1. Blind dog. 2. Hilarious April Fool's joke on me. 3. Coaching the "Killer" Bees little league.
4. Tower Talk @ AADL. 5. Homemade toga. 6. Asshole cat.
7. Drum lessons. 8. New car named Julius. 9. Total babe w/lucky so-and-so.
American Film Institute Top 100 Movies
This year I took it upon myself to have seen all of the AFI 100 movies. And I did. More detail below.
We went to Disney World and I got to be part of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. A childhood dream realized.
Good to root for the underdog in some cases this year.
Bridge Street Social
My good friend opened his own restaurant Bridge Street Social which has amazing food and the smartest wine list I've seen.
I am still trying to figure out:
We spent much of the year ripping the plumbing out of a 130-year-old farmhouse and renovating the bathroom. We think the tradesmen we brought in may have been the first professional plumbers ever to set foot in the house. The main guy said "I've been a master plumber for years and I've never seen anything like this." It was an amazing spider web of galvanized, copper, steel, and just random tubing. Now the bathroom is like peeing in a wonderful luxury hotel. Still miles to go.
My sister got engaged
He's a good guy too. When I went out as the only old dude with a group of her friends years ago, I looked around the table and said "I like all of these people, but that guy is the best one. He should start dating my sister."
Trip to Toledo
Had a romantic trip to Toledo Ohio which included seeing the Mud Hens pitch a combined no-hitter and wonderful stay at The Casey-Pomeroy House.
On Record Store Day, Paul Kahlenberg and I had a blast reliving the old Tower Records days at the Ann Arbor Library.
Busting shoplifters, drinking in the art room, Y2K and getting Hulk Hogan to pay his late video fees all get covered.
You can experience it on my Soundcloud, bruh.
Kid Koala's Nufonia Must Fall
We got to see an incredible ...uh...puppet show live action filmed musical performance on turntables with a bingo game. You kinda had to be there.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Hill Auditorium
Jazz greats with great friends.
My kid competed in the largest Science Olympiad in the world and his team got 3rd place for launching water rockets. NERD!
Jason Isbell show
I'm glad he's off the sauce. He's doing amazing music and his twitter is hilarious.
Sam Beam & Jsca Hoop show
My favorite music moment of the year. Seeing these two in an intimate performance at the Ark was beautiful
I was interviewed for this article about AllMusic which offers a bit of history about how the whole thing fits together.
Expect references to Brian Austin Green, Who Dat?, CDNow, Sadcore, a 4½ star teen pop album,
Cub Coda, Parachutes revisionism, and a hazily-remembered visit from Taylor Swift.
Henry programming in Python
My son expressed interest in making his own video games, so he and I both sat down and learned the very basics of the Python programming language. He even made a simple text-based game where it asks you questions ("How are you doing?") and depending on your answer, gives you a canned reply. No matter what, he has learned the bare bones of what programming is and that should give him a leg up in the future.
Beyond Yacht Rock podcast
ENDORSEMENT! If you like music nerds and laughing, you should check out the "Beyond Yacht Rock" podcast, featuring localish dudes JD Ryznar and Hollywood Steve Huey. They select a semi-made-up arbitrary musical genre and then count down a top 10.
The first week the genre was "Sultry Hits" (think Danger Zone and sweaty sax solos from the Lost Boys) and this week was "Try-N-Raps" (think Barney Rubble as the Master Rapper who is here to say/he loves Fruity Pebbles in a major way). The hosts know their inane musical history so if you and your pals like to sit around and discuss the merits of Pat Thrall, occasional guitarist in Asia, this is the podcast for you.
99% Invisible Podcast
A podcast about the unnoticed design of everyday things. It's cooler than it sounds.
Music I liked:
Love Letter for Fire by Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
By far the album I spent the most time with this year. Iron & Wine's Sam Beam's sandpapery voice interlaces so well with singer/songriter Jesca Hoop (who was a nanny for Tom Waits' offspring in the early 2000s!) it reminded me a lot of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings mesh together perfectly. The album is warm, intimate and rustic, and the acoustic guitars and simple percussion (Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg) set the songs off perfectly.
Tuns by TUNS
Matt Murphy (Super Friendz, Flashing Lights), Mike O'Neill (the Inbreds) and Chris Murphy (Sloan) make some great power pop. If you like Sloan albums you will like this because it sounds like a Sloan album.
Modern Country by William Tyler
Tyler creates these sprawling desert American landscapes of a mythical West. Many of the songs focus on looped and manipulated guitar with only bare insrumentation behind it. I can't wait for my next summertime road trip to try this one with the windows down.
Good Times! by The Monkees
I was super exited to hear this record when I heard about the songwriters involved: Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), Andy Partridge (XTC), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Paul Weller (The Jam) all contribute songs, plus a resurrected Harry Nilsson duet and a cover of an obscure song I associate with The Byrds. The whole thing feels fresh in a way that doesn't feel like a nostalgia act.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not by Dinosaur Jr.
A great return to form from a veteran band, cranking out very tuneful distorted rockers.
case/lang/veirs by Neko Case, k.d. lang, & Laura Veirs
This seems like an oddball recording: Three female singer/songwriters from vaguely different eras and backgrounds but it all mushes together very well. Laura Viers' voice is the most slight but I ended up liking her contributions the most. They're very honest and heartfelt.
Compilation by Sheer Mag
This band has been described a billion ways, often inferring the Go-Gos and Thin Lizzy influences, but alls I know is they sound raw and soulful with a real sense of melody. I wish their stuff was on Spotify. You can see the video for my fave tune here.
Stiff by White Denim
While I've liked other White Denim records better, this was a grower, and their wonky technical jamminess is always balanced with a real sense of melody and listenability. Most jam bands I stumble across rely too much on technical ability and extended jamz, but these guys keep everything tight and hummable.
Boots No 1: The Official Revival Bootleg by Gillian Welch
I've long been a fan of Welch's debut, and this 2-disc collection of demos, outtakes and radio appearances from that era really felt good this fall. Simple instrumentation and honest performances are as good as would be expected, and a couple songs that never made the final cut are like finding an unexpected ten dollar bill in your pocket.
A Sailor's Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson
Simpson has one of the most honest voices in country music today, and this album is a dark, gut-bucket collection of soulful southern muscle. It is said to be a letter to his newborn son telling him how to become a man, so there are layers to un-peel. I'm still not sold on the cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" which takes me out of the flow of the record, but I may see how it fits someday.
An album that has been unavailable digitally just surfaced in Spotify. Unicorn was a bright and earnest British acoustic-based rock band from the mid-70s and "Blue Pine Trees" is my favorite of theirs.
Movies I Watched:
Earlier this year I watched "The Apartment" with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It was so incredible that I realized there must be a ton of great movies out there that I had never seen. "The Apartment" is on the AFI 100 list and while I had seen about half, I had never seen "Ben Hur" or "All About Eve" or "Raging Bull" so I set myself the arbitrary challenge of watching them all by the end of the year.
Schindler's List was always my "really?!?" movie. (I have a theory that there are always movies that you think you should have seen but you've never seen and when you tell somebody you've never seen Schindler's list they say "Really? You've never seen Schindler's List? *REALLY?!?!?1!?*") and now I have seen it.
I have to say I recommend it heartily. Instead of watching the latest Adam Sandler movie on demand or just flipping through channels, you have the opportunity to watch something that is really incredible and timeless. I suggest it to everyone for 2017.
Movies I saw in 2016 that actually came out in 2016 (in rough order of how I liked them):
Captain America: Civil War
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Everybody Wants Some!!
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Jungle Book
Batman very Superman
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
London Has Fallen
Independence Day: Resurgence
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The adult children of a couple of oddball performance artists try to figure out how the hell to make sense of their lives. Kind of like The Royal Tenenbaums if the kids turned out halfway normal.
Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff
A meticulous documentation of the initial David Lee Roth era of Van Halen including the Van Halen brothers' upbringing, Diamond Dave's transformation from wannabe to preening, strutting cock-rocker, and a nearly-endless series of frustrated bassists. From high school parking lot gigs and backyard shows busted by the cops, to the boys fake skydiving in to a major outdoor festival.
Syrup by Max Barry
Max Barry skewers the advertising industry and exposes how jacked up marketing really is. Max Barry also wrote Jennifer Government which was also quite good.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Man, this one is a spooky post-apocalypse survival story that loops back on itself in six different ways. Recommended.
But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
Klosterman asks a ton of questions and leaves it up to you to try to figure out the answers. He notes: Ben Selvin outsold Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. In 1956, Nelson Riddle and Les Baxter outsold almost every rock 'n' roll star not named Elvis, but they've been virtually erased from the public record. It's almost impossible to guess what will be important to future generations. Brain asplode.
Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life by Steven Hyden
Author Steven Hyden looks at the rivalries in music, beyond the Biggie/Tupac and Pearl Jam/Nirvana spats down to the lesser-covered Madonna/Cyndi Lauper creative wrestling match.
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
The final book in The Magicians series (Harry Potter in Narnia with angsty college students) and I think it did a good job of feeling epic and wrapping up loose ends.
Full list here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2016/738761
Much has been said about this so I don't need to say more, but I love the concept of VHS-Core filmmaking and I watched this twice.
Much like the books: horny college students leave Hogwarts and go to Narnia. The magic they do is cool and there are funny things they say.
Like "Classic Albums" but not quite as nerdy.
Hey, this is super cute, plus this scene about Fartsicles made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe:
Horrible, Horrible Things:
Grandma Johnson & her sister Polly
Cops shooting people all the time
People driving cars into crowds
People shooting up rock shows and nightclubs
Staring at my phone
The media/press lying to us all the time in the name of advertising revenue
The sheer quantity of fucking horrible ads on my own website
Friends who got fired
Thanks Innernets and those involved with my life.
So at the end of 2015, everything went kind of sideways.
My father-in-law got very very sick and ended up passing away.
The last thing I felt like doing was compiling a list of how awesome everything was.
Fast forward to late 2016 and I found the scratch pad I was keeping my 2015 in review on.
The completest in me forces me to publish it in its pre-formed state.
Things I liked in 2015
I have the strongest wife and the best kid of anybody.
Our house had its 100th birthday
We paid off our house & painted our porch
We took an epic Maine trip
I held a Birthday Photoshop Contest and ended up in all kinds of funny situations
You might be able to see it here. https://www.facebook.com/zacbook/
The Beatles started streaming on Spotify
We explored Ice Caves on Lake Michigan
Jerusalem Garden moved into a new space where you can actually sit inside
Went to the Replacements show somewhere in Detroit
Went to a Wilco show at Hill Auditorium
Went to the Punch Brothers show at the Michigan Theater
Porchsleeper did a show with Prime Ministers
Saw The Chet Lemons play The Bends
Star Wars frenzy and the movie was great
My kid found some funny questions you can ask Siri
Tower Records documentary All Things Must Pass came out (but I didn't see it until 2016)
Porchsleeper released a series of digital singles https://porchsleeper.bandcamp.com/
We had a pretty mild winter
There was Supermoon
I got a watch that I think is beautiful and I hope I have it forever
The Ann Arbor Library Summer Game was super fun
We played mini-golf on Mackinac Island
I faked some Pluggers comic strips based on things my officemates say.
Gay Marriage is A-OK
AllMovie relaunch http://www.allmovie.com
I built an epic snow fort with the kids in the neighborhood.
Coachella for Dads made me larf http://www.funnyordie.com/articles/4f1f226c2c/coachella-for-dads
TV I saw:
A Very Murray Christmas
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Music I liked:
Links to reviews and samples of each of these are available here: http://www.allmusic.com/profile/datawhat/54d4f081e33c3e870fa29702/fave-2015-records
My favorite songs playlist is here:
Also, I "discovered" a '70s band called Unicorn which I liked quite a bit: http://www.allmusic.com/album/blue-pine-trees-mw0000420556
Movies I saw:
Mad Max Fury Road
Star Wars The Force Awakens
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Books I liked:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Armada by Ernest Cline
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Codex by Lev Grossman
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Full list here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/738761
Grandpa Milton Died
Probably other stuff...
Maybe 2016 will be awesome.
We finally did a family portrait. The photographer kept saying "SQUIRREL!" to get Daisy's attention. You can tell.
Henry coined what he considers to be The 4 Steps Of Men:
Step 1: You get born
Step 2: You get action figures
Step 3: You get beer
Step 4: You die
A successful road trip to Falling Water, Gettysburg and DC.
The boy became very interested in the Civil War this year and asked to spend spring break exploring the ghosts of the battlefield. Along the way we saw Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, toured the Library of Congress (where I saw Steve Ditko and Stan Lee's original first page of the first Amazing Spider Man comic), and ate chili dogs at Ben's Chili Bowl
Appalachian Brewing Company in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
This brewpub had such great beer and burgers, we eschewed going anywhere else and just ate here twice.
Started the year with a triumphant Porchsleeper reunion show at The Loving Touch and ended the year back in the studio recording new jams.
The Moscow Mule
My darling bride introduced me to this delicious wintertime beverage. Vodka, ginger beer and lime in a copper cup. Until recently we didn't have copper cups so usually I just threw whatever pennies I found on the street into the glass.
The Draper Stereo Cabinet
Along the same Mad Men lines, after years of searching we were finally able to find a replication Mid-Century Modern stereo cabinet that matches our refined sensibilities.
Bell's Smitten Ale in the summer, New Belgium Accumulation Ale in the winter.
One of my all-time favorite bands Great Lakes Myth Society reunited after a long absence for a sweaty and exuberant show at the Lager House this year.
They left a lantern at the bar.
Visiting Glen Arbor in May 2014, we were amazed to see tens of thousands of trillium flowers carpeting the woods.
At one point these flowers were protected (I believe they still are) and it was jaw-dropping to see them in such quantities.
We spent a day on our camping trip splashing around Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P.
While the upper falls are more majestic and root beer-colored, the lower falls are pretty spectacular. You can just wander around and try not to fall dowm for hours.
We went to Disney again and Henry got to battle against Captain Jack Sparrow himself.
No parlay was asked, and none given.
On Father's Day this year we splurged on great seats at a Tigers game and Miguel Cabrera threw Henry the ball they were practicing with.
We got a cat, his name is Twix, he is adorable and makes us bleed.
A little local grocery and produce station called Argus Farm Stop opened up about a block from our house.
If we run out of milk, we can go down the street and buy more. As somebody who lives downtown, this is a game-changer.
Grease merchants Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger reopened in a new location about a block from my house.
Once the hour-plus wait time eases off, I hope to gain ten thousand pounds.
The iPhone 6
Henry was asking Siri some questions and as it turns out,
she and Lewis Tully from Ghostbusters have some shared experiences.
Late to the party here, because the over-production still kinda irks me, but the stories are so good I kept coming back.
The dudes in my office were oft tickled by The Onion's offshoot Clickhole
If you are not already familiar, this quiz entitled "How Many Beach Boys Songs Have You Heard?" is a good place to start.
Oh that Fake Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Abracadabralifornia"
From this Time Magazine article: Then the new “Chili Peppers” song starts playing. The track titled “Abracadabralifornia” features a knock-off Anthony Kiedis crooning about California, replete with nonsensical lyrics like “Bing a bong bing a bong a bong Burbank,” “Shopping cart — escalator!” and then scat-rapping rhymes like, “I drink an Alabama slammer with your sexy-ass grandma.”
Too Many Cooks
Bizzaro '80s sitcom theme song that goes on forever. You might think "Oh, I get it" but after about 14 minutes you may re-think everything you know.
If for no other reason, just because it brought forth this image of a wallet full of Pizza Rolls.
DataWhat celebrated its 10th anniversary.
While it only gets updated about 1/365th as much as it used to, it still lives and breathes.
This Spotify Playlist has my best tunes from 2014.
Spotify is like a faucet of music that you just turn on
Atlas by Real Estate
Wonderful, simple and tuneful. I miss Luna records and this one really locked in for me.
Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs
Oh man did the bros and I run this one into the ground (but I still find new things to like about it). The album was dismissed as "beer commercial music" and while that is painfully not too far off, this guy has all of the right records. Bruce Springsteen, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, The Outfield, The Hooters, Bruce Hornsby...I swear to God I hear them in every song...but y'know, in a good way. (Oh man, I am selling this record short).
Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
A return to form for The Hold Steady. This album has more memorable songs than any of theirs since "Boys & Girls in America" which is one of my favorite albums of the past 10 years.
The Continuing Adventures of the Butterfly Kid by Jim Roll
A million years ago I wrote a letter to Jim Roll encouraging him to stop effing around with so many other bands and record another of his own albums. I'm glad he did.
Awake by Tycho
Ghostly International knows my sweet spot when it comes to instrumental/ambient post-rock. Yeah that's right, I have a sweet spot for that.
Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014 by Wilco
A dorky fan's dream, the b-sides and throwaway tracks on this collection are better than 99% of the songs that the kids put out these days. Just being able to hear alternate mixes from the Summerteeth era was worth it. This is one of those box sets that you can you can just sit with the liner notes and read like a book.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!
So I didn't know what to think of this record.
It's the first album by this punk band after the lead singer said "Y'know what? I'm actually a woman born into a man's body but forget that, I'm gonna be transgendered and not as a gimmick or a Rocky Horror laugh, but I'm tired of being pushed into the gym locker of life by all of the punk rock jocks. You can now call me Laura Jane." So, when I initially heard the story I was like "OK little mascara, nice way to set yourself apart from the Green Days by coming up with a tabloid story. I got enough drama in my day-to-day thank you very much."
But then you listen to the album and it is a very well-crafted set of songs with good playing and a good frontman/woman voice...reminds me a bit of The Clash's Joe Strummer energy, or Billy Bragg or Fugazi or The Gaslight Anthem.
And then you think about the experience of the person. I mean punk is the ultimate disenfranchisement ... the establishment is against you, you don't know what you want but you know how to get it... But even now when Green Day has a hit musical on Broadway, I guess being a dude who wants to be a chick in a hardcore band is pretty goddamned punk rock. Sure beats the pain of a rock star feeling put-upon because fame is a bitch or being on the road is hard or being a bullet with butterfly wings. This dude has put himself in one of the least friendly environments and decided to let his/her freak flag fly.
And the songs have good pop hooks.
Most Messed Up by Old 97's
A fine return to form for these guys. Great smart power pop with a hint of twang, and the songs hold together better than anything since Satellite Rides (which was one of my favorite records of the last 15 years).
The Golden Age of Glitter by Sweet Apple
More power pop, this time by J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), a couple guys from Cobra Verde, Mark Lanegan, as well as Guided by Voices leader Robert Pollard and Rachel Haden of that dog. You could slip most of these songs into a Cheap Trick or Badfinger collection and nobody would get mad at you.
Jumping the Tracks by +/-
Imagine my surprise when finding out that the guy in this band used to be in a local Ann Arbor band (Skillet Records' The Melba) that I loved 20 years ago.
A sugar-rich pop confection with the "Oh Mickey you're so fine" stomp, a persistent "Thrift Store" saxophone honk,
a totally weird melodica flurping under the chorus, and brimming over with (post-)teenage sass that feels like it is coming from a real place.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This is being dismissed by a lot of fancy book critics, but I found it to be very entertaining (in a literature way, not in a "oh that was cute" way). Lots of believable characters in soul-wrenching situations. Plus, a painting of a pretty bird.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
Oh man, Eggers re-writes Microserfs for the social media generation. A bit haunting, if you want to get down to it.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Speaking of haunting, the author of Gone Girl has some twisted dark recesses in her brain. Still, super page-turny.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Oh my, this cute little mixtape warmed the Say Anything part of my soul. If you were ever in high school between 1984 and 1992, I bet you can relate. (Uh, not in high school the WHOLE TIME between 1984 and 1992...if that was the case, I bet you don't usually read for fun).
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Time travel gone wrong and mortal peril abounds? Sign me up.
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs
This author combs flea markets and estate sales to find weird old photographs of double negatives and circus sideshow freaks, then crafts this incredible Harry Potter-esque story around them. It claims to be Young Adult fiction but I am an old adult and I like it just fine.
Far and away my favorite show of the year. So much batshit crazy unexpected nonsense in each episode, I can't even...Oh man, I had something for this...
This was some of the best television of the year. The 6-episode "Elevator" arc could be rolled into a cute little depressing indie movie and I'd go see it.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Funny people talking about funny things.
Super-entertaining and maddening that there are so few episodes.
Eastbound & Down
Late to the party here, but Danny McBride spins such a cringeworthy character it's impossible to look away.
Brain assplode. Great to watch with the boy.
Not 100% sold but I've found that it becomes even more enjoyable if you exaggeratedly ask "Got Ham???" every time the show title comes onscreen.
The usual suspects:
Tigers games, Mad Men, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Game of Thrones and 30 Rock reruns.
These are all of the movies I saw this year.
In retrospect, all of them were pretty much cartoons (especially the Frank Miller-esque murder scene in Gone Girl).
Captain America Winter Soldier
The LEGO Movie
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Grand Budapest Hotel
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Amazing Spider-Man 2
Big Hero 6
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Speaking of The Dark Side...These Things Sucked
Henry's bum toe
Yerg. This year my kid had a medical issue with his toe and needed to have a couple of procedures done. It was brutal and painful, resulted in an emergency overnight stay at the hospital and he was actually in a wheelchair for a while after. One of those things where you just feel so rotten and you can't help the kid at all.
A tough but loveable old bird, she passed at 96.
Pete Seeger died
This one hit pretty hard. I wrote a little something about it here.
This is going to bite their former company in the ass so hard and for a long time, and none of the suits know it.
Ian McLagan (Faces) and Bobby Keys (Stones) died.
Like, within a week of each other.
Stupid Cold Winter
Holy icicles, last winter was frigid and interminable.
"You know how to whistle, don'tcha Steve?".
Thanks Innernets and those involved with my life.