NaNoWriMo and Brain Leakage

I’ve decided to take a break from my weird life shits and discuss something of great and ill-advised import: I’m finally going to give NaNoWriMo a go. For many years it has been my intention to participate, but something always thwarts it. Although, really, that something has generally been me: I typically am too busy, forget when it starts, or just forget it exists altogether. Forgetting is a skill at which I excel.

But this year due to a series of badness culminating in my taking a semester off for the first time in three years (including summer breaks), I’m jumping in. I am not sure what I’m going to write though, which I guess is a big ‘oh shit’ thing in the NaNoWriMo world. Most people spend the year preparing for this like you would a marathon. Many have outlines, titles, plotlines, character profiles – everything ready to go come 12 a.m. November 1st. I’m not like that. I don’t really know what I’m going to do.

That’s not to say that I don’t have options or whatnot. I have a notebook full of story ideas that I draw from and add to frequently. So I’m set for something to write about, I just haven’t picked yet. I’m not sure if I should choose one I’ve been mulling over for a bit, contemplate something from the idea book or go completely random and pull one from a hat.

I took the semester off – as in started classes and then withdrew when life became too overwhelming – because of the stress, but also because my migraines are back. With a vengeance. I had successfully whittled them down to one every once in a while, and now I have been having them every day for weeks straight. And there really isn’t anything I can do about them other than take this medicine that doesn’t make it better so much as make me sleepy and weird. Sleepy and weird with my brain leaking out my eyes and ears. It’s crazy frustrating. I can’t read or go online like I’d normally do. I have so much to do and am just unable. Did I mention that my migraines are vertiginous? Yeah, so that’s fun. Now I think that maybe I’m setting myself up for failure with this NaNoWriMo thing. Glutton for punishment am I.



I’ve been encouraged to do art-type things on a more frequent basis, studio access or not, to help me deal with my current shituation. So I got this tiny Moleskine knockoff. It’s roughly 3” x 4” and I’ve been trying to scribble in it at least once a day.

In the midst of my grandfather chaos, my uncle, aunt and father have been having this sibling painting competition. Meaning they’ve been painting in these Barbie watercolor books with my nearly three year old cousin, and have decided my art degree qualifies me as judge. It also apparently qualifies my uncle to make snide little comments about my being unemployed. This is a thing with this particular uncle. I couldn’t list the bullshit immature crap he’s pulled on me since I’ve been born. No, that list would take many blog entries. He likes to take little digs at me for no reason. Literally no reason; he would say mean and nasty things to me and about me when I was a TODDLER. The man is immature as fuck. Even in his 50s.

He spent a few days using my art degree as an excuse to make little digs, implying that I’m so bad at art I can’t get employed. So I whipped out my tiny sketchbook that I have been keeping on me at all times, and his wife snatched it up and dropped her jaw. ‘CAUSE I CAN FUKKIN ART. “That’s how it’s done son.” I declared, thus slightly smiting him in front of his laughing wife, sister, brother, mother, nephew, teenage daughter and one of his teen sons.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the pencil.

So that’s all I got. Next time perhaps I’ll regale you with tales of amusing librarians, and tell you what it’s like to cry in the basement of a house that is falling over.

Until then, please enjoy this Andrew Bird playlist, composed by my psychic MP3 player just for this occasion.


The Psychic MP3 Player Presents: A strictly Andrew Bird Assortment

  1. Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses
  2. Anonanimal
  3. Polynation
  4. Happy Birthday Song
  5. Hover I
  6. Far From Any Road (Be My Hand)
  7. The Giant of Illinois (Dark Was the Night version)
  8. Orpheo
  9. Unfolding Fans
  10. Desperation Breeds…
  11. Tin Foiled
  12. Near Death Experience
  13. If I Needed You
  14. Grinnin’ In Your Face (Fingerlings 3 version)
  15. Pulaski At Night
  16. Cathedral in the Dell
  17. Fitz and Dizzyspells
  18. Frogs Singing

Addiction, Depression and How Not To Blog

I have succumbed to a terrible, terrible addiction. “CURSE YOU DUNKIN’ DONUTS!” For those of you who don’t know – because you live on one of those rare Saturnine moons that is devoid of a Dunks – Dunkin’ Donuts is a coffee and doughnuts chain that has insidiously seeped from the American North East across the continent and into the universe. Yeah, they have doughnuts, as the name implies, but they mostly do a business in beverages – coffees and cocoa and frozen dealies. Dunks runs are a staple around here, and since I don’t like coffee, I usually end up with the occasional Chai or cocoa (depending on the level of gutrot I can handle that morning). Well now they’ve introduced ‘fresh brewed iced green tea’ to their menu and DEAR GLOB. It’s not fair.

And it’s really tea, too. It’s UNSWEETENED and COMES WITH REAL LEMON WEDGES IN IT. Seriously. I love tea, and iced tea, but I have to make it myself because I hate stuff in it. I like it bitter, and strong. Like my soul. So I rarely get it from commercial or outside sources as it will inevitably be sweetened with HFCS, doused with preservatives and taste nothing like tea. (Don’t even get me started on ‘sweet tea’.) But now Dunks is selling it in convenient gallon sized cups with straws sticking out of it. So I’ve been downing those at an expensive and alarming rate. Sufficed to say I’m so strung that I’m left with no choice but to quit them cold turkey. If you can call purchasing a Cuppow, stainless steel straws and mason jars to start my own refrigerator iced tea production line going cold turkey. I feel so damn guilty with the whole people spending a lot of money on me to support my addiction (which is just an excuse to enable their own coffee addictions), and the waste produced by the straws and cups that I’ve had to take matters into my own hands.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you invest in a Cuppow. Not only are they awesome and help decrease waste, but they are completely U.S. made products: they are designed, created and produced out of Somerville, MA, manufactured in MA, and even their packaging is printed and designed in Somerville. So it’s sorta green and sorta local. And awesome. And I swear I’ve sung the praises of Cuppow so much that they should pay me already.


So now that that idiotic rant about iced tea is spent, let’s move on to more fun things. Like morbid depression. Yes folks, I am fukkin depressed. Why you ask? Well, I suspect genes, mostly. I also suspect my current life situation is just a bit… shit. So that isn’t helping anything.

Being depressed fucks things up. I mean, I’m a depressed sort as it is, but now I’m depressed on top of my normal down self. Double Depressed, as Oogie Boogie would say. This means that instead of trudging through but accomplishing things, I’m now not accomplishing much of anything. So all of my projects have been shelved, and I’m just barely reading or doing school and that’s about it. It’s maddening because I don’t want to do nothing; I really want to do things. It’s frustrating. I even broke out the new art set I got at IKEA – basically because I couldn’t be bothered to pull out my Windsor-Newton – and tried to art it up with my bargain bin watercolors, but couldn’t get into it, much to my chagrin. (Quick side note – In all honestly, if you want to see the worst of humanity, go to IKEA on a weekend.)

Now I’m pursuing drastic measures – a.k.a. therapy. This is a rather big deal for me as my past history with therapy isn’t that great. I wrote this huge, dark blag about it, but like most of what I write for here, I haven’t posted it.

It’s funny, I do that a lot. I also take things off and put things back on, or not. This is half because I just want to write and half because I don’t need the attention – like I am not writing a blog for people to even read. Does that make sense? I’m not garnering readers (although I am truly grateful for the ones I have, so long as they are genuine and not trolls or spammers trying to sell me blog-building tools), and I’m not a journalist. I just want to write. So I often question how healthy it is putting stuff out there, but then at the same time, at least I’m doing something and putting it somewhere.

So I’m probably going to post a long depressing thing about why I have issues with the mental health profession soon. But not now. Now I am going to leave you with this handy playlist and that sour taste in your mouth you get after reading one of my posts.

Grizzly Bear – The Hunt
Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others (Live on KCRW)
The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon
Donovan – Sunshine Superman
Christopher Andrews – Yesterday Man
The Supremes – The Happening
The Box Tops – The Letter
Leonard Cohen – So Long Marianne
Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
Cold Blood – I’m A Good Woman / Let Me Down Easy

Vlog Versus Blog and the 24 Hour Free Quote Hotline

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have been watching Brotherhood 2.0/The Vlog Brothers videos from the beginning to catch up with all the Nerdfighting I have missed. As classes have barely started, and I am unemployed, skint, and have no life, I have put a significant dent in the backlog – the vlog started in 2007 and I’m already up to 2011.

For those of you who may not know, the Vlog Brothers is a vlog (video blog) series on YouTube featuring the author John Green and his brother Hank, a noted environmental blogger. It began as a dare: John challenged Hank to go an entire year without using any sort of communication outside of telephone and these short videos to each other. And so it went. There were rules – absolutely no electronic communications (of course), and videos can’t be more than four minutes – and any violations were punishable. It started small, but with every new in-joke, and each creatively torturous punishment (once John had to wax his chin) the videos gained momentum. As their viewership grew, so did their content. They gave each other challenges that took on lives of their own: Challenging themselves to find a way to help make the world a better place led to The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of worthy causes. After Hank performed a song called “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone From Your Pants” (based on the first big in-joke of the vlog), John challenged him to write a new song and perform it each time he posted on a Wednesday, leading to the creation of the tremendously popular song “Accio Deathly Hallows”, live performances, touring (with and without John), CDs and a record label – DFTBA Records, which produces music by YouTube musicians. This thing has grown so huge it’s unreal. Charities, record labels, websites – they even created VidCon. DFTBA, their catchphrase, has taken off and is now in the popular vernacular. Don’t Forget To Be Awesome indeed.

The best part of all of this is that everything they do is entirely community oriented. Their followers are known as Nerdfighters. As the series grew, and they realized how great their Nerdfighters were, they made the videos more and more interactive. Nerdfighters are first to note violations of rules, and are the ones who get to suggest the punishments. They donate money and time, they volunteer, and they have formed this massive, open collective online and IRL (in real life). What Nerdfighters have done over the years is simply amazing, and it’s truly changed the way people see the internet.

And the Vlog Brothers community doesn’t just include the Nerdfighters (although, technically it does, since we’re all Nerdfighters, really), but also YouTube. They have reached out and befriended other vloggers and really advocate for the potential of such connections. In December they have an event where they encourage all their fellow bloggers and Nerdfighters to make videos advocating on behalf of their favorite charities. This day is called the ‘Project for Awesome’, and the goal is to hijack the front page of YouTube with videos, each different, but each with the ‘Project for Awesome’ logo as the thumbnail. Since 2009 it’s raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for dozens of awesome charities, and each year it just gets bigger and bigger, with the full support and promotion of YouTube behind it.

All of this aside, the videos themselves are highly entertaining. While sometimes they just talk about what’s going on in their day or what’s going on in Nerdfighteria (events and whatnot), a lot of times they do theme projects, top ten lists, scavenger hunts, contests. John is really great at explaining historical and current events, and Hank still cranks out the songs. It’s fabulous.

So that should be enough back story for you to get why it was so surprising that I got into it so late in the game. Being on top of this sort of thing is sort of my thing. It took me a little bit to figure it out but now I think I have, and I think it has everything to do with it being vlogging and not blogging.

When I was at university it was sort of the belief that blogging was somewhat more adult than vlogging; blogging is what serious, opinionated people did, vlogging is what some bored, shameless pre-teen did for attention. This is a completely nonsensical notion. You get geniuses and nimrods in every population of every thing (livejournal, anyone?). But somehow I got this prejudice tainting how I saw vlogs, and as a result I missed out on a lot of things.

I missed out on an international scavenger hunt perpetrated by authors and musicians across the globe. I missed out on contests and commenting and possibly befriending (virtually) another writer who maybe could have offered some constructive advice for someone in my unique situation. I missed out on other great vlogs and other great people and other great ideas. (This is also strange, since I was a fan of Ze Frank at the time). I missed people like Esther Grace Earl, the Nerdfighter, Harry Potter Alliance warrior, and fellow New Englander who befriended John Green and became the inspiration for John’s book The Fault In Our Stars.

I missed all the charity, Thunderclaps and other events for good in Nerdfighteria. And it reminds me of why I joined Twitter. I was completely against joining Twitter, because, really who needs to listen to every thought some empty actress or teen pop star has to say. But then demonstrations were being organized via Twitter. Coups were orchestrated via Twitter. When social media is changing history, it’s ridiculous not to get involved. So I joined Twitter. And yes there were mounds of clueless crap – but there was also the journalist who fought to get racist posters removed from American subways, the artist who was assaulted and arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest, the musician who rallied her fans into sponsoring her tour and album.

Twitter can mobilize people. YouTube can mobilize people. It’s not completely vapid bullshit after all.

So now I’m giving this vlogging stuff a chance. I am not saying I’m going to do it – I barely do this blag shiz, and frankly I’m not brave enough to put myself out there like that. It’s one thing being anonymous(ish). It’s quite another having a face. So if you have any suggestions for good vlogs I should check out, let me know. And if you haven’t already, go check out the Vlog Brothers.

Although I must warn you, John Green is a real douche about knitting. I don’t get what his problem is. Knitting would so be the best super power. Imagine if I had super knitting powers and an endless ball of wool? No one on Earth would ever be cold AGAIN. Including penguins!

He’s also really sort of obsessed with his weight. He’s like a teenage girl. Take it from a bonafide fatty, Green. Give it up.


In other news of the world, I drove past a business today that had a sign boasting a ’24 Hour Quote Hotline’. Okay, I don’t know about you but I JUST FOUND MY DREAM JOB. I want to man the 24 Hour Quote Hotline. I want to answer the phone and be like “Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” And then hang up. Oh just imagine the awesome:

Ring. “A dying man can do nothing easy.” Hang up.
Ring. “
If your ancestors cut down all the trees, it’s not your fault, but you still don’t live in a forest.” Hang up.
Ring. “
Dungeons & Dragons is some of the most crazy, deep, deep, deep nerd shit ever invented. Every word you’re saying is made up. Motherfuckers talk like Yoda.” Hang up.
“I laughed and said ‘Life is easy.’ What I meant was: ‘Life is easy with you here, and when you leave, it will be hard again.” Hang up.
Ring. “Get at least eight hours of beauty sleep. Nine if you’re ugly.” Hang up.
“Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it’s stranger than we can think.” Hang up.

So I am getting this out there, releasing the Brain Crack if you will (told you I know the Ze). But I seriously want to do this. If I can get a phone number it’s on.

And with that I skulk off. Thanks for reading.

Here’s what I listened to while writing this; another playlist from the Psychic MP3 Player for you. Enjoy.

Beach House – Myth
School of Seven Bells – ILU
My Bloody Valentine – I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)
Throwing Muses – Sunray Venus
Neko Case – Hex (The Tigers Have Spoken version)
The Innocence Mission – Lakes of Canada
The National – Anyone’s Ghost
Polica – Warrior Lord
Tori Amos – Raspberry Swirl
The Dresden Dolls – My Alcoholic Friends
Guided By Voices – Sleep Over Jack
Johnny Cash – I Still Miss Someone
Pixies – Make Believe
Belle and Sebastian – The Blues Are Still Blue
David Bowie – Kingdom Come
Grant Lee Buffalo – Drag
The Flaming Lips – Waiting For Superman
The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Rilo Kiley – We’ll Never Sleep
Throwing Muses – Rabbit’s Dying
Xiu Xiu – I Am The Center Of Your World
Architecture in Helsinki – Heart It Races
R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion
Talking Heads – Stay Hungry
Vic Chesnutt – The Big Huge Valley
Ani DiFranco – Out of Habit (Like I Said version)
Bon Iver – Brackett, WI
Ladytron – Runaway
Portishead – Nylon Smile
The Smiths – Asleep
Echo and the Bunnymen – Porcupine (alternate version)
Kristin Hersh – Echo
The National – Lucky You

Writing Panic, Nerdfighteria, and New Knitting Jargon

Even though, logically, this would be the time when I post the next installment of the long-ass piece in which I blagged about the assets of 2013, I pull another fast one and digress yet again down a long and ridiculous tangent that has nothing to do with anything but is bothering me quite a bit. (Like that commercial in which a guy brings a flower to a date of some import, while a delectable guitar melody plays over it. Has no one noticed that the melody is in fact “Never Going Back Again” – a Fleetwood Mac song about bitterly giving up on love after a string of disastrous affairs? Seriously? What is friggin WRONG with people?)

And in that vein I refer back to my last blag post in which I mention how I’ve been knitting up a storm. And while twelve movies (make that thirteen – hello, the Breakfast Club) does fill up the time, it obviously doesn’t fill up all the time. So what else have I been watching? Well, first I went and watched all of the nerd videos I had missed this fall/winter while I was busy getting nerdier. Then, after I did that, I decided to go back in time and watch all of the early Brotherhood 2.0 videos. In order. I did this mainly because I was curious, and mainly because I was bored and knitting, and mainly because I am a fan. I mean, I watch the current videos and whatnot, but I am not an original fan. All of my DFTBA and Nerdfighting expertise came later, when I was lured in through other, related videos by Mental Floss and the like. I am not afraid to admit that; I was still at university (the first go round) and dealing with some heavy personal shit (like always) and so stuff like this got by me. This is true of other things of that time period – like Heroes, which I love and didn’t watch until years after the fact thanks to G4 and Netflix.

Now that I’ve admitted that, please don’t dump on me over it, fellow Nerdfighters. I am suffering enough knowing that too much time has gone past to bother posting replies In My Pants or otherwise when the Green Brothers need to be schooled. Maybe when I complete my time travel device, I can tell Hank that the Harry Potter series is popular in a way that hasn’t been seen since L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. Yes, it’s true: the Land of Oz was an epic commercial success that no one had seen the likes of before or until Rowling dropped her recycled saga on us. I could also fill the Brothers in on the equally epic Ninjas versus Pirates wars that went on at my college campus. Wars involving found vintage pornography and kites.

Anyway, so here I am knitting feverishly and watching John and Hank when I am struck by two unsettling things. The first being: as I watch John I can’t get the fact that this is the same guy who wrote The Fault In Our Stars out of my head. Seriously? This is the guy? Not to knock John – no, no, no. Not at all. It’s just that he is very much like my friend Dan. Too much, really (it’s doppelganger level scary), and I can’t imagine Dan writing that book. I can’t imagine John writing that book. Although when I do try to imagine who could have written that book I come up blank, so I guess the whole thing is moot.

What is getting to me, actually, is the second unsettling thing, which is that these videos are a good peek into the life of a modern day writer. They take place in 2007, in which we find John Green between two novels: the much acclaimed, already published An Abundance of Katherines, and the in-progress, still being crafted Paper Towns. This means when we don’t see John talking at home, or giving us sneak peaks of a day in a life of writing, we see John traveling… A lot: Promoting his books, going to functions, speaking at organizations and libraries and schools and even attending awards functions. He is always running around and this bothers me because my panic disorder has reached epic levels in certain departments, and traveling, especially alone is currently out of the question for me. And if I am ever to be published I will be expected to do this traveling, running around and talking and flying in planes, and whatnot. It’s bad enough I’ll have to deal with doing it all as a fatty (which is a really big concern, actually and probably will prevent my ever being published by a proper house), but doing it in a constant state of panic… I can’t even…

So concerned about this am I, I have been searching other writer’s blogs and videos and talks and interviews and articles and it’s all the same, everywhere I look. Neil Gaiman practically lives on the road. Even the Composers of Naughtiness have to do all of this. There are specific Naughtiness Composer conventions. I don’t stand a chance. My only hope will be to write something as epic as To Kill A Mockingbird, let my book work for me as I hide in my room and refuse to talk to the media.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I have been medicated for my panic disorder in the past, but the drugs messed me the frak up and stunted my creativity in a weird way. In fact, if you read what I’ve written before, after, and during my periods of medication, you would swear that whoever was writing during was not the same person who was writing before and after. And they sucked even more than that other guy. The same goes for the rest of my art and music too – everything is forced and without, I guess, soul.

This February though, things may change in the freaking-the-fuck-out-in-the-supermarket department. Thanks to the ACA my health care is expanding and I will be able to resume my search for a mental health professional who has some experience dealing with panic disorder. Go me, and thanks Obama. (And please, I don’t need any guff, so don’t go writing nasty anti-Obama shiz in my comments section. I already get a lot of that – and plenty more – from my sadly misguided and misinformed right-wing cousins. Yes, I’ve seen the open letter from the lady in Alabama who is worried her kids won’t have health care. And I’ve successfully smote every single person who has attacked me using it as evidence. So let it go.)

Despite getting all wound up and anxious that my crazy may be thwarting my hopes of finding my book in a store one day, I keep obsessively watching Brotherhood 2.0, Year 1. I find it horribly amusing, and in a lot of ways I can see how these guys might just be In Cahoots. For all of you out there in Nerdfighteria, being In Cahoots is very much like being a Secret Sibling. We would have to meet, exchange glances and nod knowingly for me to confirm this, but so far as I can tell, all the evidence seems to be there. There is no question however, that I am a Nerdfighter. I mean, come on. Not only am I a most epic reader, I am specifically a most epic reader of Science Fiction. On top of that, I am a font of useless information. Seriously. I once inadvertently usurped a museum curator giving a tour, and ended up finishing it myself. (This has resulted in my being the go-to guide in every museum situation since.) I collect weird shit like ancient cameras, rocks, bits of discarded nature and dead bugs which I then incorporate in both my science and my art. I am an abecedarian, and I have lists of kick ass words – everywhere. This last year I didn’t make a gingerbread house I made a gingerbread… T.A.R.D.I.S.. And if that isn’t enough, I am currently enrolled in a major university, where I am studying theoretical physics. I ultimately want to use my nerdiness to make the world a better place – if not just a better informed one.

At this point I think I could actually give Nerdfighter classes. This I feel would be good, and beneficial, as the Nerdfighting community should aim to grow and spread across the earth, using it’s might against World Suck. So sign me up.

In a complete non sequiteur, I shall now present to you as promised, the epic hat stack:

The Epic January 2014 Hat Stack

The Epic January 2014 Hat Stack

That’s fourteen bald heads that shall be soft and warm in the near future, kids.

I wish to take this final moment to announce a new development in the world of knitting jargon. The knitting acronym/abbreviation Sl2,K1,PSSO – sometimes written as S2KP – shall now be referred to as Flooping The Pig. So remember, next time a pattern requires you to slip two stitches (as if to knit) then knit one and pass the two slipped stitches over that knit stitch, you are Flooping the Pig. Don’t worry, SSK – or slip slip knit – is still called Slipping the Nip. That will never change.

And with that, I am off. Please enjoy this parting gift – a playlist to get over this whiny rant to:
Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again
The Goat Rodeo Sessions featuring Aoife O’Donovan – Here and Heaven
Newton Faulkner – Sitar-y Thing – Interlude
Chris Thile – Riddles in the Dark
Claude Debussy – Suite Bergamasque: Menuette
The Jane Austen Argument – Song for a Siren
CocoRosie – Gallows
Agnes Obel – Riverside
Alexandre Desplat – Mr. Fox in the Fields Medley
Bruno Coulais – Mouse Circus
Iaian Ballamy – Rabbit Band
Architecture in Helskini – Nothing’s Wrong

Books, Movies and Le Chapeau Mal

The Guide To Reading

I realize that when it comes to this blogging thing I suck.  I mean, seriously: this is the 32nd post in this mess I started in 2012. And although that may sound like a lot when you say it out loud (thirtee-too), in the world of blog that’s nothing. Folks around here type volumes daily over years. Decades. What the hello?  Wordpress is constantly sending me friendly little reminders about how to get my stats up, the most important thing in that equation being my actually writing stuff enough to get people to notice me and to follow me.

This may come as a surprise, but, I don’t necessarily want nor need people to follow me. I mean, if you do, I really appreciate it. That’s awesome, thank you. But I’m not looking to up my stats. I was just really hoping that feeding this blog would encourage me to write more, because, while I love to write, I often hit these brick walls of creativity where I could and should finish something but instead get desperately sidetracked. I have a lot of outlets and a lot of interests and a complete spaz for a brain. Therefore, it is too easy for me to get sidetracked.

So what have I been doing with myself, instead of finishing blag posts, or my book or whatnot? Well, so far this year, I’ve watched twelve movies and read only five books. I know this because my local library has a counter that keeps track for you, and at the end of the year, those who have finished over fifty books (and in a separate contest, fifty films) are put in a raffle to win a prize. I have never won, even though I’m fairly certain no one else in my town reads as much as I do. I read 151 books in 2013, beating my personal goal of 150 books by one.  150 was my goal for 2012, but I only made it to 126, which is interesting when you consider I wasn’t in school in 2012. It’s strange how I’m apparently reading more even though I have significantly less time.

Keeping track of what you read in a year is a good idea. Not controlling in the way my nifty little acquisition tends to be, but just an account. If I compare the 2011 list with the 2013 list, there are interesting trends. I notice that I tend to read in patterns – genres change during certain times of the year, and I have a list of go-back-to reads that are surprising, especially to me. Who knew I’d read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson at least once a year? Not me.

Here is a sample of some of the hats I knit for the youth.

These are some of the hats I’ve knit for the youth.

You may have noted that it’s only 18 days into the New Year and I’ve already seen twelve movies. What the frak have I been doing that I haven’t been able to post my giant blag about 2013 in review, but I’ve been able to see The Social Network for the nth time? Well my semester of scary math, cosmology and neuroscience (what the frell?) is almost upon me. So I’ve decided that last years poor offerings in the knitting-hats-for-bald-kids department was appalling and shameful, and therefore I’ll give myself a fighting chance this year, and try to get in as much knitting as I can between now and next week, when the academic shiz starts to get out of hand.

Right now I has a sessee stack of about 12 woolen and 2 cotton caps that I’ve churned out since the 4th. (I’ll maybe post a picture here if I remember in the morning). Plus one that I made for myself that remains a cause for great ethical and philosophical debate between me and my brain. The debate goes something like this:
Me: I really love this hat pattern I have been knitting incessantly for days now. I should really knit myself one.
My Brain: Why don’t you? You need a hat, and we’ve got all that wool from your mom’s friend.
Me: Yes, but isn’t that wool earmarked for the bald kids?
My Brain: No. They got you the yarn, they didn’t intend for it to go to the charity, they wanted you to get some use out of it. You were the one who gave it to the knitting project.
Me: Yes but…
My Brain: No buts. Just do it. You need a hat, you like this pattern, you don’t have the money but you do have the wool. And the wool was yours to do with what you would. The only one who will be upset about it will be you.
Me: Okay. I’ll do it. But I’ll swim in guilt forever.
My Brain: Sounds like a plan.

So I knit myself the hat, and it’s faboo. It’s a lacy slouch cap, and it looks good with my hair up or down, and covers the baldish bits as well as my ears, and keeps the snow off and the heat in. However, I feel like a jerk half the time that I A: wasted perfectly good yarn on me, B: that I meant for all the yarn to go to my hats for brats project, and C: I wasted perfectly good knitting time on me and not the project. Even though everyone says I’m overreacting, I kept feeling like I was a Bad Person.  This resulted in BB telling me that I ‘must be a Bad Person, because that is a Bad Hat’. He then informed me that in France my hat would be referred to as ‘Le Bad Hat’ and I told him it would be called Le Chapeau Mal and sneered.

My own personal cyborg provided this, the official donations bank for my knitting endeavor.

My own personal cyborg provided this, the official donations bank for my knitting endeavor.

I’d ask my readers or nonreaders their opinion on the ethics involved here. But it’s kind of moot as I know that the second I get any moolah it’s all going in the yarn donation bank to cover the price of the yarn I used on my hat. And don’t worry, I’ll round up to the price of a full ball.

Now, after taking the long way around, we get to my point which is: I watched 12 movies so far this year mostly because I’ve been knitting in all my free time, and I cannot read and knit at the same time. I can, however, knit and watch all the movies I want at the same time. Couple that with four days of free HBO and a DVR, and I’m all set for knitting bliss.

The only exception to this knitting thing would be having gone to the cinema to see the new Hobbit film, much to my chagrin. Tolkien must be rolling in his grave over that mess.

Other things I have been doing are equally disturbing and boring and can best be explained in the following blaggage: The Year in Terrible Things and The Year in Musical Instruments.

Until then…

2013 and The Year In Books

So I wrote all this stuff the last week of December. Brace yourselves…

I have decided to commemorate 2013 with a scathing review of its assets. Yeah, I know that the year isn’t over yet. But it might as well be. I mean really, what else is going to happen between now and then? (Cue the alien invasion).

So let’s start with…

Book It

The Year in Books

I read too much. So much so that my Kindle exploded (see: the Year in Terrible Things). This is the second Kindle to have exploded on my watch in two years. I am currently borrowing a brain shattering Kindle Fire until I can swing a new e-ink number, so I can achieve my reading goal of 150 books. Yes I intended to read 150 books in 2013, and with only three more books to go, it appears I might just make it.

When I say I read 150 books, I am not talking board books or shitty romance novels. So far this year, I’ve read Faulkner, Woolf, Bronte, Stoker, Dr. Michio Kaku, Homer, David Levithan, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison, J.M. Coetzee, A.S. King, and so on. And on.

Some tomes of note include:

Angelfall and World After by Susan Ee
This story is messed up. And I loved it. These are the first two books in the post-apocalyptic YA horror series “Penryn and the End of Days”. Here, our protagonist is a teenage girl with an un-medicated schizophrenic mother and paraplegic little sister, trying to stay alive while angels wage war on mankind.

Of all the dystopian, apocalyptic series I’ve been privy to, this is the most sophisticated in character disillusionment of any of them. As far as Penryn is concerned, keeping her tattered, tortured family together is the only thing keeping her sane; the only thing that matters. Even when good things happen, she never once fools herself into thinking that the humans will survive, or that anything other than the end is nigh. She harbors no false hope, and exists in a state of reality. For a novel aimed at teenagers that’s sort of amazing.

There is a strange dynamic between the two leads, the archangel Raphael and Penryn, and while the storyline pushes towards a possible romantic climax, you can’t forget for a second that this series is horror. It’s not Caitlin R. Kiernan, but it’s very dark, and pretty graphic. Dismemberment graphic. Mutilated children graphic. And even the ‘romantic’ aspect of the plot is more affection than anything. Raffe sees Penryn as a pathetic human, a lower creature. Penryn sees Raffe as a monster, and the means to an end. So don’t worry. If you read this you won’t throw up. Or at least, not for the sugary, unrealistic, teenage romance reasons.

So check it out. And don’t let the angel thing turn you off. In this story, angels don’t know if god exists either, so it’s not religious schlock being shoved down your throat.

Still With Me by Thierry Cohen
I was sort of excited to read this book, it seemed like an interesting idea: A young man commits suicide on his 20th birthday after his best friend/lifelong love rejects him. And that, it would seem, would be the end of that, except he wakes up the next morning to find that it is now his 21st birthday. His life has moved on without him, a full year, and he has no idea what he did during that year or how he got to this new stage of his life. Every morning he wakes up and it’s another year and another birthday, and he is lost like someone suffering with DID. As the years (days) pass, he sees his soulless self gain everything in life he ever dreamed, only to selfishly and tragically lose it all. The story is part science fiction, part spiritual redemption. And I suspect it would have been pretty great too, had I been able to read it in its original French. Instead it reads almost emotionless – bland, flat. Seeing as this was a national bestseller in France and in other markets, and has been translated into fifteen languages, I think the problem is with this particular translation.

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I had to read this one for a class I took over the summer. Everyone hated it. I loved it.

To the Lighthouse follows a family as it hosts friends and neighbors at their summer home on the sea. They’re 1920s-ish, upper middle class white folks, who have fancy dinners and keep some degree of society. But that’s not what turns people off about this book. It’s not simply a book of rich white people on vacation; it is a complex study of human relationships, and entropy. And it’s told in what is called stream-of-consciousness writing, which briefly became popular around this time with authors like Faulkner, but which Woolf (arguably) perfected.

Stream-of-consciousness writing follows the thought process of the writer or the character. Imagine you’re walking down the street and you’re thinking about how tired you are and how much work you have to do and what is going on with your best friend and how come they haven’t cal – oooh! A Squirrel! That’s stream-of-consciousness. Many people find this too confusing to read. But it’s how we, as humans think, how we take in information, and so if you read it, and give it a chance, it not only makes sense it makes the story more believable.

So this particular story looks at every character like threads in a tapestry. Their lives, their thoughts and feelings interweave, and over time they fade and fray, separate and come loose. We see exactly what happens when those threads are picked apart, when some are removed, how the tapestry unravels in some places, how it becomes stronger in others. And time  – like I said, entropy – is another character here. Time passes and you feel it.

I love this book. So read it. And after you read it, check out Virginia Woolf’s biography. She was pretty awesome.

A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller
This book is just… downer doesn’t really cover it. The entire book is a man dictating his life story into a tape recorder, in preparation of his upcoming suicide. Yep. Rosy. So much so in fact, it became one of those situations where I only finished the book at all because I have this thing where I have to see it through. I finish every book, no matter how shitty it is. When I’m in, I’m all in.

The book is set and was written during the late 1950s/ early 1960s. So in that aspect it’s very interesting, very much of it’s time. And it’s beautifully written, don’t get me wrong. I just genuinely didn’t like this book, because I genuinely didn’t like the lead character. He is miserable and sad and blames everyone around him for the fact that he is an asshole living the life of an asshole. He doesn’t do anything to fix things or to take ownership for his situation in life – which by the way isn’t so bad. He’s a completely successful individual career-wise. And you know, maybe that’s what the writer was going for, and maybe that’s was Miller’s motive in writing the character. But as a reader it did nothing for me.

And trust me I do not look for sunshine and rainbows and happy endings. Not at all; that stuff is in no way realistic. It’s just if I wanted to read whiny self pity from over privileged apathetic people, I’d give a shit about Twitter.
In related book news, Gaiman released The Ocean at the End of the Lane this year, to much acclaim. Even though I have it, had pre-ordered it, even, I haven’t read it yet. BECAUSE IT’S TOO DAMN PRETTY AND I DON’T WANT TO WRECK IT. It’s autographed in green ink, for cripes sake. The second I open to the first page, the spine is going to crack I’m going to crease and then tear the first page and spill gravy on it. And I’m a vegetarian – I don’t even eat gravy. BUT THAT WILL HAPPEN.

Aside from the books I’ve read, I’ve also acquired some real doozies this year. My great aunt had been slowly liquidated her late husbands’ books to me ever since I found a deposit of them she was unaware of in a closet in her spare room. They are mostly in the ‘little snippets of knowledge vein’ or are novels very specific to his tour in Morocco in WW2. They have awesome titles like What Happened in History (I was flipping to the back page to see how it ends, when my aunt came over and said “Oooh, see how it ends!), and I Never Met an Arab Like Him. Yep. Never.

This same uncle, John, was also fond of marking his dictionaries, and as I grew up I’d find things stuck throughout marking the words he looked up. He liked to write the word he was trying to learn over and over again on snips of paper, or use dental floss to mark pages. Yesterday there was a grand ransacking of their apartment (see: the Year in Terrible Things), and I finally took the dictionaries home with me. I also found a smaller, pocket dictionary I’d never seen before. It too was full of snippets of paper. But when I read them they weren’t just words he was trying to read: there were things in his life he was trying to remember. Like how earlier that day the Boston Globe had a picture of him in a major article on Veterans who served in North Africa. He didn’t save the article, he just wrote about it. At least he listed enough information that I’m sure I can find it.

The Guide To Reading

I also found a gorgeous little volume at a flea market called The Guide To Reading for $2. And it literally is what the title implies: a list of what books to read, what passages, in what order, and even on what day of the week. It’s a rather presumptuous little thing, really.

The Guide to Reading Content

So that’s it for The Year in Books, but I’m not done with 2013 yet. Gird your loins for The Year in Music.

An Embarrassing Comment On Lou Reed and a Thank You


Everybody who is anybody is writing about Lou Reed right now, and as I’m nobody this seems a nonstarter right off the bat. But here it is.

When I was growing up I was inundated with an amazing spectrum of music: My father was uncharacteristically eclectic listening to everything from the Beatles and CSNY to Miles Davis and Johnny Cash. My grandparents loved the standards. I was training to be a classical musician and had a lot of that going on. My mom was a sucker for Neil Diamond, Phoebe Snow and ‘80’s pop. My cousins were musicians into punk and metal and Sonic Youth.

But my favorite of them all was David Bowie.

From the beginning and in a very unhealthy way, too. When I was three or four I had a five alarm tantrum when my folks went to see him in concert and THEY DIDN’T TAKE ME. I had this insane dream that he would adopt me and take me to New York where I would hang out with all of his cool friends and sing and make art. And that was when I was still in single digits.

Someone eventually, probably my dad, started introducing me to those cool friends: Iggy Pop and Lou Reed and Brian Eno. And I loved them too, but I hadn’t the… agency I guess to pursue this music myself.

But when I was in junior high my life was shitty and I was lonely and all I wanted to do was my art and play music and lock myself in a room with paints and a needle and thread and try not to exist. I went to all the local museums and to the libraries and checked out all the art books. I went and taped all the free records from the library. Among them was Lou Reeds’ Transformer. I would put the new tapes in and let them play through and move on to the next, deciding what got kept and what got taped over. But that one…

I wore Transformer out. I had to check it out from the library again, tape it again. See, I hadn’t had any money of my own to buy it (things were complicated) and I had not yet become the teenage PR ne’er do well who hung out at Fort Apache and went to parties with AFP. There was no interwebs to scope out music on and my few friends weren’t nearly as learned about these things as I, so I was stuck with what I could find when I found it.

To say that this album was influential would be an understatement. If David Bowie was the key, then Lou Reed was the doorman, because he opened wide a world of music that I didn’t know existed. I went through all of his albums, which led to the Velvet Underground (of course) and to Nico. Which led back to Jackson Browne (a favorite of my dad’s) and around to Patti Smith, Wire and the New York Dolls. Which led to Suicide and Magazine. Grace Jones and Laurie Anderson. It even somehow led me to Throwing Muses, my favorite band of all time. (Throwing Muses, in their own right would change my life. But that’s another story).

On top of all that Lou was endlessly cool. I could never see him living some weird glamorous rock star life. I imagined him walking after dark in his leather jacket with a cigarette. Sporting shades. And I would look in my art books and he was there. He was a photographer. Just like me. And his music was unreal – painfully simple and infinitely complex, all at once. And his words were poems, stories, rants, narratives. He created worlds in his songs where you can smell the blood and the wet pavement and see the dealers and feel the love for the junkies and prostitutes and punks that lurked around every corner. He took me to the city where I no longer was and most wished to be. Best of all it was completely unapologetic. He could screech or drone monotonous and have six minute pseudo pop songs because fuck you this is art.

I wanted to meet him. I wanted him to be my friend. I wanted to show him my stuff. I wanted to thank him for being him. I wanted to call him Uncle Lou.

And I did. Every time I put on an album or cassette or CD, I would say “time for Uncle Lou”. Every time I saw him in an interview or on teevee or in a book “hey look – it’s Uncle Lou”. Somehow I felt like, as an artist, whatever I did in life somewhere out there I had an Uncle Lou.

And that was my big mistake I think. Because when this happens, when someone that great comes along and changes everything for you, you make them immortal in your mind. And in a way they are immortal – as is the nature of art. But that’s what’s so dangerous about this thinking, because they are really just people, and they get old and they get sick and they have accidents or they get murdered and in the end they die. We all do.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when, on Sunday, at the worst possible moment of an inexplicably bad day (seriously, if I wrote about it here the WTF chorus would be stunned mute), my dad told me that Lou Reed had died. He was human, after all. But I was. The air was sucked out of my lungs, and it was all I could do the exit the building, don my shades and get in the car before the tears overcame me.

Lou’s music is always somewhere in my head and at the tip of my tongue, and in a way that I didn’t really realize or think about until Sunday.

In the soundtrack to my life he was a major presence. He was there for every major phase, stage and disappointment. I learned to drive listening to a compilation tape of every Velvet Underground song I could squeeze onto a super 120 cassette. When I printed photos in the lab it was also to the Velvet Underground. The time I was nearly locked in the wet room it was my singing ‘Satellite of Love’ that saved me. Me and dad on the T going home from a Bosstones show where I got sick before the main act – he was singing ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ to cheer me up. Hot water at the Tasty, after midnight in the Pit, the 77 bus to Arlington Heights, waiting in our seats at the Orpheum Theater, trapped in a Central Square parking garage, sitting alone on the floor of my bedroom – my memories are a Lou Reed mix tape.

And I know I can say the same thing about Bowie and Kristin Hersh and David Byrne and so many others. But none of them are or ever will be my Uncle Lou.

I never got to thank him. So I’m going to do that now. Thank you.