Monday, December 31, 2007

my oh my best of 2007

I feel they're going to take away my blog if I don't put up some kind of end-of-the-year list, so as arbitrary as they may be, these are a few of my favorite things.

Best LA Radio Show Worth Getting Up at 9AM on a Sunday:
Chris Morris, Watusi Rodeo (103.1)

Best New Neighbor: The Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Best Blog for Head-Nodding Agreement: Jezebel

Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Cliff's Edge

Best Greatest Hits Compilation I Wasn't Embarrassed to Buy:
Led Zeppelin, Mothership

Best Magazine That I Subscribed to This Year in a Regrettable Magazine Subscription Binge: BUST

Best Book of the Year (If Not the Century):
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Best Daily E-mail: Very Short List

Best Live Show of the Year (That I Personally Saw): Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings @ El Rey (Honorable Mention: Beastie Boys @ The Greek Theater; Neko Case @ Walt Disney Concert Hall; Langhorne Slim @ Spaceland; Lucinda Williams @ El Rey)

Best Song to Sing Loudly into a Hairbrush: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, "Let Them Knock"

Best Chill Restaurant Downtown: Royal Claytons

Best Coffee: My New Bialetti Mukka Express; Coffee Table (Silverlake) (tie)

Best Named Building on My Commute:
Women's Twentieth Century Club (Eagle Rock)

Best Onion Headline: Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8

Best Duets: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (tie)

Best Parlour Game: Fortunes Chinoises

Best Annual LA Event of the Year:
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; Sunset Junction; Culver City Art Walk (tie)

Best Protest Song: Pink, "Dear Mr. President"

Best Source for Repeatable One-liners: 30 Rock

Best Scene in the Best Film of the Year: Dog chases Josh Brolin through the water in No Country for Old Men

52 books in 52 weeks

37. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster

I think I recall this novella got some critical grief for collecting and recycling characters, but I found it sort of a fun imaginative exercise of what it would be like to live in Paul Auster's brain.

38. Him Her Him Again The End of Him by Patricia Marx

Note to self: Do not use those obsessive, unrequited affairs from your past as material for a book.

39. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

Despite Lessing's disappointing remarks about the evils of "blugging," I still totally enjoyed her version of the demon seed. If you think you may want to have children, don't read this book.

40. The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind

This is a compact meditation on the perils of trying to establish rigid control over the events in your life. Virginia Woolf meets Knut Hamsun meets Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I wish Süskind would write more.

Well, I didn't make it to 52, but I did get 8 books beyond last year's total while completely switching careers, so there. Onward to 2008...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

sunday short stack

"If you fall down seven times, get up eight." - Japanese proverb

  • Make sure you're not drinking milk when you check out this evil eye baby.
  • The Guardian has a look at what we can expect in fiction for 2008.
  • Some great unexpected titles are recommended here.
  • This site allows you to see the last 50 images posted to LiveJournal.
  • If you want to kill a large chunk of time, visit the series "A Year in Reading" over at The Millions.
  • Celebrity Hotel Rooms shows you the life you'll never live, but really, don't you have something better to do with that $10K than rent a space in which you'll spend most of the time unconscious?
And some random lists:

Friday, December 28, 2007

they had me at 'pencils down'

Skylight Books' Cory Garfin finds a convenient way to excuse his lack of productivity:

Cory Garfin, an L.A.-based fiction writer with no ties to Hollywood, has declared that his lack of productivity of late is actually because he considers himself “on strike” as a show of solidarity with the writers in town who actually get paid to write.

In fact, Garfin maintains that his support of the strike reaches back to well before the WGA officially called for a work stoppage in November of 2007. He claims to not have written much, “and frequently nothing good,” quite often over the last several years. He now says of those lulls: "I've been retroactively protesting."

“It’s wonderful to know,” he goes on to say, “that all of those times in the past when I thought I was suffering from writer’s block or laziness, I was actually a social transformer well ahead of the curve.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

feed them!

Via Callie, the LA Weekly book critics list their favorite undernourished books of the year. I must need some more coffee because I thought the description of The Descendants was actually a description of the Raymond Chandler biography with ol' Ray coping with his wayward teenage daughters after his wife falls into a coma. The subtitle is "Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved" - I didn't know about "his much older wife, Cissy" and "their obsessive, peripatetic marriage." She could have been in a coma, for all I knew. Anyway, it's nice to see Listen Again on the list, the latest publication from the Experience Music Project.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

52 books in 52 weeks

28. After Dark by Haruki Murakami

I was not impressed by this book. The overnight adventures of one sister were mildly interesting, but the voyeurism on the sleeping sister seemed fetishistic at best, terribly dull at worst.

29. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Gilbert's idea that despite our most elaborate of plans, we have absolutely no way of predicting what will make our future selves happy is, in my opinion, an essential truth of human nature. He makes many similarly incisive observations, but these popular science books don't quite hold my attention like novels do.

30. This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes

After The Mistress's Daughter, I was eager to read another book by Homes, and her last novel did not disappoint. What was most surprising and delightful to me was the way she took the traditional tropes of the Hollywood novel and put a modern and distinctive spin on them.

31. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

This engaging character study made me nostalgic for the time I've spent in England - especially my trip to Cambridge a few years ago - but it was possibly the least suspenseful serial killer narrative I've come across.

32. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

God Bless Tom Perrotta. I picked up this book wanting to spend a couple of days on the couch absorbed in a story and it did not disappoint. I'm still unsure how I feel about its conclusion, but that doesn't diminish my gratitude for the escape.

Considering these four books took up most of my semester, I will count them toward the total.

33. NextText: Making Connections Across and Beyond the Disciplines, edited by Anne Kress and Suellyn Winkle

Upon my return to teaching composition, I went looking for a textbook that would excite me with little expectation I would succeed, but lo and behold, I found this reader. It was perfect for my science and technology focused students and perfect for my desire to explore unconventional genres and contemporary texts. I'm trying it out next semester with more of a business and education crowd, so we'll see if it holds its charm.

34. Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past, edited by Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt

For one class I taught this semester at someplace other than my main gig, I was given a choice of three anthologies. I chose this one.

Both of the following handbooks are exceptionally helpful, though if I had to choose only one, I'd probably lean toward the Little, Brown - a decision based almost entirely on the introduction/conclusion section.

35. The Little, Brown Handbook (10th Edition) by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron

36. A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker

I may not get to 52, but the year is still alive, I'm on vacation, and some books are mercifully short.

sunday short stack

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

And some truly shocking news:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I think about you every time I pass a filling station

Aquarium Drunkard has a lovely little collection of Christmas songs goin' on, including video of Tom Waits doing "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" and a cover of the song by Neko Case. Sigh. It's enough to make a grinch a tiny bit less grinchy.

If you just can't resist the seasonal spirit, Anne Litt's KCRW show "The A Track" is also f*ing festive today.

picking on the phds

Matt Weiland on the new Will Self book Psychogeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place...

What is “psychogeography”? The jacket flap defines it as a “meditation on the vexed relationship between psyche and place,” and any number of well-spectacled young Ph.D.’s in sociology or urban studies will talk to you of Situationists and leave you with the bar tab. At its writerly best, though, psychogeography seems simpler to me: it is clear and vivid nonfiction writing with a sense of the past and an eye for the present that takes us close to the street. I mean “street” both literally, as in the color of the paving stones and the font of the signage and the shape of the sidewalk, and figuratively, as in the multitudes that pass by, the movers and shakers, the loiterers and bystanders, the beggars and mimes.

The book is illustrated by Ralph Steadman and looks pretty nifty.

Friday, December 21, 2007

yet another reason to go dutch

Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands is a bookstore in a church that has just won a Dutch architectural prize. No doubt.

christmas spirits

Via Bookslut, at the Guardian, delectable wintry cocktails from Dickens:

Smoking bishop

"'A merry Christmas, Bob!' said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. 'A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!'" (A Christmas Carol)

5 oranges * 1 grapefruit * 1/4 lb sugar * 2 bottles red wine * 1 bottle ruby port * 30 cloves

Bake the oranges and grapefruit in the oven until they are pale brown and then put them into a warmed earthenware bowl with five cloves pricked into each. Add the sugar and pour in the wine. Then, either (i) cover and leave in a warm place for a day, or (ii) warm the mixture gently (do not boil) for about three hours. Squeeze the oranges and grapefruit into the wine and pour it through a sieve. Add the port and heat (again, don't boil). Serve in warmed cups/glasses and drink hot.

what did you do to your face

I heard about this blue man last night, but I didn't see the photos until this morning (he kinda looks like a Santa/Smurf hybrid).

My favorite coverage comes from the Fresno ABC affiliate who filed their report in the form of an Onion audition: Blue Man Seeks Acceptance.

The Central Valley is a land of racial and ethnic diversity. People of all colors live here - white, brown, black, and now even blue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

santa baby

Even though Santa didn't seem to jump to it last year when I posted my Christmas list, I figured I'd give him another shot. (Just kidding, Mr. Kringle. I know you're busy.)

Cherry Blossom Platinum Designer Mouse @ mousenvy $45

Clear Cut Press Subscription $65

Gold External Hard Drive @ A+R $260

Rockwell Embroidered Coat @ Anthropologie $258

Summer Trip to Tallinn, Estonia @ Expedia $2725

Atomic Bonsai Kit @ Chocosho $20

I'm Not There Soundtrack @ Amazon $13

Rain Leaf Earrings @ Aesa

iPhone @ Apple Store $399

John Fleuvog Lover Boot in Spruce $275

Dear Blog,

I am sorry I have neglected you so. If I could find a quicker way to grade student essays, perhaps my mornings would be returned to you. Good news, though! I'm on vacation for 3 weeks, so I have a feeling you will soon tire of my constant attention.

XO Chris

Saturday, December 15, 2007

it is the future we're talking about

Dave Itzkoff suggests science fiction selections for the presidential candidates.

Have the worlds of science fiction and presidential politics ever been more closely aligned than they were in 2007? This was the year when Rudolph Giuliani told a young questioner on the campaign trail that “we’ll be prepared” if the United States is attacked by aliens from another planet; when Dennis Kucinich blithely confessed during a Democratic debate that he’d seen a U.F.O.; and when Mitt Romney revealed in an interview that L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth” was one of his favorite novels...

Former mayor of New York

Should tell reporters he’s read “Childhood’s End,” by Arthur C. Clarke: An advanced intelligence arrives from above, creating a utopia by integrating all of humanity into a single mind that thinks and acts as one.

Might also consider reading “The War of the Worlds,” by H. G. Wells: During a cataclysmically destructive event, an observant bystander happens to be in the right place at the right time and thereafter never stops talking about it.

President of the United States

Should tell reporters he’s read “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card: A gifted child from a privileged family defeats a race of inhuman warriors without ever having to leave the comfort of his war-simulator machine.

Might also consider reading “A Scanner Darkly,” by Philip K. Dick: A troubled law enforcer invites a series of increasingly desperate, damaged characters into his home and lives to regret the decision.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

your lost socks become babies because you are so pretty

John Campbell's 50 Answers are even better than lamps.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

let them knock

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings made it into my top 10 live shows ever last night at the El Rey.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

sunday short stack

"The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well." - Horace Walpole