So, we’re just about at the point where this blog has existed for a year. While there is something essentially arbitrary about this 365 day boundary—I mean, it isn’t like we really govern our years by the seasons any more…or something like that—but any boundary is at some point artificial (with the exception of death, I guess; there really isn’t denying that one).
There is definitely something to be said, however, for pausing a moment and reconsidering the way one has spent his or her time. As I have mentioned before, the younger Seneca, better known now for his tragedies and letters than his philosophical treatises, once remarked in De Brevitate Vitae that, contrary to popular opinion, life isn’t too short, most people just waste the time they have on this earth as to make it seem that way.
With that positive vibe in mind, it is worth revisiting another ancient dictum, the Socratic one, that the meaningful life is the examined one (or, as Plato puts it in his Apology, man must not live an unexamined life). Now, as I usually joke when I teach this subject, you can take this precept too far. Are the unexamined pants, for example, not worth wearing? The unexamined drink?
As is my custom, I have digressed. The point I was on my way to making is that anything worth doing must be examined, justified and reconsidered over time. To do this constantly, of course, is to make any action impossible. To fail to do this at all, however, is to live like Heraclitus’ somnambulists or, as Plato puts it, in the shadowed cave.
In the modern age, especially, we are overwhelmed by business (over-capitalized!) and busy-ness. Our time is split into even smaller and more hectic units as technology enslaves rather than frees us (this isn’t melodramatic; no one who remembers a time before cell phones can truly say he feels freer now) and, especially, as we age.
As my brother has explained, even the underemployed (or, perhaps especially) are so beset by obligations as to make the notion of leisure time laughable. So, we must be even more vigilant to make sure that what we do with our time both is meaningful and harmonizes in some way with our life’s ambition(s).
My brother and I started this writing pieces for this blog soon after our father passed away (although we had already begun to sketch it out before). In the beginning and throughout the year it has been therapeutic both to reflect on who we were and who we have become without him. At the same time, we have been able to stay closer, talk more, and really think about some things we care about.
My brother has won a lot of fans by talking about his respect for Leon Russell. He made some nice points too after the death of Osama bin Laden (an unexpected post that dealt some ambivalence and truth to the moment).
We’ve both invited debate with proposed songs of the year for most of the 1990s.
We briefly dipped into politics and received only positive attention.
I confessed to my abiding love for Tom Brady.
We haven’t been the most visited site on the web by any means (we’re probably in the bottom 10%!) but we’ve started to build a little bit of the community we envisioned when we started out. The Sister has written for us (more than once). Our stalwart and steady friend, Professor Mortis (the Historian) has joined us with guest posts and in the comments. We’ve re-connected with old friends.
We’ve made new ones (here’s looking at you Kate58 and Londongigger).
By any measure, we’re happy with the year, but not done.
We haven’t written on a wide enough variety of music (hip-hop has been virtually ignored; classical music and opera might as well not exist).
We haven’t written as many reviews as we would like. We want more guest-posters and more engagement. (If your initials are JM (X2), DK or BW, you know who you are and that the offer still stands. If you are interested and haven’t heard, just ask).
There are still issues we haven’t touched from basic cultural and intellectual misunderstandings of sampling, to the tragedy of modern debt slavery and which bourbon matches my brother’s terrible band name best.
But, for the time being, we’re just happy to turn the page on another year and start our mark on a new one.
As loathsome as retrospectives are, that’s a pretty short one. We’re not done yet, so expect more of the same (and worse) for the year to come. That’s a promise and a threat.
And, to end, here are my favorite songs of the year. I won’t even bother to explain why since I have mentioned most of them already. If I made a playlist for this New Year’s Eve (when I will actually be out on the town with my lady) it would have all of these songs.
10. “Little Lion Man”, Mumford & Sons
I argued with my brother about this band over the phone. Once I started listening to the radio again, I couldn’t get these guys out of my head
9. “Pumped Up Kicks”, Foster the People
My brother and I seem to have become obsessed with this song separately. His country band covers it. I drive around in a Prius with a chop-shop catalytic converter and 130K on it listening to this track. Who’s Mr. Cool now?
8. “Hot Knife”, Fiona Apple
I reviewed this album and liked it a lot. Yet, I only listen to this very odd track. Who can tell? Certainly not me.
7. “Sweet Disposition”, Temper Trap
Yeah, I know that this song is so two years ago or something like that. But I discovered it this year and liked it. I went through a week of imagining my own car commercial in the same quickly deteriorating Toyota. (Ah, the life of a (newly) tenured professor. Now all I need is a tweed fucking coat and some boat shoes, then my brother can hate me.)
6. “Ni**as in Paris”, Kanye West and Jay-Z
I love this song even though I don’t feel comfortable saying its title. Yes, if you haven’t figured it out, I am on the paler side of things. But, I actually like my analysis of this song more than anything else I wrote in the past year. Is that wrong?
5. “I Will Wait”, Mumford & Sons
I bought this album the day it came out. I drove around listening to it (my children love it). Seriously, the Prius has an underrated speaker system. Anyway, my wife, who is rather not white and really, really hates Mumford & Sons heard this song and asked who sang it. When I broke the news to her, she was pissed. See, she likes it. That’s a four out of four for the song (if we count the children).
4. “Gangsta”, Tuneyards
I was precipitous in judging this album and artist. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to this one either. I love this track. I don’t think the band will go down as changing music history; but I can tell you that I will buy the next album when it comes out.
3. “Hey Ho”, The Lumineers
My brother told me about this song. I bought the album. I owe him another debt of gratitude.
2. “Flowers in Your Hair”, The Lumineers
After I bought the album, I told him about how much I love this song. He still has never downloaded an album from iTunes. What a luddite. And a philistine.
1. “Go Down Hannah”, Heritage Blues Orchestra
I can’t get enough of this song or this album (granted, I just discovered it two weeks ago, so I may still be in the serious crush period).
0. “The John Wayne”, Little Green Cars
Why a number 0? Partly, it is piss-poor planning. But it is also because I just found out about this song over the weekend and am not really sure if I am just going through a brief and irrational infatuation or not.
Happy New Year.