notes from hibernation

I swear this is not me trying to impress you with the big fat books I’m currently reading, but while you’re here, check out The Big Fat Books I’m Currently Reading:


I’ve been in a bit of a hibernation state while figuring out what I’m doing with my life (the Millennial’s Dilemma) and also while waiting out the rain that feels like it’s been nonstop since November (the Californian’s Dilemma). Maybe it’s this combination of things that has driven me to seeking out only the longest of books, I dunno, but I’m dropping by with some notes on why they are my three new best friends.

THE LETTERS OF SHIRLEY JACKSON is what the title says. I got into Shirley Jackson’s short stories/essays during the pandemic, and my interest was re-upped after a recent Diaries of Note entry that recommended this book in the postscript. I bought a copy at City Lights and so far it’s been snort-out-loud funny. I’m still in the early letters from her college days (late 1930s), but her personal writing style is so modern and unfiltered and snarky (“i’m so sorry i can’t answer your last letter but i inadvertently tore it up and it fell in the fire. so sorry.”). Makes me want to create a Twitter bot that posts sentences from Shirley Jackson letters just so I can retweet them. Highly recommended, tbh.

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY is the latest selection for the book club I’m in, which consists of Alex’s aunt, Alex’s cousin, and me‚ÄĒit’s the most consistent, interesting, and successful book club I’ve joined to date (not that there have been that many). This novel is about a chemist-turned-TV cooking star in the 1960s, and reads like it was written for the screen – very strong Mrs. Maisel / Julia vibes. (A quick Google search confirms it’s currently being made into an Apple TV+ series, so there you go.) It looks and sounds like chick lit, which isn’t usually my jam, but it’s super sharp and witty and just a joy to read. Maybe “acerbic feminist chick lit” is more accurate. Extremely book clubbable, at least for this book club.

THE POWER BROKER, oh my god. When I heaved the used copy onto the counter at Green Apple Books, the bookseller at the register responded with a dry “Taking the plunge?” …which feels like an appropriate way to describe one’s experience with this 1,245-page beast. I recently watched Turn Every Page and came away with one clear mission: read. this. book. If I were to try and summarize it in a way that would appeal to nerds like me, I’d describe it as “equal parts biography and urban history that will make you understand civic planning, community displacement, and local political drama in details you never thought possible.” It’s daunting but already feels like the most important book I’ll have read in my lifetime so far. Check back with me in a year or so and see how it’s going.

Honorable mention: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, which Alex and I are reading to each other, a few pages every night. The reading aloud thing is an experiment we started during a (different) pandemic book club, which helped us get through the entirety of MOBY DICK and which I would honestly recommend if you have a partner or friend who is into it! LOTR is a fun one because of the hobbit songs and Gollum dialogue. Alex is the Tolkienhead of the household, but thanks to our reading adventure I’m slowly catching on.

Will March bring any more blog posts? Who knows! But I’ll leave you with some brief self-promotion: yesterday I published a nostalgic thing about what commutes in SF used to look like, if you’re into that sort of thing, and have a story in the latest issue of The San Franciscan available at your local (Bay Area) bookstore! ūüďö

All due respect

Hello, yes, I’m 32 years old and have finally watched The Sopranos, one of the greatest television programs of all time!

I seem to recall Alex and I floated the idea early on during the pandemic, in a “the world’s on fire, let’s do something crazy” sort of way. Organized crime shows are not my jam, but I was aware that The Sopranos is consistently recommended for fans of Mad Men (ūüôčūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ) or anyone who loves a good antihero, so figured it was worth a go. And it was a good excuse for Alex to get in touch with his Italian-American roots. So after almost a year of saying we’d do it, we finally took the dive.

Screencap by @oocsopranos, from this article (which I thoroughly enjoyed)

As you might imagine, I hated the violence but loved the mundane drama, mafioso home life, and family tree of complicated, layered characters. Watching one or two episodes a night became our ritual, and we slowly let the show seep into the rest of our lives. The therapy scenes inspired me to start writing in my dream journal again. We made so much pasta and fazool. Our spectacularly botched renditions of “Con Te Partiro” echoed through the house. It was great.

But also, six years’ worth of fictional mafia tension is exhausting. Not gonna lie, I was relieved when it was over. By the end, everything on the show was spiraling into bleakness, and I was ready to just go on YouTube and watch all the fan vids (because I think I enjoy that more than watching any actual show??). We finally finished the series last week, and now I’m debating whether or not I should listen to the Talking Sopranos podcast (2+ hours for each episode, that’s even more of an investment!).

Anyway, 4 dollars a pound here’s a bunch of YouTube links, thinly veiled in a list I’ll call Nikki’s Favorite Things About The Sopranos:

  • Surreal (but not overdone) dream sequences. There’s some really great dream logic/dialogue (“Where were you? We were about to call the hospitals.”) and also an extended coma scene that was probably my favorite part of the whole series, but I won’t post any clips from that because I don’t want to spoil anything.
  • The gabagool. I’ll never eat it because “it’s all fat and nitrates”, but it’s absolutely the greatest Italian word to throw around. Alex got it on a sandwich recently in honor of the show (his review: “I’m not sure I like it.”).
  • Early 2000s ephemera. Ahh, to relive the ubiquity of AOL trial CDs and Nokia phones and Big Mouth Billy Bass.
  • Silvio Dante. I’m sure Sil being my fave had at least a tiny bit to do with a mafia man being played very convincingly by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band. Mostly I just loved that Sil looks like such a caricature, yet he’s possibly the least over-the-top in terms of personality: a level-headed mediator and trusted confidant (unless you’re trying to sweep cheese from under his feet).
  • Nice-guy Finn being a Padres fan. What a fun surprise for Padres fans! (Although I know it’s because the writers needed to pick a historically bad team. ūüė≠) When we first watched this scene and Vito goes “the Pads haven’t had a team in 20 years” (the year being 2004) I blurted at the screen “EYYY WHAT ABOUT ’98” right as Finn was saying the same thing. Maybe the most relatable character in the whole show.
  • The ohs and hos.
  • Sunday dinners. Scenes at the Soprano house are my favorites. I’d watch an entire series of Carmela Soprano doing housework and yelling at Tony. This is still my favorite 45 seconds of the show:

While I’m at it, I wanted to do a little amendment to my earlier Life During Quarantine list (seeing as quarantine life may actually be ending soon?!). Here’s an abridged version of Notable Things I’ve Consumed Since Last Time:

  • LODGE 49. Equal parts inspiring and depressing, with a good dollop of anti-capitalism thrown in. And SoCal scenery! A highly underrated show, IMO.
  • DERRY GIRLS. The 2 seasons of Derry Girls were just a delight. Beyond the spastic dialogue and teen humor, it was quite educational. Between this, The Crown, and Downton Abbey, I’ve really learned a lot about English-Irish tensions. Speaking of which….
  • DOWNTON ABBEY. I really wasn’t into watching this when it first came out, but golly it was an easy binge. It also has the distinction of being the show that occupied our lives after moving into our house(!), so I think I’ll always have fond memories of watching it in our unfinished den while sitting on camping chairs and eating takeout.
  • SKETCHY, Tune-Yards. The latest Tune-Yards slaps! So grateful to have new music and video content from Merrill and Nate. I’m a bit obsessed with the video for “nowhere, man”.
  • UNCANNY VALLEY, Anna Weiner. Seemed like a must-read for anyone adjacent to the SF tech industry in the early-to-mid-2010s. And it’s a fun little game of Guess the Proper Nouns. There wasn’t really anything new to me here, and towards the end it got a little tired, but it was a good reminder to always keep a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to tech.
  • BILL GRAHAM PRESENTS: MY LIFE INSIDE ROCK AND OUT, Bill Graham and Robert Greenfield. This was research for another piece I wrote for The San Franciscan, but even if it wasn’t, it’s still right up my alley. Bill Graham’s early life was remarkable: he was orphaned and escaped Nazi Germany by way of France and a ship to New York. Then he made a home in San Francisco and became the biggest promoter in rock. You go, Bill.
  • MOBY DICK, Herman Melville (in progress). Our friend Eugene started a virtual book club, or perhaps I should say Moby Dick book club since I’m not sure if any other books are planned after this. I’ve never read MD before, but have to say it’s been a lot more entertaining than I was expecting. Haven’t yet gotten to the extended interlude about whaling, but oddly looking forward to it.

To end, the latest new names for Coop:

Counting down the days until April 15…

Life During Quarantine

A while back, out of nowhere, I got the urge to fill out one of those surveys like the ones that used to circulate in my Hotmail and Myspace inboxes back in middle school: you know, the 100-line long questionnaires with annoying font colors and *~*wRiTiNg LiKe ThIs*~*.

Mostly I wanted to have something to fill out because it’d be an interesting snapshot of Life During Quarantine. But that was back in spring when everything still felt new and weird, and by now (apocalyptic skies aside), I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve settled into the pandemic lifestyle. No fewer than 15 masks hang by our front door. Running essential errands or going on walks are pretty much the only reasons we go out. Seeing people hug on TV shows makes me uncomfortable. I’d say we’re in it for the long haul.

My personal journal (the one not on the Internet) used to be where I wrote about vacations and get-togethers; now it’s where I document the Netflix shows we’ve gone through and new recipes we’ve tried. I figured I’d pull out some of those mundane details and compile them here in a non-comprehensive list: newish and relevant movies, shows, albums, books, and other random things Alex and I have consumed since March of this year. Use it as a list of recommendations if you want, but mostly it’s just here to serve the same purpose as those middle school surveys: as a time capsule.


  • THE VAST OF NIGHT. Quirky low-budget Amazon Prime movie with surprising shifts in pace and a couple of genuinely chilling scenes. The setting is in a small New Mexico town in the atomic age, which gave me real The Return Part 8 vibes (not a bad thing).
  • DA 5 BLOODS. Hard to finish, but worth it. Chadwick Boseman plays a central role even though you only see him for about 20 minutes total.
  • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Watched this one as part of a virtual movie night hosted by our favorite neighborhood theater, the Balboa. A thoroughly enjoyable Hitchcock film with an insane climax. (The experience of watching with a chat room full of people‚ÄĒand everyone pressing play at the same time‚ÄĒhad a very 2000s feel to it.)
  • MOONLIGHT. I regret that I didn’t see this when it first came out. It’s everything I love in a movie: the slow unfolding of a character arc, extremely aware of its setting, sad and beautiful all at once.
  • THE CONVERSATION. Paranoia in 1970s San Francisco? Say no more!
  • SHIRLEY. I just love that this movie exists. Plus, Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson is a mood.

Documentaries and docuseries

  • THE BOOKSELLERS. A documentary about antiquarian booksellers, how very up our alley.
  • THE LAST DANCE. I don’t like sports and I don’t like drama, but somehow loved this docuseries about the 1990s Chicago Bulls?? A+ editing and interviews. And Alex got to relive the height of his basketball card-collecting years by naming every player who appeared on the screen and their team.
  • 13TH. An essential watch and another one I wish I’d seen sooner. Can’t recommend highly enough.
  • TAKE THIS HAMMER (DIRECTOR’S CUT). This was my proper introduction to James Baldwin, which I’m very grateful for. It’s also an important glimpse into San Francisco’s history with race. (Warning: it’s not pretty.)
  • A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. I need to read this book!!!
  • REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE. I na√Įvely didn’t know any of the history behind Sam Cooke and his music. A fascinating and depressing story.

TV shows and limited series

  • DARK. Just a great mind-bending, post-apocalyptic German show to watch in 2020.¬†
  • GODLESS. A quick little miniseries featuring an intimidating Jeff Daniels, a bunch of badass women, and some excellent western scenery.
  • WATCHMEN. Perhaps the most relevant thing in this whole post, and also one of my favorites even though I was hesitant at first to watch it. (It helped that Alex could explain the nuances of the DC universe to me while we watched, but that’s not necessary to enjoy it!!)
  • RUSSIAN DOLL. V easy to binge. Relatable in the sense that every day lately feels the same.
  • MANIAC. Weird/spooky/good.
  • THE X-FILES. We’re currently on Season 6 (a very alien-heavy season so far) and it’s been a ride. Not gonna lie, I’m mostly in it for the fandom, and so I can watch supercuts on YouTube without spoilers.


  • TRICK MIRROR, Jia Tolentino. A collection of essays that hit hard.
  • THE OX, Chris Rees. a.k.a. John Entwistle’s authorized biography. Nothing too groundbreaking, but some good stories to be told.
  • THE MADDADDAM TRILOGY, Margaret Atwood. I would highly recommend reading this in 2020.
  • THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett. A character-driven story set in some of my favorite places.
  • THE FIRE NEXT TIME, James Baldwin. An important read. Baldwin discusses ugly topics more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever read.
  • LITTLE WEIRDS, Jenny Slate. An apt title, and the kind of book you can read in bite-sized pieces. Depending on my mood during each chapter, I either loved or hated it.


  • SONGS FOR PIERRE CHUVIN, the Mountain Goats. I feel like I’m not a real Mountain Goats fan because I’m not as into the early stuff, but this came out at just the right time (April 2020) and the return to lo-fi was so befitting while we all stayed cooped up in our homes.
  • FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS, Fiona Apple. Sonically transcendent.
  • WOMEN IN MUSIC, PT. III, HAIM. Every track is just so good. Snippets of Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Ace of Base, and Uncle Kracker(?!). Fun fact: When it comes to Famous People of Our Generation, I’m one degree of separation away from Este Haim, who was in my classes/Bachelor’s program/graduating class at UCLA.
  • SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY, Perfume Genius. So dreamy. Will probably always remind me of cooking dinner with Alex and Coop (who likes to sit on the fridge supervising us), one and a half glasses of wine in, thinking about how even though everything else in the world was a disaster, our tiny little family couldn’t be happier.

I’ve been lowkey making a pandemic playlist on Spotify, which you can find here. It’s mostly stuff that has come out since March, but also includes some older songs by artists we’ve lost since then, and some others that for whatever reason remind me of these strange times.


  • Red pepper, potato, and peanut sabzi. Bon Appetit may be cancelled, but I’ll be forever grateful to the Test Kitchen squad for introducing us to some great recipes. This one from Priya is SO GOOD.
  • Sourdough crackers and sourdough biscuits. Thanks, King Arthur Flour! And thanks to my coworker Alysia for sharing some of her sourdough starter with me at the beginning of all this.
  • Homemade spaghetti and sauce from the excellent Pasta Grannies book. Our ultimate comfort food.
  • Char siu chicken banh mi. Ever since we learned we could pickle food, the idea of making our own banh mi has been so enticing. This was so fun to make (and eat)!
  • Turkish couscous. A refreshing dish made during the heatwave in early September.
  • Soyrizo burritos. I’ve eaten…..too many of these to count. Basically just involves cooking up some soyrizo with egg and potato, sometimes adding rice and beans, and making a burrito out of it.¬†

aaaand just for fun…

New names we’ve developed for Coop

The nicknames have evolved so much that it’s impossible to try and explain them.

  • Samba
  • Cross Finster
  • Crossover
  • Combination Lock
  • Congo
  • Joost

As a bonus, here’s a snapshot of the view from my desk at 9am on September 9, 2020, the day that San Francisco skies were on fire:

How else I spent November

Hello darkness my old friend December. I’m back and happy to report that I finished NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row! And this time around, I wasn’t sick of my story by the end of the month, yay! So I’m actually going to keep working on it, which is a good feeling.

Besides novel-writing, I did do a couple of other things in November, which I’ve deemed appropriate enough for this blog:

Obsessing over¬†Mad Men.¬†Disclaimer: I’m very reluctant to commit to TV¬†shows…In fact I’m pretty sure the only shows I’ve ever watched in their entirety¬†are Arrested Development, Star Trek TOS, Seinfeld, and the Monkees. All these “Golden Age of Television” shows that people keep talking about? No interest. Even with multiple people telling me how much I’d love Mad Men, I still resisted, until a few months ago¬†when¬†I was bored and watched the first episode on a whim. And, as expected, I immediately became obsessed with the period details¬†(the 60s are my spirit decade, after all)¬†and¬†the strange,¬†fascinating,¬†hot¬†mess that is Don Draper.

The cast and writers of this show are great.¬†I appreciate the fact¬†that one episode can be simultaneously delightful¬†and devastating¬†(S04E07 and S05E12, I’m looking at you), and that I still can’t decide whether to love or hate Don. Yes, I¬†understand the hype now.¬†With about¬†one and a half seasons left, I’ll probably be¬†bingeing extra hard.



Watching The Beatles 1+ Deluxe DVD/Blu-ray. The day this came out, I called every record+DVD store in SF asking if it was in stock (it wasn’t). I spent an entire weekend trying to find it, until finally the Barnes & Noble in San Bruno saved the day.¬†I’m usually not a fan of compilation albums, but 1 has a special place in my heart, because it was the¬†CD that introduced me to the Beatles’ music. (And to be fair, it’s actually a really worthwhile collection of Beatles hits, many of which don’t appear on any of their albums.)¬†This new reissue of 1 is especially exciting to me because it includes videos for all of the songs (plus a bonus DVD!) in really freaking high def. For example,

Among the silliness of the Beatles trying to maneuver their horses through an alleyway¬†and randomly flipping a table, I think the¬†shots of John walking down the street¬†are beautifully poignant. It seems like¬†they were well aware that their music and image had changed pretty dramatically after they stopped touring, and this was their way of presenting the “new” Beatles to the world.¬†This article captures it perfectly.

Bonus: the Beatles sitting on the ground eating sandwiches, which is the real kind of footage I’m interested in.


Reading Season of the Witch. Oh wow, this is an incredible book about San Francisco. I originally checked it out from the library because I was interested in learning more about the city during the time that my parents lived there (it focuses on the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s). But it turned into a sort of holy bible for my NaNoWriMo story, which basically takes place within one block of San Francisco over the course of 100 years.seasonofthewitch

For being so gritty and dark (see: the Zebra murders, the Zodiac, the Peoples Temple, the SLA, Dan White), Season of the Witch was weirdly enlightening. I love learning the history of places, and in this case, learning about¬†the people who helped shape San Francisco¬†in the past half a century. Although the city has physically changed over the years and will continue to change, I think the heart and soul of San Francisco has stayed intact. It’s¬†a place of ambition, eccentricity, and¬†unrest. If there’s one thing I learned from reading this book, it’s that there will always be things worth fighting for in this city, and that’s what I love about living here.


For December, I’m predicting: lots of Mad Men feels, rain, novel-revising, and a new hair-do??!

Happy Festivus! (one day late)

I was planning to post this¬†on actual Festivus, but I got distracted in the best way possible (getting together with old friends and playing Super Smash Bros.). In any case, it’s less of a holiday post and more of an end-of-the-year-lollapalooza sort of thing. I started out with just the¬†odds & ends but somehow this turned into an actual project¬†that involved me¬†reviewing all my blog posts from this year, because it’s Christmas¬†Festivus break and there is time for these things.

So without further ado, here’s my¬†Favorites of 2014 post, i.e. a rambly recap of stuff I blogged about in 2014,¬†with probably too many links.


Nikki’s Favorites of 2014

Favorite Concert: It was an *excellent* year for shows. I got to see three of my very favorites:¬†Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty, plus was introduced to Deerhoof, Mac DeMarco, and awesome local band James Rabbit. I saw OK Go for a 7th and 8th time, the Mountain Goats for a second, and The Spencer Owen Timeshare for an umpteenth (I added some photos!). But I think my favorite show, even with the obnoxious¬†drunk couple next to us, was Kishi Bashi. It was so much fun and I’m super stoked¬†he’s coming back to play at the Palace of Fine Arts next month!

Favorite New Album:¬†My favorite for purely personal¬†reasons (plus the fact that¬†“I Won’t Let You Down” is my jam) was¬†Hungry Ghosts. OK Go foreverrrrrrrr.

Favorite Rockstar Tweet: Probably Ringo and his gratuitous use of emojis.

Favorite¬†Book: So like everything on here, I’m subject to extreme bias, and also I didn’t read that many books that actually came out in 2014. I did really love I’ll Give You the Sun (YA), but Wolf In White Van was both my most anticipated and most enjoyed.

Favorite Movie: Boyhood. For a disgustingly sentimental¬†person like me, there’s no other choice.

Favorite Obsession:¬†Queeeeeeen!¬†Music videos in drag, songs about space, Roger Taylor’s face, etc. It was bound to happen. (I wonder if I’ll ever stop being such a fangirl…I sure hope not.)

Oh yeah, and those resolutions? I like to think they were pretty successful. The big accomplishment was redoing this blog and moving it over to WordPress, which I’m still very happy about. And I definitely listened to more records, thanks to spurts of record-hunting with Alex and the addition of biweekly game nights at our apartment (listening to¬†Vangelis while playing Wiz War is super legit). The last resolution was to read more, which I have been (I joined a book club at work!). But I have to admit, I’m only still halfway through that Beatles biography, hahah. For 2015: finish that Beatles biography!!

A few more odds & ends:

  • Joe Cocker: we lost a great voice in rock and blues the other day. :( If watching a waterfront performance¬†with my dad from a kayak in the San Diego Bay counts, Joe Cocker was my first concert. I used to listen to his Beatles covers on record and imitate¬†his spastic way of singing. Mandatory video link:¬†“Con un poco de ayuda de mis amigos”¬†:)
  • I get weirdly into watching chick flicks when I’m at home for the holidays (probably in the same way Alex always watches classic action movies while I’m away). This week I’ve already¬†watched Love Actually and You’ve Got Mail, and next on the list is Hannah and her Sisters…although you probably wouldn’t classify that one as a chick flick.
  • I also tend to rekindle my silent movie love when I have lots of spare time alone. This year, it’s Buster all the way. I’ve been watching YouTube videos like a fiend. I don’t think I’ve ever fully¬†expressed how much of a dreamboat I think Buster Keaton is, so I will leave you with this, a montage of The Great Stone Face set to “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer:

The infinity in our heads

A few weeks ago, John Darnielle came to Green Apple Books in San Francisco for a Q&A and reading of his new novel, Wolf In White Van. The whole time I stood on my tiptoes behind a mass of superfans who had arrived earlier than me, and listened while JD and Robin Sloan discussed D&D, sci-fi, and cassette tapes. The sheer nerdiness of it made me so, so happy.

(The coolest cover)

I’d bought¬†Wolf In White Van¬†earlier that day but had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that John Darnielle’s songs are¬†stories in themselves, and he has an extraordinary ability to create powerful scenes in just a few verses. I thought if this book was anything like that, I’d love it.

It was, and I did.

JD’s novel-writing¬†is just as lyrical as his lyrics are narrative. Somehow he can weave in these incredible¬†images¬†while keeping the writing¬†conversational and real.¬†At the Green Apple event, he talked about how it’s important to him¬†that his¬†sentences¬†sound good when read aloud, and that’s¬†why he would spend hours reading the manuscript to his toddler. I honestly never really thought about that, because besides audio books and readings like this, it’s not too often that you actually hear a book¬†read¬†aloud. But yeah, when he read an excerpt to the audience, it flowed just like a friend telling a (beautifully crafted) story.

“I stood in the kitchen by the window reading the summons; it was so boring. The facts that had brought it into being were the stuff of nightmares, vivid and awful and real, but the thing that came to speak of them was a lifeless sequence of instructions written in a language no one alive even spoke. Nobody talks like that. People only talk like that when they can’t stand to tell you what they mean. I lead a sane and quiet life: the sun shone on the grape-candy purple jacaranda in the breezeway outside, and the oleander and the bottlebrush were in bloom down the walkway, and I felt like I had been suddenly shot out into space, the world I’d left behind terrible and frightening, only now I couldn’t breathe at all. I felt my blood quickly becoming starved of oxygen and my cells beginning to swell, and the stars around me grew brighter and then faded, and then nothing happened at all, and I stood by the window a while longer with the summons in my hand…” – p87

For all its dark and somewhat depressing subject matter,¬†Wolf In White Van¬†somehow isn’t a depressing book. Actually, it’s strangely uplifting. I guess a lot of the Mountain Goats’ songs are like that too: they tell a morbid¬†story with major chords¬†and catchy choruses. Like the Tom Waits quote “I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” That’s what I love about this book, and John Darnielle’s music. He recognizes the shitty¬†things in life and turns them into art.

Amazing Journey, indeed

Last week I finished Pete Townshend’s autobiography “Who I Am,” which was a long and entertaining read. While I was reading the book, I kept thinking how much great material there was for a Pete-themed drinking game (ironic, given a lot of the subject matter). For example,

Take a drink:
*Every time you come across the words “auto-destruction”, “Impressionism”, or “visaging”
*Any time Pete goes on a tangent about his childhood
*Whenever Roger wants to get The Who back together and Pete isn’t interested
*For every groupie that John has
*Whenever Keith does something ridiculous (“While I made progress with my search for meaning, Keith was causing havoc with a birthday cake, a car, a swimming pool, a lamp and a young fan’s bloody head”)
*Whenever Pete cheats on his wife but he has such nice things to say about the girl he cheated on her with that somehow it seems ok
*Every time you turn the page during the “Acknowledgements” section

Take two drinks:
*Every time Pete drinks Remy Martin
*Every time Pete “quits drinking”
*Any time you think for a second that you understand Lifehouse
*Any time Pete agrees to do something, then backs out, then agrees again

In all seriousness though, this was a great read. I’ve always wanted to get a glimpse into Pete’s head, since he’s such an unconventional rockstar, and this was probably the closest I’ll ever get.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the Coda:

Play to the gods, or Рif you prefer Рto a small basket full of stuffed toys, or sing into the mouth of a hot-water bottle, or turn the knobs on a chest of drawers and pretend to be 20,000 leagues under the sea.  

It’s all the same thing. If in doubt, just play.

The Many Faces of Neil Young

My rock & roll autobiography collection is slowly growing…

The latest book I’ve been reading is Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace, which has been thoroughly entertaining. I love the lack of linear story; instead Neil just tells whatever stories come to mind to him as he writes. It’s pretty great. Nothing too deep or cerebral (which I feel Pete Townshend’s book is going to be like)…it’s just a good read about making music and being on the road. One of my favorite parts so far has been the chapter “Stories from Topanga,” because the stories are amazingly very similar to my own experiences in Topanga Canyon (in other words, it hasn’t changed since the 60s).

Before reading this book I knew maybe two (or three?) Neil Young songs by name. Now I’m slowly becoming more familiar with his solo stuff, and even went to see him play at the Bridge School Benefit Concert this past weekend (more on that to come). Ahhh, I love becoming obsessed with musicians.
In honor of this, I’ve put together a video collection that I shall call The Many Faces of Neil Young:

Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth.” Check out Neil’s crazy sideburns at 1:50:

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, “Down by the River.” This is just sooooooooo 60s:

Solo Neil, “Heart of Gold.” His stage banter is so rambly and excellent, I love it. This is probably my favorite song and era:

“Transformer Man” from the experimental album Trans. I’m at that stage where I don’t know the comprehensive history of a rock & roll artist yet and get really surprised when I see what they were doing in the 80s (same thing happened with The Who). So yeah, this is…different! Power to ya, Neil.
Super rock/grungy Neil with Crazy Horse:
So there you go, my first foray into the world of Mr. Young. Excited to read Pete Townshend’s book next; I have a feeling it’s going to be very different, haha. I love you Pete!

May the odds…

Note: I originally wrote this entry in May of 2011, not sure why I never published it. Anyway, I’m currently reading HG for a second time and prepping for the midnight showing with my coworkers, so I thought now is as good a time as any to post!

It’s been a long time since I haven’t been able to put a book down. But my god, THE HUNGER GAMES.

I’m convinced that if these books had come out when I was 10 years old, it would have been the FINAL PUSH that would’ve made me want to devote my life to being a writer.

Well actually, maybe not. Harry Potter came out when I was 10, and although I devoured the first four books and even wrote a “novel” that was super inspired by HP, by the time I graduated high school I somehow wasn’t that into them anymore. I still haven’t read books 6 and 7 *hides* …So I guess things change no matter what, and by that point I was a complete and total band/drum corps geek who didn’t have time to wait in lines at Barnes & Noble because I was off playing vibes and sleeping on bus floors.

Anyway, the point of this post (besides READ THE HUNGER GAMES) is…it’s time I get back into reading for fun. High school basically killed my imagination and ability to simply read a book for its story (ANALYZE ANALYZE ANALYZE THEME MOTIFS ALLEGORY) and college just made me want to read psychology books and other assorted non-fiction. But now that’s all done and I can finally enjoy reading again.

As a result, I made a list of books to read (updated, 3/2012):

Tales of the City РArmistead Maupin
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (and other Hunter S. Thompson titles)
The Handmaid’s Tale¬†– Margaret Atwood
Triumph of the City – Edward L Glaeser
The Irresistible Henry House – Lisa Grunwald
HP6 and HP7 :\

Suggestions, anyone?

Then Again

I finished reading Diane Keaton’s book Then Again this weekend. I really enjoyed it; it’s not a typical celebrity autobiography…actually, it’s more about Diane’s relationship with her mother, Dorothy. It’s especially interesting if you’ve ever had a family member with Alzheimer’s, and the book does a really good job of detailing the difficulties and heartbreak of the disease.

Of course, there are also some great insights about Hollywood, LA, Woody Allen, etc. Diane Keaton seems to be all over Westwood and Brentwood – I’m bummed I’ve never seen her while in LA! Guess there’s still time. :)

A favorite excerpt:

When I heard the D sound in a first name that became Diane, I still wasn’t sure, but I got up anyway and more or less rushed to the podium. I knew winning had nothing to do with being the “best” actress. I knew I didn’t deserve it. And I knew I’d won an Academy Award for playing an affable version of myself. I got it. But the fact that Annie Hall, a comedy, won best picture thrilled me. For some unfathomable reason, comedy is invariably relegated to the position of second cousin to drama. Why? Humor helps us get through life with a modicum of grace. It offers one of the few benign ways of coping with the absurdity of it all. Looking back, I’m so happy and so grateful and so proud to be in a Great American Comedy.