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Tips and tricks for how to love music, movies and book without feeling overwhelmed by them. 

1. Download and save playlists. Those of us who used the now-departed RDIO music service were relieved that RDIO gave members their playlists in a little downloadable bundle before they turned off the lights. Not everyone is so nice. Pays to take 30 seconds and export a favorite playlist from iTunes (say a playlist given to you by friend or lover) then upload the file it creates to Google Drive or Dropbox. 

2. Log movies you watch. I have a terrible time remembering movies I saw no matter how much I loved them. So I've taken to scrawling a few lines down about the movie I just saw on Letterbxd just so it's recorded somewhere and I can cycle back when someone asks "What's the best documentary you saw this year?" and the first words that come to mind are "Breakfast Burrito." 

Not an endorsement for Letterbxd as I haven't explored any of its competitors. A notebook and pencil work just as well. 

3. On that, unless you are a serial watcher of movies, once you've watched something on Netflix, Amazon, Itunes etc. delete it. Unless you are going to rewatch it, it's just taking up space. "I paid for it" isn't a good reason to keep it around. It's paying for the privilege of acting like a hoarder. 

4. If one of your 2016 resolutions is to "read more", give yourself time to read 10 pages nightly before turning on the TV. Unless you are reading Proust, 10 pages goes by super fast and if you've chosen a good book, you'll probably want more that 10 pages before turning on the TV. 


Pop! Hacks! are a feature of my newsletter The Smoke Signal, which comes out twice a month. Subscribe if ya like. 




The last few years at sunrise on New Years Day, I've gotten up at read Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells." This time I decided to read it aloud. 

 Setting intentions and whatnot.  




Cribbed from my monthly newsletter The Smoke Signal, your guide to consuming pop culture smarter. 

December is the month of Best of 2015 lists, all 7 million of them. It can be crazy intimating which ones to pay attention to, how much and what to do with the three dozen, "ohh I missed that's" these lists are meant to stir up. So this issue's Pop! Hacks! will be all about how to make Best of Lists work for you. 




 NPR Music's Best of The Year coverage is both thorough, varied and beautifully organized, by genrecurator, by song or album. Their website also has an app which will play their favorite songs of the year in random order. Let it run for a half hour while returning emails and see what new music you discover. Rule of thumb (ear?): Look to discover 2-4 new artists, half in your favorite genres, half in genres you  know less well. If you're music skews toward one genre, focus there. I usually take 30 seconds and crosscheck the artists I discover with the Village Voice's legendary Pazz & Jop poll, just to see if I'm being an over-40 white guy cliche' and swallowing whatever NPR hands me.

Once you've found 2-4 new artists you like, stop looking. Explore the other work of those artists on the  streaming music service of your choice. Make new friends not new music you say hello to in the hallway.    

Sit-down meals not snacking. 
If reading 2015's "big books everyone talked about" is your priority, the New York Times Notable Books of the Year coverage will more than suffice. Again, 3-5 titles that stir your interest. More than that and by the time you finish them, it'll be March and 2016 bookish temptations will already be clawing at the front door. 
For a more personal  take, Maris Kreizman, who runs publishing projects over at Kickstarter does a magnificent Best Books list that I return to year after year.  

Drilling into genres, the NPR Book Concierge does a great job overall. Paste Magazine usually picks a few categories to dig into each year with great flair. The AV Club's best of coverage of comics and graphic novels is as dependable as an old friend. The folks at Book Riot do both great 30,000- foot Best-of-Every- Book-You-Can-Imagine reporting and strong by-genre lists as well. I also dig these Best Books by Women lists over at LitHub
Tempting here to just wait and see what gets nominated for your Oscars or Golden Globes's and catch up on films you missed. Don't. Award nominations too often focus on movies released after Thanksgiving and whose studios spend a king's ransom on publicity campaigns. Instead of catching up on great movies, you'll be wasting time catching up on 2015's Best Movies at Stuffing the Ballet Box. 
Instead, make a quick trip through Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 movies of 2015 or Roger's annual  Four Star Reviews feature. Focus on movies you've heard of but didn't get a chance to see. Then for films you haven't heard of but would like to try, watch their trailer on Apple Trailers.
If you like something, add it to your queue of record (Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, a legal pad) immediately to remember it.  






Had I felt about the Civil War as I felt about “Back to the Future,” this was my visit to Fort Sumter, Gettysburg and the Appomattox Courthouse all at once. And it was the first time I realized that although we see movies as distant, expensive objects made the year before by people we will never know, they were often born in the same world that we pass through every day — they weren’t beamed to us from a far-off kingdom, but lived here, among us, in places that belonged to us, too. Their permanence could be on celluloid or server farm, in the culture at large and in our own memory, but also in concrete, soil and steel.

On the occasion of the great movie's 30th birthday, I look at the time I tried to find the real Hill Valley