Thursday, December 28, 2006

Year End Tally

Time to put 2006 on the mental shelf, filed away with old tax returns and other detritus from years gone by. Here then is my "Best Of..." for the past 365:

Books:
1) The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger): great, wonderful, fantastic sci-fi time-travel story, thinly veiled as a boy-meets-girl love story. This latter aspect keeps the books on lots of Oprah-esque club lists, but don't be fooled: this is as novel (ha!) an approach to the time-travel story as you're likely to find. This is the first book in a LONG time I actually picked up in a book store, flipped through a few pages, and then paid full price to buy it. I couldn't put it down. Go get it.
2) The Dirt (Neil, Sixx, Mars, & Lee): you're probably thinking that this book is only pertinent to Mötley Crüe fanatics. You could be right, but the story is so outrageous that I'm betting almost anyone with an interest in behind-the-scenes rock & roll will find this tome fascinating. Wow. I'm filled with a sort of awe-struck disgust just thinking about the lifestyle these 4 have lived. Seriously, you'll wonder how they even lived, let alone recorded and toured. Underneath it all, you come to realize that the four members were really small-town geeks, the losers of their respective high schools who put on this outlandish front to try to cover up some deep-seated insecurities.
3) Runner-up: The Expectant Father (Armin Brott): this is pretty self-explanatory. The book is concise yet very readable, moving through pregnancy on a month-by-month basis. The author writes about what to expect from the mother-to-be, but really spends a lot more time focusing on the man's feelings and emotions. Far from being unnecessarily patriarchal, I think a book like this has been long overdue: the pregnancy doesn't belong just to the woman, even though she's the one going through all of the physical changes. BOTH partners are going to be parents, and the assumption that the expectant father is unchanged by that is absurd.

Movies:
1) Friends With Money: a coming-of-age film...coming of MIDDLE age, that is. Since I'm there, this was a very entertaining look at how people well into their adult lives deal with their various relationships. Friends, lovers, spouses...all sorts of different angles are approached here, and the movie pays off well. One of my favorite things was that I was able to recognize parts of myself in the three husbands: the easy grin and shrug-it-off mellowness of Matt, the aloof coolness and passive-aggression of David, and the "you-know-how-I-know-you're-gay" attention to clothing and decorative detail of Aaron.
2) Clerks II: I may be lambasted as a heretic for this, but I think the sequel BLOWS AWAY the original. When I go back now and watch Clerks what I notice most is the stilted way the dialogue is delivered, especially by Randal. This update tracks our heroes-du-jour through their early-30s life changes, and does so in a (fairly) believeable way. Jay & Silent Bob are on hand to provide lowbrow humor (example: while standing next to a graffiti-sprayed wall reading "eat pussy," Jay confidently tells two passing teenage girls "Oh, we SO do!"), and there are even brief cameos by Askewniverse mainstays Ben Affleck and Jason Lee. Oh, and there is an EXTENDED scene with a flabby donkey-fucker. That and the filthly language probably make this movie a kids-at-their-grandparents kind of night.
3) Runner-up: The Squid and the Whale: a nice 80's-era piece whose plot focuses on two brothers trying to figure out why their parents are breaking up. Although done in 2005, this film "feels" real when investigating what must have been very novel ideas from 25 years ago: joint custody, who gets the house, etc. The parents each have their own issues, so I found it impossible to take sides between them. Their solutions are also interesting and kind of twisted: professor Jeff Daniels ends up shagging an intellectually inferior student with her OWN hang-ups.

Music:
1) Slunt (One Night Stand): Filling in the special guest slot on Paul Stanley's brief solo tour this fall, Slunt (I get the "-unt" part, but what is the "Sl-" for? Slutty? Sleazy? Slippery?) is two guys & two gals who deliver a blistering punk-metal sound reminiscent of the Donnas, but turned up to 11. Drop-dead-gorgeous hottie Abby Gennett (formerly an MTVs VJ) fronts the group, delivering powerful vocals and a burnin' rhythm guitar. Charles Ruggiero (no relation to my esteemed former prof from MSU) hits the skins with creativity and passion. Pat Harrington is the James Hetfield-lookalike who rips out screamin' lead guitar. Jhen Kobran is the newest addition, selected in early 2006 to fill in the undertones with her thunderous bass. This is heavy metal at its finest, full of melody and brutality. Go get some.
2) Paul Stanley (Live To Win): Well, this was kind of expected, wasn't it? I must say, though, that when I first heard Paul's new solo album, I was kind of disappointed. Tess prompted me for a number of stars, and I said 2.5 (out of 5). There's a lot of shmaltzy stuff here, where Paul sings about relationships both past and present. The thing is, though...the album REALLY grows on you. I liked it better the 5th time through, and the 10th even more than THAT! Now I even like the songs I DIDN'T at first, and the catchy uptempo numbers like Bulletproof and It's All About You can really stay stuck in my head. This is a tamer variety of rock than Slunt, very accessible but still keeping a thrust-your-fist-in-the-air intensity.
3) Runner-up: Twisted Sister (Twisted Christmas): I shit you not, this holiday album is dead-on AWESOME! Of course, you have to go into it knowing that, hey, it's Twisted Sister. If you don't like Sister's music (both of you out there), you won't like this album. But for all true SMFs, this album is pay dirt. Can't imagine Oh Come All Ye Faithful over top of the beat & chords of We're Not Gonna Take It? You need to listen. With nary a string section or crooning chorus in sight, Dee & the boyz rock hard through all the holiday classix you could want. It really is a full-on metal album, replete with guitar solos and thunderous overdubbing. I'm just sad to think that I'm pretty much relegated to hearing this only one month of the year.

Concerts:
1) Ringo Starr (mid-June, outdoors at Pine Knob): this was definitely the highlight of the summer concert season. It was a beautiful night, only getting down to the low 70s even when the sun went down. Tess & I went with her sister Amanda and (as we soon found out) her new fiancé Joel; seems that he was corny enough to suggest that the concert itself might serve as their "engagement Ringo." Ba-dum-bum. We drank some good beers (some EXPENSIVE beers!) and partied with a very charming Ringo & his All-Starr band. Guitars: Billy Squier & Richard Marx. Keyboards, saxes & percussion: Edgar Winter. Drums: Sheila E. A good time was had by all.
2) Paul Stanley (early November, indoors at the Emerald Theatre): this is the first concert I'd ever really been to in a "club." The Emerald is a 1,000-seater, and Paul packed the place. Opening band Slunt was outstanding, and it didn't suck that lead singer & guitarist Abby Gennett was a major hottie. We sort of worked our way up close to the stage, eventually ending up in a mob about 6 people back from Paul. It was great to see him be so personable & warm with the crowd; I defintely think the makeup is just a hindrance for Kiss now, cramming them into a mold I'm not sure they fit into any longer. The backing band was the House Band from Rock Star, and you know what? I didn't miss Gene at all.

3) Runner-up: Endeverafter/Cinderella/Poison (July 12, outdoors at Lansing Common Ground Festival): another great night with perfect weather, and a good crowd to hang with. Tess & Amanda went mainly to hang with me, Joel, Lisa & Mark, as they weren't really interested in this brand of hair metal. The REST of us - those with good taste! - rocked the night away. Endeverafter was the opener, and they rocked hard...although they looked about 19! It was the first time I'd seen Cinderella, and I was pleased that the whole original band was there. Poor Tom Keifer lost his voice pretty early on; I suppose you can only scream/sing the way he does for a limited number of years. Poison was AWESOME! I hadn't seen them since their headlining Open Up & Say Ahh tour of 1988, and they didn't disappoint. And, this was the easiest large-scale concert I've ever driven away from: no long lines of cars waiting to get out of the Pine Knob or Palace parking lots...just a quick right turn, then an immediate left and we were OUT of traffic. Nice.

Events:
1) Pregnancy. Yeah, sure, I've been dropping hints on this blog since we found out in mid-November. Consider this your official notification: we're expecting! This was by far the biggest news of my year, and of course I know I don't have any IDEA yet how much my life is going to change. But, I'm 38 years old, and I've been jonesing for a kid to play with for a few years. I'm as ready as I'm gonna be. The best part? A friend of Tess' mom gave us our (read: my) first baby gift: a Kiss onesie. Oh, this is gonna be SWEET!!
2) Propsal acceptance at SCI. Okay, so anything FOLLOWING #1 above is pretty small beans...but from a professional standpoint, this is good news. I send out conference proposals fairly frequently, and then just sort of forget about them. Well, turns out one got accepted! I'm delivering the paper "A Composer's Sketchbook" at the Society of Composers Inc. Region V conference in Dubuque Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 24th. Stop by, if you're in the neighborhood. Mention this ad, and I'll buy your first drink. ;-)
3) Runner-up: meeting Paul Stanley. God, I'm like a broken record with this, aren't I? So, to recap: Kiss perfume, Paul in-store at Parisian in Rochester Hills, handshake & photo, great concert the next day. There. Happy now?

I hope everyone had as good a 2006 as I did. It was a watershed year, and now I can't wait to dive into 2007 with the promise of more good music to write, more good music to HEAR, good books to read & movies to watch...and a babe. Yay! But first, I have to spend some time diving into the warm waters off of Akumal, Mexico. Darn the luck. See y'all in the new year.

5 Comments:

Blogger L*I*S*A said...

Nice wrap up...yes, that Cinderella concert was great, wasn't it? I love Tom Keifer even if can't scream at me anymore. I can always pop in the CD. ;)

4:25 PM  
Blogger Jenn Hacker said...

Congrats on the baby! That's awesome! And the proposal acceptance, too! Sounds like you've had one effing great year. Congrats!

5:09 PM  
Blogger Gknee said...

Congrats on the upcoming baby :)

7:28 PM  
Blogger Suze said...

after a week with only a dial-up connection i'm finally catching up on all the blogs i usually read. i see i've been tagged, and i'll see to it soon!
many congratulations on everything, especially the baby!

9:28 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

I liked Clerks II, too.

I've already said it to your wife, but now I can to you too--congrats on the Kiss onesie-doomed infant-in-waiting!

9:42 AM  

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