Wasatch Cleaning List

16 Jan

Or–how we spent Thanksgiving 2016.

 

—-BATHROOM:
_________________________
-trade bathrm light bulbs
-wash top of med cabinet
-wash mirrors
-wash shelves indie med cabinet
-wash window
-clean window ledge
-clean baseboards
-shower walls
-bottom of bathtub
-scratches in bathtub
-top of door jam
-top of door
-both sides door
-floor
-fill in pin holes

LAUNDRY RM:
______________________
-trade out light bulb
-top of door
-both sides of door
-laundry shelves
-base boards
-especially under laundry shelves on floor/walls
-clean drain
-clean floor
-fill in pin holes

BEDROOM:
_________________
-change out light
-clean light
-clean top of closet
-clean closet mirror
-clean closet shelf
-wipe closet walls
-clean closet floor
-clean window
-clean window shelf
-clean wall below window
-fill in pin holes
-clean baseboards
-clean floors
-clean window

KITCHEN:
_______________
-change out light
-clean fan blades
-clean top of cabinets
-clean inside cabinets
-clean both sides cabinet doors
-clean inside freezer
-wash fridge shelves
-wash walls inside fridge
-wash out fridge drawers
-wash shelves in fridge door
-wash bottom of fridge
-wash fridge/freezer handles
-wash top of fridge
-wash outside freezer/fridge
-wash side of fridge
-backspash
-soak over burners
-wipe top of stove
-wash stove door
-wash counters
-clean sinks
wash front of cabinets
-wash inside drawers
-wash outside drawers
-clean cupboard shelves
-wash both sides cubbord doors
-wash window
-clean window cill
-clean wall under window
-clean kitchen floor
-fill pin holes

LIVING ROOM:
_____________
-fill pin holes
-clean baseboards
-wash window
-clean window shelf
-clean wall under window
-clean living room floor

 

–>  And yes.  Against all odds we DID get our deposit back.  The entire thing!

2016: The High Points-Ranked

3 Jan

There was more bad times then good this year.  Or more accurately, a lot of the bad points overshadowed the good.  Or their were the normal good times, but the daily grind had a lot of negative.  But here, I have happily remembered many of the good.  From awesome to major thrill, here is my Top Moments Countdown:

Honorable mention:  The Trampled by Turtles concert with Lorn Huron as opener.  They put on a wonderful show (see review blog) but the venue totally ruined the whole thing.

trampled-by-turtles

11-Kelly Coffey circuit workouts/running on the trail in the summer

Cool has gained so much ground on this front, and it makes it fun, quality time instead of a chore.  It’s really nice to do it together.  And even though it was very hot (sometimes 104F) we both ran well AND had great attitudes about it.  I hope to continue our fitness stuff for a very long time.

10-Balloon Races/kayak

This went from the top spot last year to 10th!  But not because it was bad or anything.  I packed the car to the brim, but forgot one bag.  The one with all the cute outfits I had lovingly put together over the prior weeks and weeks.  It was a fun trip, as always, but even though there were technically more days IN the visit, we were way more rushed.  We didn’t even get to play yard games!  We have to plan better next time.  And some lady chastised my family when we sat down at Dawn Patrol.  Even though there’s no tickets and no seating arrangement.  She got ugly about it, saying “we’ve been here since 3AM.”  False.  They don’t open the gates until 4 AM, and shove it up your ass, lady.  I had fun, and I always love the balloon races, but we were kinda running around.  Plus, my mom was still recovering from her radiation/surgery.  And my dad was having trouble walking around so much.  We will do it better next visit!

lauurel-remax

9-Cool’s birthday in Park City

I bought Cool (and me) a massage package in Park City.  So we could try out being fancy (that’s not our life).  It was fun, but I just don’t think I’m a massage person.  Example:  They have a sign-in sheet and it asks what you don’t want in the massage.  I wrote “awkwardness.”  My gal was like, what do you mean you don’t want awkwardness?  Long pause.  What is awkwardness to you?”  Umm, THIS conversation.  And there was a hair treatment in the massage.  But that meant either you have to walk around with straight up oil in your wet hair–or shower.  So I had a weird semi-private shower, which I’m never a fan of.  So the massage was good, but I just am not going to submit myself to any more of that.  We did get to window shop in Park City and eat at High West, so that was nice.

boss-moose

8-getting the impossible raise

My worth ethic is unparalleled.  And my department under-pays so there is high turnover.  I ended up doing way more then my share (as I have always done) on a consistant basis.  The difference was, they keep track of checklists, so I saved them and wrote everything down.  Everyone in the company, everyone, everyone gets a standard 40 cent raise at their yearly review.  Everyone.  No exception.  But I worked more so I deserved more.  And I asked for it.  My supervisor said no no straight away.  I persisted that I worked very hard.  And they couldn’t deny that.  So the head of the department said he could try to ask for more, but it had only ever happened on very few rare occasions.  I said we could at least try, and he said he’d talk to his boss, but don’t get my hopes up.  I didn’t.  But the next week, he said I got it!  I got more than the standard 40 cent raise!!!  One of very few–nobody in recent memory.  But then, because he’s a douche and he doesn’t like me (because I caught him red-handed talking shit about me to another random employee AND went to HR about it)  he ruined the moment by saying, “You got lucky.”  No, you mother-fucker, I did not get lucky, I worked hard and earned it.  And Cool further ruined the occasion by picking one of our biggest fights ever.  So this should be higher on this list, but *sigh* other people. . .  I DID buy myself a really nice fitness tracker as a gift to me.  And it is hands free/cord free/phone free music.  Right on my wrist–with no other device necessary.

7-Zoo Brew

Best idea ever!  With or without alcohol.  The zoo put on a 21 and over event, which is genius.  I don’t always want to have kids pushing me, deal with screaming, and have little people running around scaring the animals and tapping on glass.  As long as you look at the zoo before the adults get out of the alcohol lines, you can see the animals before the adults start to exhibit (pun intended) this behavior.  It’s the first time we ever saw the palace cat out, because it was actually quiet.  Love!  And we went to the very first event, so nobody knew if it yet, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  Subsequent events were fun too, but word had spread and it was more crowded.  That May event–perfect!

giraffes-are-tall

6-my birthday:

I went extravegent for my bithday.  Not because it was a milestone year (33) but more because I had a job where I can take (paid) time off.  So I used it to my advantage and did bunches of things all week.  I got my hair dyed special. mussel-shooters-with-quail-egg She took the color out, then did a rinse so it was subtle, purple highlights.  I loved it!  And as soon as I catch up on money, I’ll get that again.  On your birthday you get to eat whatever you want, even if the other person doesn’t like that kind of food.  Cool is a very picky eater, so I always have to go without a lot of foods.  So I chose sushi.  The restaurant was cute, and had a mural and live music too.  I got a whole platter, which I never do, but it was my birthday, and I had to load up from the prior year of no sushi and the next year of no sushi.  And I got mussel shooters, which are fun to eat!  My actual birthday we paid for Red Butte gardens ($13/person and a total rip-off) which is MUCH smaller than Spokane’s free Manito Garden.  I won’t go back lizlard-wave-up-frontunless there’s a free day.  We went to Red Robin’s for lunch, which I wouldn’t choose, but my blood sugar got low and we had no other recourse and Cool panicked and got irritable.  Then we went to an independent theater and saw one of the films that had been at Sundance Film Festival.  It was “Swiss Army Man” see my review.  I liked it, and figured it out, so felt cool.  Then we had a Grapefruit Ballist Point beer on a patio and it was wonderful.  We had planned to go to our library’s coffee and chocolate class but some obnoxious lady sat immediately next to me, wouldn’t stop engaging me, and when she belched in my face I called it quits and walked out early.  Then sent a long complain letter to the event’s organizer–who turned out to be really, really sweet.  Signed us up for the next month’s (super competitive) class, gave me coupons for free coffee at the library shop, and gave me a birthday gift of 4 artisan chocolate bars!  Like, really sweet and very apologetic (that’s not usually my life).  Anyway, so we went to an oyster restaurant instead.  I like oysters, but found the restaurant very over-priced.  The day after my birthday, Cool had paid for an experience at the aviary.  I got to go in a private room with a parrot and a bird trainer.  The bird painted me a picture.  Well,  actually she went dab-dab dab with the sponge then looked for her food treat.  Then saw she had to dab more to get more food, so quickly dab-dab-dabbed in order to get more treats.  I got to take pictures right up next to her and took my painting by her home.  It was really neat to get up close and personal and she was a cute stuff.

painting-with-picaso-birthday

5-Halloween Costumes

We loved the year we were trick-or-treating, and I’ve always loved Halloween.  But usually, one of us is stuck at work.  This year–neither of us were, so we wanted to do something really big.  A couple’s costume!  So on Sundays we brainstormed and brainstormed, and researched, and planned.  The best, easiest thing for us to do was “Lions Tigers and Bears–Oh my!”  We bought more then we wanted, and made some cool accessories.  Then, I face-paintedgracies-contest-004 gracies-contest-026my little heart out!  It took forever, but we looked good.  We had signed up for a fun-theme-run, so we dressed up for that.  And the zombies chased us.  Cool body-slammed a zombie, and outran the children.  At the end, they had voting for best costume.  Except, they forgot to call us up (they said if you think you’ll win just get up there anyway) so we had to push through the crowd–which Cool is never good at.  There was no raised stage or anything, we were just in a parking-lot, and as short people, we were probably obscured to anyone not in the front row.  And the dope-DJ who was running the thing didn’t say our name properly he called us “a lion and a tiger.”  The voting was by audience cheer.  We got second place, but after all the afore-mentioned factors, I think we were robbed!  And I think the first place winners had stacked the crowd.  So we felt we could do better.  When a local restaurant announced they were having a costume contest for cash prizes ($500 Sunday night, $500 Monday night–when it had been one night the year before for $1000) we had to try!  Even though it meant taking time off work.  So I requested a partial day off Sunday (working corporate and having not only paid vacation, but as-needed employees to cover shifts is so nice!) to gracies-contest-025get ready and go.  I did my very best face-painting work and we hung out at Gracie’s waiting for the voting.  And some ten foot tall tree man took our prize!  With some king and queen getting 2nd, and that Tim Burton wig head dude and his gal-friend taking 3rd.  Disagree and disagree.  We should have at least gotten 2nd!  So we tried one more time and dressed up for work on Monday.  Because their was a contest and a secret prize, and our boss encouraged everyone to dress up.  He didn’t encourage us for work-spirit or anything.  That douche is a nerd and his big hobby is making and dressing up in costumes–even though he’s like, 50.  He has a batman, that could legit-be used for one of the movies.  That’s how much time and money and effort he put into it.  That is an old costume of his.  This year, he was working on a Captain Sparrow costume.  Which I thought was only so-so.  How hard is it to get a mscl-halloween-contest-copydred-wig, a sash, and buy tall boots?!  So we thought we’d at least win the work contest and beat him–cause who doesn’t love a group costume?  But alas, our boss won the whole contest.  And some gal painted herself silver and wore deer antlers (big deal) and beat us for 2nd place.  We didn’t even place at all 😦  So we had fun, and looked good, but this didn’t rank higher because nobody knows how to properly judge a contest, and we should have won, but didn’t.

haunted-5k-186

 

 

4-my thousand day in a row mile

I ran so many days-in-a-row that I made it to #1000 this summer!  To commemorate the occasion, I made flyers at work, inviting people.  Even though I knew those duds and douches wouldn’t show, I was excited and there was an off-chance someone might share in that excitement–plus, I could get acknowledgement of my huge accomplishment, and tie it to my resume that way.  As part of the work in-a-row-2event, I made it a coin drive fund-raiser so we could adopt a bird at the aviary.  The money goes towards feeding and care and they give you free aviary passes, a plush of your bird, and a certificate.  Only my supervisor came to my mile, but I really hadn’t expected anyone at all, so that was OK. I wore my running skirt and felt awesome.  And I used our concert window chalk and painted my accomplishment all over Rusty.  On the way from the fundraiser to work, I was stuck in traffic.  I don’t use my air conditioner–ever–in order to save money, so my windows were both down.  I heard a, “I promise I’m not hitting on you.”  Firstly, I didn’t expect it.  Secondly, I thought–that can’t be for ME.  Thirdly, I was like–do I really want to engage with this?  So after a long time, I turned my head, and some guy stuck in the traffic jam beside me, asked, “Did you really run so many days in a row???  That’s cool!”  So that was nice.  While I was at work that night, our Hispanic cleaning gal brought her whole family inside our lab.  They all looked really happy, and they asked if any of us spoke Spanish–none of us do, all of us randomly speak German, if any second language at all.  Her husband had his phone and somehow conveyed that they wanted to buy a car.  I heard “Isuzu” and realized what happened.  They saw all my window paint, but couldn’t read English.  So they assumed I was selling my beautiful Rusty for $1000, and they were ready to take it that night!  I was like, “No, no,no, not for sale.”  And they looked very disappointed.  And everyone in my lab teased me that I broke their hearts for the rest of that week.  Only like 3 people at work donated to the coin drive (I TOLD you I work with duds) but 2 of them donated $20s.  So we got to adopt a bird for $50.  I chose a black vulture 1) because vultures are important to our world and Andy N. Condor has enlightened me to their cuteness and cause. 2) Little Chewy and Vader of Tracy Aviary didn’t have any sponsors for 2016, and that made me sad for them.  3)  Our lab is SO vulture!   We are the clean-up crew of the medical industry as we have to sniff out mistakes and correct them.  We deal with icky samples.  And–we’re all anti-social and sort of put-down upon by the hoity-toity management and the super-social client services and phlebotomists.   I hung the flyer, the certificate/facts, and the vulture plush in the lab.  Everybody likes it and we named out vulture plush, Culture, which is appropriate for us.

1000th-mile-in-a-row-003

3-Brandi’s concert

Brandi always makes our list.  She always puts on an exciting show that you come away from amped up.  But the venue was awesome!  We were right in the middle of the Deer Valley bunny area, with mountains and trees all around.  And Park City is always fun–we of course snuck into their mini Arts-Fest (only for 2 min) and ate beer cheese pretzels and drank cocktails at our fave- High West.  It also made it the best time because we packed our own tailgate and pic-nic.  We had greek pitas, watermelon-rum slushees, salads and s’mores in (separate) mason jars.  It was delicious, and topped off the day nicely.  Oh, and we got the very best parking spot where we could exit the concert first, and easily, because one of the Deer Valley maintenance workers gave us a good tip.

brandi-date

2-Utah Arts Festival

It was bigger and better then I ever expected!  There were booths where we got to see SLC’s creative side.  The live music was cool, and we got to see Beats Antique–a legit band that made my countdown–at the end, right in the park.  The highlight of the day was getting a sampling of foods from there different food trucks.  And we came home with Rogue Bear and a beautiful pinned moth.

power-lunch

1.rodeo

We wanted to do something on our holiday weekend, but didn’t know what exactly.  At that time, we lived right pioneer-days-rodeowithin walking of downtown, but lots of things were closed, and nothing pioneer-days-rodeo-2016spectacular was going on.  But they do convert the whole arena each year for “Pioneer Days Rodeo.”  We thought we’d go check it out and kill some time.  We both wore our best cowgirl outfits and walked down.  Out front we stumbled on to a signing!  It was my dream at pretty much every event I’ve ever attended to have a meet and greet with the main person, but that’s not my life.  And here, we were standing in the middle of a meet & greet, but we didn’t know who any of the rodeo people were. . .  Still, the main guy invited us to get autographs, gave us a magazine to get signed, we had hats for them to sign.  They talked, and took pictures.  Everyone was really nice!  And inside the rodeo we had a lot of fun and excitement watching all the events.  We had no idea we would like the rodeo so much!  We had SO much fun that while we were sitting in the stands, we used my phone to buy tickets for the next evening as well.

 

So that’s the best of 2016, and I look forward to an very very much better 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 in Review: The Bad–and there was plenty

2 Jan

what a shit-show

Lots of bad stuff happened all year.  Cool’s mom died which caused a cascade of bad reactions and terrible events.  Cool’s bipolar was off the heezy, up and down and up and further up–making life complex and terrible.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo surgery and radiation.  My dad was diagnosed with early Parkinson’s Disease.  Those events aren’t in my countdown, because even though they sucked–they aren’t MY events to claim.  But they did negatively affect me.

 

Here’s how 2016 started:  I had to work on New Year’s Eve 2015.  Of course either everyone else either planned ahead and took the day off, or called out sick.  But I was still in my first 90 days, so I wasn’t yet eligible for any time off.  So it was me and my supervisor for half of it.  Till she coerced another co-worker to come in by reminding him that he wouldn’t get paid for the holiday if he didn’t show up to the shift immediately proceeding it.  This was typical stuff for my work history–I was used to Noh’s Ark 20s-something shenanigans.  While I was at work, Cool was getting her drink on.  Mind you, we had been abstinent for 2 whole years.  And we had not discussed adding alcohol back into our lives–she just grabbed it impulsively.  And drank it.  Even though she was home alone.  Long story short, by the time I rushed home from work for the countdown, Cool had already over-done it, was tired, then went to puke.  And she vomited, not down in the toilet, but from above–so it got everywhere!  It was the bad omen that started 2016.

vomit

The year went on like that–one thing after another.  I spent a lot of time writing my music blog.  I spent a ton of time editing pictures, writing descriptions, and putting in order–my good moments of 2016.  These moments sucked.  I’m tired of thinking about them-tired of dwelling on them.  I’ll quick-write these and be done.  I’m worn down from 2016, and hoping for a very tranquil 2017.

 

 

 

 

Bottom Moments:

9-I got a flu.  For the first time I can remember–aside from childhood sicknesses.  My fever lasted 5 days!  I was miserable.  I lost a week of unpacking and errands.

8-I got the impossible raise by negotiating.  This one hurts because it should have been such a GOOD moment.  But then my boss ruined my moment by being an ass.  He doesn’t like me and makes no bones about it.  He wished his favorite employees had earned the big raise instead, and resented the fact my pay is so high now.  He said, “You got lucky.”  Ummm, nice.  What a douche!  Also, Cool ruined my celebration by picking a fight–one of our biggest fights ever.  Not awesome.

7-The moving process, because it is always a headache.  We had to hire movers because the washer/dryer unit weighs 240 pounds.  Nothing is simple when you are moving from a basement to a third floor unit 35 minutes away.  Cool works days and I work nights so we had to work alone.  And then, I hated the stupid, non-functional layout of the new apartment, and not being able to unpack.  What a money-pit.

6-Our cute neighborhood with so much potential suddenly went downhill.  It went from quiet with tons of potential to ghetto and dangerous in about three weeks.  A homeless family made camp in our apartment’s parking lot.  People started walked by, peering into our living room window, casing the joint.  The police started showing up to various units routinely (see blog).  Starting to feel unsafe walking from my car to the apartment when I got home in the early morning hours felt awful.  Knowing the owner didn’t care about our safety and wellbeing, and wasn’t going to do anything to improve the situation was frustrating.  And learning that no one else could help us, because it was private property felt hopeless.

5-Cool got in a 6x roll-over accident and totaled her car.  But she lived.  It’s a miracle.  Except it happened 1 week before we moved!  The timing for it was the worst.  And I had to call out sick twice as a result of the crash, possible head injury, then her anxiety about it.  And now, I have to do all the shopping, all the errands, and take her to the pharmacy and anywhere else she needs to go.

4-working with effing lazy people every day.  Doing way more then my share of the work–every day.  Seeing my lazy co-workers be–lazy.  Resentment.  Getting held hostage by slowness of coworkers despite doing all the work.  Going home late in every scenario.  Being tired all the time.  Starting the next shift tired, and doing all the work (tired) again, in the hopes of leaving earlier and getting more sleep.  Failing at this night after night.  Really got me down.

3-Working with Catty.  I started dreading work every Monday.  I didn’t want to talk at work.  I didn’t want to stand up at any time, lest be judged by her.  I didn’t want to turn my head.  I felt self-conscious.  We had to trade recs and it was horrible.  She was a bitch and made me feel small and edgy.  She was my boss’ friend.  She had been there much longer and knew everyone.  She hated me.

2-Cool ambushed me.  And I found out she had gone “Mean Girls” against me for quite some time.  I broke up with her and kicked her out of the apartment.  Then, I had to work with the bitch (the afore-mentioned Catty) who initiated the whole thing–every Monday.  Sitting immediately sitting next to her, and having to trade requisitions to verify stressed me out!  Cool was ridiculous, and everything was tumultuous.  Suddenly, I felt very alone in Utah–in the world.  I was furious, and knew she was being THE WORST, yet my heart hurt.

1-window harassment (because the fear lasted longer then Cool’s ambush).  When someone started harassing us by knocking on our bedroom window several times, it was time to go.  I lay awake at night listening, anticipating with dread someone coming back, and breaking in.  I heard sounds, saw lights.  I had to plan what to do if someone got in when we weren’t home.  When we were sleeping.  While I was alone.  When Cool was home alone.  We had so much dread.  It was awful.  And in a horrible year of a lot of big, awful events–it was the worst.  By just a little bit.

2016 Albums

1 Jan

Here is my annual countdown of top albums.  I actually kept up on it throughout the year, and things are much better researched as a result.  I tried to listen to all the big name artists and my favorite artists as they came out in 2016.  And if I had extra time, I listened to genres I like or names I thought sounded cool, or whatever Spotify suggested.  This might be my best work yet!  From last 2016 album that made the cut, to my top choice for 2016’s album of the year:

 

26.  Melissa Etheridge:  I was pretty surprised myself at how far down the list her album felt.  The main problem?  Trying too hard, and it’s a pretty grave error.  I gave leniency to artists who tried something different (and fell a little short), who only came away with 1 or 2 songs I liked, or who just kinda did the same thing they’ve always done and sounded boring as a result.  But Etheridge, is lower, because it’s like she feels a little washed up and is insecure.  I liked “Born Under a Bad Sign” but it’s a cover and let’s face it, Homer Simpson sings that like a boss.  Melissa needs to regain confidence, have a message again, and regain some passion.

25.  Alicia Keys:  I wanted to like it.  I like the stripped down, no makeup cover.  I like the message of empowered women.  I did not, however, and unfortunately, really like the album.  I wanted it to be more piano-driven.  I wanted more range in the singing.  I wanted it to be a little softer.  What I got was a LOT of 1990’s throw-back, complete with pseudo telephone call interlude and everything.  I got a toughness.  I got disappointed.  I didn’t hate “Blended Family” and I thought “Pawn It All” with it’s soul/blues vibe was the stand-out song.

24.  Bon Iver- Experimental and jarring.  I liked the last albums because it was calming and relaxing.  This one is definitively-NOT.  I can see he was trying to do some avant-garrd electronic, but the music lost it’s dreamy, meditative quality in the process.

23.  Bruce Springstean:  I like this album better than I like his other stuff (not at all).  It sounds like a blue-collar worker that just got off a double shift and stepped up on the kariokee stage–a beer in hand, of course.  It’s gritty and rugged.

 

–>>We’re entering the neutral zone.  Nothing really BAD, but not super-interesting either<<——-

22.  Gavin DeGraw:  I can hear influences of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.  It’s OK, but DeGraw needs to find his own voice.

21.  The Head and the Heart:  I saw these guys open for Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge one year.  And I don’t remember a thing about them.  This album is much the same.  There is nothing wrong with the music.  It’s pleasing, it’s plesant enough, it’s fine.  It’s just hardly worth mention.

20.  Hank Williams:  This bawdy tavern album should precede this fictional evening of frightened rabbits.  It’s amped up, energetic, and rowdy–as it should be.  Nothing new here though.  One Trick Pony.

19. Frightened Rabbits:  It’s Irish music after the party.  When everyone has passed their drinking limit, and the raucous singing and jigging is done, and people are passing out or crying.  Still an integral part of the scene, but certainly not the upbeat story of the beginning of the night.

18. Brittany Spears:  Is ever the perky, dancy pop star in this new (and every previous) album.  This time she seems to have more command.  The lyrics indicate she’s taking control and will not be pushed around.  The tracks are intentional.

17.  Dawes- Easy-listening.  It’s good background with nothing wrong about it.  The reason it doesn’t rank higher, is that it also has nothing particularly interesting about it either.

16.  Elton John:  I have always liked Ser John, from the crazy-saucy 1970’s-1980’s sing-alongs to the quieter, more reserved “Peachtree Road” and “The Diving Board” CD’s.  This album falls in with the more subdued fare, and that’s fine.  But compared to the previous 2 albums, it’s a little. . .  Dare I say, boring.

15.  Kings of Leon- Hipster rock.  It’s a staple.  It’s good in the car.  It reminds me of Seattle.  This album is a good effort-though there’s not a “Sex on Fire” stunner ready for radio.  “Around the World” does come closest to main-stream appeal.

14.  James Vincent McMorrow:  This music is chill.  Good for background.  It’s the type of album you would play for a quiet dinner party or to relax in the tub.  It’s the vibe Bon Iver used to be–before all that experimental SOUND intruded.

13.  Sum 41:  What a surprise entry!  I did not expect much from this band-a decade past its peak.  I was happily pleased to hear a still punkish, but more mature set.  “The Fall and the Rise” rivals anything by Green Day.  It’s throbbing beat and rebel lyrics really open up the album and made me want to hear more.  “War” is another winner.

12.  Lady Gaga:  I can’t decide if I’m inspired or annoyed by Lady Gaga’s career directory.  She ripped off the Club Kid dress code, introducing it to the mainstream as if it were her own.  And now she’s shamelessly stealing Madonna’s singing arc, going from pop hits, to more serious fare.  It’s a good recipe for longevity, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to hear her more serious side (and see her business acumen in action).  And I stand by my opinion that the Superbowl’s national anthem was awful–even if I’m the only one alive who thinks that.  But it did help to contribute to the new image of maturity this album is going for.  The standout track on Joanne is most certainly “Million Reasons” which shows Lady Gaga isn’t just photo-worthy, but has inspiring lyrics and a good voice.  Bottom line-once you get used to the fact the party-phase is over, this album is a sturdy offering.

11.  OneRepublic-  They used to be one of my new favorite bands.  I thought the songs were catchy and I liked the Native American flair of the last album.  Except this album is SO electro-pop.  A total copy-cat of Daft Punk–who I don’t think are that great.  Yeah, I said it.  I think Daft Punk is over-hyped.  And ‘Oh My My’ is is rip off of that.  Still, this review isn’t a dislike–it’s just relative to previous works and other music on this list.  Despite my harsh criticisms, I do like several of the songs.  “Lift Me Up,” NbHD,” “Wherever I Go,” are catchy, and “Better” a Twenty-One Pilots-eske electro-pap (that’s the word I coined for pop-rap) gets stuck in my head every time I hear it.

10.  Green Day-  It’s a little wrote.  Maybe they’re past their prime.  And certainly if the band is still considered (sell-out) punk, it’s barely.  But they were one of the first bands I liked, they are one of the most continuously good producers of music, and there are a few stand out tracks.  “Bang Bang” is saucy and hard-core, probably the most punk on the album, and maybe for the last few albums.  My favorite track, and the best political statement is, “We Live in Troubled Times,” which in light of this Trump victory is a spotlight to current events, and a prophecy of the future.  “Revolution Radio” and “Still Breathing” are catchy.  The rest are a little tired, but in a dearth of (main-stream) punk artists–still relevant.

9.  The Avett Brothers:  This album feels more. . .  Communal.  It’s a sort of folksy, around-the-campfire sound.  “Satin Pulls the Strings” has the rock that I look for with The Avvett Brother’s material, but the rest of the tracks were a little lighter fare.  Like they have mellowed a little–or are trying to break into that Americana Grammy category.  “Divorce Seperation Blues” with the yodelling, harkens a Dude Ranch weekend–whimsical, yet relevant to today.  I think this is one of theose albums, that you grow an appreciation for the more you listen.  And the nature of this list is sort of listen once and rate.  I think I’ll like it more and more when I’m not judging for a countdown.

8.  The Lumineers:  I’ll be honest–I expected more.  Don’t get me wrong, ‘Cleopatra’ is listed toward the top of this list for a reason.  I just really, really liked the acoustic partially-bluegrass sounds of their last album.  But all that’s gone.  The bluegrass portion of the music, anyway.  It has that stripped down feel, and unpolished sound that has been secretly perfected.  But the foot tapping aspects are no more.  Still, “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra” are catchy, radio-worthy high points of the record.

–>  getting good<–

7.  Michael Buble:  We all know Buble is my boyfriend.  And I think his business plan of jumping into an empty genre, and pandering to the middle-aged women is a genius.  But I was torn this year.  I couldn’t decide if the album was–too much pandering and disengenuine, or the result of a true passion for the almost forgotten swing genre.  It goes pretty far to the Sinatra crooning sound.  I had to take some points off his ranking because the answer to that question wasn’t quite clear to me.  But if he does MEAN it, the album is another great work.  But certainly intent matters, here.  My favorite song, is “I Wanna be Around,”  which I could not tell at first if it was a love song or a break up song.   Another strong song is the “Nobody But Me, alternate version with trumpet.”

6.  Panic!  At the Disco:  High energy!  This album is certainly a rejuvenation for the band.  I don’t follow the band members, but the sound leads me to believe a major life obstacle has just been surmounted.  Everything feels new and hopeful and exciting.  I originally heard one of the tracks in Lake Tahoe, and I felt like I was behind the times.  Because it seemed like the song had already broken out ages ago–which was not the case.  It just FELT like I missed the boat, because this is one of those albums, then when you listen to it, makes you cooler than you actually are.  Also, with original ideas over sampled tunes, this is the newest album, that seems like a familiar, old friend.  Each song could be a single.  This is a party album, a running mix, and a car-trip standby.

5.  Adele:  Everything you expect from Adele:  The soulful sound, pitch-prefect singing, that longing voice conveying heart ache.  It’s a solid effort, and yes, even though “Hello” has been parodied to death–I still think it’s the stand-out track.  “River Lea” is also really nice

4.  Lukas Graham:  A new artist, but so good that the album made my best albums of 2016 list.  The first weekend I heard this self-titled album, by this Denmark native, I was ready to make it the number 1 album of 2016.  It’s good.  I love it.  It’s different–piano, rap, R&B, blues, rock and soul can all be heard.  The singing holds up, and can almost feel gospel.  The lyrics tell a story, and it feels spiritual.  My only negative is that the music doesn’t stand up to the test of time for one reason only.  I guess America isn’t as family-oriented as many countries, because after a bit, the common mention of family got a little distracting and. . .  Tiresome?  It isn’t like close family ties are boring or annoying to hear about, but Graham mentions his family in nearly every song–and it IS just this side of too much.  But that’s a small complaint.

3.  Regina Spektor:  I usually have to be in a certain mood to listen to Specktor.  And who doesn’t hate that damned, SUPER-long “Orange is the new Black” intro that goes on and on and on while showing creepy pieces of weird faces?!  I can’t STAND that, and after like a full 5 minutes it sucks the life right out of me.  Especially during a binge-watching marathon–which, P.S. there is no other way to watch the series.  We have the fast-forwarding down to a science, and I implore Netflix to only show the intro on the first episode of a season.  Because HATE!  Anyway, Specktor, or re-GINA (rhymes with female anatomy) as I call her can get too wail-ey and spoken word poetry for me.  Normally.  I really thought her newest album overcomes all that and is female music without being too much.  “Bleeding Heart” could even be a radio single.

–>great!<–

2.  Beats Antique-  A coworker played this, introducing me to the world music, circus, jazz electronic, that I believe has technically been around for years and years already.  And as I’ve listened more and more in 2016, I feel like I’ve already been a fan for years and years.  The music just attaches in your psyche and resonates.  I saw them in concert, and thought their stage show was severely lacking–especially for such an experienced and well traveled band.  While the music calls for tigers jumping through hoops, cobras in baskets, and belly dancers, the best they did was stand holding a golden hoop.  At any rate, I hope they go mainstream.  This album is worldly and electronic, and experimental as ever–like you’d hope.  But it also harkens back to Jazz and Blues and makes you feel like you’re sitting in a dark corner of Louisiana enjoying a hurricane.

1. Kaleo:  Technically, should be listed under best new artist, but was so great they made it to my best overall album of the year list.  Well-rounded and singable, but also seriously substantial.  I love “Way Down We Go” with such obvious gospel influence is the leading single.  The band is fun to listen to, but by no means lighthearted fare.  It inspires thought.  Take “Broken Bones” with its folksy, chain-gang feel.  It makes me look to history, and acknowledge the fact that music is one of the few places where black people have carved out a platform to talk about their lives, challenges, and political concerns.  Rap music didn’t just stem from nowhere.  “Automobile” hearkens back to that 1970s story-telling song vibe.  And it’s got a catchy hook also.  “All the Pretty Girls” sounds like Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow, in that it’s quiet and sweet.  But I think it’s more catchy than those artists with it’s get-it-stuck-in-your-head ‘won’t you lay me down’ chorus.

 

Best New Artist in 2016

31 Dec

Countdown to the Best New (to me) Artist of 2016:

14. Cat’s Eyes- 1950’s type pop that reminds me of Linda Gore.

13. Moose Blood- Best band name, but a little bit of a depressing sound. Not bad, just a little more down then I usually gravitate toward. I would listen to another one of their albums.

12. Banks- Tough-gal, with R&B flavor and club beat.

11. The Brothers Osborne: Country and feisty. These songs WILL get stuck in your head.

10. Girl Blue- Clearly someone to keep your eye on. There is so much potential here. “Call Me Home” is soft and sweet, “One and Only” is tough and strong. I can’t wait to see where she goes, I don’t think this will be the last we hear of Girl Blue.

9. Shovels & Rope- The frenetic pace of the music is amped up and interesting. They would have rated higher if the singing was a little more pleasing. It sounds like loud talking, really. But the music is different and makes up for the shout-sings–mostly.

8. Maren Morris- The recording quality is poor, like, really, really bad-probably the worst on this list. It sounds like someone sitting in a bar held their phone up and then uploaded it. It’s sort of hollow and 1980s cassette tape–taped over a few times. The quality of the work itself is nice though. I find Morris’ lyrics and singing refreshing. “My Church” is one of my favorite tracks and speaks to how a passion can be almost spiritual. I don’t know if she writes all of her own songs, but she wrote at least one, “Second Wind” that Kelly Clarkson recorded. I like how the songs are country, but saucy. See “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry” a poem on raising your standards as a female. It’s progressive ideas in a country format–I like it!

7. The Mowgli’s- I think they may have had a prior album–but I don’t think I’ve heard anything from it. This album is sort of a soft-country crossed with Hansen sometimes (“Alone Sometimes”) and The Plain White Tees (“Arms & Legs”) other times.

6.  Shawn Mendes- Maybe he was around in 2015 and earlier, it sure seems like his “stiches” song has been at least. But I don’t know if the whole album was out earlier, or if the single dropped very early in 2016. At any rate, I see great potential here. It’s like a more mature Bieber. And “Air,” “No Promised,” and “Bad Reputation” grab you instantly.

5. The Ballroom Thieves- The background instrumentation is really the star here. There is a cello? It lends a resonant, interesting sound to the trend of going hipster-bluegrass. Don’t get me wrong, hipster-bluegrass is probably my favorite genre right now, but bands shouldn’t be doing it only to break in the business or get into a smaller awards category.

4. NEEDTOBREATHE- Let me get this out of the way first–I hate when artists use mispellings, all caps, symbols, numbers, or other nonsense in their name. All caps, one word? Sigh. But the sound is Kings of Leon meets Fall Out Boy in a church choir. It’s kinda hipster, with roack and gospel. I especially like “Happiness” with it’s churchy vibe, “Don’t Bring That” that sounds like music played in a car chase, and “Great Night” feat Shovels & Rope.

3. American Authors- Bouncy, happy, and just enough electronic to suit the Millennials.

2. Tim Moxam- Hipster country. Gentle strumming, and an old school country singing style. It’s right up my alley. “Harvest for the Queen” is so great of a song! It’s poetry on guitar.

1. The Heavy- My favorite new artist of 2016! Check out “Big Bad Wolf” and tell me you’re not a fan too. It’s interesting and upbeat. “Short Change Hero” addresses sociology in a catchy way. They sound like a cross between CeeLo Green and Lord Huron. A little bit hipster, a teeny bit motown. It’s a really good mix, and I can’t wait for more.

2016: Best Songs

28 Dec

Singles selected by me.  Some true singles, others culled from an album, some artists you know, many you don’t.  All my opinions.

-“American Woman” Ghostbusters Soundtrack by Muddy magnolias- A march and a rap and a call to feminism.  I’d like to see the Muddy Magnolias’ other works.

-“Back to the Light” Giraffe Tongue Orchestra-  I WANTED to love this band, because the name is adorable and I can just see the merch possibilities.  It’s a little too screamy for my taste though.

-“Broken Bones” CRX- Has a good beat and a sound sorta like OK Go, with that hollow-echo type sound.

-“Can’t Let You Do It” Eric Clapton-  Like hearing jazz on the train.  It’s a little soulful, but just chugs along.

-“Company of Strangers” Third Eye Blind- I remember Third Eye Blinds glory days in the 1990s.  And I really wanted to like their new album–after all, I didn’t know they were a thing anymore.  Alas, they are not.  The album was largely washed up, plain, and irrelevant.  But out of it I did pluck this song.  Strong rock roots, some nice lyrics, and a good chorus.

-“Don’t Wanna Know” Maroon 5 feat Kendrick Lamar-  I admit it, I’m not super in the Lamar fan club.  I find it chipmunkee, Alvin without the sass.  Also I feel like Maroon 5 has pre-douche and post douche songs, the before and after point that Adam Lambert thought he was the shit.  This is kinda a nice little song, but it isn’t really Maroon 5, and is most definitely POST-douche.

-“The Entertainer” KT Tunstall- I liked when Tunstall was writing songs that drag queens were belting out at Pride.  This is no “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” which is sort of a let down.  A quiet reprieve is fine for an artist, but I’m ready for her to get back to it, already.

-“F*** Apologies” Jojo feat Wiz Khalifa- With lyrics that go, “And honestly I was just about to pick up the phone, and then I realized that I di int do nothing wrong, what you want from me, I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it”.  It’s Jojo at her cheekiest.  I’m happy to see her more empowered.  And of course I love a break up song.

-“Galveston” Jeffrey Martin-  Quiet Mellencamp.  This song is poetry in tune.  It’s more about the words than the singing.  It’s a little depressed, but it’s a story depth.

-“Glory”Donny MaCaslin- Good jazz, heavy on the trumpet.  Not too fussy, but a little erratic as jazz should be.

-“Heart in a Cage” Chris Thile- has some acoustic-type country-strumming.  Is sort of that hipster bluegrass I’ve been liking lately.  Also, some nice lyrics and syncopation.

-“Jungle” Saint Mesa- I’d listen to more.  It has some singing, and rain-forest-sound breakdown, and a half-speed-rap.

-“I’m Not Afraid” (Ghostbuster’s Theme) Fall Out Boy feat Missy Elliott-  It’s a good update to the initial release.  Maybe not AS catchy, but what could be?  And Elliott, as always, sounds exactly the same.

-“I’m Sixteen” Dolly Parton- She’s sassy, it’s a feminist message, and there’s a deep base vocal in the background.  This is why we love Dolly no matter how old she gets.

-“Kill ’em with Kindness” Selena Gomez- What is this percussion called?  This is one of the 3 popular drum lines that I hear in EVERY song in the top ten lists.  And I feel like this genre, (R&B, electro-pop, dance–whatever it is) has overwhelmed mainstream music as of late.  And I’m not that into it.  It’s not bad, just not what I gravitate toward.  I like the message of this song (and the random whistling).

-“Little Spoon” Grover Anderson-  The next country love song.  It may be this decade’s “Forever and Ever, Amen” or “Remember When.”  We’re talking, sweet love song–and it just might be my favorite single this year.

-“Love My Life” Robbie Williams- I feel sorry for Robbie Williams.  I feel like he keeps searching for a genre he can excel in, but the search goes on and on.  He tried rock, did electronic, dipped into swing (before realizing Michael Buble is unstoppable in that arena), and now has slumped into the dregs of spiritual music.  The lowest of the low expectations.  It’s barely mainstream music anymore–like giving up.  This song, itself is very uplifting and I like the message, but I’m afraid this might be the last nail in the coffin of Williams’uncertain, meandering career.

-“Love on Me” Galantis-  Touches of Calypto here, some chipmunk distortion there, it’s a pure-pop lovely.

-“Might as Well be Gone” The Pixies- A breaking up sort of tune.  Sometimes discordant just like the subject matter, but lovely (if not bleak) singing.

-“Move Me” Sara Watkins- Like Lisse without so much anger.  Strong singing.

-“Nights” Snow the Product feat w. Darling- Seems like a smart gal, and it’s a rap.

-“Nothings Over” Young the Giant-  The song feels a little operatic.  Or in the same vein as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” without the cheesiness and theater.  It’s 4-plus minutes, and it is serious.

-“Please Don’t Go”Joel Adams- Humming, there’s something we don’t hear enough these days.  This song has it, and it’s a good, please stay song.  Very sweetly sung.

 

-“Shout Out to My Ex”Little Mix- It’s an upbeat hate song.  It’s all about moving on and moving up.  Uplifting with just enough trash to make me happy–and make me laugh a lot.

-“Somethin’ Bad” Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood-  Best duet of 2016!  Maybe in country music.  It’s about these two sass-lasses worked together.  The result is nothing short of awesome.  Let’s see a whole album together!

-“The Stage” Avenged Sevenfold- hard, amped-up, and all with a Spanish finish–it’ one to jam out to.

-“Thick of It” Mary J Blige-  Sometimes Mary is too much.  This is not one of those times.  She speaks the truth and keeps it real without going Mary-mode.

-“Too Good” Drake feat. Rhianna-  It’s a good break up song, and you know how I always like those.

-“Tragedy” Norah Jones- I usually don’t care for Jones that much.  I find her a little boring.  But this track is jazzy and bluesy in a way that I like.

-“Universe of Life” Feeder- A hard-rock edge to a Nervana-type 1990’s Seattle sound.  It works, especially with the break-down sections.

-“Wind & Anchor” The National Parks- Like sitting in a drum circle on the beach, singing together about an unwanted, impending break-up.

-“Writing on the Wall” Bear’s Den- It’s like Postal Service, but less brit.  I like the song, but I like the name of the band better, and I hope they do great things because I’ll bet their merch is outstanding!

-“You & Me” Marc E. Bassy- That awkward moment when you run into your ex.  Sung with rap/R&B/reggae flair.

-“Zillionaire” Flo Rida- This was still great to dance to, and made me want more!

The Road review: A meandering trip to nowhere

22 Dec

Pulitzer Prize or not, I didn’t like it.

If I (wrote this) turned this in as assignment it would be marked down and handed back full of red.  Firstly, there is hardly any punctuation in the whole book.  The reader has a difficult time even determining who is saying what.  It’s distracting.  But bigger then that, the basic questions, who-what-where-when-why are not answered.  The text isn’t fleshed out.  The plot is non-existent–there’s no arc here.  Not in the story, not in there characters.  There are GRE words, but no detail.  Using big words doesn’t make something good writing.  And this is not–there I said it!

Sometimes I feel like things that are difficult to understand make people feel like they SHOULD understand them.  And people will give accolades and praise, because they feel there MUST be a deeper message, but are embarrassed they didn’t ‘get it’.  I’m looking at you “Jacob’s Ladder,” and “Lost Highway.”  Well, sometimes things don’t make complete sense, because the author didn’t do good work.  They didn’t put any pieces together.  There IS no answer.  I think this is one of those works.  It’s unfinished, but because it’s written with large words and a smooth voice, people think THEIR comprehension is the problem, not the writing.

It doesn’t tell us what caused the apocalypse–or when.

The book doesn’t say where they are, or even allude to it.  I think they’re in North America, but I really had no clues.  The man and boy speak English, so they could be nearly anywhere.  The boat has Spanish, which could be almost anywhere, but maybe Mexico, South America, Spain, or since it’s a boat, just travelers.  They are by an ocean.  We are not told any cues for which one.  Is it even a real place?  It’s a cop-out not to include this information, because in this desolate world it no longer matters.

The book doesn’t inform us the names of the characters, their ages, or their backgrounds.  Again, even if identities are stripped, and this information doesn’t matter in this bleak new situation, it’s a cop-out not to include it.  I don’t find that justification enough just to skip it–that’s lazy writing.

I’m guessing the boy is about six?  Because he still openly cries, which boys don’t do for very long, but he’s a little bit independent in that he can walk by himself.  And the man is very handy, cares about the boy, and has a will to survive, but other than that we are told very little about him.  And why is he coughing?

The superficial dealing with his mother is obviously just so the reader doesn’t wonder why she’s out of the picture, but hardly does her justice.  P.S. what kind of patriarchal book portrays a mother who would kill herself leaving her young son behind?  I don’t think very many women would do that, caring husband/father or not.  She’d either stay or euthanize the boy too.

The dialogue is sparse and stilted.  And I don’t think it’s very realistic.  Kids usually chatter on, and ask tons of questions.  I would think if you had all the time in the world, you’s do nothing but talk to each other.  But I guess it’s supposed to show how–what’s the point?

Nothing happens.  And the things that do happen, are repetitive.  They walk.  They see some sort of house/shelter/boat in the distance.  The boy is scared and doesn’t want to go.  The man goes in and looks for things in order to survive.  They come away with some meager supplies, old food, and new clothes or blankets.  They wash, eat, sleep, then walk again.  Repeat.  Who cares?  Why would the audience care?

The plot doesn’t go anywhere.  What’s the point?

I feel like this is probably one of those books you have to study in class.  The boy is supposed to represent good.  The man represents maybe humanity or survival/ingenuity or doubt of man or tenuousness of life?  The gray waves are a symbol of the bleak foreverness they are in.  The ash is destruction, nothingness, and bleak.  Is it worthwhile to persist in living?  And there are many God undertones.

I gather the subtext is more important than the story itself (which is fairly pointless).  BUT I wasn’t studying the book, didn’t have a guide, and didn’t really ‘get’ the subtext’s message.  So I didn’t love it.

I wrote the above before trying to find an analysis.  I wanted my opinions and judgments to be uncolored by “answers.”  And one of the first things I read, I’ve pasted below because I whole-heartedly agree.

 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6288.The_Road

The Road is unsteady and repetitive–now aping Melville, now Hemingway–but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.

In ’96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. He wrote a conclusion that would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.

The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of these trusted judges. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Unlike Sokol, McCarthy didn’t do it purposefully, he just writes in an ostentatiously empty style which is safe and convenient to praise.

Many have lauded his straightforward prose, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road:

“He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.

Then they set out down the road again.”

Simple? Yes. Precise and purposeful? Hrdlt. The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary descriptions is not straightforward, but needlessly complicated.

We’re supposed to find this simplicity profound–that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, making the old seem new, showing the importance of everyday events–but McCarthy isn’t actually changing the context, he’s just restating. There is no personality in it, no relationship to the plot, no revealing of the characters.

Perhaps it is meant to show their weariness: they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate boredom to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.

Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville:

“The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.”

There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. In another sentence he describes‘dead ivy’, ‘dead grass’ and ‘dead trees’ with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them ‘shrouded in a carbon fog’–which sounds like the world’s blandest cyberpunk anthology.

Another example:

“It’s snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom.”

McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville’s theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy’s is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like “There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within”.

Often, McCarthy’s gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class:

“. . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.

People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . .”

I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I’d almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov’s first law, since his awkward prose harms human ears.

Sometimes, smack in the middle of a detailed description of scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.

One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is ‘don’t just add big words because you can’, it’s self-indulgent and doesn’t really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book–more textual flotsam for us to wade through.

The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself–it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.

It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don’t know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what ‘The Road’ was about (it was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, with a busfull of nuns hiding a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.

Without mentioning specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps up, neat and tight. It certainly bears out McCarthy’s admission on Oprah that he “had no idea where it was going”when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac.

As you may have noticed from the quotes, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn’t. The most complex mark is the a rare comma. It’s not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, either—he fills up on conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn’t bother to mark any of them.

He also doesn’t use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it’s just another snatch of ‘poetic license’, and then determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited to a ridiculous scene.

It’s not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same:

Father: Do it now.
Son: I’m scared.
Father: Just do it.
Son: Are we going to die?
Father: No.
Son: Are you sure?
Father: Yes.

Remember, you won’t get little tags so you know who’s speaking, it’ll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation:

Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (Stares off in silence)
Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (More silence)

And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense. The characters are always together, each the other’s sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.

But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.

At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming, punctuating every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. Cannibals and dead infants are an okay (if cliche) place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters react histrionically does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic in the first place. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your ’emotional moment’ isn’t working. It’s the literary equivalent of a laugh track.

You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world–his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan boy with an AK can see how children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.

But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer PTSD, their reactions are more akin to angst.

Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.

There is no joy or hope in this book–not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.

There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness.

The Road is a canvas painted black, so it doesn’t mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no contrast, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny–but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.

This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.

And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children they mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism–where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them–these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.

They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.

And it all depresses me–which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.

But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don’t even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.

And that ’emotionally pure, isolated author’ is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she’s asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much insight on the topic.

Looked at in this way, it’s not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision–an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy–or any American author–to win a Nobel any time soon.

This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive–a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.

But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners–usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass put it:

“the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill”

To any genre reader, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste, the same one LeGuin has often lamented: that of the big name author slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk ‘how it’s really done’–but know nothing about the genre or its history, and just end up reinventing the wheel, producing a book that would have been tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of their lit fic critics know anything about other genres–any sort of bland rehash will feel fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look in the first place.

So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of human suffering. I couldn’t say if McCarthy’s other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any part of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn’t help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted–only proved that he no longer has anything worth saying.

“Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists … Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing–flat characters, a narrative world that’s … not recognizably human, etc.–is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world … most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?”

-David Foster Wallace