Although I used to set out some semi-specific goals for myself in terms of what I wanted to accomplish in a year, I'd sort of gotten away from that the past couple years and things seemed to work out just fine anyway. The case usually ends up being that I am productive in one area and other areas suffer a bit, and that's just the way it goes. There's simply not enough time to do everything that I want and I've resigned myself to that fact, but still try to accomplish as much as possible.
That said, I did tell myself that I wanted to not only read a little bit more this year, but also get into better shape. Last year, the amount of books that I read was at its lowest point since college, and I pretty much didn't have any sort of exercise routine other than walking the dogs (which accounted for about a mile a day, not so good). In terms of reading, I've already managed a great clip this year, plowing through 3 books in the past two weeks and finishing another I'd started around the first of the year. I seriously doubt I'll be able to keep up a book-a-week pace throughout the rest of the year, but I've found little ways to fit more reading into my life that I think will allow for quite a bit more book time.
As I mentioned, I finished three books in the past week, and the first of these was The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker. Recommended to me several years ago by a friend of a friend, it was a birthday gift from another friend who had seen it on my amazon wish list. When it was recommended to me, the person called it a perfect example of 'metafiction,' and after reading it I can see why. The entire book (fairly short at 150 pages or so) takes place in the head of the main character as he's riding up the escalator between the ground floor and mezzanine of the building he works in. Roughly one-third of the book is in footnotes, and while that sort of style has bothered me in some books I've read (David Foster Wallace in particular can get a bit carried away with it), it worked perfectly in The Mezzanine. I actually found about the first one-third of the book slightly tedious (I suppose that's inevitable when you're reading about the minutae that the book discusses), but at some point in my reading I found myself laughing aloud several times as Nicholson really seemed to find his groove and click on everyday observations (like bathroom manners, etc) that I rarely give second thought to. Often hilarious, it's probably not for casual readers who just want to plow through something with a direct-line narrative, but I would highly recommend it to just about anyone else. Considering this was his debut novel, wow.
The second book I finished this week was actually started and finished in one day. I sat down at breakfast this morning and opened up Dude, Where's My Country by Michael Moore. Obviously, I'm a bit late on reading this one, but I wanted to check it out nonetheless and barrelled through it pretty quickly, mainly due to a large part of the book being re-worked into his movie Fahrenheit 9/11. Like his movie (and his other books that I've read), I didn't find all the parts of the book to hold up equally as well, but overall I was entertained and enjoyed it. Not too much else to say about it other than that Moore wrote a book and directed a movie that both hammered the hell out of Bush and yet he still won re-election. Hrm.
After Dude, I decided to sit down and finish a book that I'd started about a week ago by Howard Zinn entitled You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train. An excellent autobiography of the famous activist, reading the book made me want to go back and re-read The People's History Of The United States again and try to absorb even more of the facts. In reading the book by Zinn I realized just how shoddy my knowledge of world history is. I always considered myself a fairly good student and got great grades in high school, but my exact knowledge on subjects and dates is kind of fuzzy, even on rather major events. Maybe I need to pull out Asimov's History Of The World again and make a mind to gradually get through it, if nothing else to hopefully absorb a little more in the areas where I'm lacking. Regarding the Zinn book, if you like his other writing and are interested in his background, I would obviously highly recommend it. He's a great thinker and writer and his history is unique as well.
All the reading time this weekend was at least partially brought about by my laptop being in for repair. After a month or so in which I focused almost entirely on working on music, it was good to have a break to get away from the computer. There was nothing drastically wrong with the laptop itself, but after a few problems started cropping up (a new USB drive flat-out crashed the computer whenever I attached it, the harddrive was making a lot of noise), I decided to take pre-emptive action and have a brand-new harddrive installed, as well as the OS updated with a fresh install. The result will hopefully be a laptop computer that runs a lot better for me going into what will most likely be a very active period in terms of music production goes. Marianas will be going into the studio to record parts for a new EP in just under two weeks, and I'm going to continue work on my own little projects, setting in mind some rough deadlines for getting things completed.
Oh yeah, and back to the statement in the first paragraph about wanting to read more and get into better shape. After nearly 3 weeks of inactivity on my part (I blame the snow and cold, which made it rather easy to make excuses), I put on my new running shoes and went out for a jog today in the gloomy weather. I only managed a little over three miles before I started getting leg cramps, which I attribute to not stretching out my calves well enough before running. Barring negative temperatures, I plan on getting out and jogging on a regular basis until it's nice enough to rollerblade again. Also, crunches and push-ups are making a re-appearence. I gotta lean up.
After a period of time where I struggled to finish any books, I sat down this weekend and read a full book yesterday and well over half of another today. It had been a long time since I simply sat aside a couple hours of my day to read, but I have to say that it felt pretty darn good. Of course, it helps that the book I was reading was so highly addicting that I could barely put it down. As sort of a funny side note, I'd purchased TG a book that she'd been wanting for some time. It was called Mongo, and was written by Ted Botha. A short description of the book is that it's about the way that people reclaim "junk" in the city of New York. "Junk" is simply defined as something that one person throws out (intentionally or unintentionally), but in a city like New York that can be everything from first-edition novels worth thousands of dollars to century-old mahoganey doors. The dumpster-diver in me couldn't put the book down and in fact after I finished it in the early hours of last night, I suddenly had the urge to throw on my stocking cap and hit some of the places that I used to raid back in the days when I actually did go scavenging at night for whatever.
The book itself deals with everyone from canners (people who collect cans literally to survive) to people who excavate old toilets in order to find century-old bottles. The book itself was absolutely engrossing to me, and I think it would be for just about anyone who likes a good story about what has been found from the discards of others. My habit personally started in college, when after my first semester I saw how much great stuff people simply threw out instead of moving it back somewhere. Back then, my hauls were small, mainly CD storage and clothes, and even a desk. After college, I'd hit the dumpster of a certain large-chain bookstore and scoop up piles of ultra-cool design magazines with their covers torn off, books, and sometimes even comic books that I would give to friends. Luckily, my wife has some of the same tendencies and although we don't have any mindblowing finds, we've both rescued pieces that still reside in our house. So yeah, if you ever find yourself craining your neck as you drive by a pile of discarded items sitting on a curb, I think you'll love Mongo.
For some reason this weekend a funny story that happened several months ago popped into my head and I can't believe that I hadn't written about it yet. The (thankfully short) tale goes something like this...
During a nice weekend fall day, I was walking both of our dogs around the neighborhood. Lots of people were out doing different yard-related things and at one house there were several kids out front riding bikes and tricycles and stuff. As I approached, they all saw the dogs and asked me if they could come over and pet them. I agreed and Zoey and Elsa of course thought all the attention they were getting was great.
Before I'd even told them the names of the dogs, one of the little girls in the group (probably between the ages of eight and ten) looked up at me and exclaimed, "they're both girls, aren't they?"
Without thinking of what I would hear in response, I simply blurted out, "yeah, how did you know that," but as soon as I'd said the words, I had thoughts of the little girl talking explicitely about the anatomy of the dogs and shattering my conception of youthful innocence.
She straightened up and pointed at each of the dogs and said, "one of them is wearing a pink harness and the other one is wearing a purple harness" as if that were the most obvious response, and I sighed inside with a bit of relief knowing that perhaps innocence would live another day.
I've been slacking even more than normal around here, which is a lot. I just don't have much to say, really.
Actually, I do have something to talk about now that I think about it. For the past year or so, I was one of those people who was lucky enough to live close enough to work that I could walk. There was something nice about knowing I could set out on foot and within 10 minutes be at my workplace without having to deal with traffic or parking or any of the other inconveniences that most commuters have to deal with. Even earlier on, when I was commuting 15 or more minutes to work would often drive me nuts as I sat in traffic and waited at lights (especially in the dead of summer when the pavement was sending up light-bending heat). I honestly don't know how people can commute long distances each day and handle it. Perhaps someday I will find out.
At any rate, since I got a new job a couple months ago (it's officially been about 3 months now), I've been taking the bus to work. I'm still not very far from my workplace fortunately, and the actual bus ride is roughly 10 minutes or so depending on the amount of stops that it makes. I'm happy to say that I haven't driven my car to work once in that time period, and while sticking to the bus schedule (and falling prey to it when they were behind) used to annoy me to no end, but now I'm simply used to it.
There are some interesting things I notice while riding the bus, and part of the fun is just sitting and sort of watching how people act. There are strange habits of leaving open seats depending on who the seat is by and standing and even talking. I used to wear my headphones to avoid any conversation, but I've had a few bizarre talks with people on the bus now, so I've decided they're more valuable than 10 minutes more music in my day. In 3 months time, I've gotten so I know the stops of about seventy-five percent of the people who ride, and maybe perhaps have become a 'regular' myself in their eyes.
TG and I rang in the new year like old people, staying at home and cooking our own dinner while watching a movie (Office Space! and drinking some wine. After the movie was over, we turned on the television and absentmindedly flipped through the stations, landing on what is one of two absolutely mind-numbingly terrible pieces of television I've seen lately. On Dick Clarks Rockin New Years Even, tons of horrendously shitty bands played shitty music while people who must have either no sense of taste or were incredibly drunk (perhaps both) danced away. It was painful to say the least.
At any rate, the break was fun otherwise. As I mentioned in my last entry, we stayed pretty busy with different things and actually got a lot done. I moved a porta-studio upstairs into the living room so it was easier for me to work on music and it paid off in spades as I managed probably well over an hours work a day on different things. The result is one track that really sounds good, about 3 or 4 others that are starting to take some rough shape, and well over a handfull of ambient pieces that need to be fleshed out a little bit more with either field recordings or something else, but are still pretty lovely by themselves. In other words, I'm moving along at a good pace on things and hopefully sometime in the next year or so some of it will see the light of day.
As for Marianas, we're not dead believe it or not. After some time of just sort of not really having any focus, we had a meeting of the minds and set defined goals to work towards. It was great fun and pretty motivating, especially since I just listened to some of our newest work recently and was again reminded that it's light years beyond our old. There will be a new release of some sort this year. It will be good. I promise.
And finally I will end with a weather report, because I have turned into one of those old people who likes talking about such things once in awhile. After the unseasonably mild late December (which made for a lovely holiday break), things changed drastically just a couple days back and we got a whole load of snow (almost 8 inches to be exact). With this snow, the temperature also dropped a great deal and we had one day (today) where the temperature barely got above single digits and the wind chills were minus degrees (fahrenheit) all day. When I was standing waiting for the bus this morning, I could feel the dreaded frozen nose mucus going on, and let me tell you that's not a great way to start your day. Fortunately, things are supposed to warm a little this weekend and then perhaps more snow next week. Huzzah.