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Sunday Non-Shuffle

Last night I finished reading Bruce, a new biography of Bruce Springsteen by Peter Ames Carlin. I've been a fan of Bruce ever since the Born in the U.S.A. singles started hitting the radio in 1984; I finally got it on cassette in 1985 (maybe for my 14th birthday) and listened to it over and over again while working in the garden or doing whatever other chores my father had for me that summer. When I got the Live/1975-85 box set for Christmas 1986, I heard his older songs and fell even further in love. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that this book is for me (my brother, who knows me quite well, gave it to me for Christmas). While I did know quite a bit of his history, there was still plenty that I didn't know and Carlin does a good job of keeping the narrative flowing while also giving some analysis on the music. This is not a hagiography of  Springsteen. Rather, it presents him as an extremely talented musician who is just as messed-up and human as the rest of us and who didn't always make the best decisions when it came to his music as well as his personal life. There is plenty of E Street Band coverage here as well, as the group is completely tied up with Bruce's life. Carlin also gives plenty of coverage to the music and made me wish I could go back in time to hear the music Bruce made with earlier bands like Child and Steel Mill. I did, of course, listen to a lot of Springsteen's music while reading this book and was quite happy to do both over the last few days.

I've also spent the last few days catching up on Portlandia. I did something similar last year when the second season was starting, as I hadn't made it all the way through the first at that point. I did start watching Season 2 but then dropped off for some reason (time? too-full DVR? I don't remember), so when it started streaming on Netflix on Jan. 1 I jumped back in. Man, it is good. I feel like Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein and their writing staff too a big leap forward - they went to stranger places and presented sketches in a different way while still keeping the lovingly satirical core (one bit features a group cavorting in the tall grass while Joanna Newsom plays harp while they all sing "Tom Bombadil" over and over). I loved the sketch where a babysitter is called in for the husband while his wife is away, the dialogue-free man doing performance art on a canoe, any bits with Kyle MacLachlan as the mayor, and the structure of the "Brunch Village" episode. I also think that Peter and Nance have become my favorite characters as well. The third season started on Friday, so I have two episodes on the DVR. Can't wait to watch!

Today I started in on another Christmas present, Fear Agent Library Edition Vol. 1. I didn't read Fear Agent as it was coming out but I've heard great things about it over the years (especially from the guys at iFanboy) and this giant collection seemed like a way to do it. This volume collects half of the regular series and a bunch of related short stories; a second volume will be out in a few months. I've only read the first two issues so far,  so I don't know much beyond the basic premise - Heath Huston was a Fear Agent but now works as an exterminator. He also likes to be drunk. Rick Remender and Tony Moore do a great job of hooking the reader from the start and by the end of the second issue, you start to realize this book will have a bigger scope. Speaking of bigger, I don't know what this book looked like a regular comic-size but this is absolutely gorgeous work by Moore and colorist Lee Loughridge. I can't wait to read more, will definitely be  getting the second volume, and can't believe I've waited this long to read the book.

I wrote this entry while listening to Aquarium Drunkard's podcast. He has put out 9 so far (I just listened to #6) and they are all full of music you probably don't know and now wish you owned. I probably should have mentioned it on my Podcasts 2012 list but what can you do. I urge all of you to check it out - you can download them via iTunes for free.

Oh, I also decided to not replace Sunday Shuffle with another regular feature after all. I think it's better than I blog when I have something to say.

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