Monday, December 18, 2006

2006: Things You Loved (Part Two)

More of the things you loved, with many more to follow...

Walk the Line

I saw a number of movies this year that I'll go back to: Brokeback Mountain is one that made a big splash; Junebug was a quieter success but also exceptionally good. If I have to choose a single film, though, that I loved and came out of feeling as bouncy as if my team had just won the Ashes, it has to be Walk the Line. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were both stupendous, and the music... well, the music is Johnny Cash. Top stuff.
Norman Geras


Rabbit Fur Coat - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

Rilo Kiley lead singer Jenny Lewis teams with folk harmonizers Chandra and Leigh Watson for a decided departure from Rilo Kiley's mopey indie rock. Fusing country, folk, and soul, the album is a beautiful look at the pains of love and Lewis' frustration with organized religion. But it's more than a gimmick: Lewis' emotional songwriting is a perfect match for the album's alt-country leanings, whether it's the declamatory "Rise Up With Fists!!" or the defiant "You Are What You Love" or the cover of the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care." A wonderful album that defies easy classification, Rabbit Fur Coat is catchy, sad, and smart. And just about perfect.
Daniel Carlson


King Dork by Frank Portman

Admittedly, King Dork wasn't the smartest or the best written book of the year. But nothing has felt as personal to me since Adam Davies’ The Frog King several years back and High Fidelity before that. I'm a sucker for coming-of-age novels, as it is, but Portman’s voice – half Salinger, half Hornby – is so infectious and lively that it's impossible not to be won over by it ... and it’s especially great for anyone who has a love/hate relationship with Catcher in the Rye. There are parts of King Dork, in fact, that I've read 30 or 40 times this year – I keep it sitting next to me for inspiration whenever I am struggling to get my inner voice in gear. It's witty, hilarious, and at times downright heartbreaking, but more than anything, it's just fun to read.
Dustin Rowles


A new back yard

I've had a hard time coming up with a single answer. In thinking about what I've loved in 2006, I see how much has happened with work and travel, and I wonder why nothing in particular sticks out as unusually amazing and treasured. Concerts? CDs? Books? This thought makes me wonder if I've made time to stop and smell the roses, which makes me think of our new back yard. THIS is my favorite part of 2006 – we moved and now we have a substantial back yard, and grand gardening plans for 2007 and beyond. The week we moved in, we planted an 'oculus draconis' evergreen and a Japanese maple in the yard, and I bought Diana a new bird bath, since the old one didn't seem to be able to handle the avian traffic of the new yard. The ugly chain link fence will eventually be replaced, but for now it affords Seth (the greyhound) a place to really stretch his legs. Here's where the rain barrels will go. Here's where the buffalo grass and longer decorative grasses will go in front of the sunflowers. Here's where I've been splitting logs for the wood-burning stove. This will be the long strip of side-by-side tomato plants. This is how the skunks and rabbits get into the yard, and that's the tree with the great horned owl. We'll take it slowly, but I can see where the yard is going, and I look forward to enjoying all of the work it takes to get there.
Jay Ryan


A worthy follow-up

This year I enjoyed A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon for two reasons (other than the story and characters). First, I was so happy he came through with a good second novel. (The first being The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I loved.) Bad novels following novels I loved can really ruin an author for me (John Irving, I'm looking in your direction). Secondly, as I am raising a small child, I am thrilled when I can finish reading something longer than a magazine.
-Shannon Cunningham


Ys by Joanna Newsom

I've never heard anything like Ys before. First of all, the objective stuff: lyrically, it stands not just with Bob Dylan but with any story Adrienne Rich or Thylias Moss ever told in poetry; musically, Joanna Newsom uses the harp in an entirely new way -- somewhere between a guitar, a piano, a bass, a harpsichord, and a music box; vocally, the elfin harshness that may have made The Milk-Eyed Mender hard to take has matured into something cleaner and more controlled. Structurally, it isn't exactly pop music, or indie rock; you could, I guess, call it modern lieder, or a song cycle, or something like that, but who cares. The proper response to this album is gratitude, and repeated listening, then more gratitude. Repeat forever.
-Jon Fasman



So, one thing that I loved about 2006, huh? One thing? But there's so many to choose from! I loved that it was an even-numbered year, that the Democrats conquered America, that Britney Spears finally dumped K-Fed, that White Castle introduced Ranch flavored chicken rings, and that my hair looked pretty good for the majority of the year, but if forced to pick the one thing 2006 gave me that I enjoyed the most above all else, I would have to choose YouTube.

Remember life before YouTube? Remember when you couldn't watch Kids in the Hall's "Citizen Kane" sketch and Cat Power videos that don't air on television whenever your heart desired? Remember when you had to actually watch Saturday Night Live if you wanted to catch the 2% of the skits worth watching, like Natalie Portman rapping gangsta style? Weren't those days awfully dark?

Sure, in the last few months they've sold out and gone corporate, but YouTube still gives me obscure music videos, Michael Richard's racist rant, and the ability to share videos of my dog in very compromising positions with the world. Good job, 2006. Well done.


Blogger MAW said...

It's funny, because I came very close to writing about King Dork as being my favorite thing of 2006. For those who haven't read it, I want to second Dustin Rowles and say that it's excellent.

2:51 PM  

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