25 books, 25 albums & 10 places to eat for 2014

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I’m back for another roundup of books, albums, and eats that I would highly recommend you experience for yourselves.  Per usual, these lists are of things that I personally experienced for the first time in twenty-fourteen, and not strictly books, albums, and places to eat that debuted this year.

Please enjoy.

books | albums | eats

25 books for 2014

(1)

st lucy's home

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (2006)

(2)

safety of objects

The Safety of Objects by A.M. Homes (1990)

(3)

Why-Did-I-Ever

Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison (2001)

(4)

mezzanine

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker (1988)

(5)

1004

10:04 by Ben Lerner (2014)

(6)

elect mr robinson

Elect Mr. Robinson For a Better World by Donald Antrim (1993)

(7)

wise blood

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)

(8)

rachel papers

The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis (1993)

(9)

although-of-course_custom-68ada2df98079e3ca0df7dee75e4b597342ec285-s6-c30

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky (2010)

(10)

birdsofamerica

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (1998) *

(11)

rise and fall of great powers

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (2014)

(12)

lucinella

Lucinella by Lore Segal (1976)

(13)

Chabon-Mysteries-of-Pittsburgh_24951562_001_Christies1-408x530

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (1988)

(14)

vampires of the lemon grove

Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Other Stories by Karen Russell (2013)

(15)

one more thing

One More Thing: Stories and More Stories by B.J. Novak (2014)

(16)

who will run the frog hospital

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore (1994)

(17)

Wolf-in-White-Van-Cover

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (2014)

(18)

cant and wont

Can’t and Won’t (stories) by Lydia Davis (2014)

(19-20)

countdown city worldoftrouble_final

Countdown City (2013) & World of Trouble (2014) by Ben Winters

(21)

dud avocado

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (1958)

(22)

your fathers where are they

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (2014)

(23)

third policeman

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien (1967)

(24)

magic christian

The Magic Christian by Terry Southern (1959)

(25)

dept of speculation

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (2014)

25 albums for 2014, with audiovisuals

NOTE: 2014 was my second year as co-proprietor and curator of my own donation-dependent traveling library.  We had several hundred albums donated to us this year, and I (at least cursorily) listened to most of them.  So while I did do my fair share of music exploration independent of that, several of the items on this list are a direct result of the kindness of my community.

(1)

st vincent

St. Vincent by St. Vincent (2014)

* In an interview with Salon, Annie Clark explicitly stated that she read Birds of America while creating this album, and phrases like “birth in reverse” and “bring me your loves” were lifted directly from those stories.  Learning this (not to mention seeing St. Vincent live twice this year) enriched this album for me, as well as my reading of Birds of America.  Both, obviously, are highly recommended.

(2)

salad days

Salad Days by Mac Demarco (2014)

(3)

brian-eno-here-come-the-warm-jets

Here Come the Warm Jets by Brian Eno (1973)

(4)

black moon spell

Black Moon Spell by King Tuff (2014)

(5)

WYR0514tubejktnoguidlines

Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts (2014)

(6)

marry-me-by-st-vincent_-uafkz

Marry Me by St. Vincent (2007)

(7)

brian_eno_-_1974_taking_tiger_mountain_by_strategy

Taking Tiger Mountain by Brian Eno (1974)

(8)

they want my soul

They Want My Soul by Spoon (2014)

(9)

tom petty and the heartbreakers

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1976)

(10)

Tune-Yards-Nikki-Nack

Nikki Nack by Tune-Yards (2014)

(11)

held in splendor

Held in Splendor by Quilt (2014)

(12)

hit vibes

Hit Vibes by Saint Pepsi (2013)

(13)

Willie-Nelson-Shotgun-Willie-450408

Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson (1973)

(14)

Thao-With-The-Get-Down-Stay-Down-We-The-Common1

We the Common by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (2013)

(15)

real estate atlas

Atlas by Real Estate (2014)

(16)

milkeyedmender

The Milk-Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom (2004)

(17)

37526_de_la_soul_-_3_feet_high_and_rising_a

3 Feet High and Rising  by De La Soul (1989)

(18)

the-unseen-5019b2ea27b0f

The Unseen by Quasimoto (2000)

(19)

ShadowDJ-PrivatePressThe

The Private Press by DJ Shadow (2002)

(20)

RunTheJewelsRTJ2

Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels (2014)

(21)

logos

Logos by Atlas Sound (2009)

(22)

meters rejuvenation

Rejuvenation by The Meters (1974)

(23)

mumps etc

Mumps, etc. by WHY? (2012)

(24)

rising down

Rising Down by The Roots (2008)

(25)

red headed stranger

Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson (1975)

10 places to eat for 2014

(1)

birdhouse

 

My love for the guys behind The Bird House (and H-Town StrEATs) is nothing new, but Bird House gets the number one spot due to the sheer volume of fried chicken I’ve eaten since they opened.  “Fried chicken & badass sides” indeed.  Where else are you going to get shrimp and grits balls?

(2)

Cuchara_Restuarant_t580

 

I implore you to leave Cuchara in a worse mood than when you walked in.  Great food, vibrant atmosphere, incomparable art, and (at least both times I’ve gone) roving live music.

(3)

urban eats

 

I recently celebrated my (twenty-ninth) birthday at Urban Eats on the second day of their soft opening.  It was probably the single best dining experience I have ever had in my life.  And while that experience will be difficult to replicate, I fully intend for Urban Eats to become one of my go-to places to eat around town.

(4)

extshepherdpark

(5)

pita bites

 

Everything I’ve ever had from Pita Bites has been amazing, but the chicken shawarma and grape leaves lead the pack.  And the husband and wife who run it are two of the nicer fellow truckers I’ve encountered.

(6)

crisp_logo_w300

 

Go for the pizza and Friday night flights.

(7)

wokker tx ranger

(8)

ninfas on navigation

(9)

local foods

(10)

coltivare

 

Thanks for reading.  2015’s lists should look a little different, so make sure to come on back.  Hell, I may even write something else between now and then.

Cheers!

twenty albums, twenty books, ten trucks & ten restaurants for 2012

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Albums / Books / Trucks / Restaurants

20 Albums for 2012:

(1)

dr_dog_be_the_void

Be the Void by Dr. Dog (2012)

(2)

alien lanes

Alien Lanes by Guided by Voices (1995)

(3)

channel orange

Channel Orange by Frank Ocean (2012)

(4)

Love This Giant by David Byrne & St. Vincent (2012)

(5)

dirty-projectors-swing-lo-magellan-608x608

Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors (2012)

(6)

key lime pie

Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven (1989)

(7)

young and old

Young & Old by Tennis (2012)

(8)

A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits (2012)

(9)

Lonerism by Tame Impala (2012)

(10)

wild-nothing-gemini-cover-art

Gemini by Wild Nothing (2010)

(11)

Underneath the Pine by Toro y Moi (2011)

(12)

nehru jackets

Nehru Jackets by Himanshu (2012)

(13)

three_eps

The Three EPs by The Beta Band (1999)

(14)

Radlands by Mystery Jets (2012)

(15)

sleigh-bells-reign-of-terror

Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells (2012)

(16)

theesatisfaction-awe-naturale1

Awe Naturale by THEESatisfaction (2012)

NOTE: THEESatisfaction also released a free EP called THEESatisfaction Loves Anita Baker, which is also very good, and which introduced me to Anita Baker.  I picked up her album Rapture from the library, and made a remixed version of her original “Sweet Love” with THEESatisfaction’s “Cabin Fever Sweet Love”.  I’m quite proud of it, and you can download it here.

(17)

alabamashakes

Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes (2012)

(18)

The-Drums-Portamento-608x608

Portamento by The Drums (2011)

(19)

Keep it Like a Secret by Built to Spill (1999)

(20)

Tom Tom Club (1981)

20 Books for 2012:

(1)

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (a gateway book if there ever was one, see below)

(2)

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

(3)

Cathedral by Raymond Carver

(4)

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

(5)

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

(6)

The Floating Opera & The End of the Road by John Barth

(7)

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

(8)

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

(9)

Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

(10)

Short Cuts by Raymond Carver (previously)

(11)

Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan

(12)

NW by Zadie Smith

(13)

Goodbye, Columbus & Five Short Stories by Philip Roth

(14)

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max

(15)

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

(16)

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

(17)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

(18)

Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem

(19)

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

(20)

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

NOTE:  This list was originally written for the HCPL blog on 12/5/2012.  The links in the covers and the titles will direct you to each book’s record in HCPL’s catalog, from which you can reserve any of the above titles.  While all of the titles are currently available from HCPL, I still consider it a basically authentic list.  However, in the last few weeks, I did read DFW’s Girl With Curious Hair (which, incidentally, is not in HCPL’s system), as well as his posthumous essay collection, Both Flesh and Not (which is), both of which would have made the list had I made it today.

10 Trucks for 2012:

(1)

The Rice Box

(2)

Stick It

(3)

Bare Bowls

NOTE:  As co-founder of an aspiring food truck (slinging food for thought) myself, it has been important for us to acquaint ourselves with the food truck community.  A lot of that has been simply acquainting food truck food with our bellies for the past ten months straight, sort of feeling out behind the scenes who we want to work with, and where, all the while enjoying some of the best food in Houston.  The folks who run these first three trucks have not only embraced our project wholeheartedly and welcomed us into the community, but they also make some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  The following seven aren’t too shabby either.  Actually, as a general rule, if you see a food truck in Houston, you should probably stop and try their food.

(4)

Ladybird

(5)

Bernie’s Burger Bus

(6)

Eatsie Boys

(7)

Pi Pizza Truck

(8)

Coreanos

(9)

Koagie Hots

(10)

Good Dog Hot Dogs

10 Restaurants for 2012:

(1)

Roost

(2)

Beaver’s

(3)

BRC Gastropub

(4)

Nabi (RIP)

(5)

Pollo Campero

(6)

Torchy’s Tacos

(7)

La Fendee Mediterranean Grill

(8)

La Guadalupana

(9)

Santa Fe Flats

(10)

Les Givral’s Kahve

Thanks for reading, and here’s to 2013.  Cheers.

fifteen albums for the seven-twelfths year

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For me, July was a great month for music, and I’m glad.

I tried to sit down and do this at the end of last month but, obviously, failed.  I looked over the list of candidates for favorite albums for the half-year and was decidedly disappointed.  I put the notebook away and quickly forgot about it.

And then July started.  The new Dirty Projectors and Frank Ocean albums were released.  Amazon.com went apeshit and made a ton of good-to-great and/or lauded albums available for download for $2.99, or at least under $5 (including the aforementioned Dirty Projectors and Frank Ocean albums [if it isn’t under $5 at the time that you click on it: you snooze, you lose]).  I made the list again, and this time it’s more to my liking.  I have enough good-to-great albums to share with you now.

Without further ado:

Fifteen Albums for the Seven-Twelfths Year, 2012:

(1)

Be the Void by Dr. Dog (2012)

(2)

Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors (2012)

(3)

Alien Lanes by Guided by Voices (1995)

(4)

Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven (1989)

(5)

Young & Old by Tennis (2012)

(6)

Channel Orange by Frank Ocean (2012)

(7)

The Three EPs by The Beta Band (1999)

(8)

Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells (2012)

(9)

Portamento by The Drums (2011)

(10)

Awe Naturale by Theesatisfaction (2012)

(11)

The Flaming Lips and Heavy Fwends (2012)

(12)

Gemini by Wild Nothing (2010)

(13)

Nootropics by Lower Dens (2012)

(14)

Nehru Jackets by Himanshu (2012)

(15)

Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes (2012)

So, there you have it.  Fifteen recommendations.  Fifteen albums to Spotify (v.) before the end of the world (97 days?  142 days?  Who knows?).  Cheers.

Why, yes, the bookmobile project is coming along splendidly, thank you for asking.

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050512 (cinco de caballo) mixtape

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Without, I suppose, any ado, I present to you the latest installment of the grawlsy mixtapes, the 050512 (cinco de caballo) mixtape.  The tracklist is as follows:

Image

Please share, and please enjoy.

a food truck & a bookmobile walk into a museum.

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I’ll admit it.  When I left Austin for Houston last summer, I did not not have very high expectations, culturally speaking.  I figured that I was leaving this haven of music and free thinking for the hometown bubble of job security and family proximity, trading hipster- for suburban sprawl.  The Houston I knew before I left for college eight years ago led me to believe this, and rightfully so.

But then I got here.  Here here.  Montrose.  77006.  The Austin, Texas of Houston, Texas.  A little haven of the Greater Houston Area, amid all of its oil and sulfur and humidity and people, that somehow retains many of the things I loved (and love) about Austin.  It’s not at all the Houston I remember, simply because it is not the Houston to which I was exposed growing up.  Sure, there were those couple of times my folks took me to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Free Museum Day or whatever, but as a general rule, we stayed, at the very least, a good twelve miles north of the north side of 610.  Until very recently, I had never experienced what I consider the true Houston, Texas, and that’s why I had such low expectations of coming here.

At the same time, what appeals to me about where I live now is its Austin-ness.  One thing I loved (and, when driving, hated) about Austin was how pedestrian- and bike-friendly it was.  Montrose is very similar in this sense.  There are certainly fewer bike lanes (let alone vehicle-friendly roads), but basically everything you need is within walking or biking distance.  Montrose is also gastronomically similar to Austin, and perhaps this is in part due to the direct import of Austin’s food scene into the Montrose area.  Three examples that come immediately to mind are Torchy’s Tacos, Uchi, and the Coreanos food truck.

Since moving to Montrose, food truck food has become a staple of my diet, possibly to the point of excess.  Sure, I appreciate food trucks for their accessibility, economy, and expediency, but the main reason I keep going back to them is because their food tastes so damn good.  So far as I can tell, Houston food trucks make some of the best food in Houston (shoutout to Bernie’s Burger Bus, Bare Bowls Kitchen, Ladybird, Fork in the Road).

Food trucks also speak to our ever-increasingly mobile society.  Don’t let anyone tell you any differently:  the main purpose of Twitter is for food trucks to alert their followers as to where they will be located on a particular day at a particular time.  Similarly, the main purpose of lists on Twitter is to aggregate food truck tweets, so that you know all of your food truck options on a given day at a given time.  A good 90% of my time spent on Twitter is spent seeking out food trucks (this amounts to about four and one-half minutes per day).

When I, jobless and with a fresh Master’s degree in Information Studies, first moved back to the Greater Houston Area, I proposed a business venture to a couple of my friends.  The idea was essentially this: a library/bookstore.  A place (particularly a relatively cheap commercial rental space in a strip center) where a customer could buy, rent, donate, trade, and/or sell books, music (cassette, CD, vinyl), and movies (VHS, DVD).  We’d start with our own personal collections and work from there – pay a months rent, buy some shelves, et voila.  (I understand, logistically, that this isn’t nearly all we would have had to do, but this is the gist of the idea.  I even at one point checked a “How to Write a Business Plan” book out from the library.)  But then I found a job, and I’ve sort of just been sitting on the idea for the past nine months.

As time has passed, I’ve become increasingly fond of making this (still very hypothetical) business mobile (i.e. of putting the business inside of a bookmobile).  Why not?  I imagine that we’d function very similarly to food trucks in terms of locations (coffee shops, bars, festivals, &c.) and networking (Twitter, the fb, $17/year website).  I also believe our services would very much complement those of the food trucks.  It is very easy to eat and read at the same time (no offense, food).

Last month, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) launched a program called Fine Arts + Food Trucks, where, quote, “A curated selection of Houston’s finest mobile food sources park in the lot adjacent to the main entrance of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or until quantities are sold out.”  I chaperoned a bus trip from my library to MFAH last month, maybe a week after Fine Arts + Food Trucks had premiered, and the aforementioned Bernie’s Burger Bus was there, just, waiting for me.  The Menil Collection (if you haven’t gone, you must go) similarly invites food trucks to utilize their parking lot and tweets their support.  In both of these instances, food trucks and museums are complementing one another as sources of culture.  I think that the bookmobile would fit right in here, right beside a food truck, offering the public yet other facets of culture.

There is a neighborhood library of the Houston Public Library system right down the street from where I live, and the West University branch of my library system (not to mention several other branches of HPL) isn’t too far off.  It would make sense for either system to work with MFAH or the Menil Collection.  A bookmobile service would advance the services of either system (if people aren’t coming to the library, you go to where the people [with proof of mailing address] are) and encourage and strengthen their relationships with various cultural institutions.  And yet neither system has one, and I do not imagine that either will any time soon.  Unless…

I like to think of libraries as purveyors of culture.  Ultimately, I would like to use my (again very hypothetical) bookmobile  for the betterment of public library services, be it one particular library system (like HCPL or HPL [therefore, health care]) or for any library in continental North America (self-explanatory).

At my library, here in 2012, a not statistically insignificant number of persons have come in with inquiries about accessing our Digital Media Catalog and downloading eBooks for free onto their iPad or Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader or what have you.  Most of these questions can be very easily addressed by a knowledgeable person in a wi-fi-enabled environment.  In that sense, the bookmobile, filled with physical library books and audiobooks and CDs and DVDs, could also double as something of a digital bookmobile.  The bookmobile takes all of these services out into the community instead of waiting for the community to find its way to the library.

Librarian that I am (destined to be), I also see the appeal of a bookmobile-for-hire service to all public library systems (and college libraries, and museums, and Half-Price Books, and cetera) everywhere, where we would fill the bookmobile with their materials (including, in the case of public libraries, some library card registration forms, pens, library cards, a laptop with ILS software, etc.) and set up as a lending library (or exhibit, or pop-up shop) at a place of their choosing for whatever reason (within reason).    And I would personally find the experience of being a sort of Bookmobile Librarian freelancer extremely rewarding. (Brainstorming a name for this venture: Travels with Charley [where the bookmobile is named Charley]).

So, I guess the real question is, do I go to Seattle and buy this bookmobile?  Would it be worth it?  Would a twenty-seven year old bookmobile even be able to make it back to Houston?  Would everything go exactly according to plan?  A library/bookstore business (let’s call it a hobby) and libraries everywhere tweeting at me (@charleydabookmobile) for bookmobile gigs?  Should I crack open this Foundation Grants to Individuals tome I picked up at the library and give five or ten of those a shot?  Do you think I could qualify this as an Art project on Kickstarter?  What about you?  Are you feeling philanthropic?

Happy belated National Bookmobile Day, everybody!

030512 (cat poop) & 030612 (stupid that’s what i call music or something) mixtapes

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Somehow, it’s been over eight months since I last posted mixtapes on this blog.  I have made several in the meantime, and while it is to be determined as to whether I will take the time to make them available to the World Wide Web, here are the latest two installments of the grawlsy mixtapes – the sister mixes 030512 (cat poop) and 030612 (stupid that’s what i call music or something).  The tracklists are listed below.

030512:

030612:

As always, please enjoy, and please share.

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