Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking back at 2017

I do this quiz every year, so let's get on with it....

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

As I pretty much keep my resolutions to “Read a lot, write a lot, and do cool stuff,” I think I did pretty well on the ‘keeping resolutions” front, since I did all of those things. 2016 was a bad year for me for reading, but I nicely rebounded in 2017: I set a goal on Goodreads of reading 50 books, and I did 57!

It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, but at some point I decided that I want to add a lot of pink to my wardrobe. And I did. Yay!

In 2018 I’ll stick to “Read a lot, write a lot, and do cool stuff.” Works for me. (I thought about bumping my Goodreads challenge to 60 books, but my reading list currently has a lot of really long books on it, so I’m keeping it at 50.)

And one more: I will be engaging my elected representatives more often, most likely by either e-mail or physical letter. I like my Senators and I deeply dislike my Representative, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

No. A woman at work is very near to doing so, but I don’t think she’s gone yet. That’s about it. She’s not particularly close to me, but I get along with her, so there’s that.

Did anyone close to you die?

No. I’m increasingly wary of my continuing to successfully dodge this particular bullet.

What countries did you visit?

Never left the US, as occasionally tempting as it was to do just that.

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More writing success. Less elected Republicans.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting Amongst the Stars out the door, and completing edits (for now, before I make one more pass) on The Chilling Killing Wind, which is something totally new! I also learned how to use my Instant Pot and started a very overdue reorganization project of my workspace at The Store. (My work room looks like an Ace Hardware store caught fire and a True Value store was dropped on top of it to smother the flames. Not good.)

What was your biggest failure?

There was actually not a lot of failure in my world this year, thank goodness. I do need to engage my elected representatives more (see above), and I do not like making phone calls, so I’m leaning toward good old-fashioned letters in the mail. As long as we have a postal service, that is.

What was the best thing you bought?

Acquisitions I liked: jewelry for The Wife, a new pair of raw denim vintage Lee overalls for me, and a pit bull mix for The Daughter.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

My whole family’s, many of my friends, and nationally, anyone in The Resistance who protested, worked to advocate against bad policy (and there was a shit-ton of that), and who showed up to vote against Republicans.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Republicans. That party is one giant ball of moral rot right now.

Where did most of your money go?

Food, rum, whiskey, books, clothes, and a couple of expensive trips to an antique mall in Rochester.

What did you get really excited about?

The afore-mentioned antiquing trips, the afore-mentioned pair of vintage overalls, and most of all, the entire family getting together (on both sides!) for The Daughter’s high school graduation.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

About the same, which is amazing given the state of the world. I am in this odd place of being long-term optimistic about humanity and pessimistic about my own country.

Thinner or fatter?

A little fatter. That’s a disappointment. I need to eat more veggies.

Richer or poorer?

A little richer.

What do you wish you'd done more of?

Reading and writing. Always reading and writing. I didn’t blog nearly enough, and only two pies found their way into my face this year.

What do you wish you'd done less of?

Late-night staring at the Internet. I have been working to do that a lot less.

How did you spend Christmas?

With family, unpacking wonderful gifts, and eating and drinking way too much. In short, it was exactly what Christmas should be.

Did you fall in love in 2016?

I fall in love on a daily basis.

How many one-night stands?

Pshaw. Like I’m gonna tell you.

What was your favorite TV program?

We’re in something of a transitional period as far as teevee goes, with not as many shows we catch regularly. Stranger Things made us happy, and I deeply loved Luke Cage. We also discovered Blackish, which is always funny and often brilliant, and we continue to love Brooklyn Nine Nine, which is always funny and even more often brilliant.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I really try not to hate, but in these times, it’s hard not to. There are some local political activists on the right who are as ugly a bunch of souls as I’ve ever encountered, and I’ll be honest: of the current pack of miscreants dominating the political scene in Washington DC, the one whose image tends to anger me the most when I see it is Speaker Paul Ryan’s.

What was the best book you read?

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud;
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker;
Memoirs by Hector Berlioz;
The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I spent a lot of time listening to classical works by composers who, for one reason or another, never quite broke through into the “standard repertoire”, even though the music is often very, very good. It’s always sad to me to reflect on how much art gets forgotten that in no way deserves to be.

What did you want and get?

Some really nifty new Star Wars music by John Williams! That’s always a delight. I hope there’s one more in store from him....

What did you want and not get?

I’m honestly not sure I want an impeachment, given what a dunderheaded weirdo the Vice President is. I don’t know, really. Maybe more book sales? I never have enough book sales.

What were your favorite films of this year?

As always, I tend to be pretty bad at seeing movies in the year they are released, so I’d go right now with Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and The Last Jedi.

The best movie experience I had was either seeing Castle in the Sky or Casablanca on the big screen. I love both films (indeed, the latter might be my favorite movie of all time that doesn’t take place in a galaxy far, far away), and to see them in their big-screen glory was just fantastic.

What did you do on your birthday?

On my birthday? Went to work. We continued our tradition of enjoying a weekend getaway right after my birthday, to a farm-and-craft festival in Ithaca, NY. It was a great, great time.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Vintage workwear chic, now with added pink!

My ongoing pinkification continues with a hot pink hoodie! #ootd #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawdenim #pink #thinkpink

Think Pink!!!

What kept you sane?

My family; the cats and the dogs; writing; reading; going on adventures and doing silly things.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

So many brilliant people doing brilliant work! I can’t name any, but for a time that feels as dark as this, there are an awful lot of brightly-shining lights out there.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Oh lord. All of them. I’ve never seen a political party stake out stances on issues that are so completely wrong and just plain mean.

Who did you miss?

Barack Obama.

Who was the best new person you met?

Captain Fashnatan Strel of Orion’s Huntress. If all goes according to plan, you might get to meet her in 2019.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017:

Elections matter.

But the old lessons apply, don’t they? So, as I always end up copying-and-pasting:

Read a lot, write a lot. Listen to music. Go for walks and look at sunsets. Take all the pictures you want. Learn new things and try new stuff. If you have a dog, take him for walks. Buy books for your daughter, even when she complains that she likes to pick her own books (let her do that, too). Nothing fits your hand so well as your lover’s hand. Eating out is fine, but learn to cook things, too. Have a place to go where they know you and what you order. Don’t be afraid to revisit your childhood passions now and again; you weren’t always wrong back then. Overalls are awesome, it’s OK to wear double denim, and a pie in the face is a wonderful thing!

If you take selfies, post your six favorite ones:

The Dee-oh-gee and me #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #KnoxFarm #EastAurora #wny #autumn #overalls #dickiesworkwear #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #doubledenim

My beautiful wife bought me a scarf! She did not buy YOU a scarf. Just me. #winning #scarf #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawdenim #pink #thinkpink

Adventure's end. Time to get a donut! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #spraguebrookpark #wny #summer #nature #hiking #overalls #vintage #dickiesworkwear #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #ootd

This is my "Holy shit this water is COLD" face. Ayup. #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark #summer #hiking #nature #stream #runningwater #pool #swimminghole #huzzah #overalls #dickiesworkwear #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #taketheplunge

Pretentious selfie with YAY I HAS A BALL #Carla #DogsOfInstagram #ootd #overalls #dungarees #denim

Old depot selfie (potential future author pic) #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #tiedye #ootd #longhairdontcare

And then there were the usual pies in my face:

Final Pi Day preview! The last second, Prismafied. Video and other stuff tomorrow! #piday #pieintheface #pieinface #pieface #splat #pietotheface #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawdenim #doubledenim

Pies, Prismafied

Videos here and here, if you're curious!

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
Come in, she said
I'll give ya shelter from the storm.

I’m not sure what I hope 2018 brings most, but what I think it all boils down to is that I hope we can all come in and find shelter from the storm.

Thus I end my 2017. See you all next year!

2017: What I Said, When I Said It

My annual rundown of content here!

Richard Thompson and Cul de sac
Dear 44
Dear 45
"I am one with the Force and the Force is with me": Thoughts on Rogue One
VHS Memories

Ear infections and why they suck
In which I continue to love my wife
Happy Pi Day! (in which I get hit in the face with a pie)
In which I made gluten-free fried chicken
"Let me help" (Thoughts on the fiftieth anniversary of City on the Edge of Forever)

Dogs and sniffing
On being married twenty years
Nobody did it better: In memoriam, Sir Roger Moore
The Force will be with you always: Star Wars at 40
Larry Havers, 1946-1967

He'll save every one of us! (On seeing Flash Gordon
again on the big screen)

"I believe in love" (Thoughts on Wonder Woman
Twenty years of Harry Potter
On choosing happiness (in which I dip myself in magic waters and get hit in the face with a pie)
A Box of Dreams

One Memory of Each Grandmother
On Fantasy in Film
"I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution!" (Thoughts on The African Queen)
A Guide to Making Good Life Choices

Tornadoes in the Forest
The 15 Greatest Science Fiction Movies EVER (according to me)
On Combos, the world's finest junk food
On Immigration

The Hobbit at 80
On the pleasures of raw denim
In which Mark Hamill is aware, for a second or two, of my existence
The Final Victory of JR Ewing, and other thoughts one year into the Age of Trump

I also had an interview on another website! The fine folks at The Geekiverse had me over, and you can read that here. And don't forget to check out my content at

I've made much better use of my Goodreads account this year, using it to track my reading. Most of my content that relates to specific books is over there now, and to see what I read (and what I thought about what I read) in 2017, check it out.

Finally, photos and videos, via my Flickr stream.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

Tomorrow I'll have my usual rundown of 2017, but for now, here's the final Bad Joke of the year!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Something for Thursday

A non-musical item now!

I continue to be vexed by Aaron Sorkin, whose faults as a writer and storyteller are legion and yet who, when he manages to get it right, gets it really right. This clip (excuse the video quality, but the sound is fine and with Sorkin the dialog is mainly the thing) stitches together a small story Sorkin manages to tell in just two scenes from a single episode of The West Wing. Here he creates emotional heft, laugh-out-loud comedy based on clever wordplay, and some wonderful chemistry between two characters. I swear that my new "headcanon" is that after she left the White House in the series finale, CJ Cregg eschewed her existing job offers and instead partnered with Art and Antiquities Expert Bernard Thatch to find stolen works of art (many of which he'll hate) and return them to their rightful owners.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Here's an entire album for you! The Many Moods of Christmas is a collection of four suites of Christmas carols, set by Robert Russell Bennett. It was recorded in the 1960s, and then it was re-recorded in the 1990s for the Telarc label by Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It's one of the best such recordings in existence, and here it is!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I remember watching this sketch on Saturday Night Live years ago, but I'd never seen it on YouTube until now.

And then there's this, which I've used before:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

An eternal favorite. Judy Garland's performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is, for me, so iconic that I can barely stand any others. (Insert my usual rant about Frank Sinatra destroying the song's meaning by changing the lyrics here.)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Well, seeing as how nuclear annihilation seems to be back on the table as an option, here's Weird Al and "Christmas At Ground Zero".

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I first heard this piece by John Rutter performed by the local high school choir at a Christmas concert a few years ago. It is, quite simply, one of the most achingly beautiful pieces I have ever heard. Here is the Candlelight Carol.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Several different versions of "The Little Drummer Boy". Which do you prefer?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

This piece isn't performed by the Canadian Brass, even though it's titled "A Canadian Brass Christmas Suite". Nevertheless, it's pretty cool.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

A few Christmas selections by Yo Yo Ma (and whichever friends he brings along)!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Here's one I play each year in acknowledgement of Christmas's way of making us think, amidst the joy and light and gift-giving, of the loves that might have been, the lives we might have lived, and the dreams that sometimes we barely remember dreaming.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Bad Joke Friday (Christmas edition)

Apologies! I genuinely thought I had already scheduled this to post, but it turned out that I didn't do anything at all with it. So....

BWAAA HAAA HAHAHA oh never mind.

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

The United States military is home to some really good musicians, and they do a lot more than just play "Hail to the Chief" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever".

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

A Christmas Overture by John Rutter. Rutter is mainly known for his melodic and lyrical choral music, but this is quite nice. (Rutter will likely turn up again this month.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I love John Williams, obviously, but I do have to admit that I prefer his music to have a darker tinge to it. When he gets into full-on "happy" mode, I find that...well, it's like eating a very rich and very sweet dessert. A little goes a long way.

This is a suite someone cobbled together out of several Christmas-related tracks from Williams film scores. And just in case you need some "darker" Williams after that, well, go to YouTube and dig up any track from Revenge of the Sith. That should do it!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

A break from the Christmas music! Here we have the Welsh Rhapsody by Sir Edward German, a composer who lived from 1862 to 1936. He is most well-known for several of his light operas, as he was seen during his career as something of a successor to Sir Arthur Sullivan. German lived a long enough life to see the musical style that he favored fall out of fashion, and like many fine composers, his work fell into neglect and obscurity. This piece does not deserve that fate, though -- it is a thoroughly enjoyable work of late-Romantic orchestral writing, thrilling and lyrical and muscular. Enjoy!

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

One of my every-year favorites. Here is Tchaikovsky's Suite from The Nutcracker.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

In Generations, the first Star Trek movie to feature the cast of The Next Generation, the plot involves an evil scientist whose goal is to do whatever he needs to do to get back into "the Nexus", which is some kind of alternate dimension where wishes are fulfilled or some such thing. The whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense, but late in the movie Captain Picard finds himself there, and his temptation to remain is a Very English Christmas that looks like something out of one of the rich family scenes in a Dickens novel. Not much to write home about, really, but Dennis McCarthy's scoring of this dream-like sequence is interesting ethereal.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I don't know anything at all about the band Sixpence None the Richer, but I gave a random listen to their rendition of my favorite Christmas hymn, "Angels We Have Heard On High", and...well, hear it for yourself. I quite fancied it.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli wrote this wonderful concerto grosso and inscribed it: "Made for the Night of Christmas. It's not known exactly when he wrote it; it survives because of its publication in a posthumous collection of all of Corelli's concerti grossi. In a concerto grosso, the music alternates between being performed by a group of soloists within a larger ensemble and by the entire ensemble itself. At this point in music history the concerto had not yet developed into a showpiece for soloist with orchestra.

There are no familiar Christmas tunes here, but I always find that the intimate sound of various chamber ensembles lends itself to the more peaceful and contemplative aspects of Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Bad Joke Friday (Christmas Edition)

All of this month's Bad Jokes will be themed to the upcoming holiday. Enjoy! (Or not. Because the jokes will still be bad.)

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

It's December, so here we go with our daily roundup of Christmas favorites old and new!