2012-12-28

2012 Year In Review

This being the last Friday of the month, I thought I would take some time to look back at the year 2012 and re-cap some of the fun we've had. I'll split this into categories so that we can better follow along.

New Music 2012
All said, 2012 was an extremely good year for new music. We heard some great new releases from some very strong musical acts.

In May, I picked up a copy of Big Wreck's new album, Albatross. For my money, this was the best album release of the year. Each and every song on that album offers strong vocal and instrumental performances, brilliant songwriting, and a sound that can only be described as epic. While I have been gradually losing my taste for well-written pop/rock songs, Ian Thornley and the rest of the band managed to prove that great, new rock music is still possible, even if the music world as a whole is losing its spirit of creativity and originality.

In June, I found myself at a Coldplay concert, as they toured the world in support of their Mylo Xyloto album. I was never a big fan of Coldplay, but the concert was legitimately awesome. It was a fun way to remind myself of the joy of going to major arena concert. I hope to do a little more of that in the coming year.

In August, I purchased both the new Rush album and the new Steve Vai album. Both were good albums, but only the Rush album can be considered excellent. In fact, despite the kind words I had for the Vai album at the time, I haven't spent much time listening to it since August. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving in the car with my wife, and happened to put The Story of Light into the CD player. She became frustrated and angry at the first track, which drags on and on with a Russian-language spoken word vocal that offers the average listener nothing in particular. That track is truly unlistenable, and has prevented me from getting through the whole album more than once. The same can be said for "John the Revelator." Ugh.

But the Rush album is fantastic!

Then, toward the end of August, I received my copy of Hotcakes, by The Darkness, in the mail. It is the best album that band has yet recorded, and topped only by the Hot Leg album Justin Hawkins released during The Darkness' break-up/hiatus. I have spun that disc to death and will never get tired of it.

Finally, December marked the release of the first new Soundgarden album since 1996, King Animal. I've only had a few weeks to digest this one, but I can tell you that it is every bit on par with the rest of the band's body of work.

All said and done, though, Big Wreck absolutely dwarfed the competition this year. Album of the year goes to Albatross.

New Movies - 2012
While I had written a few movie reviews earlier, I started regular movie reviews in June of this year, with my review of the movie Prometheus. That is probably apt, since it is a prequel or re-boot of the old Alien movie franchise, and the running theme of movies for the past couple of years has been: reboots, rehashes, prequels, remakes, and so on. Movies, like music, are an artform that is suffering from either a true dearth of creativity or a blatant rejection of it.

In fairness, I watched many movies this year that I did not bother to review. In some cases this is because I watched so many in a short span of time that I simply didn't have time to provide a review of each. In other cases, the movies simply weren't worth reviewing; they were neither notably good nor notably bad.

So it should come as no surprise that my pick for Movie of the Year is a Hindi movie called Cocktail. For all the movies that were released this year, only Cocktail stands out in my mind as being, not just memorable, but memorably pleasant. It was a funny movie, a dramatic movie, a romantic movie, and I left the theater feeling genuinely happy about what I'd seen.

Books Read - 2012
If you've been reading my book reviews, you know that I don't keep up with new releases. I am not particularly fond of novels or books about current events. The book world is not one of my interests. That's not to say I don't love books - I do. But I quickly lose interest in "quick reads" or books that don't require much thought to digest, and so the vast majority of new releases pass me by without my giving them a second thought.

One of the best books I read this year was a brief History of Bangladesh, which I picked up shortly before moving back to the United States because I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of Bangladeshi culture. That book delivered in droves. It is a bit of a remarkable undertaking because the history of Bangladesh is relatively unknown. In part, this is because the vast majority of the population is illiterate, and therefore unable to record history. In part, this is also because the history of the country has been re-written so many times by so many politically motivated people that it is difficult to get the real story from anyone at this point. This book, however, manages to cut through a great deal of the misinformation and shed real light on a fascinating and young-though-ancient region of the world.

But by far the biggest surprise of my book-reading this year was the largely unknown and forgotten 1920s novel The Driver, by Garet Garrett. This book tells the story of a man driven to become a captain of the railroad industry at the turn of the century. It describes his difficulties, his determination, his ultimate success, and the public opinion that surrounds him at each stage in the process. It is a book written with intelligent prose and a clever sense of humor the likes of which are virtually unknown in today's novels. I read this book on a lark, and found I simply could not put it down. I downed it just a couple of days, and loved every minute of it.

So, nearly 100 years after it was written, I am choosing The Driver for Book of the Year.

Some Final Thoughts On 2012
It was a big year for me. Looking back through my posts, I find that I received well over 40,000 blog hits this year, which is fairly unprecedented when compared to previous years. Whether this is because the spam-bots have zeroed-in on me, or because I am actually writing something worthwhile is yet to be determined. I like to think that I offer reasonably entertaining - albeit occasionally very long-winded - content to the blog-reading community.

Personally speaking, I intended 2012 to be a year of herculean music output. Perhaps I fell short of herculean, but I have managed to work my way to the point where I am publishing music regularly on my YouTube channel (please subscribe). I have a new camcorder on order and in transit to my home, so you can expect the quality of my videos to improve dramatically - and perhaps also their regularity. I also have a few surprises on the horizon, but I'm still working on those, so mum's the word for now.

I moved from Canada to the United States halfway through the year. This was part of a long-term plan my wife and I concocted a few years back, and I'm happy to have made progress on such a significant change. It is very good to be back to the United States, but I must admit that the political climate here is much worse than what exists in Canada. Following US politics, particularly during a tumultuous election year, has been remarkably depressing.

Add to that the fact that my attempts to run another marathon have all run aground, either due to injury, scheduling conflicts, or an aging body that complains almost vociferously when I demand that it do the things that it found easy in the days before my diabetes diagnosis. Disappointingly, I have been forced to adjust my perspective on fitness in response to the physical barriers that have placed themselves in front of me.

Furthermore, despite my being able to regularly attend to my blog, I haven't made much headway on my writing projects since the last few times I published articles.

Conclusion
Therefore, despite many wonderful changes for the better, there is yet room for additional improvement. But we all knew that was the case, didn't we?

It's a feature, not a bug. If you're inclined to make New Year's resolutions, now is your chance to identify those things that diminished the quality of your 2012 and make them better in 2013. To that end, I recommend the approach taken by my sister: Don't take on a huge fix-yourself project; instead, make your New Year's resolutions something fun that you want to look forward to all year long.

For myself, that will involve doing more writing, recording additional music, going on another exotic vacation, and stepping away from politics a bit.

As for my readers, I hope you had a wonderful 2012. I'd like to thank you very much for reading my blog, and I genuinely wish that your 2013, like mine, will be the best year of your life. I hope you will join me, in spirit, in a toast at midnight on New Year's Eve to everything human beings are capable of when they dedicate themselves to living with virtue, courage, thoughtfulness, and optimism.