Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter solstice

Jessie the dog awaits Santa Claus
sol·stice (s?l'st?s, s?l'-, sôl'-)
  1. Either of two times of the year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs about June 21, when the sun is in the zenith at the tropic of Cancer; the winter solstice occurs about December 21, when the sun is over the tropic of Capricorn. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest.

  2. A highest point or culmination.
fhb has hit its solstice for 2005, and I'll leave you with a short "best of" list before returning in 2006. In no particular order...

Best book read (fiction): Rope Burns : Stories From the Corner by F.X. Toole. A.k.a "Million Dollar Baby" from one of the stories in this collection, which inspired the Clint Eastwood movie. A good movie, but the best thing about it, in my mind, was leading me to this book which was originally published in 2000, but I didn't read until this year. Toole was an ex boxing "cut man" who didn't publish until age 70, and died in 2002.

Best book read (graphic novel): Black Hole by Charles Burns. If I wasn't categorizing, Black Hole would be easily best book read in 2005.

Superficially a semi-sf/horror story about teenagers and
a sexually transmitted disease, the "bug," spreading among them. Those who get the bug develop bizarre mutations—such as a tiny mouth at the base of a neck, which has the disturbing habit of speaking during intimate moments. Black Hole is much, much more than just another horror story though, concerning itself with teenage alienation, love, and death. Partially through the book I began to wonder about the absence of adults and, more particularly, adult influence, in the teenager's world. But when I started remembering, that was how I saw my life as a teenager too. Adults were simply gravitational fields that you did your best to avoid, or orbit as far away from as possible.

I also loved how Burns plots the ever-deepening black hole the protaganists fall into... making the choices that, as our parents always warned us about, "will affect the rest of your life." Choices that seem so right, so logical, so, so... inevitable when you're 16 or 17. Choices that seem so stupid, so reckless, so... needless when seen from an adult perspective.

Read this book. If you have a teen in your life, share Black Hole with them.

Best book read (poetry): The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz. I've mentioned Kunitz before. What I said then about The Wild Braid still goes, "a book I especially commend to the attention of people who think they don't like poetry."

Best tech toys Fred found in 2005: 3-way tie among the Apple iPod (I'm a late but enthusiastic adopter); Audacity (Ditto on this. Thanks to Iggy and Maudie); and Pandora.

Best CD: Bill Evans, The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 by The Bill Evans Trio.

"My Foolish Heart" was written by Evans as the title song for a bad movie adaptation of a second-rate J.D. Salinger story, but the music beautifully evoked the bittersweet wistfulness of the best of Salinger and post-war New York, as does every piece of music in this 3-CD set. Worth listening to is
an audio essay for WBUR in Boston, where James Isaacs talks about the day he wandered into the Village Vanguard and, "found solace coming from Bill Evans' piano."

Special mention: Careless Love by Madeleine Peyroux. What the heck, even though it was released in 2004, I probably listened to this CD more than any other in 2005. I liked Peyroux's first, Dreamland. I love Careless Love. Every song is better than the one preceding it. Peyroux's cover of Dylan's "You're going to make me lonesome when you go" is a killer.

Best blog: I read an eclectic group of blogs, some written by professionals, some group-blogged. The ones I visit most often are in the pull-down menu to your right. The one I come back to the most consistently and the one that makes me smile regularly is Poker Perspectives, Maudie's Poker Blog. A nice mix of occasional off-topic personality riffs coupled with a regular focus on poker. Maudie has recently taken up podcasting. Listen to this one, related in a neat Mid-Western buzzsaw twang, and you'll see why I like reading - and listening - to what she has to say.

Best trip of 2005: Nova Scotia, hands down.

Best visits to/from a group of Southerners: Tie, between this and this.

Thanks to you all for reading and commenting. See you next year.


Maudie said...

Wow... thanks Fred - high praise, indeed. I'm truly humbled. Note for 2006: Have GOT to work on getting to Fred 'n Peg land to meet you guys 8^)

Anonymous said...

Look, Maw! We made the list! Yeee--ha!

Thank you, thank you, FHB! You're our favorite Yankee. Merry Christmas to all y'all!
Jill and Co.