Coming back on the flight from Dulles to San Diego on New Year's Day, I took out my trusty moleskine notebook and began jotting down ideas for bloggable things. It's a long flight — the first thing was yesterday's post about the differences in roads and driving on the East and West Coasts, which seemed to strike a nerve in a LOT of people… which is great. :)
I spent more time (in between bouts of dozing off — it was frakking hot on that plane) reflecting on 2006 and decided to put down a few favorites in some random categories that came to me. Note: often there might be a difference between what was favorite and what was best. For example —
Television Show. Veronica Mars. I have written and commented several times in these parts that Battlestar Galactica is the best show on tv — and honestly, I think it is. That said, I enjoyed VM more than any show this year. For the first thing, I discovered it early in '06, catching Season-2 on its repeat cycle and back-filling Season-1 when I could. This is the most smartly written show on TV, mixing mystery, personal drama, humor, pop culture references as others around here will attest to. Also, sometimes BG can be overly serious (rare smiles there, but engrossing) — this show always kept me guessing and loving every minute of it. After a somewhat slow start to Season-3, I think it has hit a good stride once again.
Film. Little Miss Sunshine. This film, unlike more polished films that were Oscar contenders and winners such as Crash, Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Syriana, and The Queen (all of which I saw in 2006 and all of which I enjoyed), was an unexpected delight. It is the simple story of a family toughing it out despite their difficulties and trying to do the right thing for their youngest daughter. Dad is trying desperately to "make it", the wife seems to be fighting with that "is this really what I want from my life" question throughout. The rest of the family is a mess or oblivious. The film is smart, quirky, insightful, and funny (painfully at times). And I'm pretty sure I can never listen to "Superfreak" in quite the same way again.
Sports Moment. Rutgers Beats Louisville. Thomas Jefferson once described New Jersey as "a barrel tapped at both ends". It was true in colonial times and still is — New Jersey relies heavily on its proximity to New York and Philadelphia for its "identity" and I think you have to be from New Jersey to really appreciate what having Rutgers be good means. For my entire life (and for the life of my parents for that matter) the Scarlet Knights have been terrible — the laughingstock of college football. A free win in the Big East. And here they were in a battle of unbeatens, downing Louisville in a great game to crack the Top 10 and take aim at the BCS. Sadly, they stumbled down the stretch and did not make the BCS, but for one night New Jersey outshined its neighbors. In a bit of redemption, they stomped K-State in the Texas Bowl 37-10 and their coach has not bolted for any "better" opportunities as might be expected.
Book. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King. In a recent post, I mistakenly identified "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" by J Maarten Troost as my favorite book of last year — then I realized I'd read it in 2005. Don't get me wrong, its great (and hysterical) but can't count for this year.
At the beginning of the year, at the prompting of a friend, I started reading the Gunslinger Series by King. I'd loved King's material in the 70s, hated most of his stuff from the 80s, and had a bit of a rekindling in the 90s starting with "The Green Mile". But this serialized epic never really got my interest, but on my friend's urging, I gave it a try. And I loved it. And to me, "W&G" is the epitome of the series — it still had the mythic tone that was a hallmark of the first books in the series before the setting became more "real". The majority of this book is actually a departure from the "main" story, filling in the backstory (previously hinted at) of the protagonist, Roland. It is full of action, intrigue, portent, love (generally not a SK strongpoint, but done well here), joy and tragedy. I've read books this year that were a lot more serious and literary, but I enjoyed this one best of all.
Vacation Moment. Grand Tetons Flower Field. After a week at a family reunion in Minnesota, we took a drive across the country to see Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and then finished off with Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone. During the stay at Grand Teton we decided to take a tram to the top of one of the mountains and hike down. Its all downhill, so how hard can it be, right? Well, it was 14 miles downhill and quite a full day — we, uh, coulda used a little more water at times. But anyway, about a third of the way down, we came out of the treeline into a huge rolling meadow. The meadow was covered (and I mean covered!) with mostly yellow flowers (and a few of other colors). It was breathtaking. And the amazing thing was that it went on for what had to be more than a mile. We hiked in that meadow for at least 30 minutes without pause — all the time surrounded by a blanket of wildflowers — and I don't think we saw anyone else the entire time. It was completely unexpected and unriveled in my mind. The picture at left does it no justice.
Album. Plans by Death Cab For Cutie. This band was another discovery for me this year, and I really got into their albums a lot mid-year. I'm a big lyrics person and the ones here are smart and thoughtful and at times, snarky. I love the sound — a good blend between production and simplicity. My favorite song has to be "Someday (You Will Be Loved)" which is marvelously cynical. I think that the very best songs on "Transatlanticism" are better than the ones here, but overall this is the stronger CD. I'm very curious to see what they put out next.