Colbert carol covers, new Malick trailer, win a subscription!

Well. What a month we've had so far. Before I jump into the meat of this possibly final 2012 artRecs, two brief things:
  1. Sandy coverage has slowed, but there are still many needs. Hope for New York lists several ways to help with ongoing relief efforts.
  2. My latest (and possibly) last piece of the year was a profile for my employer, a story I really enjoyed hearing and retelling: From goat-based pricing to eye injury radio dramas: how an ophthalmologist tackled improving eye health in Pakistan
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:: reading/food for thought ::I discovered K'Naan by way of a catchy song iTunes gave away. The lyrics were probably more somber than I realized (the song's called "Bang Bang"), but I'm notoriously slow to hear the words shaping melody and rhythm. This recent piece in The New York Times, however, brought me back to the question, "Why create?"

The last two months have been a whirlwind of travel and writing -- a mix of sweat, celebration, joy and grief that ultimately leaves me grateful for this longing season of Advent, in which bitterness and hope comingle.

Diana Krall's Glad Rag Doll has been a cheerful companion for drives, but at home I've favored brooding piano concertos and Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas. Behind it all looms the specter of longer-form writing, not even tapping on the window -- just standing there, waiting to see if I will meet her eyes through the glass.

I want to believe the things I'm really supposed to do will seize hold of me with such force that I'll have to write until the muse relents. But excuses blossom as readily as the good ideas I've discussed, begun ... and discarded when real sweat was required.

Why create?

Dana Gioia said something at a reading earlier this year, about how stories give us models for life -- examples of how people handle surprises, reversals, betrayal, forestalled hopes finally satisfied. And I can attest, in small part: Tolkien gave me a portrait of courage, while Dostoevsky showed me the folly of social isolation.

This lovely little story on NPR foretells the longer story of a Paraguayan orchestra born in a dump, the young musicians playing instruments made from trash. (Watch the clip if you click no other link in this email.)

When I hear of creative tenacity like that, or play Cohen's "Going Home" another time, excuses wither. But I'm not sure I can forge on toward a completed first draft of any long story without accountability and community.

I'm not quite sure what that means, but wanted to throw it out to all of you as you work away in your various media. Would any of you be interested in some kind of monthly or bi-monthly get-together to share current works-in-progress and encourage each other to persist?

As you mull on that, join me in congratulating one of the better persisters among us, who got some very good news last week: Laura won the 2013 California Writers Exchange contest for fiction!

Lastly, don't forget to enter my Books and Culture subscription contest! Winner gets a print or online subscription (your choice) and a regular stream of book reviews and commentary from the likes of Andy Crouch, Lauren Winner, John McWhorter and lots of other folks you haven't heard of but would surely enjoy reading.

Merry Christmas!

:: upcoming concerts ::
:: tunes ::
  • Ravi Shankar has died. If, like me, you know more about his work than the work itself, NPR has compiled a short list of essential tracks, which you can stream on their site.
  • Beck has a new album out, which is being released as a songbook for listeners to record and share themselves. He did a great Q&A with McSweeney's about the concept. Seriously, one of us has to buy this, and then a bunch of us should get together for a playing/listening party. :D I absolutely love that he's done a project like this, in case you can't tell.
  • Stephen Colbert, Diana Krall and Elvis Costello perform "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (via Paste). This is actually just the latest in a series of Colbert-Costello Christmas duets, which includes: 2008's excellent "Much Worse Things to Believe In." Colbert's celebrating the holiday with several other duets, too:
  • Charlie Peacock performs "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" with Ruby Amanfu (vocalist on Blunderbuss)
  • December's listicle free-for-all has begun, which means everyone and their neighbor has an end-of-year reflection to help you make up for all the stuff you could have done/read/heard instead of eating, working and checking your handheld device for new updates.
  • I don't watch much TV, generally, but I recently discovered some of the musical performances Jimmy Fallon's done with the Roots since assuming the helm of Late Night -- and I gotta say there's some pretty inventive stuff.
:: visual art, film & theater ::
:: food ::
  • Despite intentions otherwise, I wasn't able to attend ReImagine's recent discussion on alcohol, but Dani Scoville provided a nice summary on her blog. Though I only attended the discussion on sex, which I was part of, I really appreciate the different topics they've taken on with this more or less monthly series. Keep them on your radar for 2013.
  • I was talking with one of you recently about the Eric Felten mini-cocktail story I shared last time. Said conversation provided a chance to enlarge on my love for Felten's writing, so I thought I would share a few highlights here.

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