It’s been roughly a month since I committed myself publicly to writing a novel. So far I’d say things are going pretty well. If nothing else, I haven’t stared at a blank page for a while and then abandoned the idea immediately, unlike some previous attempts, so that has to be progress. There’s a modest sized document with the better part of a two chapter drafts saved, as well as a few other one off documents with ideas and scraps of paragraphs that I wanted to capture for possible later use. In addition, my trusty black notebook contains a dozen pages of ideas, fragments, and character notes, and is proving to be a invaluable resource for me, since I tend to think of ideas at odd times. By carrying around the notebook with me I have a way to capture those little spurts of inspiration. (A little bit of fun Eastside High School journalism history here for those of you that remember/care: I wrote the entire satirical “Cheerleading Isn’t a Sport” column in about 45 minutes after bolting upright at 2 AM. Had I not written it then I probably would have woken up and forgotten all about it and saved myself 20 years of getting randomly attacked while walking down the street by very perky assailants. The point of this is extremely long digression is that I’ve got to write stuff down while I’m thinking about it or it will make it to print. Plus, cheerleaders get mad easily and carry grudges.)
I have learned a few things along way, and wanted to share those insights here.
- I haven’t stuck to any type of artificial writing count (i.e., I’m going to write X number of pages or dedicate X hours per day to writing), but I have at least tried to think about things each day and at least jot down notes as much as possible. Knowing myself to more rigid and organized I try to make this process, the staler the ideal will become and the likelihood of me deleting the whole folder increases ten-fold.
- The downside to writing a longer form work is that I find myself with less time and/or motivation to write shorter form pieces, namely here. I do enjoy this though so I’m working to strike a balance between the two. As neither one pays me a dime so far I think it is only fair because I do enjoy this a lot. Plus, there is a nice sense of accomplishment to actually finish something and be able to click “Publish” before getting up from the table.
- When I don’t have to go out in polite society and actually speak to people, I tend to abandon proper grooming rather quickly (much to the chagrin of my family.) Were I a full-time writer I’d likely end up looking like a combination of Ted Kaczynski, early Michael Stipe and a character from Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival”, so I think it is for the best that I am not at this point.
- Writing narration generally comes rather easy to me, but the long form of the novel is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I don’t have to worry about page length or limits, so I’m free to go with ideas until they dry up. On the other hand, longer is not necessarily better, so I have to fight my stream of consciousness impulses and remember that brevity and conciseness have their virtues too, unless you are David Foster Wallace. And I am most assuredly not him.
- Conversely, writing dialogue is HARD. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going for some Joss Whedon-esque, quirky banter than it is to actually pull it off without sounding like a complete and utter tool. Case in point, I spend the better part of the morning writing about three pages of mostly dialogue and was so disgusted with it when I finished that I printed one of the pages out just to get the satisfaction of crumpling the page into a ball and tossing it across the room. That felt good, my friends.
So in summation, I have no schedule, little expectation the finished product will ever see the light of day, and a certainty that I will never be a screen writer, but I WILL finish this, if only as a gift to myself. Anything beyond that is just gravy. At the very least I can always post it here as some kind of serialized work once it is finished. Just feel free to skip any extensive dialogue passages unless I tell you otherwise.
In case you were too distracted by what Miley Cyrus’ tongue was smoking or whatever other lame ‘controversy’ was in the headlines that day, 2013 was a pretty great year for music. Unlike movies and TV, I listen to a LOT of music, so I’m far more confident in my selections here. I had a harder time than usual coming up with my Best of the year playlist; my final top ten albums list changed numerous times, and, most incredibly, my artist of the year changed in just the last couple of weeks (and to somebody I had not heard of until recently.) Let’s dive into the top 10 albums to start, in reverse order.
10. No Blues – Los Campesinos: Another great, at times hilarious, album from the pride of Cardiff, Wales.
9. The Messenger – Johnny Marr: A solo record 25 years in the making, and worth the wait for the guitar riff on The Right Thing Right alone.
8. The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake: Unfairly maligned. Even though some of it is an unholy mess, when it works, it’s genius and the closest thing on a grand scale to Stevie Wonder’s amazing 70′s output we’ve seen.
7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories: No robot rock, but some pretty masterful pop music. Any album that can bring the amazing Nile Rodgers back into the public consciousness AND give us this Frost/Pegg duet is worthy of inclusion here.
6. Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You: Another fantastic album from one of the most reliable artists going. And I’m so smitten with her that I don’t even mind the title.
5. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City: The best of their three albums to date by a big margin, and Diane Young was hands down one of the best songs of the year.
4. Disclosure – Settle: This is a great old school techno/acid house record made by two guys too young to remember old school techno/acid house.
3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me: The most consistently great recording act this side of Neko Case. Another fantastic album.
2. Toro y Moi – Anything in Return: One of the best R and B, chillout records in very long time. Got to give props to a fellow SC native for making such great music.
1. Mikal Cronin – MCII: Loved this record from the minute I bought it and have kept it in heavy rotation all year. Simply a great collection of tight, melodic power pop.
Honorable mentions: Hard to believe there was no room for Superchunk’s I Hate Music, the My Bloody Valentine release, and the really great Atoms for Peace record. Also props to David Bowie for making a better album than a 66-year old should be able to make.
Artist of the Year: I was prepared to make a case for a couple of different folks as artist of the year, and then a seven foot tall sad clown that sounds like a cross between Tom Jones and Morrissey came shuffling into my life a couple of weeks ago, and all of those original thoughts were obliterated. Check out this cover of the already amazing Lorde (another album of the year honorable mention) song, Royals. I mean, seriously, I really didn’t have any choice in the matter. Cheers to you, Puddles Pity Party, artist of this year and any year you choose to sing.
Puddles crooning version of Royals is included in the best of 2013 playlist below, along with 24 other songs that made the grade. I’ve included it here for your listening/subscribing pleasure as always.
What were your favorites that I missed? What did I completely screw up? And how much do you love Puddles?
Don’t you love this time of year, when ever web site, publication or dufus with a website publishes their year end “best of” lists? Yeah, me neither, but that still isn’t enough to keep me from doing mine, and rather pretentiously splitting it up over two days to boot. Film and television today, with the much more difficult music lists later this week, including the ever anticipated best of 2013 playlist.
One caveat here: I don’t get to as many movies as I used to (and when I do I often have two 10 year old boys in tow), so this is simply the best of what I saw this year. I often end up not seeing many of the critically acclaimed pictures until a year or two later when they hit Netflix or On Demand. Calibrate your expectations accordingly. The good news is, when I do make it out to a non-Pixar or franchise movie, it’s usually a guarantee that it will be worth your time and money.
10. Thor: The Dark World (sneaks into the top ten purely out of respect for Tom Hiddleston)
9. Zero Dark Thirty
8. Much Ado About Nothing
7. Mud (Btw, when did Matthew McConaughey secretly become the most money actor in Hollywood. Dude is on a serious hot streak.)
6. Star Trek: Into Darkness (Don’t care if the diehards didn’t like it I thought it was great and the Cumberbatch was downright awesome.)
5. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
4. Iron Man 3
3. Rush (May end up going down as the best sports movie ever.)
2. The World’s End (Absolutely love this movie, and believe it’s the best of the Cornetto trilogy when all is said and done.)
1. Gravity (Here’s all you really need to know about Gravity. I didn’t think there was any way possible that a movie was going to keep The World’s End from being my favorite film of the year, but Gravity did it. Truly amazing stuff, and the only time I would ever tell you to see a film in 3D vs. standard projection.)
Another caveat. I actually don’t like a lot of what is on TV and don’t watch much of it. Your typical Chuck Lorre sitcom makes me want to hurl myself off a bridge. Again, calibrate your expectations accordingly.
10. Downton Abbey (Thought it slipped a bit from previous seasons but was still pretty darn entertaining, If nothing else it’s still a joy to watch Maggie Smith lay the smack down. Reason to be optimistic for next season: happy Lady Mary was dull and boring, but now she’ll have all the reason to rage and snark against the world)
9. The Daily Show
8. The Returned (I’ve only seen a handful of episodes so far, but it’s still cracking my top ten. It’s that good. A special award should go to Mogwai for creating an amazingly creepy vibe with their soundtrack alone.)
7. Colbert Report (Really upped their game with the quality of musical guests this past year.)
6. The Americans (Somehow this incredible show was not my favorite new show of the year, but not for lack of real quality.)
5. Gravity Falls (Yeah, it’s a Disney Channel cartoon but it is really brilliant and often hilarious. At its best it is on par with a first decade of the Simpsons mixed with some David Lynch. I refer you to the Time Traveler’s Pig and Fight Fighters episodes for proof.)
3. Mad Men (It got seemingly off track a couple of times this year, but the season finale placed Don in such an unexpected position and it opened multiple possibilities to the show that seemed impossible to contemplate before. I mean, Don might not die a miserable, old, forsaken wretch now, right?)
2. Orphan Black (My favorite new show this year by a pretty wide margin, featuring some truly mind blowing acting by star Tatiana Maslany.)
1. Breaking Bad (It really couldn’t be anything else, could it? This season gave is perhaps the finest, but most gut-wrenching hour of television ever made – Ozymandius, and that’s still not even my favorite episode of the show – that honor will always go to Dead Freight.)
You’ll notice one very noticeable exception from that list. I’m looking at you, Walking Dead. So you finally gave us the season finale we deserved last year, which basically means that the half season that just finished was, while admittedly being some of the better episodes of the show in recent memory (at least until Gov. Snooze showed up again), completely unnecessary. You frustrate me, Walking Dead. Here’s hoping you get yourself together now that the slate has been wiped clean of the Governor’s stain.
What were your favorites this year (i.e., what will I be binge watching on Netflix and cursing that I missed a couple of years from now?) If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go narrow down a pretty great year for music into one playlist.
Yes, friends. The day you all wait for patiently every year has come: JLo’s yearly Christmas/holiday playlist is here, freshly updated for 2013. Our long national nightmare is over for another 12 months.
The goal is simple and unwavering: There’s lots of Christmas music, but much of it is awful, so hopefully this is one you can listen to without your ears bleeding or making you want to set the tree aflame.
Without further ado, here it is in handy Spotify playlist form.
Hopefully that brings a little joy to your holiday season.
Speaking of things that make me want to set my tree aflame, it appears that yesterday’s early “Black Thursday” retail openings were a big success, which makes me rather depressed. Just remember this in a few years when your bosses, regardless of industry, start requiring you to work on previously off-limits holidays in order to meet “customer expectations.” I hope those cheap toys and clothes were worth it. (Also, if I were a spiteful person, I’d also add that I hope you all went outside and discovered that you left your lights on and that your car batteries died and you ended up spending twice as much as you saved on a tow and a new battery, but I wouldn’t do that. JLo is all about positivity and love.)
It’s not as monumentally rant-worthy as losing our national soul for 50% off Old Navy, but yet another holiday season passes without one of my absolute favorite Christmas tunes showing up on Spotify, Mel Torme’s amazing version of Good King Wenceslas. There’s a perfectly fine Bing Crosby version on the list this year, but I always hold out hope for including The Velvet Fog. I own a copy, but would love to include it on the playlist as a standing addition, but alas no, tis not to be once again. Enjoy a live youtube version and bask in the 100% fried gold awesomeness on display.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some dying light to rage against. And some weird chocolate egg nog to drink that Mrs. Lo bought (she went waaaaay off canon on this) while we decorate the tree.
Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of them all. Love waking up early (though getting up at 3:30 to flip the turkey in the brine bucket may have been a little bit extreme), getting some coffee on (in this case, Dunkin Donuts Peppermint Mocha – mmm), having a little breakfast, and then sitting back and watching the Thanksgiving Day parade. The advent of twitter is a godsend for those of us who enjoy giving (inflicting?) a running commentary on the proceedings. Since I know not all of you are on the twitter, I thought I’d recap the morning as I saw retro diary-style while waiting impatiently to cut into this later today.
7:35 AM: Wake up for good, realize that it is legitimately cold in the house, stumble to thermostat and turn on the heat for the first time this year. Nothing like flooding the house with that slightly burning “first heat of the year” smell.
7:45 AM: Dunkin Donuts coffee on and successfully counteracting the burning heat smell. I am thankful, so very thankful, for Dunkin K cups reducing the time between brewing and caffeinating to a very manageable two minutes.
8:05 AM: Flipping channels and come across replay of the Shakhtar Donetsk v. Real Sociedad football match. Wait, wrong football for today. You know I love the beautiful game, but I just can’t go there today.
8:30 AM: Scanning twitter and internet, and see an alarming number of posts/articles from people worrying about the number of calories in the typical Thanksgiving meal and/or promoting “guilt free” versions classic holiday dishes. If you do this I can only assume that you hate joy and happiness.
9:00 AM: Parade time!
9:07 AM: Wow, Al Roker’s outfit and Movember beard look like a failed cosplay tribute to the fourth Doctor. (As always, Doctor Who references are dedicated to my good friend and mentor in all things geek, the CRMHobbit.) Though, I must admit that my son gave Mr. Roker a run for his money this morning in the possible hobo tribute look.
9:10 AM: Right off the bat, there’s an early winner of the “Most Courageous People” in the parade award, and it’s the dudes wearing the red thigh high sequin healed boots during the Kinky Boots performance. Especially the guy who looked like Jesse Eisenberg who rounded the look out with a jacket, tie, and what appeared to be blue boxer shorts. Well done and congratulations, gents.
9:15 AM: The first of many mentions of NBC’s live Sound of Music revival/abomination. Do not underestimate my outrage on this subject. I am considering filing suit against the entire travesty in the International Court of Justice and Human Rights to shut it down. We muted the performance piece in our house as a form of silent protest. I am not thankful for this, if you can’t tell.
9:40 AM: Possibly the biggest juxtaposition of light and darkness in the entire parade: the Snoopy balloon (raucous cheers) followed by Sandra Lee (extensive, lusty boos).
10:00 AM: Cranberries! I have nothing to add here.
10:20 AM: Ah yes, nothing says outdoor hockey like awful pop country music (this is the start of a troubling music trend today, btw. More on this.)
10:22 AM: The music gods are generous and serve up The Roots to cleanse the palate. Here’s a question I posed earlier: If you were able 10 years ago to place a bet on Jimmy Fallon and The Roots performing on a Sesame Street float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, how rich would you be right now? I’m thinking somewhere between the Queen of England and God-level rich.
10:30 AM: Some random actor is described by Matt Lauer as a “star.” I think it is safe to say that nobody stretches the meaning of that word farther than Matt does during the parade promoting NBC television.
10:45 AM: Oh dear sweet lord. Florida-Georgia line perform just before Richard Simmons rides by on a neon green turtle. It’s like my worst fever-induced nightmares are springing to life. Somebody hold me.
11:05 AM: Hey, it’s the Goo Goo Dolls. Just FYI, it’s a short leap from pretending to sing on a float in the parade to the Eat to the Beat concert series at Epcot. See you soon, fellas.
11:25 AM: It’s Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Awesome. Somehow Joan is looking younger than she did during the I Love Rock and Roll days. All down to clean living, I assume.
11:40 AM: Fall Out Boy is on now. Don’t think it’s appropriate to refer to anyone singing on a float on national TV in front of a Macy’s logo as “indie” or “alternative.” Just FYI to the Matt’s script writers.
11:45 AM: Mrs. Lo highly approves of this Despicable Me Minions/Pillsbury Doughboy pairing. (Hmmm, should I take this as a bad sign and/or a passive aggressive insult?)
11:50 AM: Matt awkwardly reading the Adventure Time script when their balloon passes by is officially my favorite moment of the morning. Just fantastic.
11:55 AM: Wait, Ariana Grande? Is that a singer or a seasonal Starbucks coffee order? I’m confused.
11:59 AM: It’s Santa! I’m sorry, seeing that still gets me pretty excited. Plus, the aromatics are officially being chopped and the bird is about to go into the oven, so that probably caused some sort of Pavlov-ian reaction on my part.
I’m now too officially hungry to write any more. Plus it’s time for Football! Football! Football! Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivukkah!) and enjoy the time and company of your friends and family.