Another year, another list of favorites, and another year of my still not being Oprah – on the bright side, you know you won’t see any mentions of the va-jay-jay, after that one of course.

Music
Let me start by mentioning the new album by one of my favorite bands, Death Cab for Cutie. Narrow Stairs was definitely my favorite new album of the year, and I can say this even without having the chance to listen to it as many times as I would have wanted to because there honestly weren’t that many new releases that caught my eye this last year. Whether that was a symptom of there just not being that many strong new releases for the year or whether I just wasn’t paying attention is another matter entirely. One of the things I liked best about the album was the fact that you can listen to it either as a whole or by its individual parts. I prefer to listen to it in one straight go, however.

I was introduced to a musician called Jens Lekman this past year, and I am glad for it. A friend of mine wrote about her experience seeing him in concert and I was sufficiently intrigued that I listened to some of his songs as they were performed for a live audience. When I went to visit his official web site, I was amused to say the least. As his recordings have all been independently released, he tells visitors to the web site that he takes no issue with people who wish to download his entire discography from peer to peer file sharing web sites using BitTorrent technology; all that he asks is that you come to see him and maybe send him a few dollars if you enjoy his work. He provides an address where you can send money electronically. I went to see if I could find his discography online through peer to peer sharing and was not surprised, given his stance on the issue, that there were many copies available. I downloaded the discography and listened to it over the course of a week and enjoyed just about every song.

Lekman has not only got a good sense of timing and an ability to write some of the most clever lyrics I have ever heard, but he does so despite the fact that English is not his native tongue.

They say you can’t judge a man / until you walk a mile in his shoes / so I stole your shoes / and I walked a mile in them / and I still don’t consider you a friend.

To me, that is just cleverness upon cleverness. I never thought of the saying about judging a man and walking a mile in that person’s shoes quite that way. There are other examples and I encourage you to find them for yourself.

Books
I read a number of books this year but most of them were not published this year. A few too many of them were in the Gossip Girl series and one of them was a book that I had put off reading since the book was published over ridiculous jealousy issues, but the one book that really stood out to me was not the sort of book that I would traditionally read had I not read the first book in the series. The book is called More Information Than You Require, by John Hodgeman. Mr. Hodgeman is most famously known in the United States as being the “PC” in the Apple commercials that tout the benefits of using a Mac over using, presumably, anything else – though they refer to that anything else as “PC”. (The fact that a Mac is, per se, a PC – Personal Computer – is not ever addressed by the ads.) More Information Than You Require is a sequel of sorts to The Areas of My Expertise.

I first found out about the first book when I saw an offer to download it for free on some web site in audio format. I thought it was going to be a rather dull intellectual book of information and did not take the time to look into it. One morning I decided to listen to it while in the shower and nearly fell over from laughter. What I didn’t realize was that the book is entirely false. The followup book is also pretty much entirely false. It tells you information about our various presidents that is entirely incorrect, yet which does not seem entirely far fetched and so is quite funny. He also has a go at people like me who borrow books from the library instead of buying them. Well played, Mr. Hodgeman.

Films
For me, the definitive film of the year was Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I realize that this may not come to any surprise to many of you as I have long expressed my appreciation for the films of Woody Allen. There is more to my love of this film that goes beyond that simple fact. As you may know, I have been to Barcelona, though my travelogue stops short after the third day. I was therefore intrigued to see how the city would be represented on the big screen in the context of a well spun tale. Though seven years have passed, I still have some pretty strong memories of being in Barcelona, seeing the various sites and enjoying the art of Gaudi. The film not only captures the beauty of the city but it has an enticing storyline with one of my favorite subjects: love. If you aren’t yet enticed to see it, know that there is a plethora of art in the film as well as plenty of laughs through language and misunderstanding.

Games
2008 was the year that I finally succumbed to a game that has caused many a gamer to spend hour after hour in front of their computer and has been around since 2004. I refer to World of Warcraft, and I never thought I would be “one of those people” that spends that much time on a game. Let me tell you that the game does not necessarily have to be a life draining time sink. Like anything else in life, one can choose to focus hours at a time on it or not. For me, the bottom line is that the game is enjoyable whether I choose to devote five minutes to it on a given day or spend a leisurely hour, and that makes me happy.

Conclusion
I anticipate that this year will be full of reading and film watching. As a resident of New York City, I am aware of many cinemas that play films that are either simply not played anywhere else or are film classics that would not necessarily play in theaters elsewhere. I have also taken on a challenge to read books from a list entitled 1001 Books To Read Before You Die – the spreadsheet I downloaded to keep track of the titles tells me I would have to read 23 per year in order to finish them all based on my age and how many I have finished. 2009 looks like it will be a busy year!

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