The First Sunday Salon of the Year

Reading: Nothing yet, but I have selected what will be my first book of the year.

Watching: The highlight of this past week was a rewatch of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so much of which I had forgotten.

Listening. Nothing new. I’m still listening to my top 25 albums of 2018

Blogging: A lot:

Celebrating: My dad’s 75th birthday (yesterday). We went to lunch at a place near where he lives. He had cheesesteak macaroni and cheese and I had a maple bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and cinnamon honey. The food was amazing; the company was good too. 😉

How was your first week of 2019? Read, watch, listen to anything good?

Pushing Forward Back December 2018/January 2019

A look back at 2018 and a lot of Christmas.

I wasn’t going to do this post this month because of all the other posts I’m doing this time of year (best books, TV/movies, music of 2018 posts, plus two scheduled posts for tomorrow. But after reading Amanda’s December review post, I decided why not? So here goes:

Back at December

December came in like a lion and did go out like a lamb, as I predicted. It began with my working at the library during the annual Christmas event in our town, Dickens of a Christmas, where we had a book sale over two days. Not a lot of patrons came in, but a lot of out-of-towners, which wasn’t fun (apologies to the tourists). The next few weeks were uneventful as I thought too, with a staff Christmas luncheon the Friday before the second weekend. The highlight of the following week was a follow-up doctor appointment about my sleep apnea and my using a CPAP machine, with all my numbers still looking great: down from 87 events per hour to an average of 2 events per hour.

The month ended, again as planned, with a long series of days where I was on vacation and included my wife Kim and I visiting my parents (and sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and niece) on Christmas Day. Tonight, we’ll be going to the neighbors for a New Year’s Eve party, but will be back around 10 since they usually go to bed around that time. We’ll stay up to ring the new year in and then tomorrow I’ll be posting my first book of the year and my goals for 2019, the year I turn 50.

Since I already did my wrap for books, TV/movies, and music for the year, I’m going to keep it short on what I read, watched and listened to this past month. I don’t really have a choice with what I read since I read NOTHING this month. We discovered a couple of new shows: on Netflix, on our own, Derry Girls, which was really good, but sadly only one season; on Amazon Prime, thanks to my brother-in-law and sister, Corner Gas, which we have to watch together now. I gave a second chance to an album I dismissed earlier in the year, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys after seeing it on a lot of year-end best-of lists and now love it. Jeff Tweedy also came out with an new album, WARM, which we only have started listening to, but already love too.

Forward to January 2019

January begins…well, tomorrow, with a day off with my wife. No concrete plans, other than day drinking and binge-watching. Then this Saturday, weather permitting, I’m taking my father, who lives about an hour and half away out to lunch for his 75th birthday.

The month ends with the 24in48 Readathon and I have several books from which to choose already. On the TV series/movie front, we’re looking forward to watching more Corner Gas and as for music, I’m not anticipating any new releases. We’ll see what comes along…as we will with the rest of the month and the year.

We knew we’d love this right from the start.

So how was your month of December? Read any good books, seen any good movies and/or TV shows, listened to any good music? What was the highlight of your month? What are you looking forward to in January? Share in the comments.

My Top 25 Albums of 2018

Earlier this month, I gave you a list of our favorite TV series and movies that we watched this year; tomorrow, I’ll give you a list of my favorite books read this year; and today, I give you a list of my top 25 albums (mostly) from this year:

  1. Double Negative by Low
  2. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love by Deafheaven
  3. Now Only by Mount Eerie
  4. Sundays by Tanukichan
  5. Yolk in the Fur by Wild Pink
  6. Nearer My God to Thee by Foxing
  7. Record by Tracey Thorn
  8. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys
  9. Hope Downs by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
  10. Chris by Christine and the Queens
  11. Room 25 by Noname
  12. Devotion by Tirzah
  13. Wide Awake! by Parquet Courts
  14. WARM by Jeff Tweedy
  15. Way Out West by Sonny Rollins
  16. Piano & A Microphone by Prince
  17. 7 by Beach House
  18. In A Poem Unlimited by U.S. Girls
  19. Historian by Lucy Dacus
  20. Be The Cowboy by Mitski
  21. Con Todo El Mundo by Khruangbin
  22. El Mal Querer by Rosalía
  23. Whack World by Tierra Whack
  24. Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves
  25. God’s Favorite Customer by Father John Misty

I select what I listen to usually from Pitchfork, with albums that normally are rated 8.0 or above, with a few exceptions. Surprisingly to me, Pitchfork didn’t have Father John Misty’s album in its top 50 albums of 2018! They did include in its Best Rock Albums of 2018. I also have another list of top electronic music albums from this year, but I thought most of you probably aren’t into what my wife calls “machine music.”

At the end of this post, I’ve included a Spotify playlist with excerpts from my top 25 albums of 2018. I only included from 22 albums, because the last three albums didn’t really fit for openers for the playlist. The band Low, for example, is very discordant; Deafheaven has death metal growls in it; and Mount Eerie…well, he’s just depressing (not that some of the rest in my top 25 albums aren’t depressing, but his last few albums were about the death of his first wife).

I will give a few other notes on the list:

  • Jeff Tweedy, Arctic Monkeys, and Christine and the Queens are all late entries.
  • None of the artists or groups were in my top 15 albums last year.
  • Tierra Whack’s album is 15 minutes long with each song a minute. It is better heard in its entirety. It was envisioned as a video too, but unless you’re into “wack” videos, I’d say skip.
  • The two Spanish titled albums just happened to end up beside each other on the list. I only noticed when typing out the list here.
  • I’m not into a lot of modern country but I was pleasantly surprised by Kacey Musgraves.

What was some of your favorite music from this year or that you listened to this year? What couldn’t you stop playing? That No. 1 album is one both my wife and I had on constantly, in the car, at work, and at home.

#AMonthofFaves 2018: Ch-ch-changes

Again today, I’m joining hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge for their annual #AMonthofFaves blog event – “a fun way to recap the year that was” with “every day of the event (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) planned out” and  a link-up on all their blogs. Today’s topic is 
 “Routines, Habits and Changes. What Worked this Year and/or What Didn’t,” with the prompt: “What habits, routines or rituals worked for you this year – either something you kept doing – or something new that you started. What did you try that didn’t work … or what did you used to do that no longer works for you.”

Something I kept doing

I am a creature of habit and routine. For example, Friday night is burger night for me and my wife…almost always. The other thing that is routine is when I wake up and before I go to bed, I listen to music and play Solitaire on my phone. It relaxes me before I start my day and winds me down before I end my day. I listen mostly to chill, electronic music, such as what I’m listening to now as I type this:

Or this:

Something new I started

My wife was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation last August and as part of her treatment, she was put on a CPAP machine which has helped her immensely. Since then, she had kept telling me that I have sleep apnea and that I should be on a CPAP.  In late October, I had a home sleep study and an overnight sleep study that determined I had severe sleep apnea. I started using a CPAP machine almost immediately.

Only days later, my numbers had drastically improved from almost 90 events per hour (meaning I was stopping breathing that many times each hour!) to under TWO per hour. That is what the number has pretty much stayed, never going above FIVE in this first month and a half. Unlike others whom I have heard stop using a machine after only a few days because the mask was uncomfortable, I have adapted to using the machine and mask relatively easily.

Why? Because the way I look at it is that…um…breathing is better than NOT BREATHING AT ALL! That is what could happen if I don’t use the mask when I sleep. I could have a heart attack and die in my sleep, and with my wife on midnight shift four days out of the week, I cannot risk it. So even when I take a nap, I strap on the mask and the machine starts up. I’m not going to risk my life just because it might feel uncomfortable. Now it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to me and also if a mask is uncomfortable, it can be changed to another mask which might be more comfortable than the first one.

So now I throw the questions to you: What habits, routines or rituals worked for you this year – either something you kept doing – or something new that you started? What did you try that didn’t work…or what did you used to do that no longer works for you?

Pushing Forward Back August/September 2018

Back at August

Pushing Forward Back August September 2018

The month began and ended on high notes, but in between were two major low notes: the death of a relative and the death of a library. On August 11, a relative with whom our family has had a complicated past (without going into details) passed away. Pretty much for the rest of the month, we struggled with our grieving, as the Kübler-Ross model was stuck in anger for a good part of the grieving process, which still isn’t done. Then on August 14, the library in my hometown (where I grew up, not where I live and work now) died as it was washed away by flash flooding. In this case, however, our grieving was short-lived as on August 21 a fundraiser was started to rebuild the library at another location in town.

On to the other high notes:

  1. Kim and I started the month by going to concert on Aug. 3 that was part of this year’s Endless Mountain Music Festival series in the next town. The highlight was violinist Asi Matathias performing Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7, Op. 92.”
  2. That weekend ended with my going to visit my mother, who was celebrating her 74th birthday.
  3. Kim and I continued a tradition of watching (and drinking to) the show Drunk History on Monday nights, which basically are her Friday nights, as her work week ends and she has a few days off in the middle of the week.

On the reading front, I only finished one book: The Cruelest Month, the third Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, by Louise Penny. I guess I wasn’t in the mood for reading this month. The best movie we watched this past month was Deadpool 2, which (maybe not) surprisingly was just as good as the first. Musically, I thought there were a few highlights including new albums by Tirzah, Mitski, Helena Hauff, and Foxing, all of whom I discovered or was introduced to by Pitchfork.

Forward to September

I started the summer with a four-day weekend for Memorial Day Weekend and now I end the summer with another four-day weekend, Labor Day Weekend here in the U.S. I tacked on a vacation day to the three days I already have off and with Kim’s schedule the way it is, she is off Monday (works from midnight to 8 a.m. but is off the rest of the day) and Tuesday. We’re not going anywhere with the only thing planned an extended Drunk History marathon since I don’t have to go into work on Tuesday.

As for the rest of the month, I work two Saturdays this month, which normally would mean I have off two Fridays (a combination of our director not wanting us to work six days in a row and something to do with the number of hours per week we work). However, because of other people being away and not having anyone to fill in that one Friday, I only have one Friday off and have a couple of days in one week with shorter hours. All to say, I do have one Friday off, so the day trip I had planned to go to the Corning Museum of Glass last month, which didn’t happen, might now happen this month.

On the reading front, I have the next Gamache book already checked out from the library ready to go and a few other books on hold that might come in. Movies and music? I really haven’t looked ahead. I think I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is coming to Netflix later in the month, so that ought to be good. Of course, I’ll keep you updated on the rest of September as it happens here and on Instagram.

Update, Aug. 31: My aunt Eleanor, my father’s sister, passed away on Wednesday. She was 87. She had been in declining health for several years. Her funeral is Sunday and I plan on attending.

So how was your month of August? Read any good books, seen any good movies and/or TV shows, listened to any good music? What was the highlight of your month? What are you looking forward to in September? Share in the comments.

In Limbo

Fishing in Limbo
“Fishing in Limbo” by Andrew Imanaka via Flickr.

This ⬆️is basically where I am as I end this past week and start a new week:

  • I’m still reading The Cruelest Month, the third Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, by Louise Penny.
  • I’m not watching much of anything beyond the original CSI  on Hulu.
  • I’m still listening to Father John Misty’s latest album (came out in June), God’s Favorite Customer, over and over, and now I’m getting my wife hooked.
  • I’m not doing much of anything because the weather while not super hot or hot at all compared to southern California or Texas standards where a few of you readers are from, it has been incredibly humid. Last night, the humidity was 97 percent, even though the temperature was in the high 60s (Fahrenheit). Oddly, or maybe not so much, it felt horrible.

Add on to that, we learned last night of the death of a relative with whom sadly our family had a complicated past (I’ll just leave it at that, not trying to be vague here, but it’s really…well…too complicated to explain). So today, I’ll try to continue to read The Cruelest Month, although I’ll be honest that I doubt I’ll be able to focus much and probably just will listen to some music, play Solitaire, and watch CSI reruns.

So what have you been/are you reading, watching, listening to, and/or doing this past week/today?

Of cruelty and floods

Each week here on The Sunday Salon, I take a look back and/or ahead at what I’m reading, what I’m watching and/or what we’re watching, what I’m listening to, and what I’m doing and/or what we’re doing.

What I’m reading

As I type up this draft, I’m in the middle of The Cruelest Month, the third book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, by Louise Penny and am enjoying it thus far. As per my 25 Before I Turn 50, I want to read 10 nonfiction books. To that end, I have one nonfiction book per month planned until the end of the year:

  • August: Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
  • September: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • October: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • November: We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • December: You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie.

That will leave five more nonfiction books for January through May 2019.

What we’re watching

We just finished the first season of the FXX series (on Hulu) You’re The Worst. We’ve seen characters like this before in such series as Catastrophe and Difficult People, but unlike in those shows, where we wearied of the bitterness of the people involved, in this one, at least so far in the first season, we haven’t. At the center also is a love story, even if it is at times a messy and complicated one, especially since the two main characters, Jimmy and Gretchen are such awful people. However, you still are pulling for them somehow, because in their own weird (horrible) way, they’re sweet together.

What I’m Listening To

What I’m/We’re Doing

Over the last couple of weeks, Kim and I both have been going to concerts with a local musical festival, some together, some separately with other people. In addition to a few free concerts, we have been lucky enough to score free tickets from generous people in the community. The festival is called the Endless Mountain Music Festival and features world-class musicians over two weeks.

Today, as you’re reading this, I’ll be visiting my mother, who celebrated her 74th birthday on Friday. My sister and I are joining her for church and then going to her house where we’re having cheesesteaks from a local general store (the owners are originally from Philadelphia).

Later this week, I had planned on lunch and a movie. However, I probably will be foregoing that as I will be putting my money elsewhere, to help my hometown library (where I grew up, not where I live and not the library where I work) which experienced losses Friday no thanks to a flash flood.

So what are you reading, watching, listening to, doing this past week and the week to come? Any highlights?

Pushing Forward Back July/August 2018

Pushing Forward Back JulyAugust 2018Back at July

As planned, the month began on a high, with three days off for both Kim and me. Kim had her normal three days off: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I took vacation days for Tuesday and Thursday, having Wednesday already off as a holiday for The Fourth of July. As I recall, we didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything, but it was still good to have the time off.  The second week, we went out to a new rib joint in town, owned by a friend of ours, and it was great. We also watched Love, Simon, which also was great. The highlight of the third week was getting the complete series of Homicide: Life on the Street and starting a landscaping project on a driveway we share with a neighbor. This past week, Kim and I were able to go to an Endless Mountain Music Festival concert at Mansfield University and it was very good. I also was able to continue the landscaping project and get it mostly done.

On the reading front, I had a great month as I read 12 books, thanks to back-to-back readathons the last two weekends of the month: the 24in48 Readathon and Dewey’s Summer Reverse Readathon. Altogether, I have read 27 books for this year.

The dozen books this month were:

  1. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  2. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by by Ta-Nehisi Coates (writer), Brian Stelfreeze (artist), Joe Sabino (letterer), Manny Mederos (designer), Rian Hughes (logo designer), Jack Kirby (writer, artist), and Laura Martin
  3. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  5. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
  6. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  7. Queenpin: A Novel by Megan Abbott
  8. Rebound by Kwame Alexander
  9. Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke (author/illustrator), Richard Stark (source)
  10. Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke (author/illustrator), Richard Stark (source)
  11. Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke (author/illustrator), Richard Stark (source)
  12. Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score by Darwyn Cooke (author/illustrator), Richard Stark (source)

All were good, but the best ones were Behold the Dreamers, The Hate U Give, The Poet X, and Queenpin.

Musically, three albums in particular grabbed me: Sundays by San Francisco musician Hannah van Loon, who performs as Tanukichan; Third by guitarist Nathan Salsburg; and Wild Pink’s Yolk in the Fur, with the latter being the one I was playing the most on the virtual turntable.

Forward to August

This month begins with a visit to my mother the first weekend for her birthday (it’s this Friday, but we’ll celebrate it on Sunday). I have the second Friday off as I work that Saturday at the library (has to do with the number of hours I work per pay period, they give me a day off before I work my one Saturday a month). I don’t know what we’re doing yet, but Kim and I probably will go on a day trip, maybe to the Corning Museum of Glass, maybe to Finger Lakes wine country. We’ll see what the day brings.

So how was your month of July? Read any good books, seen any good movies and/or TV shows, listened to any good music? What was the highlight of your month? What are you looking forward to in August? Share in the comments.

In case you missed it, yesterday I posted my thoughts on “The State of The Blog 2018,” in which I also decided I’m only going to post once a week here.

Pushing Forward Back June/July 2018

Pushing Forward Back June_July 2018
At top is a photo from my sister of my mom holding a photo of me when I was a baby. At bottom left, I took my dad out for ice cream for Father’s Day. We were joined by my nephew Jonathan. At bottom right, Kim and I got a bathroom selfie before the wedding of her sister Tracey last Saturday. Photobombing us is her sister Debbie.

Back at June

June was a pretty good month on the personal front, especially for three weekends in a row. First, on Saturday, June 9, I celebrated my 49th birthday. Then on Sunday, June 17, I went and visited my dad (and mom), who lives about 60 miles away, for Father’s Day. I also was grateful to be able to see my sister, brother-in-law, 11-year-old nephew, 3-year-old niece, and their new almost 6-month-oldest cockapoo/Shetland sheepdog puppy. Finally on Saturday, June 23, Kim and I (along with family and friends) celebrated with her sister Tracey as she got married near Cleveland, Ohio.

Blogging-wise, it wasn’t a good month, but then again, I was busy with other things. Highlights on the blog this past month were 25 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 50 and My Library Checkout June 2018. If you look at the list and wonder how I’m doing so far on doing some of those things, not great, but hey, I still have time to turn that around. We also got Hulu again and are enjoying watching especially older shows like ER, CSI, and My Name is Earl.

Musically, the two big albums this month were Kanye West’s ye and Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Everything is Love — at least for everyone else. Spinning again and again, though, on my virtual turntable was Father John Misty’s God’s Favorite Customer. I just couldn’t, and can’t, get enough of this album:

Forward to July

This month starts off on a high, with three days off for both of us. Kim has her normal three days off: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I took vacation days for Tuesday and Thursday, having Wednesday already off as a holiday for The Fourth of July. After traveling last weekend, we have no plans of going anywhere, but it will be nice to have the time off together. I have a feeling we’ll be getting together with our neighbors for a cookout on the Fourth too, but we’ll see. If not, I’m sure we’ll still have burgers and hot dogs on the grill.

Other than that, I only can think of one other thing that I have planned: the 24in48 Readathon on Saturday, July 21, and Sunday, July 22, for which I’ve signed up. For more information or to sign up, click on the link.

At the end of the month, I’m looking forward to this movie:

So how was your month of June? Read any good books, seen any good movies and/or TV shows, listened to any good music? What was the highlight of your month? What are you looking forward to in July? Share in the comments.

Friday Finds | Father John Misty

Each Friday I share what I find myself listening to. It might be new. It might be old. This week, it’s relatively new, Father John Misty’s new album God’s Favorite Customer, released on June 6, and to which I’ve been listening almost incessantly ever since:

What is on your virtual turntable lately?