Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Favorites from 2011 (aka, the 2011 Davie Awards)

I always post a "best of" for each year, where I rank my favorite movies, albums, TV shows, etc.  This year it became too much of a drag, and I put the whole thing off.  I've decided to just post some lists, without rankings--although you could view it as a rough, but not definitive, order--of some of my favorite media released in 2011, as well as some pre-2011 items that I experienced for the first time last year.  Enjoy.  Happy very belated 2012.

  • Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
  • The Horrors - Skying
  • Tom Waits - Bad as Me
  • The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
  • The Black Keys - El Camino
  • Low - C’Mon
  • Wilco - The Whole Love
  • Megafaun - Megafaun
  • Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
  • The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
  • Meat Puppets - Lollipop
  • The Kills - Blood Pressures
  • Real Estate - Days
  • The Feelies - Here Before
  • Wussy - Strawberry
  • My Morning Jacket - Circuital
  • Destroyer - Kaputt
  • PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
  • Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for my Halo
  • Radiohead - The King of Limbs
  • Justice - Audio, Video, Disco
  • Fleet Foxes -Helplessness Blues
  • Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
  • The Field -Looping State of Mind
  • Deer Tick - Divine Providence
  • Russian Circles - Empros
  • The Strokes - Angles
  • Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972
  • Boris - Heavy Rocks
  • Wire - Red Barked Tree
  • Danger Mouse & Daniele Lupi - Rome
  • TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
  • Wye Oak - Civilian
  • Mastodon - The Hunter
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach
  • Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer

Favorite Movies of 2011:
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Drive
  • 13 Assasins
  • Senna
  • The Descendants
  • Winter in Wartime
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Muppets
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Everything Must Go
  • Paul
  • Our Idiot Brother
  • Horrible Bosses
  • Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
  • Forks Over Knives
  • Bridesmaids

Favorite TV Shows:
  • The Wire* - which obviously isn’t from 2011, but I finally watched it last year, so it deserves being mentioned, because it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
  • Breaking Bad
  • Game of Thrones
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Community
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Louie
  • Sherlock
  • Homeland
  • Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations / The Layover
  • Top Gear
  • 30 Rock
  • Modern Family
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Favorite Books Of 2012:
  • Bossypants by Tina Faye
  • Zone One by Colton Whitehead
  • Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron

Ten Favorite Non-2011 Books I Read This Year:
  • Your Money or Your Life
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • No Logo
  • Tender is the Night
  • Cat’s Cradle
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Moveable Feast
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Great Shark Hunt
  • The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

30 Favorite Non-2011 Movies I Saw For the First Time:

  • Zodiac
  • Chinatown
  • The Thing
  • Les Triplettes de Belleville
  • L’Illusionniste
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • Yojimbo
  • The Corporation
  • Le Samourai
  • The Deer Hunter
  • True Grit (2010)
  • The Muppet Movie
  • Mesrine: Killer Instinct
  • Mesrine: Public Enemy #1
  • Mystic River
  • Insomnia
  • Beer Wars
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Amelie
  • All the President’s Men
  • The French Connection
  • The Conversation
  • Why We Fight
  • Crazy Heart
  • Lemmy
  • No End in Sight
  • Raging Bull
  • Blue Gold
  • The Iron Giant

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pacific Northwest

Jess and I took a vacation last month to the Pacific Northwest last month.  We spent time visiting friends, exploring Seattle and Portland, and hiking around Olympic National Park and the Columbia River Gorge.  And of course, there was much eating and drinking.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Few Thoughts About Today

Today much will be said by many others a lot better than I could ever say anything.  It's a day where everyone has their own story.  Where they were when they heard or saw what was happening.  Like many people, I wasn't there.  Thankfully, I didn't know anyone who was.

My own story is pretty uninteresting to anyone but myself.  I was in high school.  The phone rang in my Algebra class, and the teacher informed the class that a plane hit one of the World Trade Towers.  I can't remember if she turned the TV on or not.  I know it was almost the end of that class,soon the bell rang, and the TVs were on by the time I arrived at my Biology class.  That's where I saw the towers fall.  I remember how shaken and disturbed my American History teacher was that day.  When my orchestra teacher wanted us to practice during class as we normally did, I remember several of us being very angry. 

I know that, being sixteen at the time, the day didn't have as much immediate impact on me as it should have.  That afternoon I remember a few friends and I went over someone's house to play some video games.  His mom was there, and she mentioned to us how upset she was after hearing about all the firefighters that had probably died.  I remember having tears in my eyes days later as I looked at pictures of what happened.

I've been blessed that, compared to so many others, the direct impact of 9/11 on my life has been small.  No one I know died that day.  Friends and acquaintances have served in the resulting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but all have thankfully returned safely.  I know this day has affected millions of others around the world in much worse ways.

One moment that always sticks with me didn't happen on September 11th, but a few months earlier.  I had been in New York City that summer with my church's youth group.  One of the first things we were going to do upon arriving was go up into one of the World Trade Towers, but we were behind schedule.  Instead, we drove slowly right by them and gaped upward at how enormous they were from below.  To explain why we were skipping our trip up the tower, my youth group leader said something to the effect of "Well there's always next year."


I was going to end with some thoughts on how America has allowed itself to be controlled by fear in the wake of 9/11, but then I found an article published this morning by Spencer Ackerman of Wired's Danger Room blog, and I decided you'd be much better off just reading it instead.  It says everything I wanted to say and more:  
How to Beat Terrorism: Refuse to be Terrorized 


LIFE - 9/11: The 25 Most Powerful Photos

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Checking Back In

I haven't written anything here in the past four or five months.  Every now and then I keep trying to push myself to get back into writing, but the motivation has been nonexistent.  At the very least, I thought I could check back in with the goals I made for myself at the beginning of the year and see how I'm fairing (not well):

  1. Create and follow a budget. - Haven't created any kind of formal budget yet.  Just trying to keep unnecessary spending down.  We are tracking our spending on, but we need to do more to keep our finances in order.
  2. Continue exercising regularly -I'm doing a little better with this one.  I typically do some combination of yoga and bodyweight exercises (pushups, pullups, situps on the Bosu) three to four times a week, and cardio at least once a week.  I played some outdoor soccer in the spring and will be doing so again in the fall.  I would like to get the cardio to at least twice a week consistently.
  3. Learn to cook more healthy recipes -Most of my cooking either involves the same few recipes repeatedly, or Jess giving me a recipe to cook.  I'd like to find more recipes on my own.
  4. Write regularly - Nope.  Obviously.
  5. Meditate at least once a week regularly - Not at all.
  6. Get surgery on my gums and schedule a routine annual physical with a doctor - Finally had the gum surgery done in June and am making visits with the doctor.  It's about time.
  7. Read at least 40 books - Not on target with this goal so far.  I've only finished fourteen books so far, although I am currently reading three or four different books at the moment.  Still, I need to step up the pace if I'm going to make this goal.
  8. Visit Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest -There will be no Hawaii this year, but we are going to Oregon and Washington in the fall.  We also have bonus trips planned for Chicago and New England.
  9. Pay off my student loan -I've been dragging my feet on this one and need to get moving.
  10. Use my camera regularly -I've only done slightly better with this than I have with my goal of writing regularly.  I got a nice macro lens for my birthday that I haven't used much.  Jess did buy me a nice external flash for our anniversary that I have started using.  Took some great photos of our nephew last night.
 I hope that this will jump-start me into writing updates regularly again.  We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Davie Predicts the Oscars

In preparation for the 2011 Academy Awards ceremony this evening, I've decided to post my own Oscar predictions.  Unfortunately I haven't seen every film nominated (most regrettably, I somehow didn't see True Grit), but I've read enough about all the films that I think I can make educated guesses about them all.  I am also only making predictions about the major categories.  So in order to avoid making this intro last as ridiculously long as the awards ceremony will tonight, here are my predictions:

Best Picture Nominees*:
*denotes film I did not see
  • 127 Hours*
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter*
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King's Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit*
  • Winter's Bone
 Will Win:  The King's Speech has gained enough momentum that it will beat out The Social Network for best picture.  True Grit or Black Swan could be a dark horse to win.
Should Win:  I loved The King's Speech, but the most deserving film is The Social Network.  There is a good chance I'd be picking True Grit if I had seen it.

Best Director:

  • Darren Aronovsky - Black Swan
  • Ethan Coen and Joel Coen - True Grit*
  • David Fincher - The Social Network
  • Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
  • David O. Russell - The Fighter*
Will Win:  There's a strong chance David Fincher could win, but I think Tom Hooper will ride the tide of support for The King's Speech to win.
Should Win:  David Fincher.  And Christopher Nolan should have been nominated for Inception at the expense of either Tom Hooper or (from what I've heard) David O. Russell.

Best Actor:
  • Javier Bardem - Biutiful*
  • Jeff Bridges - True Grit*
  • Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
  • Colin Firth - The King's Speech
  • James Franco - 127 Hours*
Will Win:  I don't see Jeff Bridges winning two year in a row.  Colin Firth continues The King's Speech's winning streak.
Should Win:  Colin Firth

Best Actress:
  • Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole*
  • Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
  • Natalie Portman - Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine
Will Win:  The Oscar is Natalie Portman's to lose, but I could see Annette Bening having an outside chance of pulling the upset.
Should Win: Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence were both fantasic, but I'd still go with Portman.

Best Supporting Actor:
  • Christian Bale - The Fighter*
  • John Hawkes - Winter's Bone
  • Jeremy Renner - The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
  • Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
Will Win: Based on what I've heard, my money's on Christian Bale.  It is possible that Geoffrey Rush could ride The King's Speech's wave of success to victory.
Should Win: Having not seen Bale in The Fighter, Geoffrey Rush is far and away the best of the other nominees.

Best Supporting Actress:
  • Amy Adams - The Fighter*
  • Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
  • Melissa Leo - The Fighter*
  • Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit*
  • Jackie Weaver - Animal Kingdom*
Will Win:  I've hardly seen any of the films in this category, but it sounds like Melissa Leo is the favorite.
Should Win:  Can't really say since I've only seen one of the nominees in this category.

Best Animated Feature:
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Toy Story 3
Will Win:  Obviously Toy Story 3.
Should Win:  I really all three movies, but Pixar deserves the award yet again.

Best Feature Documentary:
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Gasland
  • Inside Job*
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land*
Will Win: Exit might have an outside shot, but I'll bet the speculation that the film may not be a true documentary might turn off some of the voters.  I think the content of Inside Job will give it the edge.
Should Win:  The real winner should be The Tillman Story, but it wasn't nominated.  Of the nominees, Exit Through the Gift Shop was the best, although Resrepo is deserving as well.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The 2010 Davie Awards

Every year I compile a list of my favorite releases in music, movies, television, and more as the Davie Awards.  This list is always posted at the beginning of the following year for two reasons:  One, it doesn't make sense to me to post a "best of" list before that year is over (unlike most publications that publish their lists in December), and two, waiting as long as possible gives me more time to absorb all the possible candidates.

Favorite Albums:
  1. The National - High Violet
  2. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
  3. Grinderman - Grinderman 2
  4. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
  5. The Black Keys - Brothers
  6. The Greenhornes - **** (Four Stars)
  7. The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
  8. Spoon - Transference
  9. Four Tet - There is Love in You
  10. Beach House - Teen Dream
  11. The Walkmen - Lisbon
  12. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
  13. Weekend - Sports
  14. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
  15. The Books - The Way Out
  16. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk
  17. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
  18. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
  19. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)
  20. Deftones - Diamond Eyes
  21. The Magnetic Fields - Realism
  22. Jónsi - Go
  23. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & the Cairo Gang - The Wonder Show of the World
  24. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
  25. Massive Attack - Heligoland
Honorable Mention: Band of Horses - Infinite Arms, Ceremony - Rocket Fire, UNKLE - Where Did the Night Fall, Alain Johannes - Spark, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network soundtrack, The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme

Favorite Concert:
  • Yo La Tengo with Wussy - @ the Southgate House, Newport, KY
Honorable Mention: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists with The Lions Rampant; A Place to Bury Strangers; Boris with Russian Circles, all at the Southgate House

Favorite Movies:

  1. The Social Network
  2. The King's Speech
  3. A Prophet
  4. Mother
  5. The Tillman Story
  6. The Good, the Bad, the Weird
  7. Toy Story 3
  8. Exit Through the Gift Shop
  9. Restrepo
  10. Inception
  11. Carlos
  12. Winter's Bone
  13. Gasland
  14. The Town
  15. Black Swan
Honorable Mention: Blue Valentine, Red Riding Trilogy, Despicable Me, The American, The Kids Are Alright, How to Train Your Dragon

Films missed that might have made the list:  True Grit, Mesrine pt.1 & pt. 2, The Illusionist (L'Illusionniste), The Fighter, Inside Job, 127 Hours

Favorite TV Shows:
  1. Breaking Bad
  2. Mad Men
  3. The Pacific
  4. Modern Family
  5. Boardwalk Empire
Honorable Mention: Top Gear (UK), 30 Rock, Conan, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Walking Dead, Parks and Recreation

Favorite Book:

  • War by Sebastian Junger
I read a lot of books last year, but War was the only book actually published last year that I've read thus far (I have several on hold at the library, including Keith Richards' Life).  Here's a sample of some the best books I read for the first time in 2010:
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (read in 2009-10)
  • With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge
  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  • Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Post Office by Charles Bukowski
  • Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman
  • You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Helmet for My Pillow - Robert Leckie
  • A History of the World in Six Glasses - Tom Standage

Here's looking forward to 2011!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shift in Focus & 2011 Resolutions

The idea of using this purely as a photo blog fizzled out last year, so I'm going to shift the focus and turn this into a more open blog.  I've wanted a fresh start from my old all-purpose personal blog, and I've decided to use this blog for that.

With that in mind, I'm going to re-post the resolutions I'm making for myself in 2011:
  1. Create and follow a budget.
  2. Continue exercising regularly - Increase the frequency of bodyweight exercises and yoga, and add aerobic exercises.
  3. Learn to cook more healthy recipes.
  4. Write regularly.
  5. Meditate at least once a week regularly.
  6. Get surgery on my gums and schedule a routine annual physical with a doctor - I've been dragging my feet on both of these for a few years now.  Time to start taking this seriously.
  7. Read at least 40 books - Last year I read over thirty books, and I think I can do better this year.
  8. Visit Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest - The wife and I are planning on going to Hawaii with her family this summer.  If that falls through we'd like to visit Oregon and Washington instead.  Either way I'll be visiting some of the few remaining states I've never been to before.
  9. Pay off my student loan.
  10. Use my camera regularly - A nice, vague goal to take more photos.