Tuesday, December 31, 2013
My 2013 Year-In-Review
I was decidedly distracted this year, working on Season of the Witch, due out next year from Tarcher/Penguin. The research for that book, however, led to all sorts of wonderful discoveries that made 2013 a very strange and interesting time. Some of the highlights include:
-Spending considerable time listening to the 1970s band Ramases, who produced two outstanding records: Glass Top Coffin and Space Hymns. Uncanny progressive rock by a man who believed he was the incarnation of Rameses of ancient Egypt.
-Getting to interact with some incredible people including Rodney Orpheus, Arik Roper, and Pam Grossman.
-Finally getting a handle on the relationship between historical witchcraft and modern Wicca, helped considerably by the excellent book Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton.
-The original logo of The Monterrey Pop Festival (seen here)
I did manage to peek outside my book research a bit and here are the things that occupied me when I could carve out the time:
-I had a load of fun playing old-school Dungeons & Dragons--first by way of OSRIC and then making the switch to Basic Fantasy--with some great pals, including Ethan Gilsdorf, the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.
-I had the honor of doing a number of Gweek podcasts with Mark Frauenfelder, most recently alongside one my favorite artists Jim Woodring.
-I wrote two pieces for The Quietus, probably the best online music magazine. A real honor and privilege.
-I built a computer with my son with help from the good folks at reddit.com/r/buildapc.
And here is the required list of my favorite things this year, in no particular order:
Fuzz (s/t)- Simply, one of the best garage-psych albums of the last few years; druggy but lucid, raw but technically flawless.
Mikal Cronin II- He runs in the same circles as Fuzz, but Cronin's album is their pop-cousin. It's filled with delightful nuggets, every song a top-40 hit from a 1970s that never existed.
Tim Hecker Virgins- Hecker's last album Ravedeath, 1972 is an ambient masterpiece, but this follow-up is every bit as good. Hecker is not afraid of noise, but he doesn't overdo it either. There are moments are wonder here, and while the record can be challenging, it is deeply moving.
Cool Tools- One of the things that I mourn the most is the end of the paper catalog. Sure, my home gets the ubiquitous Crutchfield and Crate & Barrel, but I long for the days of thick catalogs as well as one-sheets of electronic surplus, magic tricks, telescopes, comics, and books (anyone remember the weird Information Unlimited laser kit catalog?) Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities by Kevin Kelly is a huge book, in the spirit of The Whole Earth Catalog. It the collects the best of, well, everything really: from tools to instruments to websites. Everything in it is currently available, but it also fulfills the nostalgia for this kind of thing perfectly.
And Every Day Was Overcast by Paul Kwiatkowski- A fictional autobiography in words and photographs,
Kwiatkowski's book is an unsettling and strangely beautiful work. The book is the story of a teenager in the early 1990s trudging through the debris of South Florida. Kwiatkowski's captures the underbelly of that time and place, but this is not exploitation. It is a melancholy tale, and the photographs, many of them on Polaroid, reveal the sad timelessness of misspent youth.
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea- Can you believe it? A boxed old-school RPG with rulebooks, map, and dice. Doesn't get much better. This is a great game, low-impact rules with plenty of pulp weirdness. If you want to get back in to gaming, this would be a great re-entry.
Arrow- A ridiculous superhero soap opera, it defies any sense of reasonableness and I can't get enough of it. I am a Marvel fanboy of the highest order going on 40 years, but this show has turned me on to the DC Comics mythos. The acting is great, the action sequences the best on TV since Buffy, and the myriad plot threads seriously engaging.
Saga- Every issue is a cause for celebration. The artwork alone by Fiona Staples is worth the cover price as every panel stretches her artistic imagination and she nails it every time. If you read comics, I'll just assume you read Saga. And if you don't read comics, you should at least read this.