Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Wrap-up

And just like that, 2017 comes to a close.
I've gotten back into the swing of things on the novel. When I write, I most often envision scenes and write those into the document. Once I have all the major scenes that I want, then I have to come back and get those scenes connected together. That's where I'm at now--of the 4 sections, I have 1 completely connected up and done, and another very close to complete. That leaves the last two sections still in "just unconnected scenes" shape. Altogether, right now, it's sitting at about 77k words. Thinking that when the rough draft is all done, it'll probably be pushing 90k or so. The problem I'm running into is this: very recently, a fairly major film came out that has a somewhat similar plot. Not the same, but, like, similar enough that my current work-in-progress and this film could take place in almost the same universe. That has me worried, quite frankly, that even though I started working on this book over a year ago, that when it comes out, some will see the similarity and think it is a case of copying. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone by my screwed up head, but that's where I'm at. Fingers crossed that won't be the case, because I'm too far in, now, to abandon the thing.
I'll be honest, I'm just relieved that the block is broken.
Being the end of the year, it is time for my end of year lists. Not quite as influential as Dennis Cooper's (my tastes in things tend to swing W A Y more mainstream than his), I know, but I still like doing them.
So, here we go!

Books
In 2017 I only managed to read 32 books for a total of 13, 531 pages. This is the first years since 2009 not to have read over 40 books. No pizza party for me. The excuse is that I had a course I was teaching where I needed to read the novels I assigned along with the students to prep lectures and be ready for their discussion sessions, and I didn't count those books as part of my leisure reading. Most of the books I read, too, were not published in 2017, so I'm behind on brand new books like Lincoln in the Bardo.
Still, my top 5 that I read this year (culled from the books that got a 5 star rating from me on my Goodreads list--are you following me over there yet, by the way?):
5 Bull of Heaven  Michael Lloyd



4 The Death of Expertise  Tom Nichols

3 Skyscraper  Scott Alexander Hess

2 David Bowie: A Life   Dylan Jones

1 Born to Run  Bruce Springsteen


Music
In 2017 I bought a lot of music, as always. One of my favorite things is waking up on Friday and perusing the iTunes new albums list. My music purchasing habits, then, lead to a reversal of my book buying habits--almost everything I bought in 2017 came out this year. Of the 30-some-odd albums I bought, 24 of them came out this year.
2017 saw some older bands/artists make comeback albums (or, at least, albums we waited a long time for) like Beck, Bjork, Ride, Tori Amos, and Quicksand. None quite so good, though, as Big Wreck's album, Grace Street. They went away for ten years and this is their 3rd album back. Grace Street, as you'll see, busts through to make it into my top 5 of the year. As does Beck's first album in a while, Colors. Many fans were a bit put off by White Reaper's change in style, but their album, Greatest American Band had me from the first few notes. And, of course, this is the year Todrick Hall dropped the utterly brilliant Straight Outta Oz. This year also saw the formation of the supergroup Dreamcar who put out the Duran Duran album we all wanted last year but didn't get (to be clear, from me, that's VERY high praise). And, though U2 is my all-time favorite band, Songs of Experience is not very good, which was hugely disappointing because Songs of Innocence, the 2014 album everyone complained about getting for free, was a mind blowing record. I had hoped that this one would rise to that level (especially based on the single Blackout). It also saw the last set of new songs we are going to get from David Bowie, the No Plan EP which has songs from his musical, Lazarus. I have to be honest, I haven't listened to that one more than once because it's just too hard, yet...hence the reason it, though drop dead brilliant, doesn't make it on to my top 5--I can't bear to listen to it very much, yet.
So, here are my top 5 albums that I bought in 2017 (that came out in 2017):

5 DREAMCAR  Dreamcar

4 White Reaper  The World's Best American Band

3 Todrick Hall  Straight Outta Oz


2 Big Wreck Grace Street

1 Beck Colors


with a HUGE runner-up award to the band Ratboys, whose album GN is really spectacular, but just didn't quite get as much airplay in my car as these did. Still, though, VERY worth your time.

Movies
As I said, my tastes in things tend to run quite mainstream. That's not to say that I wouldn't love to see some of the more art movies that came out in 2017, but I live in the middle of nowhere in a state that is so Republican it doesn't even really have a Democrat party (100% true). This means that, while I would have been first in line to see "Call Me By Your Name," it isn't going to play anywhere within a hundred miles of here. They'd rather play the documentaries that blast Hillary Clinton for three months straight. "The Shape of Water" is almost certainly never going to play here. So, while I love going out to a theater to see a film, my options tend to be quite limited. If you think "Get Out" would ever be shown in this town, you're insane, you know what I mean?
I saw the controversy that "The Last Jedi" caused, but I didn't understand it. In some ways, the film was handing The Force back to us after the Midichlorians debacle. Saying to all of us that you CAN make a difference even if you aren't a Skywalker. I don't know why more people weren't super thrilled about that message. I wished Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had been better because it was a brilliant script--there was just zero chemistry between the lead actors. For being a huge tent pole picture, I thought there were some really nice moments in "Jumanji"--I wish critics had been a little nicer to it. I was at least 30 times more excited than anyone else to have my all-time favorite director, Ridley Scott, come back to science fiction. Unfortunately, while he is an utter genius at visuals, he has lost something in how to put stories together. I'll be honest, I'm hoping that the Fox merger with Disney takes Scott off the Alien franchise and allows Neil Blomkamp to have a go at his proposed Aliens-sequel. I liked "Logan" a lot, but if I'm being honest, I didn't get quite as emotionally involved with it as everyone else did; I'm very much looking forward to the fact that that may be our last time having to deal with the X-Men film mythology (which is awful) that has been established. I'm ready to have the X-Men back in the hands of actual Marvel writers who understand these characters and aren't trying to be smarter than the material. I don't think enough people talked about how ludicrously good "Atomic Blonde" was. Groundbreaking, powerful, KILLER soundtrack, this should be on everyone's list, and it baffles me that it isn't.
So, of the 28 films that I did see, just know that there were quite a few that I would have loved to see, but never played anywhere near here and/or haven't made it on to streaming services yet.
So, for me, here were my top 5 films I that came out this year that I saw:

5 Atomic Blonde

4 Logan Lucky

3 Baby Driver

2 It

1 Brigsby Bear



honorable mention goes out to this silly little romantic comedy called "Home Again" with Reese Witherspoon and my newest crush, Pico Alexander,

Normally, I despise Rom Coms, but Alexander and Witherspoon have such insane chemistry in this movie, and the plot is just bittersweet enough to seem at least somewhat plausible, that it won me over.


And, of course, I'm sure "Call Me By Your Name" and "Get Out" would dominate this list, had I had a chance to see them, but I haven't. 

So, folks, there you have it. If there's something on these lists you want to ask me more about, please don't hesitate to! Go investigate these things, though, and pick them up!
I hope that your New Year's Eve (if we're in the same hemisphere) or  your New Years Day goes well, that you are safe, happy, and healthy.
As always, thank you for supporting the books, and we'll see you in the new year!




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