My Top 20 Albums of 2020 + Supplemental Lists

Introduction

Where to even begin with the year that was 2020? The year that just was provided us all entirely too many evenings alone with our respective thoughts – night after night after interminable night – nights of the sort that have always been habit throughout my life to either fill or drown out, as the moment requires, with music. To that end – and especially as it became increasingly obvious that any semblance of normal concert-going was lost along with so many of life’s other pleasures – I attempted to fill the resulting void in as many directions as I responsibly could. It was aimless overcompensation for the most part, but when the connection did kick in, I felt something like normal again…at least for a minute at a time. For one minute at a time, it felt like old times. For a long time, only music helped. Continue reading “My Top 20 Albums of 2020 + Supplemental Lists”

Movie review: “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012)

“Once again, if you’re just tuning in, the CSA space shuttle Deliverance has been destroyed. The final mission to save mankind has failed. The seventy mile-wide asteroid known commonly as ‘Matilda’ is set to collide with the Earth in exactly three weeks’ time…and we’ll be bringing you up-to-the-minute coverage of our countdown to the end of days, along with all your classic rock favorites. This is Q-107.2.”

Out of thin air and apropos of nothing, “the one who got away” butt-dialed me two years ago March. At a different time, in a different world, and so forth. This assumes butt-dialing is even still a thing, of course, but I never knew her to drink to excess or be especially prone to spontaneous outbursts of unproductive emotion. Not any more than anyone else (or I) was, that is. No message left, just the notification by name of a missed call from a girl I still occasionally gave wistful thought, despite not having talked to her in years. I didn’t hear the phone buzz, and only made the discovery after the fact, while waiting with two dear friends for a concert at Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Arena to start. By way of context, I haven’t seen a concert in almost exactly a year now; or one of those friends – who drove in from a different state for the occasion – in approaching two. Continue reading “Movie review: “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012)”

Truth Serum, Teflon, Rubber, Glue – Reflections on “The Howard Stern Show” at 45

(Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC)

Not so much an intentional choice as an evolutionary inevitability, the brand known as “Howard Stern” has itself become a trigger on par with the substance of what, even 45 years in, still seems like every tenth passing statement uttered by its namesake. Whatever your personal opinion of the man behind the microphone, it has long since calcified into fact. Never mind that’s not how facts work. Continue reading “Truth Serum, Teflon, Rubber, Glue – Reflections on “The Howard Stern Show” at 45″

Concert review: Bad Religion

Brooklyn Steel, Brooklyn, NY – August 3, 2019

Dreamed last night that I saw Bad Religion play in an undisclosed space roughly the size of a meat locker. We as fans were uncomfortably packed in – social distancing was not observed – and the band noticeably pent up and airtight. BR unleashed a quartet of personal favorites I would’ve never expected to hear live, and don’t expect I ever will again, before exiting stage left as if seized by the realization that a horrible mistake had been made. I shook Greg Graffin’s hand on his way out, or at least grazed his shoulder in passing. As dreams go lately, I’ll take it. Don’t worry, though. I like to confine my concert reviews to the realm of non-fiction, and so what you’re reading isn’t some embellished field report on that figment of my imagination. The harsh logistics of life under self-imposed quarantine haven’t yet pushed me to the point of whole cloth invention of performances with which I might theoretically ply and impress you. (I repeat, yet.) Continue reading “Concert review: Bad Religion”

Movie review: “Carrie” (1976)

“Well, who should we vote for? They’re more your crowd than mine. (she thinks) I don’t even have a crowd.”

“Why don’t we vote for ourselves?”

“No!”

“Why not?”

“Please, don’t vote for ourselves!”

“Carrie. (smiles at her reassuringly) C’mon. To the devil with false modesty.”

(she thinks, finally smiles in return) “To the devil.”

I read Stephen King’s debut novel Carrie over the course of a single, white-knuckle weekend back in high school and haven’t revisited it since. Neither of those statements is particularly surprising in retrospect. King was my first, second, and third favorite author growing up. Whereas typical kids can be counted on to occasionally skip schoolwork to indulge in unconstructive extracurriculars, I too often found myself immersed in choice cuts from Night Shift or Skeleton Crew instead of my own assigned reading. The breadth of King’s literary domain has rendered his lesser tomes somewhat disposable, and Carrie certainly isn’t one of his best. Structured largely as a series of small town newspaper articles covering the aftermath and, retroactively, the background and lead-up to a sensational local tragedy, it reads like the growing pains of an ambitious first-time author manifesting in real time. Continue reading “Movie review: “Carrie” (1976)”

Live-Blogging* the “Friday the 13th” Marathon, Ep. VI – “Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives” (1986)

*Once again, I’m not going to pretend this is any sort of authentic “live-blog”. You caught me. Think of it, rather, as the written transcript of one of those audio commentaries you sometimes see inexplicably pop up on blu-rays from self-proclaimed “superfans”. “What the hell gives that no-name the right to talk about this movie?” you justifiably wonder aloud. That’s just it. There’s no answer. It’s just fun to do. And now it exists in the world. Enjoy!

Nowadays, I figure the most dependable movie marathons are curated at home. I’ve participated in some pretty great ones in recent years, though, not, of course, in 2020. And so, in a desperate effort to inject some pure frivolity into a singularly craptastic year, the Gateway Film Center’s 2017 Friday the 13th marathon (“immortalized” by DAE here, here, here, and here) continues on in spirit, live on tape delay from my fortified bunker in North Columbus, Ohio. My “live-blog” dispatches – which I recognize are now stretching that concept to its breaking point – resume where I left them off as well, with, interestingly, the two movies that, for my money, constitute the worst and the best the “pure” (i.e. non-gimmick) half of the Friday the 13th saga had to offer. Join me, won’t you? Continue reading “Live-Blogging* the “Friday the 13th” Marathon, Ep. VI – “Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives” (1986)”

Live-Blogging* the “Friday the 13th” Marathon, Ep. V – “Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning” (1985)

*Once again, I’m not going to pretend this is any sort of authentic “live-blog”. You caught me. Think of it, rather, as the written transcript of one of those audio commentaries you sometimes see inexplicably pop up on blu-rays from self-proclaimed “superfans”. “What the hell gives that no-name the right to talk about this movie?” you justifiably wonder aloud. That’s just it. There’s no answer. It’s just fun to do. And now it exists in the world. Enjoy!

Friday, October 13, 2017, Columbus, Ohio, and community jewel Gateway Film Center has devised the perfect way to celebrate the reason for the season – showcasing seminal Slashers Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th Part 3 In 3-D (in actual 3-D!), and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter back-to-back-to-two-more-backs in a 6+ hour marathon of bloody, and bloody fun, mayhem – and I am predictably second row aisle for the whole thing. The experience of seeing arguably four of the ten best known and most influential Slasher movies of the eighties, or, indeed, any era, on the big screen in a single sitting was irresistible and, aside from a technical gripe or two, also fairly spectacular, assuming you happen to be someone who, like me, unreasonably loves such unsavory confections. It was a blast I thoroughly documented in a series of “live blog” posts, one spotlighting and nitpicking apart each film. That was way fun too. Continue reading “Live-Blogging* the “Friday the 13th” Marathon, Ep. V – “Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning” (1985)”

Post No. 225: Destinata Non Grata

Think of the internet as a universe. I’ve heard it described before as an ecosystem – what sentient being, by the way, would accept caretaking responsibilities for such a sprawling, labyrinthine mess?* – but, in reality, it’s a universe. Cold, distant, infinite. In this self-serving and admittedly limited analogy, every person and business entity becomes a planet all their own. Some of these veritably teem with “life”, being located closer to the sun – some of them so prominent (read: popular) they practically generate their own additional heat – though the majority exist in a state of imposed isolation tucked away on the margins, just so many thumbtack pin pricks struggling for light and oxygen against an enormous expanse of black felt. Continue reading “Post No. 225: Destinata Non Grata”

Steelers Thoughts #19 (9/21/20): Mid-Preseason Form

Remember the XFL? Boy, those were the days, weren’t they? Authentic, post-Super Bowl winter football played with some semblance of competence and professionalism. A reasonably cool way for a decompressing sports fan to occupy their Saturday, one you could even admit to watching with a minimum of rationalization necessary. Everything was fresh and new and full of possibility, back before reality blew a Covid-sized hole in the world in mid-February and our collective sanity and security began gushing out as if from a breached dam. The XFL was the football world’s first Coronavirus casualty, followed in no particular order by NFL rookie camp, voluntary camp, team conditioning activities, and capital-T Training camp, the Hall of Fame Game, the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, full college seasons across the board, the Pac 12 season outright, the Big Ten season outright (later redacted, fingers still crossed), both my fantasy football leagues (I’m only the least bit somber about losing one of them), and, finally, the NFL Preseason. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #19 (9/21/20): Mid-Preseason Form”

DVR Hindsight #19 (9/13/20): Cobra Kai Season One

“Cobra Kai” – “Mercy” – Season 1, Ep. 10 (Netflix)

My favorite indicator of the quality of a bingeable television series is a subtle but critical one, and occurs naturally – almost a reflex – as the end credits roll on the season finale. The music swells triumphantly, and the goofy, ubiquitous little clock that counts down to trigger impending autoplay appears in the screen’s bottom corner. How fast in the moment during which you begin processing what you’ve just seen do you instinctively click through to start that next season? Sure, you have other things to do, theoretically, but this decision seems more pressing. Do you dispense with formalities and pick up the story in which you’ve just finished investing five or ten or more hours of your time again, simultaneously new yet also already in progress? Do you linger a beat or back out momentarily, maybe read the synopsis of Ep 2:1 first before committing? Or do you think, “that was pleasant”, and just leave well enough alone? Continue reading “DVR Hindsight #19 (9/13/20): Cobra Kai Season One”