I don't like close games.
At least, not when one of my teams is involved.
How close was Sunday's Patriots-Ravens' game? The New England Sports Fan Friend and I stared silently at the screen for about 45 straight minutes. Occasionally, the New England Sports Fan Friend got up and paced around the living room, stopping about a foot from the TV to mutter and curse. After the Ravens took the lead, he declared the game over. "We're done," he said. I didn't have the nerve to point out that there was still plenty of time on the clock - the entire fourth quarter, if I remember correctly.
Note: This piece is also posted at Eric's blog, Ray Bradbury's Love-Camel.
Was 2011 a great year for music? No ... I don't think so. If it's been a great year for music (for me, anyway), I have a hard time picking my top 10 albums. Sometimes I have a hard time picking my top 20. This year, I struggled to fill my top 10. It wasn't that there were that few albums that I liked. There were a lot of good albums. There just weren't a lot of great albums. I want my favorite albums of the year to exceed my expectations, not just meet them (even if I have relatively high expectations). So this year, it's just a top seven, plus two 2010 albums that I didn't discover until 2011.
7) Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
When Sam Beam released "The Creek Drank the Cradle" nearly 10 years ago, he was writing spare wisps of songs. The songs were quiet, but powerful. He could have released a few more albums like that and been remembered as someone who wrote pretty, sad songs - a modern Nick Drake (minus the tragic ending, one would hope). Iron & Wine's second album was actually pretty similar to the first, but then Beam started to evolve. If someone had told me a decade ago that he would release an album like "Kiss Each Other Clean," I would have been incredulous. The songs are still powerful, and often still sad, but there's a richness to their sound and production that the early albums lacked. More instruments, more harmonizing, more everything. Sometimes more is less, but it works here. For the record, it did not work for me as well on 2007's "The Shephard's Dog." That album seemed like more of an experiment of styles and came out a bit of a mess. "Kiss Each Other Clean" is more cohesive. The opening single, "Walking Far From Home," quickly became one of my favorite Iron & Wine songs, but the whole album is highly listenable.
Over at the DG, I write about cold weather, geocaching and how being outdoors during the winter is refreshing, but also exhausting.
Here's an excerpt:
"Every once in a while, I check in on Facebook to see what the theme of the day is.
Last Sunday, the theme was 'cold.'
When I stepped outside to walk to a nearby coffee shop, I pulled my hat over my ears and scrunched my face up into my warm winter coat. The wind seemed to pick up as I rounded the corner, and when I stepped inside the coffee shop my glasses immediately fogged up and I had to remove them in order to see. Also, it felt like it was about 95 degrees in there, and my face felt really hot. In other words, a good day to minimize my outdoor activity . . . right?
Well, not necessarily.
That afternoon, I had plans to go geocaching.
Geocaching is a nerd hobby in which participants use Global Positioning System technology to find hidden containers filled with trinkets, usually in the woods. Last Christmas my sister got me a geocaching device, and I’ve used it some, but not a lot, mainly because I don’t have any friends who geocache.
Until now, that is."
Click here to read the whole thing.
Every once in awhile, I try to imagine what else I could do for a living besides work at a newspaper. It's not that I don't like working at a newspaper. I do. But it isn't exactly a healthy industry, and the caliber of talent is suffering as a result.
My most recent alternative profession? Hospice work. I actually think I would be good at this. I really sympathize with people who are dealing with death, and I could draw upon some of my own experiences to help other people in similar situations.
But when I mentioned my alternative career as a hospice worker, a friend of mine scoffed. "Hospice isn't exactly a high paying field," she said. Well, that's true. But how much worse could it be than newspapers? And hospice isn't exactly going anywhere. There are always going to be dying people, and grieving families. Whereas newspapers are dying a slow death.
Which makes me think I should create a new field, called Newspaper Hospice, where hospice workers counsel and comfort reporters devastated by closure, buyouts and layoffs. Much like traditional hospice work, I think I would be good at this. I sympathize with journalists working at struggling papers (i.e., all of them), and I could draw upon some of my own experiences, such as my brief tenure at the Birmingham Post-Herald, a newspaper that no longer exists, to help other people in similar situations.
So, yeah, newspaper hospice. It might sound crazy, but I think it's a growth industry.
I consider myself a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, but I'm not as obsessed with him as his most devoted fans. For instance: the mysterious fan who visits Poe's grave each year on the anniversary of his birth, and leaves behind three red roses and a bottle of cognac.
But this mysterious figure, known as the "Poe Toaster," hasn't shown up for the past two years, and now Poe fans are worried the tradition is over. I'm a little worried myself. It's a good tradition, and it would be a shame if it came to an end.
To learn more about the Poe Toaster, visit this Wall Street Journal article.
Turning 50: Barry Wenig on aging and making mixes
Travel: Kristina Ingvarsson on her holiday in Singapore
Humor: Steve LeBlanc on how to scare a stranger
Movies: Sara Foss on "The Adventures of Tintin"
In Honor of Etta:
Over at the DG, I make my NFL Conference Championship picks.
Click here to read them.
Over at the DG, I review the new movie "The Adventures of Tintin."
Click here to read it.
Wondering why you couldn't get on Wikipedia or Craigslist today?
Gawker provides a handy primer. Click here to read it.
Over at the DG, I write about my band bucket list - the bands I want to see before I die (or they die).
What inspired this post? Jane's Addiction's recent concert announcement, that's what. When I saw it, I almost screamed like a girl.
Click here to read about my band bucket list.
I just finished off a four-pack of Ommegang Abbey Ale, a Belgian beer brewed by Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y. And it was DELICIOUS.
Today the Washington Post reports that Brewery Ommegang is concerned that the controversial drilling procedure of hydraulic fracturing - often referred to as hydrofracking - could damage the quality of the brewery's beer, if approved by the state of New York. Specifically, the brewery worries that hydrofracking would pollute the wells that supply it with the water used to make its award-winning beers.
All I can say is that I don't want anything to ruin the quality of my beer.
Click here to learn more.
Over at Grantland, Charles Pierce explains why New England Patriots coach Bill Belichik is the NFL's most anarchic spirit.
Click here to read it.
Disclaimer: The following is a rant that I’ve had in conversation with many friends (and enemies) over the past decade. I’ve never tried to articulate it in writing until now. I don’t mean to offend anyone, though I imagine this might offend someone. If you’re a fan of jam bands, I invite you to comment.
I’ve always been quite omnivorous when it comes to music - heavy metal, punk rock, “alternative,” classic rock, country, hip-hop, modern pop, blues, electronic music, jazz and classical all have representatives within my record and CD collections. And I always dread the question, “What kind of music do you listen to?” Because inevitably, I have to say, “Everything,” and that is one of the biggest cop-out answers ever. To me, that answer suggests that what you’re really saying is, “I’m too lazy to develop my own tastes in music so I just listen to whatever’s on the radio and hope for the best.”
And really, it’s not even accurate in my case, because there’s one genre of music that I absolutely cannot wrap my mind around — jam bands.