Ah, another year, another list of things that I really liked. I’m sorry to say but you won’t find any of these things under your chair once you have finished reading this article – I’m not quite Oprah, alas.
For me the most significant event in the world of music happened when Radiohead announced on their new album’s web site that you could choose exactly how much you wanted to pay for their new album. It even clarified that you didn’t have to pay anything at all if you didn’t feel that you wanted to pay. This was purely for the digital download of the album. For the special box set, including vinyl records and a book, it was a mere forty pounds – that’s about eighty dollars by the current exchange rate. As I have been growing into more and more of a “not wanting physical things” sort of person, the appeal of having a digital album that wouldn’t take up any space on my shelf had a great appeal to me. This excitement and enthusiasm I had for the album, In Rainbows, was all before I even listened to it.
To me, hands down, it is absolutely the best record of the year. I realize that my opinion may be extremely biased because I don’t honestly listen to a lot of music but that’s just what it is to me. I even adored the new Wilco album and it didn’t quite compare to the magnificance of the new Radiohead. A lot of people say that it is too close of a followup in style to Hail to the Thief and to those people I ask – so what? I loved Hail to the Thief. I listened to it dozens of times upon my getting it in 2003 and still listen to it. Yes, I realize that there was an album in between HTTT and In Rainbowsbut these have been the nearest and dearest to my heart.
As much as I want to say that I didn’t listen to any other music this year I can’t. I’m a little embarassed to admit that I actually spent money on yet another Hannah Montana cd – one with two discs, no less – but I did, and I have no problems with it. Yes, it’s no In Rainbows but it’s actually quite a fun listen.
Well this was quite the year for television. It started with one of my favorite shows ending – that is, the Gilmore Girls – and ended with a writer’s strike that seems to be without end. That being said, here are some of the television programs I enjoyed the most this last year.
It’s hard for me to say this seeing as I am still catching up on episodes from 2006, but I really love watching EastEnders and Coronation Street. They are two of the best written soaps I have ever seen and they really put American soaps to shame – though you can see more of my thoughts on this in the article All Lathered Up Over American Soaps. The plots are a lot more tenable – there isn’t so much plot that you honestly wouldn’t expect to hear about from a family member or a neighbor.
I had a great time watching the HBO series Big Love, which was to me surprisingly good. In a lot of ways it seemed like it was a sort of Sopranos only that it involved fundamentalist Mormon families instead of families in an entirely different kind of mob. The way that they depict polygamy seems open and honest without being overly condenscending or spiteful in any way. As much as I have sometimes wondered about how rivalries must exist when a man has multiple wives, it was interesting to see how it played itself out on the screen. There were just enough moments of tension and moments of humor.
This year was a banner year for literature – at least for me it was. No, I didn’t get the new novel by Thomas Pynchon, though I wish that I had been able to borrow it from the library. Actually, the big breakthrough for me was that I started borrowing books from the library. I was extremely reticent to stroll into the library which is strange because when I was a teenager growing up in Princeton, I used to go to the library every single day after school for a good long time. It has since become a great source of happiness to me, being able to reserve books online and then going into the local library, stacking up the books on the pad where they are immediately recognnized by the comuputer RFID reader, and taking them back a couple of weeks later when I have thoroughly chewed my way to the end of each book. Granted, at the present moment I am delving into the Gossip Girl series of novels, but hey – it’s a start.
Another big change in the world of reading was the introduction of the Amazon Kindle. The Amazon Kindle, which I hope to have early next year. As I look to moving back to the east coast in July of next year, it will be tremendously helpful to me to have less physical stuff to move – once again, on the theme of having less physical stuff in my life. I also love the idea that if I want to carry around my favorite magazines I will be able to do that as well. Mr. Bezos is a genius and the fact that he is also allowing we authors to get such a great publishing deal and have our works instantly accesible to anyone in the country with a Kindle shows to what extent he is thinking ahead.
I wanted to mention the one film that really moved me this last year – The Darjeeling Limited. The voyage that the three brothers take is representative of the voyages that a lot of us take in life, albeit not at such a great distance from where we live physically, but emotionally. I think I went through about half of the things that were discussed in the movie. As someone who has a brother and who has had in the past a less than perfect relationship with that brother, I also felt a strong connection with the way that the brothers related to one another. I also really appreciated the way that Wes Anderson tacked on a pre-film film that was addressed at a certain point and that really tied everything together, so to speak.
Hands down, the most amazing event of the year for me was the Wii. Yes, I realize that it came out in 2006 but it really was strengthened this last year – and to top it all off, I actually was able to get one when I visited New York and went to the Nintendo store. For the last couple of weeks I have really been getting into one of the best made Mario related games ever created, Super Mario Galaxy. I haven’t felt this much excitement and tension when playing a video game since I was playing Super Mario Sunshine five years ago. Oh, memories.
It was a wonderful year all around but I think that next year will be even better. How do I know this? Well, I have moving back to the East Coast to look forward to. It does make me sad to leave here but I know that it is necessary for my life to move forward. All the television, film, books, and video games in the world can’t make up for a life that is puttering away at neutral. To 2008!