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This morning, I got some shopping and some reading done. Now I’m about to do a little house and car cleaning before I head out to spend New Year’s with family. I will probably not update again this year so I hope everyone reading has a happy evening with good things to come in 2011!


Wow, I am almost to the end of this month. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished anything (besides getting to the end of the month) but it’s what I said I would do, so. . .

I went to see the movie The King’s Speech tonight, which stars Colin Firth. This movie included a lot of the superficial things I like in movies — British accents, period costumes (including nice suits and uniforms on the men), and, well, Colin Firth. It also had some of the movie complex things I like in movies: knotty family relationships and conversations in which people can’t even decide which names to call each other. I have a whole thing where names and discussion about names being very important in fiction. This movie is hard to even talk about, unless you stick to the actors’ names, because everybody is called three or four different things (name, title, nickname) and it keeps changing whoever does the calling and when the scene takes place. I’m one of those people who watched Battlestar Galactica for two seasons without knowing the difference between a Viper and a Raptor but could have a twenty minute conversation about why a character said “Apollo” instead of “Lee” in a particular scene. I don’t have a good explanation for why this is (too many Russian novels at an impressionable age, maybe, or too many superhero comics). It’s funny because I’m actually pretty indifferent to what you call me in real life (though probably I should not ask people to stretch that point). But then, things that are big signifiers in planned-out stories are things that just kind of happen in the real world, and names are part of that.

Another big thing I love that this movie had in spades: I love it when characters talk around their problems, and do anything to avoid being direct and honest and get to the point, and then something happens to make them emotional and all of a sudden they blurt it out. There’s probably a scene like that in every piece of fiction I’ve ever written. And this is basically what The King’s Speech is about. Colin Firth is the Duke of York/Bertie/George VI, and he literally lacks a voice due to a severe stammer. The whole story is about helping him learn how to speak which is related (in this admittedly rather overdetermined screenplay, anyway) to discovering how to be honest and finding something to say.

The resolution of the film is a bit too “Go England, Beat Hitler!” for my taste. I’d rather have dug a little deeper into his family relationships and not just for the chance to see Guy Pearce, as his brother Edward who is for some reason called David, wear tweed jackets and white sweaters and use the word “king” as a verb and be generally bitchy. (Pearce: I’ve been busy. Firth: Doing what? Pearce: Kinging!) I came out of this rather desperate to see Guy Pearce play Shakespeare’s Richard II who, in a modern dress production of the play, would wear exactly those same sweaters. Pearce is underused here, in other words, but it’s a perfect role for Firth. All the proper Englishness that is confining Bertie here also tends to constrain our image of Firth, and his performance here is about breaking out of that. In the course of doing so, he gets to say “fuck” a lot. I mean, a lot a lot.

As I was leaving the theater with my friend K, we had the following conversation:

Me: I feel like the British people in that movie were kind of ungrateful. I mean, why did they need to hear him talk to be inspired, when you can be inspired just by how well Colin Firth wears a jacket.
K: That’s what inspired the British people today.

So, yeah, umm, it’s possible this is the first time I’ve been out anywhere on a weeknight this month? That’s probably not good. Granted, holidays and bad weather mess with people’s schedule this time of year. And I have been getting some writing and reading done, which isn’t bad. But in the new year I want to make an effort to get out of the house more and get more writing done. Right now I can apparently do one or the other. Probably the solution to this is to get better about scheduling things. I should think about that.

Anyway, I usually go to pub quiz at a nearby bar on a semi-regular basis. This week’s numbers were depleted by a lot of people being on vacation, but I met my friend Katrina there and we performed pretty well despite being a two-person team. I did miss a question about the Iron Man movie (his armor is really a gold-titanium alloy, did you know that?) but you can’t win them all.

I already did a similar questionnaire to this, but this is more of a personal inventory than it is about “stuff I like.”

1) Was 2010 a good year for you?

Can I break that down? First four months sucked, next four months consisted of recovering from the first four, and the last four have been pretty awesome. I am going to hope that is a progression, not a cycle, and give it good marks overall. Well done, 2010! You are “most improved”.

2) What was your favorite moment of the year?

In the context of a year, a weekend can be a ‘moment’ right? There was a stretch of days in April where I went to a con and watched anime with my friend Ginger on Friday, hung out with my sister and niece on Saturday, and spent all Sunday writing a story that I ended up being really happy with. Plus the weather was just beautiful. Friends, family, nerdy stuff, and creative accomplishment are all nice things to have happen at once.

3) What was your least favorite moment of the year?

Limping across the Cleveland airport on a sprained ankle carrying all my bags.

4) Where were you when 2010 began?

On my couch watching BBC Shakespeare productions. According to what I told the Internet, I didn’t actually notice midnight because I was waiting for Richard II to get murdered.

5) Who were you with?

The Internet?

6) Where will you be when 2010 ends?

Probably on the downtown mall in Charlottesville. (Attention stalkers!) Unless it’s really cold and we don’t want to go out, in which case I’ll be at my parents’ house and probably making them watch Community with me.

7) Who will you be with when 2010 ends?


8. Did you keep your New Year’s resolution of 2009?

As I recall those were (a) write more and (b) be a better citizen of the Internet. And I’d say yes, I am happy with my progress in both those directions. Though I had some false starts and wrong turns along the way.

9) Did you break up with anyone in 2010?

Nope. Not even metaphorically.

10) Did you make any new friends in 2010?

Many, it turns out. This is one of the best things about this year.

11) Who are your favorite new friends?

That’s a strange question to answer, so I’ll avoid it and say I have made new friends — and gotten to know existing friends better — thanks to Twitter. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have had WonderAli making a fort in my living room, or Nancy_Clue trading music mixes with me, and the Deceptionists podcast wouldn’t be happening at all.

12) What was your favorite month of 2010?

I have to say September because of all the concerts.

13) Did you go abroad in 2010?


14) How many different states did you travel to in 2010?

Besides Virginia: North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio. So that’s seven? I’m probably forgetting something.

15) Did you lose anybody close to you in 2010?

This seems like a jinx to answer before the end of the year! But generally, no, I’ve been lucky. Though my parents’ dog Mattie had to be put to sleep :(.

16) Did you miss anybody in the past year?

I did a lot of missing people either because of distance or time. But most of the people who were far away I got to see at some point. And the people who are in the past now. . .I think I came to terms with that more than I have before.

17) What was your favorite movie that you saw in 2010?

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

18) What was your favorite album from 2010?

Assuming this means new in 2010, American Slang by the Gaslight Anthem

19) How many concerts did you see in 2010?

I’ve counted 8 but I probably am leaving something out. If seeing “Million Dollar Quartet” on Broadway counts as a concert (and it was mostly about the songs) then 9.

20) Did you have a favorite concert in 2010?

I saw so many good shows this year — absolutely nothing was less than an A — but leaning against the stage for the Tim Barry/Lucero show in Charlottesville — being close enough to read the guitar players’ tattoos, having a random girl put me in charge of yelling “Ben!” so she could hand the lead singer a shot of whiskey, and just hearing great music and being with an awesome friend, that kind of wins.

21) Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2010?

Ben Nichols probably drank more alcohol during that show than I did all year.

22) Did you do a lot of drugs in 2010?

I’m assuming this doesn’t mean “over the counter cold and allergy medications” so, no.

23) Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?

I probably should be, but nothing comes to mind.

24) What was the biggest lie you told in 2010?

“Oh, yeah, I know what I’m doing.”

25) What was the worst lie someone told you in 2010?

If I started to answer this, it would devolve into an angry rant about a broken heat pump and my home warranty company.

26) Did you treat somebody badly in 2010?

I’m gonna be honest. I am kind of a loudmouth on the Internet, so, probably. Not on purpose, though, I hope, and not without apologizing. Unless they deserved it.

27) Did somebody treat you badly in 2010?

Hey, have I mentioned I did business with a home warranty company?

28) How much money did you spend in 2010?

Let’s just say the amount I spent on books, music, concerts, and eating out pales in comparison to the amount I spent on Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning in some form or other. At least, I’m sticking to that belief and not actually doing the math.

29) What was your most embarrassing moment of 2010?

I have an amazing ability to repress this stuff.

30.) What is one thing you did in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Went to a concert by myself (two, actually).

31.) Did someone close to you give birth?

A lot of people I know online had kids, this year, oddly, but nobody geographically close, so there were no babies to hold or play with.

32.) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

A proper vacation, though that is likely to be put off until 2012, while I save up leave and pay off debt.

33.) What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 17, because it was St. Patrick’s Day and Ali was visiting, an\d in the interest of not doing anything Irish-themed, we went to a Vietnamese beer garden. October 30 for the eventful trip to DC for the Stewart/Colbert Rally (none of which I actually got to hear) and the Drive-By Truckers’ show that night. November 3 & 4 because I saw Henry IV Part II on one day and Lucero the next. I may the single person alive to get the most excited for that combination of experiences, though I note my friend Spuffyduds was excellent company at both of them.

34.) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Writing more than 30,000 words in a month. Paying all my bills.

35.) What was your biggest failure?

I’d rather say that I tried several things that didn’t work rather than that any of them were failures. I got experience out of all of them.

36.) Did you suffer illness or injury?

Sprained my ankle in a hotel room in Cleveland. Have had some kind of chronic sinus thing all year. Probably need to go to an allergist.

37.) What was the best thing you bought?

A heat pump! Ha ha ha. It cost the most, anyway. That or the Darkness on the Edge of Town box set. Oh, who am I kidding? I love that box of gratuitous Springsteen schwag.

38.) Whose behavior merited celebration?

Several of my friends made exciting strides in their writing careers. My brother graduated from college and got engaged. My cousin got married on the beach in North Carolina, my Dad turned sixty, and while I guess those last two aren’t technically behavior, parties were held, and they were very nice.

39.) Whose behavior made you appalled?

The home warranty company, basically everyone in Congress, the couple who sat behind me at the Nils Lofgren show at the Birchmere and talked loudly the entire time. This included his explaining to her who all the people were in the anecdotes was telling, by saying things such as, “Lou Reed used to be in the Velvet Underground.” I am the furthest thing from a rock and roll snob, folks, I want the things I love to be loved by everyone but there’s such thing as just being an idiot.

40.) Where did most of your money go?

Heating ventilation and air conditioning.

41.) What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The Darkness on the Edge of Town box set? I feel like I’m repeating myself at some point.

42.) Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or hardened?

Much happier.

b) thinner or fatter?

I want to complain about the assumptions inherent in this question, but instead I’ll take it to mean “Did you spend more time sitting on your couch/eating refined sugar than you did getting exercise of any kind/cooking healthy foods?” and in that case. . .gonna work on this in 2011.

c) richer or poorer?

Poorer although, in theory, I have equity now.

43.) What do you wish you’d done more of?

Going out to see new things and places, having conversations with substance, laughing, writing.

44.) What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing over why I wasn’t doing any of the things in 43.

45.) How did you spend Christmas?

At my parents’, sleeping in, having a lazy breakfast, driving home before it started snowing, reading.

46.) Did you fall in love in 2010?

Does Brian Fallon count?

47.) Any one-night stands?

A lady doesn’t tell!

48.) What was your favorite TV program?


49.) Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Oh, probably, but if I can’t think of who they are at the moment, it can’t matter that much.

50.) What was the best book you read?

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

51.) What was your greatest musical discovery?

Newish band: The Gaslight Anthem. Artist I should have been listening to all my life and haven’t been: Gram Parsons. Artists I listened to with more attention to than in the past: Neko Case, the Rolling Stones, The Who.

52.) What did you want and get?

Support, company, amusement, and good advice from my wonderful friends. The Darkness on the Edge of Town box set.

53.) What did you want and not get?

A singular brilliant idea that will transform who I am as a creative writer and give me a new sense of purpose. Or the knowledge that it actually works like that (because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.)

54.) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 35. I truthfully have no recollection of my actual birthday. As far as I can tell, it was extremely hot and I wanted a Slurpee though I am not sure I actually gt one.

55.) What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A singular brilliant idea that will transform who I am as a creative writer and give me a new sense of purpose. Also, if at the same time as the Darkness on the Edge of Town box set, they had released the full-band version of Nebraska

56.) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Why can’t every day be casual Friday?

57.) What kept you sane?

Friends, music, books, sunshine.

58.) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Does James Purefoy count as a “celebrity”?

59.) What song will always remind you of 2010?

Birthday Boy by the Drive-By Truckers. Unfortunately? (It’s a great song but maybe not a great mindset).

60.) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

To stop waiting for the time when I will no longer be learning life lessons. That growing up doesn’t come with merit badges. That everything is harder than you think it will be, but eventually you get past it and then it’s over.

61.) Quote a song lyric that sums up the year.
“It don’t take smarts to learn to tune out what hurts more than helps”

Namely, I forgot about this blog. Well, last Wednesday, which was the end of my work week, I was sick and exhausted due to some genuine insomnia (the kind where you try to sleep and CAN’T as opposed to the part where you keep deciding to refresh Twitter one more time or watch just one more music video on YouTube which is my normal brand of “insomnia”). So I came straight home and slept for the next fourteen hours. Since then though, I have been feeling well-rested. Just not big on the blogging motivation.

I have been getting some (fiction) writing done, though. Then on Christmas Eve, I traveled to my parent’s house while listening to the holiday episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, which I have to recommend even if you don’t normally listen to the show. In this episode, the regular panel (which consists of the staff of NPR’s pop culture blog MonkeySee or, as I also like to call them, “Linda Holmes and Her Amazing Friends”), reminisce about gifts they got from their parents, and about nerdy legacies in general. It’s hard to describe why a story about a bookish Southern boy getting a set of encyclopedias for Christmas should be so tearjerking, but it really is. (It’s possible I’m the kind of kid who used to read encyclopedias for fun, so this story hits a chord).

So I drove home thinking about how my parents got their kids watching Marx Brothers movies, and then was able to sit down with my folks and A Night at the Opera. Granted this was only because we didn’t want to watch It’s a Wonderful Life! with commercials, and Dad would not have sat through Mom & my first choice, Return of the King. However, I did get to have a later conversation with Mom about how I would have been so jealous of the map of Middle Earth she had on her wall when she was in high school. I should note that my parents are not geeks in the “Nerd Pride” kind of way, but Mom happened to be fond of Narnia and of Tolkien, and introduced them to us at a young age so that we grew up assuming that these, like the Marx Brothers, were Things Everybody Knew About.

Anyway. We watched that movie and then I got my parents to watch the first disc of Community. At some point, Christmas happened, we played ping pong, and I drove home on Christmas afternoon before it started snowing. Then my sister brought her dog to visit — I’m keeping her for the week — and the dog and I have had some nice walks-in-the-snow and watched Return of the King, which I wrote about on Tumblr, or I wrote about the sensational 10 minutes that I sit through the rest of the movie to see. Those 10 minutes may in fact be that movie’s Rosalita (ie, the part that stands out from the rest of the material the way “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” stands out from the rest of The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle and makes it hard to judge the surrounding landscape; but that may be a poor comparison, and almost certainly is a comparison that mostly only makes sense to me).

So that really doesn’t make up for five days of blogging I didn’t do, but it sort of gets me back in the groove.

And hey, I just noticed that my DVR is not scheduled to record a single thing this week. I am going to have to pass the time somehow, right?

I was looking for something to post about (besides the stuff I’ve been tweeting about all day and the cookies I just burnt!) and I found this survey about ‘the year in fannishness’.

Your main fandom of the year?

I really don’t think I can answer this one because I’ve been all over the place. TV, comics, music, Shakespeare. I’ve had a lot of enthusiasms. Can I just say that I’m a fan of being enthusiastic about things and get away with that?

Your favorite film watched this year?

I saw quite a number of movies this year and truly enjoyed almost all of them (when did I get so easy to please?) Truly, though, the one I loved the most was probably Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. That one was unexpected — I liked but didn’t love the comics and probably wouldn’t have gone to the movie if my friend Johanna hadn’t encouraged it. I just found it so fun and unexpected; I told everybody I knew to go and bought the DVD and have already watched it several times. If I had to pick a movie of the year, I’d probably go with The Town, which was everything I love about crime movies that are secretly about family and feelings and all that ridiculous melodrama. But just for pure “favorite,” I liked Scott Pilgrim even more.

Your favorite book read this year?

Though I’m tempted to pick Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile as my sentimental favorite, the novel that really blew me away was A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. A really sharp and funny and heartbreaking novel about American life (college and war and terrorism and child care) in the early 2000’s. (The book was published in 2009). There are few things I love in fiction more than a strong first-person voice, and for some reason I seem to find these in male narrators more than female, but this book is narrated by a sharp interesting young woman. She also plays bass guitar, which is a total bonus.

Your favorite album or song to listen to this year?

Album would be The ’59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem (which was not new this year but new to me), but my single song is “Birthday Boy” by the Drive-By Truckers. Because this is the year that Mike Cooley decided to write and sing a sassy, poignant, rocking song from the point of view of a female sex worker? Don’t ask me to explain it but here’s the band trying to explain it. Though just hearing Cooley sing it might be the better bet.

Your favorite TV show of the year?

For a show that’s currently airing, Community. Smart and surprising and genuinely funny every week, plus I love that cast. Though if you count previously aired shows I watched this year, I’d have to go with Rome. It’s definitely the one I talked about most anyway. Kind of trashy, to be totally honest, but the costume-y kind of trash where every has British accents and pretends to be talking about smart stuff.

Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

I got into a lot of new bands this year, but the one I kept going back to was The Gaslight Anthem, though as far as the fandom aspect, it was maybe fifty percent the music and fifty percent the chance to listen to Brian Fallon tell ridiculous stories.

Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

I wasn’t unhappy with comics this year, but I was a bit unhappy with the way that basically every comic I would get interested in got cancelled within a dozen issues.

Your TV boyfriend of the year?

I had to check and see if Southland had aired this year, and it did. So yeah, I’ll take Ben McKenzie as Ben Sherman, please. And, ooh, there’s a new season starting in January. Honorable mention to James Purefoy’s version of Mark Antony, and Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries. But Ben goes to the head of the queue for being someone I’d actually want to date.

Your TV girlfriend of the year?

I think I have to go with Olivia Williams as Adele DeWitt on Dollhouse. Yes, yes, she’s an evil mastermind, but since I don’t date women I don’t feel the need to restrict myself to people I would actually go out with. I would just hope to get some of the reflected glow of her amazingness.

Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Either pushing up against the stage at a Lucero concert in Charlottesville (close enough to read the guitar players’ tattoos!) or dancing in my living room to the remastered Darkness on the Edge of Town. You didn’t think I’d leave Bruce out of this altogether did you?

The most missed of your old fandoms?

I think everybody, eventually, wants the comic books from the year they first started reading comics to come back. For me, that’s 2006-2007. Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men, Fabian Nicieza on Cable & Deadpool, Matt Fraction on The Order, everybody on 52. There’s still a ton of stuff that I love going on in comics, but those are the books I first fell in love with and I’ve had bouts of nostalgia.

The fandom you haven’t tried yet, but want to?

Hey, that’s a really good question! I have a lot of things I’ve already started to catch up on but I don’t have in mind anything new I should try. Suggestions?

Your biggest fan anticipations for the New Year?

A few months ago I wouldn’t have been saying this, but Kenneth Branagh’s Thor movie looks badass. Southland is coming back, the Drive-By Truckers have a new CD in February, Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen are doing the big Marvel event, and Springsteen has to tour again at some point, right? Plus, I’ll be seeing a lot of my fandom friends at WisCon in May, and I’m going to try to hit DragonCon in September as well. Lots of happenings there!

I never take days off work in December. I don’t have very far to travel for family holiday visits, and I always figure I’m letting the people who need that time have it, so I can take my vacation time when the weather is nicer and when I really want to take it. This week is testing my resolve though. Fewer people at work with the same amount to do always seems to add up to more work to do, and not being able to do it because no one is around to sign off on anything or take your phone calls. Then you get out of the office at 5:15 and it’s already freaking dark, because this is the longest night of the year. Also, so I hear, both a full moon and an eclipse. Sounds like the recipe for some crazy.

The moon looks nice, anyway.

I think I need to take a week off next year, though. Take it off and go someplace warm, or at least with a fireplace.

I didn’t particularly care for the first live-action Chronicles of Narnia movie that was made a few years ago. It wasn’t exactly a bad movie, and I liked some of the casting choices a lot (though I don’t know if I’ll ever get over shirtless James McAvoy as the faun Tumnus; I have a big ol’ crush on the McAvoy and Mr. Tumnus is not supposed a sexy character, y’all. I can’t emphasize this enough.) Mostly, though, the movie didn’t do very much for me, because, to me, C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is basically a perfect book. Not that it’s necessarily one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it’s a story that lives pretty vividly in my memory and I didn’t really need to see a different version of it. When the sequel, Prince Caspian, came out, I didn’t ever get around to seeing it.

The third movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is out this month, and I decided to go ahead and see it. I don’t remember all that much about that book, but what I did remember (crazy voyages on the high seas!) seemed like it would adapt pretty well to the screen. Plus, though I’d heard that the film took a lot of liberties with the plot, that really wasn’t going to bother me.

So I went to see it today, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if this is really an objective statement of quality (I suspect, objectively, the movie is on the corny and cliched side, the pacing is choppy, and a good deal of what happens doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). Still, this turned out to be exactly what I wanted to see at this moment. It’s a beautiful movie, with all that water and sunshine and a very impressive looking ship in the Dawn Treader. Mostly, though, it’s the kind of quest narrative that I am a sucker for when it hits the right notes. Edmund and Lucy and Eustace and Caspian all need something, are all looking for something, even if they can’t define what it is or if they don’t particularly want to be on the journey. Also, having just spent the weekend with my parents and siblings, I have to be a sucker for a story where sibling relationships (Lucy with Edmund, but also Lucy with the absent Susan, and Edmund with his surrogate brother Caspian, and Eustace who is technically a cousin but actually wants to be a brother, though it takes quite a bit to get him to admit it) form the emotional engine of the story. The movie also passes the Bechdel test, giving Lucy several nice scenes with a young girl who looks up to her the way Lucy is used to looking up to Susan.

Incidentally, it’s kind of jaw-dropping how much Georgie Henley (Lucy) has grown up to look like Anna Popplewell (Susan). This casting lends a real poignancy to Lucy’s desire to be beautiful like her sister. It’s clear to the audience that the sisters look very much alike, so the desire to resemble Susan is something in Lucy’s mind more than a commentary on female vanity (one of the not-so-nice aspects of the novels).

Anyway, I really (and very subjectively) liked the movie; it brought me to tears a couple times. I wish I could have seen it in a double feature with Julie Taymor’s Tempest but it looks like that won’t be opening here for a while. So I ended up coming home to watch the second half of The Two Towers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the orcs are about to storm Helm’s Deep, and this requires my undivided attention.

Today’s post will be brief, because today was our “family Christmas” observance, being the only day that everybody could realistically get together at my parents’ place. “Everybody” being three brothers, one sister, parents, and myself + spouses & kids for a couple of the above. In addition, my youngest brother came with his girlfriend, who it turns out is his fiancee as of Wednesday (this is both unsurprising and surprising, for complicated reasons; when Mom, who is bad at keeping secrets, said “Amanda has something on her hand,” my first reaction was, “Did she get a tattoo?”) Middle brother also brought his relatively new girlfriend, who held up impressively against a barrage of well-meaning but confusing questions (there was a nice stretch that could have been scripted by Saturday Night Live writers when people kept sitting beside her at the table and asking exactly the same question that she had just answered). I heard her tell him, “Oh no problem, it will be much worse when you meet my dad,” which is about the right spirit necessary to deal with this family.

There are a lot of us, and we talk a lot (anybody who spends time with the lot of us tells me they “see where I get it from”); the meme at the dinner table was “THAT would be a great idea for a podcast,” though youngest brother stuck to his assertion that a lot of people would be interested in downloading readings of relevant Wikipedia articles.” I assured him that if he’s ever seen a biopic, the scene where his family makes fun of him would be followed up by his idea becoming a smashing success, so he just has to make it work now.

Gift exchanges happened, and I feel like I got the right present for everybody, which is nice. I also got the Born to Run deluxe edition and Drive-By Truckers’ Southern Rock Opera which deserves a testimonial for the power of the Amazon Wish List. (Though I think the siblings who got the vouchers for ‘one night of free baby-sitting’ from youngest brother and his fiancee were most appreciative. I live too far away from the people with kids, don’t you know, so I gave people CD’s and hopefully it’s all even.)

Family holiday times have tended to blur together over the past few years, and that feels like a good thing. It means we’re all here and things are going reasonably well, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, I still have a week to go until actual Christmas, so it’s nice to let that holiday cheer spread out for a while.

Ahh, dammit. I forgot to post anything today! So in the interest of having something of some kind of substance, I thought I’d list all the books I read this year that I gave 5-stars on GoodReads. This is easier than making some kind of ranked list, although sometimes when I look at my star ratings, I say, “Really, what was I thinking?” But! Assuming that I knew what I was talking about when I ranked them, here are the ‘best’ books I read this year:

Prose division:
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu by Simon Callow
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Komarr/A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller

Comics division
Various volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Pluto by Naoki Urasawa
Irredeemabale by Mark Waid & Peter Krause
Unwritten by Mike Carey & Peter Gross
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
The Losers by Andy Diggle & Jock
Power Girl by Palmiotti, Gray & Conner
Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller & David Mazzuchelli
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Fortune & Glory by Brian Michael Bendis
Avengers: The Initiative – Dreams & Nightmares by Christos Gage & Rafa Sandoval

Looking over that list, I suspect I was a little generous with the 5’s (and also inconsistent — did I really think Catching Fire was better than Wolf Hall or The Passage, which only got 4?)

I think what this rating system reflects most is the books that ended in a way I felt was really satisfying. I tend to fly to GoodReads as soon as I’m done with something, and if I’m glowing with the need to share how awesome something was, I mark it “5”. If I have doubts or hesitations, or am still chewing things over, I might mark it lower than that. So maybe books I have to think about more are penalized. But everything that’s on there, I can pretty much guarantee I enjoyed a lot, so I can’t really nitpick, now — even if some of what I labeled as 3 or 4 star books have stayed with me much more than some of the 5’s.

You can see my entire GoodReads profile here if that kind of thing interests you.

If you had any favorite books this year, you should let me know about them!