Monday, December 27, 1999

1999's Top Ten

10) For a television show where many of the characters are by definition without a soul, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has an abundance of that particular attribute so rare for the medium. There was a fear that with the departure of Angel and Cordelia the show would not be able to consistently continue its faithfully fluid storyline. That fear has been alleviated with the return of Spike, the introduction of Riley and the mean psychology professor (played by the wonderful actress, Lindsey Crouse). The dark humor, the unique pathos, the tragic plight of each of the characters- television rarely sees writing of this caliber, so rewarding in its creativity.

9) He was led by hand to his piano before the show started by an assistant showing him where he was supposed to go. His vocals on the opening number, The Little Girl I Once Knew, were shaky at best, mostly disappearing into the vocal mix behind the backup singers, as he strained to hit the higher notes. Yet despite all the stories of his legendary stage fright, Brian Wilson seemed to grow more and more at ease during his appearance at the State Theater. At times his mind seemed to wander but when he opened the second half of the show with inspirational versions of Wouldn't it be Nice and Sloop John B it was one of the most magical musical moments I've ever witnessed.

8) I love watching Dolores O'Riordan move. Herky jerky yet still quite perky, her walk is more of a sway than a swagger, more a pigeon imitation than a strut. The diminutive lead singer of the Cranberries is most certainly a magnetic performer. The group's appearance at Roy Wilkins was an affirmation of the joy of artistic expression. It was an evening full of melodious and fine kinship.

7) Despite continuing sagging ratings it was a good year for David Letterman. His show won its second Emmy in a row for the best "variety" show. Dave seemed to calm down from a growing tendency to act maniacally for laughs. It was if part of him said, if we're going to fail we're not going to give a crap and we're going to fail on our own terms. Thus his show night in and night out was Letterman at his best, at his crankiest, at his most anarchist. The man who helped create a generation of sarcastic adults that communicate by saying things that mean totally opposite of what they're supposed to mean, was at the top of his game. His best new bit was sending a crewmember to stand behind a local convenience store counter with a hidden camera and as the clerk gave the customer change, say to the unsuspecting (and often times bulky) patron, "Next time bring your sister, you hump." It brilliantly straddled the line between being uncomfortably funny, and dangerously peculiar- Candid Camera gone slightly awry.

6) Due to a lack of funds this past year I bought the fewest CDs of any year since I first started collecting. Thus not being a radio listener I didn't get to hear a lot of new songs. But my favorite was without a doubt, Sugar Ray's Someday. Behind its lovely latin rhythm is a soothing song about the virtues of self-solace. "Some say better things will come our way/No matter what they try to say you were always there for me/Some way, when the sun begins to shine/I hear a song from another time and fade away/And fade away"

5) I was sitting wistfully watching the last day State Fair traffic flow by my house when I put on Tubby Esquire's Return of the Last Castrato! CD for the first time. I had no idea what to expect but I think the last thing I was expecting was polka rock music. My somewhat melancholy mood immediately was changed by the infectious joy of the songs. It is the best CD I heard this year, 13 tracks full of insightful and clever humor.

4) The night before my Mom's funeral my stressed out family had a bit of a disagreement. Tired and sad I drove home, wondering how any of us were going to make it through the next day. As I got to my house I walked to my front door and saw it was slightly ajar. Oh great, I thought, somebody's broken in. But as I got closer I saw it was a plant not allowing the door to close. My friend had sent me a Cyclamen- one of the many small perfectly timed gestures of her supportive friendship. I leaned on her hard often throughout the year and she remained a true friend. Suddenly the dark night became memorable in a different way.

3) The day after my Mom's funeral I had tickets to go down to Shakopee to see a Paul Simon/Bob Dylan concert. Through a bit of a misunderstanding I had no one to go with. Because of the week that was I wasn't much in the mood to make the drive, wasn't much in the mood to stand outside in the drizzling rain at a horse track. Most of the show is now a blur but Mr. Dylan, as he often does, provided a moment of spark- a soft and heartfelt version of Not Dark Yet. "Sometimes my burden is more than I can bare. It's not dark yet but it's getting there."

2) In a year full of personal and professional turmoil it was always nice to come home to the familiar bellow of a hungry Mr. Max. And much as it was desirable not to make any more changes, we added a new wrinkle to his dinnertime. Before I put his dinner dish down, I make him twirl in circles following his supper as it orbits his body. Don't call the Humane Society quite yet- I swear the two of us have the mostest fun.

1) Mom

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