Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Never again.

2010's been a banner year, if we define "banner" as "Sisyphean Emotional Rollercoaster," which, of course, we do. Here is my traditional (if we define "traditional" as something done twice) list of the best of everything for 2010.

Best radio show always on while I'm driving home from yoga: Deep Roots.

Best radio show always on while I'm trying to fall asleep: Inside the Music.

Best existential CanCon TV programming: Being Erica.

Best slightly disappointing final book in a dystopian teen trilogy: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

Best show (non-Kingston category): Wilco at the NAC in March. So good I'll forgive the fact that Jeff Tweedy bantered about the Olympic hockey tournament to get people to clap. Oh Jeff, honey, don't you know I don't need you to pander? I just need you to love me.

Best show I left early after thinking it was actually over only to find out later that he came back on for another set (Kingston category): Jason Collett at the Grad Club in April.

Best show with parents in attendance: Young Rival and PELT at the Mansion in March.

Best in-store appearance by a singer songwriter: Jim Bryson, at Contact Music in November.

Best musical discovery: My secret husband, Dan Mangan.

Best musical rediscovery: Does The Band count? I thought I lost my copy of The Basement Tapes in the divorce and was pretty excited when I later found it behind a bookshelf.

...actually, I'm going to give this one to the Strokes. I've always thought of them as the background music to my twenties, but lately I've started really listening to them, and shit man, they really are as good as everyone always said.

Best essayist I wish were my friend in real life: Sloane Crosley.

Best nightmare-inducing weirdscape involving time travel and car accidents: Rant by Chuck Pahlaniuk.

Best re-read (dusty paperback found in Mexico category): The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.

Best re-read (greatest book of all time category): The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank.

Best literary discovery (Carol Shields void-filler category): Elizabeth Berg.

Best ballsy ladywriter: Celia Rivenbark.

Best way to spend a dirtieth thirtieth birthday: Haunted Walk of Kingston. Water bottle filled with wine strongly recommended.

Best thing: This year is over, friends. See you in hell, 2010. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss your particular brand of whimsical batshittery just a little bit.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Putting the graphic back in graphic novels.

Here is a list of the best comics I read this year. They didn't all come out this year, but I am okay with that. I hope you are too.

1. Sword of my mouth by Jim Munroe and Shannon Gerard. It's a freaky, post-rapture, pro-urban agriculture fable, and the illustrations are so gorgeous and detailed and vaguely 1970s. It also features a mutant baby!

2. Moving Pictures by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen. This one has the feel of a film noir masterpiece and is about the Nazis trying to steal paintings, and the plucky museum staff who try to stop them. An angel dropped it into my lap one very long day and it kept me busy sitting in the emergency room.

3. Undeleted Scenes by Jeffrey Brown. I just love him. He captures the mundane details of his own life in this sweet cartoony way. He draws like a very mature ten year old. And kitties feature prominently in many of his comics. Look! Christmas Kitties!

4. Mercury by Hope Larson. This one jumps back and forth between the present, where a teenage girl is struggling to live her life while her mother is far away, and the past, where one of her ancestors is visited by a mysterious stranger during the Gold Rush. The two stories eventually intersect and the results are strange and unexpected and creepy and lovely.

5. Wilson by Daniel Clowes. It's about a real asshole, basically. Clowes' greatest gift is, in my opinion, his ability to create these truly horrible people and then inhabit them so completely that your sympathy for them runs parallel to your disgust. And his drawings are just so perfect--the different versions of Wilson from chapter to chapter, the silent pages, the pauses between words. It's gorgeous.

Now tell me yours.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taking stock.

Writing Best Of lists is one of my favourite things about the end of the year.

Top ten albums of 2010, in no particular order.

1. New Pornographers--Together

2. She & Him--Volume 2

3. Young Rival--Young Rival

(Of note: My Farfisa electric organ makes a cameo in this video.)

4. Caribou--Swim

5. Ray LaMontagne--God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise

6. Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans Band--Falcon Lake Incident

7. The Walkmen--Lisbon

8. Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles--The Grand Bounce

9. Beach House--Teen Dream

10. Spoon--Transference

...This list could probably also be titled The Only New Music I Listened To This Year. If I were to make a list of Albums That Weren't Released This Year but That Were So Frigging Crucial To My Life it would probably be comprised of the whole Dylan catalogue (surprising!), M. Ward, and Dan Mangan. What can I say? I'm a sucker for boys with guitars.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Keep Christmas With You.

It's amazing the power that Christmas specials can have on a person (or perhaps just on this person). This morning I watched Christmas Eve On Sesame Street for the millionth time and thought once again of how ingrained it's become in my psyche. My mom says she can remember the very first time we watched it together, when I was probably two or three, when Sesame Street (we mostly called it just "Ses" in our house, because we were cool like that) was pretty much the only television show that warranted turning on the set. Every few years we watch it as a family on Christmas Eve, even though my baby brother and I are now well beyond the age where this sort of thing is appropriate. It's timeless, and sweet, and both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious.

Proof of Value:

1. I knew the Bert and Ernie version of the Gift of the Magi long before I read the real thing, and the actual, realistic, ambivalent ending of the original has always bummed me out intensely. I much prefer Mr. Hooper Ex Machina, returning their prized possessions to them on Christmas Eve.

(Cut to about the 6 minute mark.)

1a. Does anyone else have vivid memories of watching Sesame Street after Mr. Hooper died, in real life as well as on the show? Talk about a crash-lesson in emotional reaction for kids. I don't think I've fully recovered yet.

2. At one point, while Big Bird is on the roof waiting for Santa to arrive, he worries that he might be lost in a blizzard somewhere, or "stacked over Kennedy." I had no idea what this meant till I was about twenty.

3. THESE KIDS! It's enough to make even the most career-oriented feminist uterus start hurtin'.

4. And while were on the subject of the kids, there's a girl in this scene who totally picks her nose and I always wonder where she is now, thirty years on.

4a. It is also thanks to this scene that I know how to sign Keep Christmas With You. I used to include that skill on my resume.

5. While everyone down on the street is looking around for Big Bird, Susan tells someone that she is on her way to Grover's place to look for him. I love the idea that Grover is able to maintain an apartment in New York City.

6. Oh man, Cookie Monster trying to write to Santa? CLASSIC! JUST CLASSIC.

There's just something so generally innocent and kind about it all. Last weekend, my brother and I were bemoaning the complete lack of sincerity in the world these days; everything has to be soaked in irony and self-referential post-pomo ridiculousness. Fuck that, I say. This Christmas, I'm all about True Blue Miracles.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Say it with music.

These days, words are either too much or not enough. Thanks for the music, universe.

I'm so tired--The Beatles

Come thou fount of every blessing--Sufjan Stevens

Divorce song--Liz Phair

I and love and you--The Avett Brothers

We end up together--The New Pornographers