Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 :: That Was The Year That Was 

Best Junk from 2014:

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.

The Sleeper Has Awakened
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.

A beer for all seasons
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.

Trillions of Trillium

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.

Blimpy Burger Reopened

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.

Computers, Innernets and Technology:

The iPhone 6
Henry was asking Siri some questions and as it turns out,
she and Lewis Tully from Ghostbusters have some shared experiences.

Radiolab podcasts.
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.

Tumblr, again

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.

Also, I think my favorite song of the year was "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

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.

Book Em':

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.

The Picture Shows:

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
Gone Girl
Big Hero 6
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

And we watched the Star Wars 7 Trailer about a hundred times.

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.

Do they have whiskey in Heaven, Grandma?

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.

A bunch of people I like got fired for dumb business reasons.

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.

Lauren Bacall went down that Dark Passage

"You know how to whistle, don'tcha Steve?".


Thanks Innernets and those involved with my life.

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