1. Nieces. I really can't recommend them enough, or adopting someone's kid as a [why isn't there a word like siblings to describe both nieces and nephews?]. On top of the joy they give by just being themselves and giving dribbly smiles or using fences instead of brakes to stop their bikes, they are a ticket to doing wicked things like ice-skating and bowling, and attending piano recitals and expressive dance performances where shameless teachers take advantage of their captive audience to show off their skills (and their sweat-patches).
2. Max Fischer, and the film Rushmore. Max Fischer is the greatest and I would like to be like him. These are some reasons why:
i) He is all over everything.
ii) He does things even when he sucks at them.
iii) He makes things happen.
iv) He is true to himself... which means sometimes being a dick.
3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago. I first read about the album in Mojo, my bible at the time, which gave it a 5/5 making it an Instant Classic. To me, those were some motherfucking accolades. Then the story behind it fascinated me; sickness, a break-up, and then taking refuge in a deserted cabin, with no-one else to rely on or distract from what was going on. It was the first album I ever bought with no idea of what it would sound like; I bought it on a Friday, and waited until Sunday afternoon to put it on. The first song was so beautiful and spoke so clearly to me, it made me cry. The album had been recorded in complete isolation but it didn't sound like that - instead I felt like I was going through everything with him, facing every emotion and playing through it right to the end, even when it was painful, which it frequently was. The end was completely triumphant; a bit like an aural scar. My whole life I'd wished there was a song with my name in it, and here was a song and an entire album that felt like it was especially for me. It was a gift. Now, when I'm feeling sick, or upset, it's the album I go to. It's only half an hour long but it feels like a journey, and by the time I'm at the end I feel like I can pick up and keep going. Or it's soothed me to sleep. This song was getting a workout on Friday. It's nice, if you're prone to fucking up or have a hard time forgetting things, to think you might be able to decide that sometimes everything is from now on.
Lastly, here is one more Bon Iver song I love very much.