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Year in Review: books, music, movies

Let's talk books, music, and movies ...

First, let's get the shameless self promotion out of the way first with my two 2017 releases as an author: releasing a new novel is a big deal for an author. Heck, I consider myself a professional author (meaning I make a small, viable living from sales), and this year I only released my fourth novel in ten years (that's considered a small amount by industry standards) titled Moonlight City Drive. However, it was the first time where I had a proper book release party (in Cleveland at the Agora Ballroom during the big Dog Fashion Disco weekend) and the first time a book of mine came with merchandise (a campfire mug, a shot glass, and two matchbooks). It seems each book release becomes more and more of a spectacle, and initial sales (first 30 days of release) exponentially have grown with each release. I also had my third published short story of my career, "Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys)," become available to the world in the anthology A Haunting of Words.

Now that I've plugged my own material, let's move on to what I thought were the #1 best releases in books, music, and movies this year.

Music - Hands down, the best album of 2017 for me was Roger Waters' Is This the Life We Really Want? This is one of those picks where I did NOT choose just because I am obsessed with Waters and biased and worship every note and lyric he writes ... in fact, just the opposite. I am such a Pink Floyd and Waters solo fan that I was truly terrified for months (yes, months. I even laid in bed some night petrified that the album wasn't going to be up my standards in what I love about his music: the tyrannical lyrics, the militant musicianship, the layers of samples and overdub vocals etc ...) about listening to this album. I even had convinced myself at one point, while I drove around listening to Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking, Radio KAOS, and Amused to Death, that the new album was going to fall so short from what I loved about those album that I would despise it and my whole 35-year fandom of Waters' music would come crashing down with a single collection of songs. Heck, it had been 25 years since his last proper album (not including the random song here and there he has released over the past two decades). I got myself so worked up and nervous about this new album that on midnight of June 2 (release day) when the album was automatically (through pre-order) downloaded to my iTunes and I placed my headphones over my ears and pressed Play, I burst into tears within the first 90 seconds of the start of the album. It was like waiting 25 years to meet someone for the first time that you idolized but were convinced meting them in person was going to disappoint you. Sure of it, even. This album not only blew me away, but met all my high expectations ... and then some. Not only was it not a let down (which I had SO convinced myself it was going to be), but it even ranks higher in my personal favorite Waters album list than some of his "classic" albums. Sounding like a cross between Pink Floyd's Animals, Wish You Were Here, and The Final Cut along with his own Amused to Death album, this is why it's the best album of 2017.

Book - The best book I read this year was published in 2004 (unfortunately, I did not read anything that came out in 2017; I spent the year reading older books I had always wanted to read). It's that often that book gives me a sick feeling in my stomach and NEVER has a book left me with emotional PTSD, but Generation Kill by Evan Wright wormed its way so far into my psyche while I was reading it that I started having terrible nightmares and spent moments during the day reflecting on some of the passages I had read. This went so far as me needing to discuss the book with Stephanie because I felt if I couldn't talk about how I was feeling about it, I might just breakdown and cry. Generation Kill really got under my skin, laid eggs, and hatched a new breed of distress for me that I don't remember having while reading a book before. The atrocities of war, told in first person POV, about the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 was made more real due to the fact that the reader starts to feel like they know these marines personally, well enough to start calling them friends. So when the shit hits the fan, you literally feel like you are reading a letter written TO YOU from a family member about these events as if they are happening RIGHT NOW (not to complete strangers, fifteen years ago.)

Movie - Star Wars is my favorite movie(s) of all time, and Stephen King is my favorite author of all time, so you'd think at least one movie between The Last Jedi or the slew of King movies that came out this year: The Dark Tower, It, Gerald's Game etc would be #1. But honestly, I have to say Wonder Woman was my favorite film of the year. Don't get me wrong, I loved The Last Jedi and I thought It and The Dark Tower were absolutely fantastic, but Wonder Woman worked on so many different levels. I've been a WW fan since I was a kid with the old TV show so I feel like I have been waiting for a proper Hollywood blockbuster all my life. And the script and special effects were brilliantly done. The action sequences rivaled anything in the Marvel universe (I'm not a big Marvel fan) and sitting next to Analise in the theater and watching her eyes grow big as she saw a female lead superhero on the screen was magical for me as a father. I even got a WW umbrella for Father's Day this year, and I will protect myself from falling precipitation with pride when that logo is fully extended over my head.

The best 12 months of being an uber fan boy (and the bext year in music in the last 2 decades)

With the conclusion of 2015, instead of doing a Best OF list or a Year in Review, I’d rather discuss the SQUEAL moments of this year (or actually going back to July, 2014). The last 18 months have been a fan boy dream come true for me, on many different levels. Let’s break it down.

Let’s see. I have 5 bands that are, in my eyes, untouchable and can do no wrong. These 5 bands have been my 5 Favorite Bands for over 20 years now, so you know that I don’t deviate, allow new trends to influence me, band wagon jump, or diminish my allegiance. These 5 bands are my all-time favorites for 2 decades, and probably will be until I die. However, it has been a TERRIBLE 15+ years being a fan of these bands. Here’s why:

 

1.       Pink Floyd – has not released an album since 1994’s “The Division Bell” (20 years)

2.       Faith No More – has not released an album since 1997’s “Album of the Year” (18 years)

3.       Electric Light Orchestra – has not released an album since 2001’s “Zoom” (14 years)

4.       God Lives Underwater – has not released an album since 2001’s “Up Off The Floor” (14 years... and oh, the singer died in 2005)

5.       Nine Inch Nails – had not released an album since 2008’s “The Slip” until 2013 with “Hesitation Marks” (so they really aren’t part of where I’m going with this, although waiting 5 years for a new NIN album felt like a lifetime)

 

So as you can see, even though these are my 5 favorite bands where I own, and know every single note of music they have ever recorded, its been a long drought of new music for 4 of them. Now, it was like the floodgates opened all at once:

 

1.       Pink Floyd – released “The Endless River” in November (2014)

2.       Faith No More – released “Sol Invictus” in May

3.       Electric Light Orchestra – released “Alone In The Universe” in November

 

Why were these 3 albums so HUGE for me personally? Because all 3 bands had broken up after their previous album, and none of them in a nice amicable way either. I seriously thought that I had lost 4 of my favorite 5 bands forever (we will always be without God Lives Underwater because of David’s death.) The fact that 3 of them (thought lost forever with no possible means of reconciliation) all released new albums in the span of 12 MONTHS, literally almost gave me a heart attack.

Now shows. Even though Pink Floyd did not tour on “The Endless River,” Electric Light Orchestra is currently on tour for “Alone In The Universe,” and Faith No More just concluded their world tour for “Sol Invictus.” It’s only a matter of time at this point before I finally see Electric Light Orchestra for the first time ever, whenever they decide to announce US dates… but Faith No More? I saw them twice on the tour this year. Once in TOKYO! And it was the very first night of the whole tour! Date #1. And then, which goes down in history as one of the Top 3 greatest nights of my life, I took my 6-year old son Everett to see them in NY and they left backstage passes for us at the box-office and we got to hang out with them for an hour backstage after the show. I have so many pictures of the guys in Faith No More playing with my son; from Roddy making Everett jump off a table and Everett hanging onto Roddy’s leg as he walked around the backroom and then taking a selfie of him and my son and using it as his Instagram profile picture, to Puffy picking up Everett and carrying him around in his arms as he chatted with the media and other fans backstage, to Bill having a real discussion with my son about his favorite songs and his impression on the show, to Mike Patton making silly faces at my son and goofing around with him, to Jon being very attentive to him and asking him about living in Japan. If you told me 20 years ago that one day the guys in Faith No More would be playing with my son after a show, I would have told you that you were on drugs. But here we were. And those guys are the most amazing, nicest group of people. And they were so amazing to “deal with” a 6-year old hanging out backstage.

Let’s move off music and onto movies. A new Star Wars movie came out this month. Enough said. PERIOD.

Moving off movies and onto books. My new book, “Yours Truly, 2095,” came out this year to a consistent stream of positive reviews. I hadn’t published a book since “Welcome to Parkview” in 2010 so it had been 5 years, and I was scared that I had been taken out of the game. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

My publishing company, Scout Media, published its first anthology of short stories in October, featuring 21 authors from all over the world.

While we are on the topic of me, I also started writing the second Yellow #1 album this year. The music is all finished, now I just need to write the lyrics and then hit the studio to record the vocals and I’ll have the album out sometime in 2016. The debut Yellow #1 album came out in 1997. Its been 18 years since I wrote any music for that band.

I also climbed Mt. Fuji over the last 18 months… TWICE! And made it to the summit. TWICE!

Aaaaaand… my wife gave birth to our third child last August. Tully Sayward Paone. And that kid is pretty kick-ass.

And there you have it. Why the last 18 months of my life has been fan boy extreme.

 

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