Les Semaines

December 31, 2010

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


2010's a-Gone

It says something about this year—but I'm not entirely sure what—that this is my first entry since August.

It's approaching midnight, so I'm trying to thinking about the 365 days past. Family stuff has been rough, between my parents' health (they're doing okay now) and some other issues in the way that lives go. Mom and Dad were doing well when we saw them a week ago, so I hope that continues. Other things seem more stable now, too.

Other than that, really, nothing much changed. We're still very married, healthy, employed in the same jobs. We're very lucky, though none of this has been stress-free (especially ongoing budget cuts at work).

The end-of-year financial reports say the economy is finally starting to pick up, and I'm sure it's due to us, because this is the year that things broke and had to be replaced, including:

  • my computer monitor (only two years old)
  • my graphics card (are these related?)
  • our fridge
  • our stove
  • our espresso machine
  • our tv
  • a car tire (one of four bought new this summer)
However, our 24-year-old microwave is still going strong, one of the few kitchen appliance survivors at ours. I'm grateful for everything else that keeps working as expected (washer and dryer, other computers, phones, etc., that means you).

I just finished writing our annual holiday letter/poems this afternoon. Yes, we're running late this year. I hope they'll all arrive before Epiphany (January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas). What I like best doing these is taking the moment I'm writing the note on them to focus on the people they're addressed to, my relationship with them, and thinking what I wish them for the year ahead. Sending out annual wishes.

So right now I wish for anyone who reads this a healthy, prosperous, fun, and adventurous year full of love, friends, and dreams come true.

Happy New Year.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


We bought surprisingly few albums this year.

My Top Ten (it's scary how many of these are imports):

1. Sandy Denny Box Set

Without a doubt, the most amazing musical event for me this year was investing in the new Sandy Denny Box set. This has 19 discs of her music--all her official recordings and lots of other material--basically, everything that still exists except unofficial live recordings and things they couldn't get the rights to, like her vocals on Led Zepplin's "The Battle of Evermore".

It also is gorgeously packaged, includes a hardcover book with new photographs, etc. Truly an amazing thing, and I agree with the forward--she deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as the best 20th-C vocalists, such as Billie Holiday. An amazing legacy of work.

2. Emily Portman, The Glamoury

For anyone who like trad folk at all--even though most of the songs are her own compositions. Gorgeous voice, and songs that give me shivers. Which is amazing because I like very, very little neo-traditional songwriting.

3. Joanna Newsom, Have One On Me

Complicated tapestries of songs, could listen to this forever.

4. Smoke Fairies, Low Light and Trees

Gorgeous harmonies, and again a type of music (country/Americana) that I don't normally care for. This is their first official full-length album and it's wonderful.

5. Glasser, Ring

Lovely, twining electronica, but distinctive and catchier and really stand out to me. Lovely voice.

6. Sophie Hunger, 1983

Thanks to whoever mentioned her a few years back--she's an impressive songwriter and has quite a stylistic range.

7. Tunng, ...And Then We Saw Land

Tunng is never less than brilliant.

8. Lonelady, Nerve Up

A trip back to the 80s, but fresh.

9. Moulettes, Moulettes

Again, a style I don't normally appreciate (sort of gothic carnivalesque) but I love this. Great vocals and really fun songs, especially the single, "Devil of Mine" which also had an amusing video (who watches videos any more?)

10. Jesca Hoop, Hunting My Dress

Can I count this again for 2010? I did buy the new U.S. version this year...

Also enjoyed:

  • Kristin Hersh, Crooked (would be in my top ten if no Jesca, as even though her songwriting is as strong as it ever was sometime the damage she's done to her voice makes me sad)
  • Sleigh Bells, Treats (one of the best driving-around-in-the-summer albums in years)
  • Robin Holcomb and Talking Pictures with Wayne Horvitz, The Point of It All (7 songs + interesting instrumentals)
  • Laurie Anderson, Homeland
  • Jim Moray, In Modern History (trad and neo-trad folk)
  • Sufyan Stephens, The Age of Adz (uneven, but great when it is great)
  • Under Byen, Alt Er Tabt (love the band, but this one hasn't stuck with me as much as their previous releases)
  • Zoe Keating, Into The Trees (lovely cello instrumentals)
  • Kathryn Williams, The Quickening
  • Baxter, Tell Me Like It Is (remember them?)
  • Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett, Homeland (not as catchy as his previous albums)
  • Beach House's Teen Dream (loved it at first & now can't listen to it)
  • Emily Jane White, Victorian America (again, just not as distinctive as her first
Best belated discovery
last week's listening § next week's listening


I read a lot of books this year, but didn't manage to list them all and so I can't really effectly make a favourites list this year, but some stand-outs were:
  • Sarah Rees Brennan, The Demon's Covenant
  • Stephanie Burgis, A Most Improper Magic
  • Charles de Lint, The Painted Boy
  • N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms
  • Graham Joyce, Smoking Poppy
  • Ian McDonald, The Dervish House
  • Robin McKinley, Pegasus
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death
  • Maggie Stiefvater, Linger
  • Connie Willis, Blackout / All Clear
  • David Almond, Raven Summer
  • Michelle Cooper, A Brief History of Montmaray
  • A.M. Dellamonica, Indigo Springs
  • Tana French, Faithful Place
  • Barbara Kingsolver, Lacuna
  • Stieg Larsson's mystery thriller trilogy
  • Malinda Lo, Ash
  • Mary Novik, Conceit
  • Dolen Perkins-Valdex, Wench
  • Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder, Except the Queen
last week's reading § next week's reading