Entry for January 31, 2007 — Children, chocolate, and music

Friends, I hope you've had a good week. My younger brother Peter sent some photographs and video of my nieces Ava and newborn Liliana. Janice and I have yet to make plans to get down to Virginia in the next few months, but between our jobs, pending dental work, and Janice visiting her folks in Pennsylvania for Easter, we'll have to see when to squeeze it in.

In addition, Connor B.R.'s first birthday is coming up, and I telephoned Cliff & Eliza Y. to belatedly congratulate them on the birth of their first child, Timmy! Lots of children to spoil, so little time… I also hope to see Ben P.S. when he visits Boston for a conference later in February.

On Sunday, 28 January 2007, Janice and I went to the "Death by Chocolate" charity event at the Sheraton hotel in Newton, Massachusetts. We sampled brownies, cake, and cookies from various restaurants and bakeries, and we even won a silent auction for a meal at "Margarita's," a Tex-Mex eatery in Waltham, Mass., where I had eaten with some co-workers last Wednesday!

Although I didn't get together with Thomas K.Y. for "A Scanner Darkly" this past weekend, we do plan to meet next Saturday to work on "City of Heroes" characters. David I.S., Kim A.G., and I took advantage of a "double experience-point weekend" to advance our costumed metahumans, but at the cost of some sleep.

I had promised to discuss my musical preferences, so instead of the usual rundown of genre television or D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" face-to-face or teleconferencing session attendance, here's something different. See Steve M.R.'s Web log for recent political and movie discussions.

As my previous blog entries have noted, I grew up on European classical (Beethoven) and American folk music (Peter, Paul, and Mary). We also listened to some jazz. I do remember hearing some disco through the walls of our apartment in the Bronx in the 1970s, thanks to noisy neighbors.

Later, in elementary school and high school, I learned to appreciate hard rock (including heavy metal and some punk) from the mostly Caucasian middle-class guys I hung out with. Early Van Halen, Iron Maiden, and the occasional funk of Prince were what I listened to on the bus or in friends' cars crossing New York's Westchester County. New Wave such as Duran Duran was good for dancing and flirting with girls, while Def Leppard was for partying.

In college at SUNY-Binghamton, I rediscovered classic rock, neoCeltic and other folk, and theatrical show tunes. The two friends who influenced me the most were heavy metal drummer David I.S. and fellow downstate New Yorker Corbin A.Y., whose collections significantly expanded my own, from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" to Metallica's "Master of Puppets."

Pink Floyd's "The Wall," Chris De Burgh's ballads, Suzanne Vega and Natalie Merchant's vocals, and the musical "Chess" were staples in our suites in the late 1980s. Of course, at the same time, we migrated from audiotapes to CDs and more recently to MP3s, but most of Janice's and my music is still on tape or disc.

Since then, I've learned to enjoy some of most musical genres, including rap/hip-hop (such as the talented but troubled Eminem), bluegrass, and even country (Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks). I was late in appreciating the "alternative" music of the 1990s (exemplified by Nirvana and Alanis Morrisette), even though I was glad that it killed "glam metal." Tim M.B. guided me toward singer Sarah McLachlan.

My tastes at the turn of the century lightened, shifting toward songs like Len's "Steal My Sunshine," Brian Setzer's revival of swing, and No Doubt. Despite all this, I'm not a huge fan of pop and electronica and still prefer rock. After moving from Virginia to Massachusetts, however, I've rediscovered enduring acts such as Queen, Aerosmith, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Thanks to watching VH1 and MTV2, I've gone back to my hard-rock roots watching "Headbanger's Ball" late Saturday nights. Other noteworthy artists include the anime-inspired Gorillaz, the revival of R&B/funk with Gnarls Barkley, art metal Evanescence, Viking-style Amon Amarth, and neoPunk Green Day. Rock on!