I’m not anticipating anything earthshattering to be released or to happen in the next fifteen days and so I present to you my favorites of 2006 a good two weeks earlier than it has been traditionally released.

Music
A lot of albums were released during the year but not a lot of them caught my attention, and many of those that did somehow didn’t manage to keep it for all that long. I have two albums in mind for this year – the eponymous Pearl Jam release and the soundtrack to the Disney film High School Musical.

Pearl Jam’s eponymous album was a nice return to a strong rocking band. It takes its place among some of my favorite albums ever. From the moment you open up the avocado emblazened album and put it in to the last moments of the last song you realize what a good thing you have. I was particularly pleased with the fact that for a limited time Pearl Jam basically gave away the mp3 of the first single off of the album, “World Wide Suicide.” I was unable to see them when they were playing at The Gorge in George, Washington (yes, very funny) but I know that the next time they are around I will certainly make a good effort to see them. The album as a whole is a no-punches held back crticism of the current government in power in the United States and the directions that we have taken in foreign policy. I think you could say that the band doesn’t particularly agree with the direction being taken.

The music to the film High School Musical took me by surprise. I wasn’t even expecting to like the film at all but took it in almost as a joke since it was on television and it seemed like it would be good for a laugh. I had a feeling that it might be good from the opening song “Start of Something New”, particularly during the film itself, when the characters seem surprised by their enjoyment of singing the song. The soundtrack brings with it a lot of good memories of seeing the movie but it also stands very well on its own which I think is a fundamental component to having a good soundtrack. I can honestly say I don’t think the same would necessarily apply to the soundtrack to the play / film Rent – before I saw it the soundtrack was a jumble of music but afterwards I really appreciated it.

Television
I would like to start by officially complaining that one of my favourite shows last year was cancelled because the WB and UPN combined to form The CW – that show is Everwood. The show featured plenty of excellent writing and character interaction and genuine drama, the kind that you will most likely not find on somehow not cancelled Girlfriends. Choosing that one lives and the other dies is clearly not in my hands because if it were Everwood would not have been killed off – especially since it had so much more of a story to be told.

There was plenty of concern that The Gilmore Girls would take a turn for the worse since its creators had left the show because of a contract dispute. It really puts me off when things like this happen but I am not in a position to even think I can understand what happens when people demand an increase in salary or better contract when to me their contract or salary is perfectly golden. This season of The Gilmore Girls has been superb with some of the best dramatic scenes the series has ever been witness to. I was shocked in the opening moments of the first episode of the season when the character of Luke basically sought out Christopher, knocked on his door, and gave him a solid punch in the face. The show has continued to intensify from there with the unexpected – Christopher and Lorelai getting married. Who knows what next year will bring for the Gilmore girls?

I really started to appreciate Days Of our Lives especially when it was announced that the characters of Stephen and Kayla were going to be returning to the show – albeit Stephen not having his memory. Ah, soap opera stories. Though my grandmother has been largely non-communicative since she had a stroke a few years ago I could tell it got through to her on the few times that I talked with her and would tell her what was going on in the show.

Other television programs I have enjoyed this year have included Phil of The Future, Hannah Montana, The OC, and a few too many to mention. Maybe I should read more often.

Film
I actually didn’t get to see about half of the films that I wanted to see this year – maybe even more. Maybe that’s a good thing, though – nothing wrong with saving a little money. I was fortunate enough to see what I consider one of the best films that came out this year, The Pursuit of Happyness. That’s not a typographical error – it refers to something quite funny in the film. I actually got to see the film sometime in March, I think, with a test audience that was apparently the first audience in the world to screen the film. The film, which is presently in theaters, is a heartwarming true life story of Chris Gardner, who went from living on the streets with his son to having his own brokerage firm and the path that he undertook to get there – it certainly wasn’t an easy one and in real life Mr. Gardner says that he would not advise his route in life to anyone as a lot of it depended on luck, pure and simple luck.

When my father came to visit I took him to see what I consider the other of the best films that came out this year – Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna – quite a controversial film (in India) that proposes the following – what if, after you get married, you realize that you have met your soulmate? There are two couples in this film who realize seperately that they are with the wrong people. The film goes through a lot of twists and turns and doesn’t necessarily have the traditional happy ending – you’ll just have to rent it on DVD to understand.

Video Games
This was quite the year for video games, especially for fans of Pokémon. The game which was certainly one of my most played, along with Animal Crossing (though I have been playing that just about every day since I got it last year and it is still good for more playing) is Pokémon Ranger. It is sometimes referred to as The Road to Pokémon Diamond and Pearl because of the fact that the Diamond and Pearl games will be released next year to much fanfare – and there is a password that one can input into Ranger to unlock a link between the two games but I have not yet managed to find what the password is. The pokemon web site has been teasing it will be released today but thusfar – no dice – or Pokémon eggs. (The password will allow players to capture an egg which one will be able to take into the Diamond and Pearl games.

The other game that really got my time and attention this year was Ouendan, less commonly referred to as Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (Go! Fight! Cheer Squad). This is a rhythm based game in which one has to tap points on the lower DS screen along with the music being played. It’s fun like Taiko: Drum Master but is completely portable. You can get some really funny looks from people when you bop along with the music in the game. What’s really great about the game, to me, is that the Cheer Squad is a group of men – not something you’d generally expect from what we would in the United States refer to as Cheerleaders. It’s great forward thinking like this that will take us into the twenty-fourth century mindset. Mark my words.

Conclusion
I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to see some of the films that I wanted to see this year, like Volver. I still have two weeks, though, and I have a feeling that this gem by Pedro Almodovar will be on my agenda sometime soon. It has been a fantastic year for media – maybe next year I will review my favorite web sites of the year as well.

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