Monthly Archives: January 2009

Three Intentions for 2009

For New Year’s 2007, I was on a retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains which had a New Year’s Eve ritual inviting us to form and share three general intentions for the year. I went to the same retreat again this New Year’s for several days, but I was back in the city for New Year’s Eve itself, so I didn’t do the ritual this time. I can’t be more specific about the reason, except that it involved my girlfriend, some close friends, and Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. In any case, the ritual was such a valuable thing for me in 2008, not to mention which my intentions also largely came to pass, that even though I didn’t do it there, I’d like to do it again for this year, and share it with you. Here are my intentions for 2009:

1. To invest more in myself physically- I’ve always done gangbusters investing in my mental life, and the last few years I’ve been getting much better with doing the same emotionally and spiritually. My physical life has always been the least developed- sometimes I’ve even thought fondly about being a brain in a jar hooked up to a supercomputer. So, I think this is a year to work on that. What does that mean? Beats me, it’s just a general intention! Seriously, I imagine it will mean all kinds of things about diet, about exercise, about consciously investing in clothes and wardrobe, and about trying new physical activities. Maybe yoga wind surfing?

2. To reconnect with my Muse- While I’ve done a lot of writing in the last two years, and even started and completed some brand new stories, I haven’t really felt the fire (as one example, I haven’t written any new poetry) since going in to rehab at the end of 2006. I think that’s a pretty natural result of having to focus on recovery first these last two years, and I mostly have patience with it as part of a natural ebb and flow. But I do think this is my year to get back in touch with it, while staying safe and sober. So, I’m re-reading old journals to see what’s there that I can connect with, starting to learn music, reading new poetry, creating more time for writing in my weekly schedule and just generally inviting the Muse to alight. Tell her if you see her!

3. To be a little less self-obsessed and a little more connected to other people- Recovery literature regularly talks about most of our problems coming back to self-obsessed suffering, and for me this is definitely true. My external life has really gotten to be pretty darn good these last two years, and the only things I really suffer from these days are old patterns of thinking and feeling that still unspool in my head. So the solution, I have heard, is to spend a little less time there and a little more focusing on other people. Not to mention I might do something nice for others in the process. So tell me, what’s going on with you? Maybe I can take you out to lunch soon…

Those are my intentions for 2009. How about you?

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Eight From 2008

While it’s not standard for year-end countdowns, I’ve decided that a top eight albums is the best approach to take for 2008. What can I say? I’m a sucker for numbers and symmetry. Here, in alphabetical order, are my top picks:

1. Get Awkward (Be Your Own Pet)- They’re punk and garage with a dash of metal. Their songs are simultaneously tongue-in cheek and brash, slapping you to the mat from the start and keeping you there throughout. They’re fronted by a brash blonde girl. They’re from Nashville. What on Earth is not to like?

2. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (Drive-By Truckers)- This album has it all. Male lead vocals. Female lead vocals. Straight-up country. Rock that reminds one of the Seventies in a good way. Music that sounds like storm clouds brooding. And as good as it is musically, it’s even better lyrically. The 19 tracks herein include heartfelt paeans to family, subtle evocations of domestic discontent, a soldier musing on the unknown life of the unnamed foe he’s just killed, and a song from the viewpoint of someone who has had it with a friend’s (family member’s? spouses?) crystal meth addiction.

3. Lust, Lust, Lust (the Raveonettes) There was a good case to be made with their previous album, Pretty in Black, that the Raveonettes had lost their mind. On this album they find it again and the lust, menace, and shimmering clouds of guitar feedback are ours to enjoy.

4. Narrow Stairs (Death Cab for Cutie)- I’ve been a late convert to Death Cab, but like many an infatuation acquired in later life, I’ve made up for it by falling hard. A song like “I Will Posses Your Heart” that starts with a four minute drum intro shouldn’t hold your attention, but in their hands it keeps you rapt, and brings a shiver when the lyrics finally kicks in with their mixture of romanticism and dark obsession. And really, at the end of the day, anybody who writes a bleak, piercing song about searching for Kerouac’s ghost can call me their bitch.

5. & 6. Nouns (No Age), Rip It Off (Times New Viking)- These two bands are probably tired of being mentioned in the same breath, but they really are two peas in one wonderful lo-fi pod. Of the two, No Age brings more melody and traditional pop structure in their navigations of ragged walls of sonic distortion. This makes Nouns more consistently listenable, but Rip It Off more exciting and challenging.

7. Stop Drop and Roll! (the Foxboro Hot Tubs)- Yes, okay, it’s really Greenday in musical drag buying time while they try to figure out how to follow American Idiot. But what glorious drag it is! Their roaring, rocking success at producing rock in the Kinks/Who/Hollies et al vein makes me wonder why rock ever stopped sounding like that.

8. We Started Nothing (the Ting Tings)- Dance music with the form and attitude of rock, this album is just good clean fun from start to finish.

Those are my picks, but in the interest of full disclosure, Bruce Springsteen’s Magic only made honorable mention on my 2007 list, and it’s turned out to be one of the few albums from that year that I still regularly listen to. I reserve the right to listen further… And so should you!