Another year has come and gone and, as always, it's left a trail of great music, books and concerts in its wake ...
Music: I spent the early part of the year digging up good new music, as I vowed I would, but I backslid a bit in the second half. Luckily, 2015 served up some great reissues, especially later in the year when The Jam’s "Fire and Skill" live CD box set was released, followed by another great Dylan Bootleg Series set, this one spotlighting the sessions for three of his greatest records – "Bringing It All Back Home," "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde." And then there was "The Ties That Bind," an in-depth archeological dig into the sessions for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s "The River." I also saw some good gigs this year, notably Paul Weller at The Vic in Chicago (pictured below), Josh Rouse at Turner Hall and Noel Gallagher, who put on a surprisingly dynamic show at The Pabst. And, of course, seeing The Stones at Summerfest, which was for me a first, and potentially the last time I'll get the chance.
Television: I thought getting Apple TV and having access to tons more options would lead to watching more television, but it really hasn’t happened. I watched all of the episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" – which enraged some co-workers and thrilled others – and a few other things, but, in the end, it turns out I still spend most of my free time with ...
Books: Books! Yes, tiny black words printed on eggshell or white paper. I’m always reading at least one. I used to keep a list of what I read but I’ve fallen off the bandwagon so it sure is hard now to remember what I read earlier in the year, but I did enjoy "Gotham Unbound," a sort of environmental history of New York City. And I thoroughly devoured Adam Nicholson’s "Sea Room," about The Shiants, three Hebridean isles he inherited from his father. There’s history, there’s philosophy, there’s religion, there’s archeology, there’s boat building, shepherding ... lots of different facets.
Sports: The Brewers didn’t provide much entertainment this year, but the Mets sure kept me glued to my At Bat app all season long. And if my trip to New York for the ticker tape parade didn’t go exactly as I’d expected it to, it was a great run and I’ll accept gloating about it only from Royals fans.
I know you don't care, but it was a big deal for me in 2015.
Movies: These days I don’t see many films in theaters, though I do miss it and getting out to films again could be one of my new year’s resolutions, should I decide to bother with those. But I did really enjoy seeing "Finders Keepers" on the closing night of the Milwaukee Film Festival. Part comedy, part tragedy and part story about the relationships between sons and fathers, the film was complex and emotionally powerful, hidden behind a quirky and absurd exterior. I saw the new "Star Wars" and enjoyed it, but I'm not a Star Wars nut so it was nothing more than a good flick to me.
Milwaukee: Some highlights of 2015 for me include the reopening of The Avalon Theater in Bay View, the publication of John Gurda’s astonishingly deep and wide (and weighty!) "Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods" book and the approval of the streetcar project by the Common Council, which I hope will lead to a new approach to mass transit in the city – one that will better connect the entire metro area via commuter rail and other means.
Travel: Though I used to travel quite a bit, things slowed a bit as our household population grew. But I hit the road a little more than than usual this year, spending a great week logging 40 miles on foot in New York City, following my feet wherever they took me, and just over a week in Beijing, doing the same with my wife. That one was both culture shock and not. Though the language is different, people are people (some are nice, some less so) and with so many hutongs bulldozed much of Beijing now just looks like any major western city. But there are still very distinctly Chinese neighborhoods and sites and the food (oh, the food!) and the parks were incredible. And walking the Great Wall of China is something I never really thought I'd do. There was also a road trip across Lake Michigan by ferry to Niagara Falls, Philly (two Mets games!) and DC and, on the drive back, a Toledo Mud Hens game with the ghost of Klinger. There's another potential resolution for me: travel more.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.