2006 Favorites

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.

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17 thoughts on “2006 Favorites

  1. Awww, you linked me! :) I've got Little Miss Sunshine coming through Netflix this week, and I am so excited to see it. I bought Plans the day it came out and listened to it non-stop for like a week and still listen to it regularly. We will have to have a discussion about Stephen King, because I've only read a couple of his books — Misery, The Stand, Pet Sematary — and have always wanted to read more, primarily the Gunslinger and Dark Towers stuff. But I need some convincing. :) (I've especially wanted to get back into his stuff after reading how much he loves VM, Lost, Prison Break, and 24.)

  2. Great post. I have an entire moleskine devoted to blog ideas and 5 things Friday posts, I'm betting you are already thinking about getting another one. :) See my logic is that I have to have at least one of every style, that way I'm not just hording.Veronica Mars is simple awesome. It's satisfied my Buffy the Vampire Slayer withdrawals. I love it and watch the discs all the time. Also; Kristen Bell is from a small area outside Detroit where my Dad used to live not that long ago, so I have a routing "home town" interest.When I think of my reaction to Little Miss Sunshine when I realized she was going to strip I freakin crack up everytime. Superfreak has since made it's way to my workout playlist.

  3. Steve … jotting down blog ideas … welcome to the club.Little Miss Sunshine was definitely a good movie. Of course, I am still partial to "The Departed"I really need to read some non-fiction. Only book in that class I read this year (which was newish) was Schrodingers Ball

  4. i've yet to start jotting down blog ideas, but i definitely get hit with about 4 or 5 different one-liner openers every time i sit down to write. perhaps i write a blog just with those lines? talk about non-sequitors. :)and you're right about the jersey thing. i'm from the north-NYC-end, and when i was looking at colleges my parents originally said state schools only . . . the last place i wanted to look was Rutgers. all i thought was eeew, state school. big school. sucky football. not for me. (i really wanted to be in marching band in college – i'm a huge football nut, too – but i ended up going to a school with neither and almost no school spirit. go figure.)

  5. Jen — I've had a love-hate-respect relationship with King. I thought his stuff in the 80s (starting around The Tommyknockers) was really dreadful — and if you read his reflections on his own booze and pills problems during those years, it's probably no surprise. If you want to get a taste of the "mature" King, try "The Green Mile" which was great, very human and still haunting. I've heard that his new book "Lissey's Story" is also quite good. The Dark Tower series is a serious investment in time (as the books tend to get longer) — though I'm glad that I read them when they were done. The first one came out in 1978 and he didn't complete the 7th book until 2003 — I seriously don't have that kind of patience. By his own record, he wasn't totally satisfied with the climax (and he did stumble a bit, i think), but I really enjoyed it.

  6. Sdede2–I can see the moleskine problem rearing its head already — the other thing about VM is that they film a lot of it here in San Diego, so I always get juiced when I see a place I know. Though, I've never figured out how to find out where they're shooting. Maybe I could be an "old guy on bench" extra.

  7. Deepak — what about Neil Gaiman?? He seems right up your alley. Have you read "American Gods"? I think you'd like it. I really did, though several people I've referred it to have come back with: "You liked that?!??!" — so apparently it doesn't exactly have mass appeal… :)

  8. erin*carly — I totally went through the same thing when I was looking at schools. Zero (and i mean zero) interest in Rutgers. Big campus, good-but-not-great reputation, and Exit 9 (ewww). It had the rep of the "default" place to go if you couldn't get into where you really wanted to go. Of course in hindsight, I'm sure it wasn't that bad and I've felt a little disingenuous rooting for them (shameful bandwagon jumping, I suppose) — but their run this year really was enjoyable.

  9. I seriously do not know how you got out of my neighborhood! I'm so glad you commented on my post because I didn't even realize it. (I swear I'm not channeling Britney even more these days!)

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