2013: the year in movies

I’m hoping to go see either Anchorman 2 or 47 Ronin before the year is out, but we’ll see if it actually happens. I have that whole job thing going on!!

  • Best film of 2013:  American Hustle
  • Worst film of 2013:  The Lone Ranger
  • Biggest disappointment of 2013:  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • Biggest surprise of 2013:  Pacific Rim

 

 

 

Top-grossing films I saw in 2013:

  • Despicable Me 2:  This was a fun film and a good sequel. I love the Gru character and kind of dug the love story they threw in. Liked this enough to get it on DVD for my kid.
  • Monsters University:  Not bad, but not as good as Monsters Inc. & not as good as Despicable Me 2.
  • Man of Steel:  Great piece of cinematography.  Not a good movie despite the presence of Amy Adams.  My big boss took us to see it in 3D on IMax, which I have to say was pretty impressive.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:  Good movie, but Peter Jackson has deviated so far from the book “The Hobbit” that I want him to call the next installment of this trilogy “The Hobbit: Peter Jackson’s Prequel to The Lord of the Rings Part 3.”

(Iron Man 3 was the top-earning film of 2013 – I didn’t bother. I also didn’t see the new Thor film.)

Other films I saw in 2013 (in the theater) (PS stop spelling it ‘theatre’ – it’s just a movie. Stop being pretentious!):

  • Olympus Has Fallen:  While not a bad action flick, this movie pretty much stunk and was a waste of $10.  The only reason to see it is if you absolutely must see everything that Morgan Freeman is in.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness:  While Benedict Cumberbatch is an excellent actor and carries a lot of gravitas, I don’t think he was the best choice for Khan.  Having said that, I think JJ Abrams is doing a great job with the franchise.  IMO he needs to cut back on the chase scenes & focus a bit more on the story, but I bought this on DVD & will definitely go see the next one.
  • World War Z:  I got tired of people complaining that WWZ wasn’t just like the book.  That book is impossible to translate into a movie because it’s a collection of varied accounts of the zombie apocalypse written by Mel Brooks’ son.  Yes, THAT Mel Brooks.  Anyway, I liked this movie, but probably not enough to buy it on DVD.
  • The Lone Ranger:  I only went to see this because my daughter wanted to see it, and knowing the Lone Ranger story, I wanted to see how violent this movie would be before I let her go.  I was able to spare her the disappointment by telling her, simply, “Don’t go see it, that movie sucked.”
  • Pacific Rim:  Best monster movie of 2013 that didn’t feature Godzilla.  Charlie Hunnam was even believable as the hero!
  • The Wolverine:  Not bad, but I could have lived without it.  The plot was too easy to figure out.
  • Elysium:  Didn’t get good reviews, but I enjoyed it.  I get Jodie Foster as the ice queen, I think she did fine.  Matt Damon is a good action hero.  This movie did have its gross-out sequence (when the bad guy gets his face literally blown off) and the moral message is a little heavy-handed, but I liked it.  Probably won’t get the DVD.
  • Ender’s Game:  A nice little sci-fi romp.  I never read the book & avoided anything deeper than a cursory review because I heard it had a big plot twist… which I figured out about 10 minutes before it happened.  I do think the filmmakers should have given a shout-out to Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers,” though, because – and I haven’t read the book, as I said – it’s totally a riff on the bugs from ST.
  • American Hustle:  I just went to see this movie last weekend.  Really really REALLY liked it.  Will definitely get the DVD, if only to see Amy Adams do an amazing job as a con woman that has her shit together.

2013 films I saw on Netflix or other video service:

  • Movie 43:  Don’t bother.  Gross-out sketch comedy with famous actors.  The only sketch worth the time is the “Because You’re Black” one about the basketball game.
  • Parker:  I’m an unabashed Jason Statham fan & will pretty much see anything he’s in.  Gigli – er, Jennifer Lopez – was pretty good in this, but of course it’s all about Statham.
  • Sound City:  A fun music documentary starring Dave Grohl, who is probably one of the most fun guys in the music business.
  • A Good Day to Die Hard:  Better than the last one, the one that had the Apple commercial guy in it.
  • Dead Man Down:  Caught this on Netflix & watched it largely because Noomi Rapace is in it.  She is definitely the scene-stealer in this one.  Except for her, it’s mostly just like every other revenge movie you’ve seen.
  • The Heat:  Sandra Bullock is very underrated as a comedic actor, and she’s actually best when she’s the straight man.  This movie (the unrated version) was a lot of fun.
  • The World’s End:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & Edgar Wright?  My only regret is that I never got around to seeing it in the theater.  Excellent movie!!
  • Europa Report:  I wanted to like this movie a whole lot more than I did.  As a matter of fact, I disliked it so much that I only watched about half of it & never bothered finishing it.  The found footage thing is about as lost on me as lo-fi garage rock.  I’m not a fan, but I can tolerate it if the material is excellent.  Unfortunately, here it isn’t.  You’ve seen every aspect of this space saga before and wherever you saw it before, it was done better in that movie.

Movies I meant to go see, but either forgot or couldn’t work up the actual desire when it mattered:

  • John Dies at the End
  • Stand Up Guys
  • Identity Thief
  • Oz the Great & Powerful
  • The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  • The Place Beyond the Pines
  • Evil Dead
  • 42
  • Pain & Gain
  • After Earth
  • Now You See Me
  • This Is the End
  • The Way Way Back
  • RED 2
  • Blue Jasmine
  • 2 Guns
  • Kick-Ass 2
  • The Butler
  • Riddick
  • Rush
  • Don Jon
  • Gravity
  • Runner Runner
  • Captain Philips
  • Machete Kills
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Carrie
  • Bad Grandpa
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Last Vegas
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  • 47 Ronin
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Lone Survivor

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notable deaths in 2013

3e8154f3d0164fb9c74d9212c54db126I hope I’m not jinxing this post by throwing it up more than 24 hours before the end of the year, but the death (yesterday) of Wojciech Kilar reminded me that I meant to do this.  I won’t comment on any of these folks except to note what they were most known as – musician includes singers, by the way!

I have friends who lost people special to them, including some close friends, and I went to a few funerals myself this year. It’s never a pleasant experience, but that kind of closure is important to us and how we deal with death and our families. My sympathies to anybody who lost somebody this year, and I hope your memories buoy you.

Notable deaths in 2013

  • Wojciech Kilar, composer
  • Kazuyoshi Kino, Buddhist scholar
  • Paul Blair, baseball player
  • Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor/engineer
  • Yusef Lateef, musician
  • Ricky Lawson, musician
  • Lord Infamous, musician
  • David Richards, music producer
  • Al Goldstein, pornographer
  • Hideo Kanaya, motorcycle racer
  • Ray Price, musician
  • Joan Fontaine, actress
  • Peter O’Toole, actor
  • Jang Sung-taek, politician – executed
  • Tom Laughlin, actor
  • Mac McGarry, quiz show host (It’s Academic!)
  • Nelson Mandela, politician & activist
  • Charles Grigg, cartoonist
  • Bill Lawrence, musician & guitar/bass pickup designer
  • Jim Hall, musician
  • Eleanor Parker, actress
  • Paul Walker, actor
  • Sylvia Brown, psychic
  • Frederick Sanger, scientist
  • Doris Lessing, author
  • John Tavener, musician & composer
  • Charlie Trotter, chef
  • Lou Reed, musician
  • Marcia Wallace, actress
  • Jovanka Broz, widow of Josip Broz
  • Ed Lauter, actor
  • Phil Chevron, musician
  • Vo Nguyen Giap, general
  • Tom Clancy, author
  • Hiroshi Yamauchi, video game legend
  • Ray Dolby, engineer
  • Frederick Pohl, author
  • Julie Harris, actress
  • Marian McPartland, musician
  • Elmore Leonard, author
  • Lee Thompson Young, actor
  • Lisa Robin Kelly, actress
  • Jack Germond, author/journalist
  • Jon Brookes, musician
  • Eydie Gorme, musician
  • Karen Black, actress
  • George Duke, musician
  • Michael Ansara, actor
  • Harry Byrd, Jr, politician
  • Eileen Brennan, actress
  • JJ Cale, musician
  • Virginia Johnson, scientist
  • Dennis Farina, actor
  • Helen Thomas, journalist
  • Cory Monteith, actor
  • Bernadette Nolan, musician
  • Jim Kelly, martial artist & actor
  • Alan Myers, musician
  • Douglas Engelbart, nerd (invented the computer mouse)
  • Bobby “Blue” Bland, musician
  • James Gandolfini, actor
  • Slim Whitman, musician
  • Chico Hamilton, musician
  • Wanda Coleman, poet
  • Doris Lessing, feminist
  • Todd Christensen, football player
  • Hal Needham, stunt man & film director
  • Scott Carpenter, astronaut
  • Ken Norton, Sr, boxer
  • Eiji Toyoda, auto executive
  • David Frost, journalist
  • Seamus Heaney, poet
  • Ruth Asawa, artist
  • Michael Hastings, journalist
  • Richard Ramirez, serial killer
  • David “Deacon” Jones, football player
  • Jean Stapleton, actress
  • Ed Shaughnessy, musician
  • Ray Manzarek, musician
  • Joyce Brothers, psychologist
  • Ray Harryhausen, film special effects wizard
  • Deanna Durbin, musician/actress
  • George Jones, musician
  • Richie Havens, musician
  • Pat Summerall, broadcaster
  • Frank Bank, actor
  • Maria Tallchief, dancer
  • Jonathan Winters, comedian & actor
  • Margaret Thatcher, politician
  • Annette Funicello, actress
  • Roger Ebert, film critic
  • Jack Pardee, football player
  • Phil Ramone, record producer
  • Richard Griffiths, actor
  • Rise Stevens, musician
  • Harry Reems, actor
  • Alvin Lee, musician
  • Hugo Chavez, politician
  • Bonnie Franklin, actress
  • Van Cliburn, musician
  • Roy Brown, automotive engineer/designer
  • C Everett Koop, physician
  • George Aratani, electronics executive
  • Mindy McCready, musician
  • Stuart Freeborn, film makeup/costuming legend
  • Andre Cassagnes, electrician & inventor
  • Ed Koch, politician
  • Patty Andrews, musician
  • Stan “The Man” Musial, baseball player
  • Earl Weaver, baseball player/manager
  • Gussy Moran, tennis player
  • Pauline “Dear Abby” Phillips, author
  • Aaron Swartz, nerd
  • Evan Connell, author & historian
  • Patti Page, musician
  • Kurt Caselli, motorcycle racer

25 most-listened-to albums of 2013

3e8154f3d0164fb9c74d9212c54db126A couple weeks ago I posted the best of which albums I picked up in 2013; this post is just a list of the 25 albums I listened to the most this year according to the number of listens recorded by iTunes.  Given that I listen to music on my phone as well and an iPod too, I might adjust a few of these a spot or two on the list, but it’s pretty darn accurate.

Now if I can just remember to reset the number of plays on 1 January…

  1. John Williams, The Baroque Album
  2. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chronicle
  3. John Williams, Spanish Guitar Music
  4. Sarah Jarosz, Song Up in Her Head
  5. George Thorogood, Baddest Hits
  6. Cutting Crew, Broadcast
  7. Kingdom Come, In Your Face
  8. Cake, Fashion Nugget
  9. Black Label Society, Stronger Than Death
  10. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Mind Control
  11. Kingdom Come, Kingdom Come
  12. Josh Fix, Free at Last
  13. Pink Floyd, Animals (2011 remaster)
  14. The Association, Greatest Hits
  15. Leon Redbone, Up a Lazy River
  16. Steve Miller Band, Greatest Hits
  17. Black Sabbath, 13
  18. Michael Hedges, Beyond Boundaries
  19. Nobuki Takamen, From Now On
  20. They Might Be Giants, Flood
  21. Volbeat, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
  22. The Quill, Tiger Blood
  23. Racer X, Technical Difficulties
  24. Sweet, Action: The Sweet Anthology
  25. Black Tide, Light From Above

As you can see, some of my best-of-2013 albums made the list, but several of them either came out or came into my collection late in the year – which actually makes it all the more impressive that Uncle Acid made the top 25, because I’ve only had that album a couple of months.  Really phenomenal record, that.

I’m clearly obsessed with classic rock, with 6 traditional classic rock bands/albums making the list (although it could be argued that The Association is 60s pop, I’ll include them in the classic rock genre here, as “classic” tends to get attached to anything before about 1980).

Speaking of the 80s, Cutting Crew, Kingdom Come and They Might Be Giants?  Am I still really listening to those albums so much?  YES I AM!!  Broadcast is one of, hands-down, the best pop/rock albums I’ve ever heard. It’s a shame their 2nd album sucked so bad. The two Kingdom Come albums are great driving music, too, and clearly I listen to them a lot.

Metal makes a good showing, with 7 metal albums (and no, I’m not counting Kingdom Come) in the top 25, but what exactly is up with a bluegrass album and TWO classical guitar albums dominating my top 5?  That’s just how I roll.  Sarah Jarosz’s first album is just absolutely wonderful & if you haven’t heard it, you owe yourself a treat – so go get it. Even (or especially) if you don’t like bluegrass, you will love her album. Promise!

In addition to the classical guitar, there’s some other instrumental stuff going on – Michael Hedges (who does sing occasionally) and Nobuki Takamen; NT’s album is excellent and accessible traditional guitar jazz with piano, bass, drums & sax.  Great album & I’m proud to say I helped Nobuki become an American citizen – just a little, but still.

All righty then … I think that’s going to round out my blog posts for 2013.  Enjoy the end of your year & here’s to a fruitful 2014!

the best christmas movies OF ALL TIME!

You had to know it was coming …

THE 25 BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES OF ALL TIME

In order, counting down to #1.  (Come on, if you know me, you already know what #1 is. Seriously. How could you NOT know?)

25.  Santa’s Slay:  campy horror starring a pro wrestler.  What’s not to love?

24.  The Hudsucker Proxy

23.  Rocky IV:  When else will the epic battle between the US & USSR take place?  Is it really a Christmas miracle when Rocky beats Drago?

22.  Die Hard 2:  Pales in comparison to the original, but still better than all the cheesy black & white “classic” Christmas movies.

21.  Home Alone:  Don’t show this to kids under the age of 10 or your life will be filled with pranks.

20.  The Santa Clause:  Tim Allen’s not really a very funny guy, but this fish-out-of-water tale is a lot of fun.

19.  The Polar Express

18.  Gremlins

17.  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians:  I will admit it’s the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version that landed this schlocky film on the list.

16.  The Long Kiss Goodnight:  What says Christmas more than the repressed memories of a former assassin?

15.  Jingle All the Way:  I happen to think Arnold Schwarzenegger is a better comedic actor than he is an action star.  This movie also features (as Arnold’s son) the little boy that went on to become the 2nd most reviled actor in the Star Wars franchise, aka “Little Anakin.”

14.  Lethal Weapon

13.  Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale:  Not only a horror film (sorta) but a foreign one, to boot.

12.  Trading Places:  Dan Aykroyd as a formerly rich, unemployed, homeless Santa crashing a corporate Christmas party is just too classic not to make the list.  Plus this film features Eddie Murphy when he was still really funny and Jamie Lee Curtis when she was still really hot.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Have you seen her lately?  SHE’S STILL SMOKING HOT!!

11.  Arthur Christmas:  This is kind of a dark horse entry – I only saw it for the first time a couple weeks ago.  I have to say I was truly – and happily – surprised at this wonderful little underdog story.

10.  A Christmas Story:  Only it wasn’t “fudge” that I said.

9.  Die Hard:  Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman before anybody knew him as Professor Snape.  “The quarterback is TOAST!”  Too many classic lines to quote here.

8.  The Ref:  Probably the highest-ranked movie on this list that you’ve never seen.  Denis Leary is at the top of his acerbic form and Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis as an unhappy middle class suburban couple on the verge of breaking up – with a horrifyingly delinquent son – is a hysterical romp through the caper-gone-wrong genre.

7.  Bad Santa:  This is Billy Bob Thornton doing what he does best – the marginalized character with a secret heart of gold. Well, maybe 14K gold.  If you watch this, don’t bother with a sanitized version – go straight for the unrated version on DVD.  It’s worth it just to see John Ritter as the most milquetoastiest of men and Bernie Mac as a chain-smoking mall detective.

6.  Elf:  Will Ferrell is one of those guys that I find hit-or-miss when it comes to comedy (by the way, he is a surprisingly effective dramatic actor).  Elf is definitely one of his hits, thanks largely to straight man James Caan.

5.  Scrooged:  Bill Murray, if you’ve been following his career, doesn’t do straight comedy any more.  This film has its funny moments – most of which are totally fueled by Murray’s brilliance – but it’s actually a pretty serious take on this classic tale of self-discovery and salvation.

4.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas:  Jim Carrey… Jim Carrey… Jim Carrey.  Nobody does slapstick better than him except maybe Chevy Chase at his peak.  This is a fantastic big-budget take on the venerable Dr. Seuss story, and while Max the dog steals the spotlight at times, watching the Grinch do his thing is a real joy.

3.  The Muppet Christmas Carol:  Best version of this story ever, hands down, no debate, period.  Michael Caine is perfect and really, the Muppets are just along for the ride.  Watching the Ghost of Christmas Present age from scene to scene is so subtle and sublime that you just might miss it the first 10 times you watch this movie.

2.  The Nightmare Before Christmas:  Personal growth & redemption are common themes in Christmas movies, and this animated classic is no different.  In a lot of ways it’s a typical Tim Burton animated movie (with music by Danny Elfman, of course) – and I mean that in a good way.  His skewed view on the world is what motivates us to love Jack Skellington, even when he’s so clearly screwing up Christmas on his way to enlightenment.
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1.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation:  There is none better.  This is the best Christmas movie ever.  EVER!!!  This is the only Christmas movie I watch when it’s not even Christmas time!  It’s that good.  Chevy Chase is hitting on all cylinders, as are Beverly D’Angelo (who is just gorgeous as she tries to keep the Griswold family from flying apart) and Randy Quaid.  I don’t even know what more I can say about this movie other than that if you don’t own it, you clearly hate America and everything that is wonderful about being alive.

the year in books (2013)

Life isn’t just about music – of course, it’s about books, too!

Here’s the best – and worst – books I read in 2013. A list of all the books I read in 2013 follows the best & worst.

BEST READS IN 2013

Isaac Asimov’s Lije Bailey mysteries – The Caves of Steel (1954), The Naked Sun (1957) & The Robots of Dawn (1983). 2013 was a big Asimov year for me – and I loved it. A big robot year, too, so these otherwise standard mystery novels fit right in & I greatly enjoyed reading them. The first two books in the series are a bit slow and could probably have done just fine being shortened a couple of chapters, but it’s the underlying conflict – between humanity & technology – that is the real brilliance of them. Asimov captures the struggle beautifully.

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Scott Anderson. The best nonfiction book I’ve read in probably the last 10 years. It explodes a lot of the myths perpetrated by the (rather excellent) film Lawrence of Arabia and makes exciting the drudgery of World War One in the Arabian desert. Great book.

How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written, by Sterling Archer. I shouldn’t even need to explain this. If you watch the TV show Archer, you have to read this book.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi. A rather brilliant riff on one of the biggest in-jokes in sci-fi, that the guy whose name you don’t know wearing a red shirt in Star Trek is going to die before the credits. I could have done without the epilogues/appendices, but they have their place.

Vader’s Little Princess, by Jeffrey Brown. Short, fun, and wonderful.

Honorable Mentions: The Martian Way, by Isaac Asimov; Faulty Assumptions: Why Blaming Teachers Won’t Fix Public Schools, by Jason Davis; Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon

WORST READS IN 2013

Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein. Being a huge Heinlein fan, I was surprised at how much this novel sucks. The first third or so is OK, but it goes downhill quite quickly. The middle third is a bald-faced morality lesson, and the final third is a cut-rate space caper. Really a waste of time to read.

Bio of a Space Tyrant series, by Piers Anthony. I read – and loved – this 5-book series when I was in my late teens & early 20s. I sacrificed these books when I moved from a big house to a small one several years ago and finally got around to repurchasing them. I figured since I went to all that trouble, I ought to re-read them as well. Big mistake. Calling them “rapey” is about the nicest thing you can say about them – then throw in incest and pedophilia, all at the hands of the main character. Then there’s the plot lines so simple that you really can stop reading most of these novels by about the middle & feel like you know exactly what’s going to happen anyway. Anthony is one of my favorite writers, but I doubt I’ll ever pick these books up again.

Spook Country, by William Gibson. Gibson has written some phenomenal books. This is not one of them. It’s better than Pattern Recognition, but by far not one of his best.

Start Something That Matters, by Blake Mycoskie. Mycoskie is the human equivalent of a giant pile of sugar. Sweet and fun to consume, but it slowly kills you. By the time I got to the end of this book, I won’t say I was suicidal, but I will say that if I ever meet this guy in person, I may very well have to punch him right in the face just to see if his incessant, simplistic optimism can pierce such an experience. Just thinking about this book makes me angry.

What Is Publication Design? by Lakshmi Bhaskaran. Design books are tough – I’ve found them to be either eminently helpful or completely useless, with little middle ground. This book proved to be the latter. It’s a very general look at design, and as such, it never really inspires anything creative.

Dishonorable Mentions: Mediaeval Feudalism, by Carl Stephenson; Civil War Bawdy Houses of Washington DC, by Thomas Lowry (fun, but not a good book)

Semi-complete list of all books I read in 2013

  • The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov (1954)
  • Mediaeval Feudalism, by Carl Stephenson (1956)
  • The Naked Sun, by Isaac Asimov (1957)
  • The Iron Giant, by Ted Hughes (1968)
  • The Robots of Dawn, by Isaac Asimov (1983)
  • Friday, by Robert A Heinlein (1983)
  • Robots, Androids and Mechanical Oddities: The Science Fiction of Philip K. Dick, by Patricia Warrick (1984)
  • The Martian Way, by Isaac Asimov (1985)
  • One Step From Earth, by Harry Harrison (1985)
  • Bio of a Space Tyrant: Refugee, Mercenary, Politician, Executive, Statesman, by Piers Anthony (1986)
  • Civil War Bawdy Houses of Washington, DC, by Thomas P Lowry (1997)
  • Magazine Design That Works: Secrets for Successful Magazine Design (That Works Series), by Stacey King (2001)
  • Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon (2007)
  • I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov (2008)
  • What Is Publication Design?, by Lakshmi Bhaskaran (2009)
  • Spook Country, by William Gibson (2009)
  • The Time Traveler’s Handbook, by Lottie Stride (2009)
  • How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written, by Sterling Archer (2012)
  • Faulty Assumptions: Why Blaming Teachers Won’t Fix Public Schools, by Jason Davis (2012)
  • Start Something That Matters, by Blake Mycoskie (2012)
  • Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Scott Anderson (2013)
  • Vader’s Little Princess, by Jeffrey Brown (2013)
  • Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, by Chip Kidd (2013)
  • German Automatic Rifles 1941-45: Gew 41, Gew 43, FG 42 and StG 44 (Weapon), by Chris McNab (2013)
  • Redshirts, by John Scalzi (2013)
  • Star Wars: Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual: Imperial DS-1 Orbital Battle Station, by Ryder Windham (2013)

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the year in music (2013)

First, a lengthy quote:

     Doctor Labyrinth, like most people who read a great deal and who have too much time on their hands, had become convinced that our civilization was going the way of Rome. He saw, I think, the same cracks forming that had sundered the ancient world, the world of Greece and Rome; it was his conviction that presently, our world, our society, would pass away as their did, and a period of darkness would follow.

     Now Labyrinth, having thought this, began to brood over all the fine and lovely things that would be lost in the reshuffling of societies. He thought of the art, the literature, the manners, the music, everything that would be lost. It seemed to him that of all these grand and noble things, music would probably be the most lost, the quickest forgotten.

     Music is the most perishable of things, fragile and delicate, easily destroyed.  –Philip K. Dick, “The Preserving Machine,” 1953

It is with some measure of trepidation that I begin this post, knowing full well that my cynicism towards music this year has reached an epic level.  We were force-fed a steady (and putrid) diet of Miley Cyrus and The Voice, both of which are epic-level fails of quality music.

I mean, seriously. I loved the first Maroon 5 album, Songs About Jane. At this point I can’t even look at a photo of Adam Levine (the singer) without laughing.

Anyway.

I’ll include a list of all the new albums I bought in 2013, but I want to start with the BEST of what I got in 2013, including albums I got but weren’t put out in 2013.

BEST OF THE NON-2013 ALBUMS

MD.45, The Craving.  I have always been a fair-weather Megadeth fan, in that I love love love the music they play but really wish Dave Mustaine was a better (more melodic) singer. He’s got a gruff voice that is good for metal, but he’s just not a good singer.  You can’t deny the guitar skills, though, and Megadeth is still one of the best (if not most relevant) metal bands around.  The Craving came out in 1996 during a time when Mustaine was disillusioned with Megadeth, and he got Lee Ving (of Fear) to do all the singing.  What it became was a punk/metal extravaganza and it’s an excellent album, even with the harmonica solos.  Be careful tracking down a copy of this album, though, as Mustaine remastered his entire back catalog and says he couldn’t find Ving’s vocal or harmonica tracks when it came time to redo The Craving, so he replaced Ving’s voice with his and the harmonica with guitar. As little as I like harmonica solos, they work in this context, and Mustaine’s vocals turn this album into just another ho-hum old metal record.

Leon Redbone, Up a Lazy River.  If you watch reruns of Saturday Night Live episodes from the 1970s, sooner or late you’ll come across a white-suited, Panama-hatted dapper fellow called Leon Redbone. Many of the songs he played on SNL were done with just him and an acoustic guitar, and he has a rich, oddly soothing – yet occasionally disconcerting – baritone voice.  Nowadays what he plays is called “Americana.”  I wanted one of his albums, so I dug through reviews & discussions of his music and came across Up a Lazy River, which many of his fans say is his best recent album. I haven’t heard any of his other albums, recent or otherwise, but I have truly enjoyed this disc.

Huey Lewis and The News, Greatest Hits.  Duh.  Why didn’t I have this album already?  Chock full of toe-tapping, finger-snapping hits you already know, plus some other songs that you could graciously call “filler.”

Andres Segovia, The Art of Segovia.  Two discs stuffed full of some of the most amazing classical guitar playing you’ll ever hear.  If you’ve listened to classical guitar in the last 50 years, you’ve heard Segovia, somebody taught by Segovia, or somebody influenced by Segovia. This is the master at his finest.

John Fogerty, Centerfield (25th Anniversary Edition).  You can get tired of hearing a great song over and over. I worked at a minor league baseball stadium (selling beer, flipping burgers, etc.) for four years starting in 1988. I probably heard the song “Centerfield” a thousand times – at least the beginning of it, anyway.  I will admit that I sometimes skip that tune when I play this album, but I never heard the rest of this record until buying it this past summer.  It’s a terrific record from start to finish.

Now that we’ve done that, here’s

BEST OF THE 2013 ALBUMS

Black Sabbath, 13.  When I heard Black Sabbath was reuniting for an album and a tour, I was pretty excited.  Then I heard the original drummer wasn’t included, but they were getting the drummer from Rage Against the Machine.  See, I was never a Sabbath purist, and I didn’t get into them until I was in my 30s, and I’m not a die-hard fan.  I only have one album plus the Greatest Hits compilation – until now.  I don’t miss the original drummer, and I find the new album compelling and a fitting close to what has been a very long career as the godfathers of heavy metal.

Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11. Above I mention Andres Segovia. Rodrigo y Gabriela is what you’d get if you took Segovia and made him listen to Metallica for years.  This is an album where they pay tribute to their influences, which range from piano players to Pink Floyd.

Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, Mind Control.  A Facebook friend turned me on to this album, and I got it almost on a lark.  Totally. Blown. Away.  This album is the most Sabbathy-sounding non-Sabbath album I’ve ever heard.  I suppose it helps that they’re English and using instruments, amps & recording gear made in the 1960s & 70s.  This album is filled with dark, sludgy, wonderful songs.  Buy it.  Note that I also picked up Blood Lust, the album they put out in 2012. It’s OK, but not as good as this one.

Volbeat, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies.  This was the first great album of 2013.  It opens with a goofy (and pointless) instrumental and has a couple of real clunkers that feature the singer’s overuse of auto-tuning, but all the other songs are catchy, heavy, well written, and exceptionally well played.  An excellent album.

Rush, Vapor Trails (Remixed).  This is the Rush album I always wanted to love but couldn’t, simply because it was basically impossible to listen to.  The original version of this album was completely brick-wall limited – with the levels just slammed to the max.  It was so …tiring… to listen to that after a couple of spins, I put it away.  Rush listened to their fans and not only remixed the album, but had it properly mastered to put the dynamics back in this excellent collection of songs.  The new version is a joy to listen to.

There you have it, folks, my top 10 albums of 2013.  Here’s a list of all the albums I bought in 2013, then, in alphabetical order, with non-2013s first.

  • Andres Segovia, Art of Segovia (1969)
  • Charlie Daniels Band, A Decade of Hits (1983)
  • John Fogerty, Centerfield (25th Anniversary Edition) (1985/2010)
  • Rush, Presto (Re-Issue) (1989/2013)
  • Daryl Hall & John Oates, The Very Best Of Daryl Hall & John Oates (1990)
  • MD.45, Craving (1996)
  • John Williams, Great Paraguayan: Solo Guitar Works By Barrios (2004)
  • Huey Lewis & the News, Greatest Hits (2006)
  • White Wolf, Victim of the Spotlight (2007)
  • Tom Lehrer, The Tom Lehrer Collection (2010)
  • Leon Redbone, Up a Lazy River (2011)
  • John Williams, Guitarist (2011)
  • The Nightwatchman, World Wide Rebel Songs (2011)
  • Halestorm, The Strange Case of… (2012)
  • Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Blood Lust (2012)
  • Black Sabbath, 13 (2013)
  • Ray Charles, Forever (2013)
  • John Fogerty, Wrote a Song For Everyone (2013)
  • Iron Maiden, Maiden England ’88 (DVD) (2013)
  • Pinnick Gales Pridgen, Pinnick Gales Pridgen (2013)
  • The Quill, Tiger Blood (2013)
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11 (2013)
  • Rush, Vapor Trails (Remixed) (2013)
  • Scale the Summit, The Migration (2013)
  • Shawn Smith, So the Heart Can See (2013)
  • Stryper, Second Coming (2013)
  • Stryper, No More Hell to Pay (2013)
  • Roger Taylor, Fun on Earth (2013)
  • Thicker Than Water, Coming Soon! Side 1 (2013)
  • Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Mind Control (2013)
  • Volbeat, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (2013)

3e8154f3d0164fb9c74d9212c54db126

thumpity thump thump

angryprofWhen you live in an apartment, you have to – as calmly as possible – take the bad with the good, even when the bad is an upstairs neighbor that is very, VERY thumpy at all hours of the day and night.

Including nearly every night past 11 pm.

Well, folks, I have to say that tonight I pretty much had enough. After 3+ months of the thumping, I went upstairs to knock on the door and ask them to please be quiet.

I knocked on the door. Calmly. I stood back far enough so I could be seen through the peep hole. No answer. I knocked again – a bit more insistent but in no way in a fashion that could be considered inappropriate.  I promise, I was being nice. Gentle, even.

I don’t want to come across as an asshole, after all. Plus I have it on good authority that even when I’m not angry, I am intimidating.  So I smiled.

And knocked again.

This time, I heard them lock the deadbolt.  Not understanding entirely why they would do that – after all, I was smiling and knocking politely … but then again, it was nearly 11 pm – I spoke.

“I can hear you in there and I would like to speak to you. Please open the door.”

I could hear talking through the door, but nobody would open it.  Then, behind me a little down the hallway, another apartment’s front door opened.  I turned to see a woman step into the hallway.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Only if you know the people in this apartment,” I said.

“Oh, those are my children,” she said.

We had a not-very-pleasant-yet-still-cordial-and-not-yelling-on-my-part conversation in which I was a bit aggressive and she was quite apologetic.  She spoke to the children on her phone and the noise (which could still be heard through the front door) immediately stopped.

Apparently their family is so large that they have two apartments – the 3BR above mine & a 2BR down the hall.  Most of the kids live in the 3BR and are, apparently, lightly supervised in the evening hours. At least these are her older kids, or so she said.

Two things occurred to me.

  1. For the $3,400+ a month they’re paying in rent for 2 apartments, they could have a really nice house.  I did not voice this sentiment to the woman.
  2. Unsupervised children under the age of 18 alone in an apartment might very well be a violation of some law or another.  This sentiment I did voice to the woman.

After that last bit of the conversation, I said that I did not expect to hear her children through the floor after 10 pm any more and bid her good night.

We’ll see what happens.