Mid-July Check-in

Since I haven’t been here or on Instagram in awhile, some of you have been checking in on me to see if my wife and I are okay, and while I’ve responded to some of you via e-mail, I haven’t responded to all of you. So here’s the breakdown:

  • We’re still here in northcentral Pennsylvania.
  • I’m still working at the library (curbside pickups and pickups and computer use in the building, all by appointment). My wife is still working as a 911 dispatcher for our county. Our respective families are well. Kim’s sister, mother, our brother-in-law and nephew had presumptive cases of covid-19 back in the beginning of April, but they’re all doing well.
  • We’re still reading.

Hey, let’s talk about that:

  • I’m still reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – which, when finished, will mean I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon by Doyle and also is in the second and final volume of the collection I’ve been reading from since last year. I recently finished Gold of Our Fathers, the fourth in the Darko Dawson mystery series, by Kwei Quartey, and am planning to read Death by His Grace, the fifth in the same series, by Quartey.
  • UPDATE: As of early Saturday afternoon, I have abandoned this book after only a chapter. This one began with the focus on a couple, presumably one of them the victim or the accused of a murder to come, and not on Dawson as the first four in the series. I skimmed ahead, only to see Dawson is introduced after several chapters, and quickly decided I didn’t like the change of focus so “cut bait,” so to speak.
  • Kim’s finishing The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which she never read (!), and tentatively plans to read Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor next.

We’re watching a bit of this and a bit of that…

Together:

  • Parks and Recreation reruns
  • Drunk History reruns once a week, usually on Wednesdays
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns
  • Bob’s Burgers once a week for burger night on Fridays
  • Boyz n the Hood, which she’d never seen.
  • What We Do in the Shadows, the TV series.

Separately:

  • Kim: Recently finished Transparent on Amazon Prime and is making her way through Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix
  • Her must watch of the last few months: Pose, now on Netflix.
  • My must watch of the last few months: Ip Man 4, also now on Netflix.

We’re also listening a bit of this and a bit of that:

  • Me on constant replay: Fear of Music by The Talking Heads.
  • My pick of the year so far: Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan.
  • Kim’s recent plays: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and Eight Diagrams by Wu-Tang Clan.

That’s about it, or at least all I want to talk about for now. I’ll leave you with a photo from my walk this morning, the start of a three-day weekend for me as I’m off through Monday (new hours at the library, closed on Mondays for a deep cleaning of the building).

UPDATE: Saturday night I received an email from the Free Library of Philadelphia that a book I had on hold was now available. So now today, Sunday, I plan on reading The Rat Began To Gnaw The Rope by C.W. Grafton, a hard-boiled noir mystery, from The Library of Congress Crime Collection. And yes, he was related to the late Sue Grafton. He was her father.

Pushing Forward Back February/March 2020

Highlights from this past month: getting a new table for our kitchen, getting a romanesco cauliflower in our Misfits Market subscription box, Seamus (as usual), and the cover art for the book Blue Horses by Mary Oliver.

February found me finally reading poetry this past week after going back and forth whether or not I wanted to read it or not. I read two Mary Oliver books: Dream Work and Blue Horses, enjoying the latter more than the former. I also read two other books this past month:

  • Heaven, My Home, the second in the Highway 59 series, by Attica Locke.
  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi,

enjoying the former over the latter with those two as Attica Locke continues to astound me with her writing.

I still am continuing to read the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories and Pillar of Fire, the second in the America in the King Years series, by Taylor Branch, something I will continue into March.

Highlights of the month include our getting a new table set for our kitchen, our watching the movie Knives Out (which was very good) and having a day off this past and my taking the day off this past Wednesday for Ash Wednesday.

March: We have no special plans, but I am taking a vacation day for the first day of Spring, which comes this year on Thursday, March 19. If the weather cooperates, maybe I’ll get out for a hike that day in the nearby Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to celebrate the changing of the seasons.

The only other thing I know for sure that I’m adding to my reading for March is Lent Is Not Rocket Science: An Exploration of God, Creation, and the Cosmos: Meditations for 40 Days of Lent by W. Nicholas Knisely, the 13th and current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island.

On the TV and movies front, I guess the movie I’m most looking forward to seeing is Jumanji: The Next Level, which comes out on DVD and streaming on March 17. The first one was a pleasant surprise and I’m hoping the second one will be good too. Last month, we also watched the Zombieland sequel: Double Tap and enjoyed that so hope we will continue our success with sequels.

I’ll leave you with this, from my favorite contemporary composer:

Posts from February:

Pushing Forward Back January/February 2020

January’s gone…with the wind, but it was a good breeze to start the year at least personally. I read three books, including my first book of the year. I also got a Mi Band 4, similar to a Fitbit, to help encourage myself to walk daily. And I found a new place to walk and read on Saturdays: the library at a local state university.

The three books I read (even though I inexplicably overlooked the second in a post about my second book of the year) were:

  1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  2. A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard
  3. Over My Dead Body, the seventh in the Nero Wolfe series, by Rex Stout.

I joined, and then “unjoined” after talking two other people into it, an online Haruki Murakami Book Club. I also joined the Poetry Reading Challenge 2020.

Watched

  • King in the Wilderness (HBO documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • The Librarians

Listened To

  • The Undivided Five by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
  • Have We Met by Destroyer

February is starting slow and deliberate as I refocus my reading plans for the month and the year. I work two Saturdays this month, have off three Fridays (two before the Saturdays I work and another Friday, Valentine’s Day, as a vacation day) and am taking off Ash Wednesday as has been my custom for many years. My wife and I also will begin the month with our traditional watching of the movie Groundhog Day.

I think this year, though, while watching the movie, we are skipping the “sweet vermouth with a twist, please” and are going straight to “Jim Beam, ice, water.” We tried the drink Andie McDowell’s character Rita Hanson orders in the movie a few years ago and hated it, so we’re going with the first choice of Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors. Plus with the way, the month and year are starting politically, we believe we need a stiff drink. For that reason, we also are delaying our rewatch until Wednesday night – after the vote.

This photo pretty much captures how I feel about winter right now:

I’m feeling like Phil earlier in the movie:

It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you the rest of your lives.

But hopefully soon I’ll have his later perspective:

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

Of course, the groundhog Phil today did predict an early spring, but as CNN noted: “Don’t get too excited, he’s usually wrong.”

To watch

  • The Farewell on Amazon Prime Video (Feb. 12)
  • Narcos: Mexico: Season 2 on Netflix (Feb. 13)
  • High Fidelity, the TV series on Hulu (Feb. 14)

To listen to

  • The Slow Rush by Tame Impala (Feb. 14)
  • Miss Anthropocene by Grimes (Feb. 21)

Oh, and obviously I’m not watching the Super Bowl. I had loose plans to go watch the Super Bowl with a neighbor, but as I’m posting this as the game is beginning, obviously the plans were loose. No biggie. I’d rather be reading.

My Top 25 Albums of 2019

Earlier this month, I posted My Top 60 Albums of the 2010s. I also posted my Top 5 Albums of 2019 within another post on my favorite books, TV shows, movies and albums of this past year.

Now I’m expanding the list to 25 albums. I chose one song from each album, with the playlist not being a countdown, but organized alphabetically by first name of artist or group with album title. Since on the playlist it doesn’t show the title of each album, I am including the full list here along with the year each album was released.

I also am including a second list of another 25 albums of honorable mentions, some that I only discovered within the past week, thanks to top album lists around the Internet.

The Top 25

  • Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
  • Anthony Naples – Fog FM
  • Beyoncé – Homecoming: The Live Album (2019)
  • Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
  • Bon Iver – i, i
  • Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
  • The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
  • Dave – PSYCHODRAMA
  • FKA Twigs – MAGDALENE
  • The Hold Steady – Thrashing Thru The Passion
  • Jenny Lewis – On The Line
  • Lambchop – This (Is What I Wanted To Tell You)
  • Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
  • LCD Soundsystem – Electric Lady Sessions
  • Little Simz – GREY Area
  • Nilufer Yanya – Miss Universe
  • Powder – Powder in Space
  • Prince – Originals
  • Rocketship – Thanks To You
  • SAULT – 5
  • Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
  • Tyler, The Creator – IGOR
  • Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
  • Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
  • Yves Jarvis – The Same But By Different Means

The 25 Honorable Mentions

  • Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
  • Burial – Tunes 2011-2019
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
  • CHAI – PUNK
  • Che Apalache – Rearrange My Heart
  • Dermot Kennedy – Without Fear
  • Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess EP
  • FEELS – Post Earth
  • Floating Points – Crush
  • Four Tet – Anna Painting
  • Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile
  • Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
  • Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
  • Joan Shelley – Like The River Loves The Sea
  • Kim Lenz – Slowly Speeding
  • KOKOKO! – Fongola
  • Mannequin Pussy – Patience
  • Moodyman – Sinner: KDJ-48
  • Nilufer Yanya – Miss Universe
  • ODD OKODO – Auma
  • Orville Peck – Pony
  • Rapsody – Eve
  • Robert Ellis – Texas Piano Man
  • Santana – Africa Speaks
  • Sofia Kourtesis – Sofia Kourtesis

I did not make a playlist (yet) for these honorable mentions, but I encourage you to seek them out on the platform of your choice in the meantime.

What were the albums that you had on heavy rotation this past year? Share in the comments below or link to your own list on your blog or a playlist on the music service of your choice.