As the year will be over in a matter of fewer than 50 hours, I felt it was time to continue the relatively new tradition of listing my favorite things from the year. Once again, I start with the disclaimer that the following is strictly a matter of opinion, and that my favorites might very well be your least favorite.
For me, there were two significant events, musically speaking, in 2004. The first was the release of Wilco’s “A Ghost is Born.” This was more or less the only album I got this year, received as a birthday gift from my best friend Matt. This was the second year in a row in which Matt had gotten me a gift related to the band Wilco. Last year, he got me the dvd of the film “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, a documentary about the making of the album prior to “A Ghost is Born”, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Having loved that album, I was sure that this one would be incredible as well. I realized how fantastic it was when I got the opportunity to listen to it for free online through Wilco’s Web Site.
This feeling was further pushed along after I gave the album a few listens. I suppose it should come as no surprise that I’m presently having trouble remembering any other albums that came out this year. It occurred to me just now that Phish put out their last album this year, which leads to the second significant event of the year – Phish disbanded. They put out the album “Undermind” which, in my humble opinion, was one of the best they have put out in recent years. This was followed by one of their best tours, including a couple of my favorite shows ever. Having seen a little over forty this means something to me. I particularly enjoyed the June 17th show in Brooklyn – I think they went out of their way to put on a spectacular show as the whole show was being simulcast to a good large number of movie theaters across the country. Seeing them for free four days later playing, a la The Beatles, on top of the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater (and having googled the word “marquee” to make sure I was spelling it correctly, I notice that I am not the only person who noticed the similarity.
The record should show that I would include “Genius Loves Company” by the late Ray Charles but I honestly haven’t given it a significant listen out of the context of being in Starbucks. I would have listened to the new U2 album but the process of moving and working 50-60 hours a week between a few jobs has not left me much time to even consider investing into it emotionally. It is also noteworthy that every one of the songs played during the films “Garden State”, “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Hum Tum” were excellent.
This was a strong year for television, I think. Friends and Frasier both concluded their runs, each having run for over ten years. I actually had avoided Friends at first, associating it with a girl I had a crush on in high school. Frasier, on the other hand, I didn’t get a chance to really watch until the mid ninteties, and then I followed it fairly well until its end. I was quite pleased with how the fourth season of the Gilmore Girls wrapped up as well as the second season of Everwood. That being said, I have been quite happy with these two shows this season. There have been emotional rollercoasters and a lot of laughs, louder though they may have been with the Gilmore Girls– (I can’t help but love a show that makes so many cultural references.) Then there were the two new shows that I really loved this year – Boston Legal and Jack and Bobby.
I was excited about Boston Legal from the beginning because it featured my favorite new character from the final season of The Practice, being the character of Alan Shore, portrayed by brilliant actor James Spader. Between his character and the presence of Denny Crane, portrayed by William Shatner of all people, this is definitely my favorite new show of the year. I may get a lot of flack for this, but I sincerely believe that Denny Crane is the best character I have ever seen William Shatner portray. There was an entire episode in which almost his entire dialogue was saying his character’s name. Apparently in Boston, when you are a really important and successful lawyer, you will strike fear into people just by saying your own name.
Then there was Jack and Bobby. It feels like this show has been around a lot longer than it has been as I feel as though I know the characters better than I ought to given its short life thusfar. I suppose this is due to the quality of the writing, the great dialogue in particular. I like how the show ties together things in the present with how they will affect the one character who goes on to be President in the distant future. I don’t want to give any spoilers but I do suggest that you try to catch up with this show if you have not seen it yet as it really is worth it.
I’m not quite sure where to even begin on the topic of film, having seen well over 25 films in the theaters this year, so I will only really mention a few of them. In last year’s review of films, I mentioned that I was going to go see Kal Ho Na Ho, with Shah Rukh Khan – this turned out to be quite an exceptional film. I started off the new year by going to see Mystic River with my dear friend Joe. It is quite possible that I will be seeing a film on January 1st of this year as well, should I be heading out to Kirkland to see the new Amitabh Bachchan film. I ended the year at said Kirkland theater, seeing Swades with everyone’s favorite hearthrob, Shah Rukh Khan. In between, I saw a plethora of films, almost all of them being in my opinion quite good – but this is probably because I was particularly picky this last year when it came to seeing films. For example, I only saw Kyon? Ho Gaya Na because I saw that Amitabh was in it. I think I would be willing to go and see just about any film with Amitabh Bachchan in it, even if he says “Come on, Charlie!” a few hundred times during the course of it.
2004 seemed to be the year for really intense personal films, such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Garden State, and even Napoleon Dynamite to some extent. My girlfriend will attest to the fact that I have cried every time I have seen the first two movies, especially Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both films really make one think about reality and ones perception of reality. What does it mean to really exist to someone else? Can someone just be completely wiped from your mind with a simple procedure? Can years of pain be overcome with hundreds of milligrams of prescription drugs? Garden State did have one dangerous element to it, as my brother Michael pointed out – people should not believe that stopping usage of their medication is necessarily a good thing. This is surely the case for people who have chemical imbalances – avoiding medication will not solve ones problems.
2004 for me was, I suppose you could say, the year I really saw a lot of Hindi films. This was chiefly because I finally had someone that wanted to go and see them with me again – the last person having been my brother, who now lives quite a distance away. Of all the Hindi films I saw this year, I would have to say that my favorites were Veer-Zara and Hum Tum – both by the wonderful Yash Raj Film company. Where Hum Tum was light and fully comedic, Veer-Zara was quite an emotional wringer, quite moving as well.
So I still do a lot of web design work – more now than ever before. I went from a Washington Heights apartment that I barely spent any time in, to a beautiful yet small share in an apartment on the Upper West Side, finally arriving in a one bedroom apartment in West Seattle. There may not be a gym a block away from her
e, but now I have the elliptical training machine that was the only piece of equipment I actually used in the gym – and the space to keep it in. I went from buying a lot of coffee at Starbucks to having them pay for my health insurance and a pound of coffee per week, only by working part time for them. Next year should bring great things, G-d willing. My finishing and publishing “Kate,” for example.