing the brain through mindful exercise.
Everyday Quantum Reality by David Grandy (2010) – a philosophical look at how quantum science is perhaps not nearly as strange as we’re often led to believe.
LIFE by Keith Richards (2010) – the life of the rolling stone as only he could tell it.

Best Concerts of 2010 – saw lots, these were the most fun:
Sloan @ Doug Fir, Feb 17.
Lite @ Dante’s, March 11.
The New Pornographers @ Crystal Ballroom, July 16.
Lucinda Williams @ Roseland, Aug 22.
Pavement & Quasi @ Edgefield, Sept. 3.
The Thermals @ Crystal Ballroom, Sept 9.
Belle & Sebasian and Typhoon @ the Schnitzer, Oct. 19.
Robyn @ Wonder Ballroom, Nov. 20.
Leonard Cohen @ Rose Garden, Dec 8.

Some of the CD’s of 2010 I liked best:
Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love
Vampire Weekend – Contra
New Pornographers – Together
Robyn – Body Talk pt.1
Quasi – American Gong
The National – High Violet
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Black Keys – Brothers
and I have to admit I find Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be kind of fascinating.

Mind-in-Mind blog

Just to let folks know that I’ve started another blog, called ‘Mind in Mind’, to focus on the mind and brain books and musings that I write about now and then.  I’ve copied some of the posts from here to there to get it started, and will try to keep that material out of Mediated, for the most part.  We’ll see how it goes!

The Good News from Tyler Cowen

In his NYT Economic View piece today, economist Tyler Cowen notes the good news:

It may not feel that way right now, but the last 10 years may go down in world history as a big success. That idea may be hard to accept in the United States. After all, it was the decade of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the financial crisis, all dramatic and painful events. But in economic terms, at least, the decade was a remarkably good one for many people around the globe.

He notes the economic progress made in many areas of the world.  He acknowledges the somewhat painful decade for Americans, but reminds us of some upsides:

Nonetheless, despite the positive news in much of the world, it’s questionable whether the decade as a whole has been good for Americans, economically speaking. Median wages have not risen much, if at all, and the costs of the financial crisis and irresponsible fiscal policies have become increasingly obvious. Those facts support a pessimistic interpretation.

TO put it bluntly, if the United States takes one step back and the rest of the world takes two steps forward, even in purely selfish terms we should consider accepting the trade-off, if only for the longer run. Most of us gain from the wealth and creativity of other countries, even if we can’t always feel like the top dog.

The Referendum – Tim Kreider

Came across this short piece called ‘The Referendum’ by Tim Kreider online at the NYT site, via Andrew Sullivan.  The writer is a single, 42-year-old cartoonist whose putative subject is ‘arrested adolescence’ but it’s really all about the choices we all make, and how to live.  Here’s a taste:

A lot of my married friends take a vicarious interest in my personal life. It’s usually just nosy, prurient fun, but sometimes smacks of the sort of moralism that H.G. Wells called “jealousy with a halo.” Sometimes it seems sort of starved, like audiences in the Great Depression watching musicals about the glitterati. It’s true that my romantic life has produced some humorous anecdotes, but good stories seldom come from happy experiences. Some of my married friends may envy my freedom in an abstract, daydreamy way, misremembering single life as some sort of pornographic smorgasbord, but I doubt many of them would actually choose to trade places with me. Although they may miss the thrill of sexual novelty, absolutely nobody misses dating.

I regard their more conventional domestic lives with the same sort of ambivalence. Like everyone, I’ve seen some marriages in which I would discreetly hang myself within 12 hours, but others have given me cause to envy their intimacy, loyalty, and irreplaceable decades of invested history. [Note to all my married friends: your marriage is one of the latter.] Though one of those friends cautioned me against idealizing: “It’s not as if being married means you’re any less alone.”

We all make choices about how to live, sometimes feeling good about them, other times feeling perhaps we’ve made a mistake.  We can look at our friends’ lives and try to make some comparisons, but in the end it’s pretty impossible to know how other people are really feeling about their own choices.  So we carry on, trying to do the best we can, to live with choices we’ve made, to optimize our future outcomes.  No do-overs, no rewind!

On the run

Got up early this morning for a 5K run through downtown Portland, part of the ‘Run for the Cure’ events.  I was pleased with my finish of 21:56, not too bad given my fairly lax training.  Even better was the fact that my legs felt pretty good during and afterwards.

Since June, I’ve been trying to adjust my running style to land on the forefoot, rather than the heel, and after a rather tough month of early attempts (and walks home), it’s starting to pay off.  By landing at the forefoot, there’s more of a spring effect on each step.

Joseph McElroy's 'Ancient History' (1971)

A little while back I picked up a first edition of Joseph McElroy‘s 1971 novel, Ancient History: A Paraphase, his third book.  For whatever reason I had it my mind that the title was really Ancient History: A Paraphrase, but a few days back I was looking at the cover and finally saw the true title.  But funny enough, I found that others have made the same mistake.  The bio below is from a paperback reprint of his first novel, Smuggler’s Bible.

Ancient History is a strange book, to be sure.  Told by a man who sneaks into the apartment of a man who has apparently committed suicide earlier that evening, the narrator has some interesting mathematical theories about parabolas, and seems to be relating stories of his past to in some way ‘graph’ them.  I’m sure there are other tricks going on in terms of the names of the characters – the main ones all start with the letters A, B, C or D (kind of like labels on points on a geometric diagram).  McElroy makes you work for it, in a way like Gaddis; this book has essentially just one ‘chapter break’ over its 307 pages.

When I’m sufficiently rested from this one, I’ll try his second novel, Hind’s Kidnap.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks @ Doug Fir, 8-May-2009

Went to see the local indie rock ‘legend’ with his band last night at the Doug Fir Lounge.  Another band had to cancel their show for that night, so quick arrangements were made, and it was fun to see the band in a small venue.  Things felt a bit rocky early on, but the material from the last album sounded very strong.

Most fun was the all-covers encore, with four old classics:

“Emotional Rescue” (Rolling Stones, 1980) – a nice touch given their last title track…  even included the “I will be your night in shining armor” falsetto!

“All Day and All of the Night” (The Kinks, 1964)

“Shambala” (hit version by Three Dog Night, 1973)

“Love Train” (O’Jays, 1972)