Things that happened

The year 2011 has come and went, and it seems that the general consensus is “good riddance” to it. I can’t say I disagree, it wasn’t the best of times, though it wasn’t the worst of times (talking on a personal level, of course).

On the positive side…

They Might Be Giants released a new album (that wasn’t targeted for kids) called “Join Us“. It’s got some memorable, catchy tunes with plenty of TMBG wackiness interspersed. My favorites include “Can’t Keep Johnny Down”, “Cloisonné”, “Never Knew Love”, and “When Will You Die.”

The guys at Midnight Syndicate released the best album of their rather distinguished career.  That album, “Carnival Arcane“, uses the familiar backdrop of a mysterious circus and the creepy stuff that happens behind the tent walls. Favorites include “Mesonoxian Visitors” (an amazing piece that sets the tone of this themed album wonderfully), “Welcome to the Carnival”, “Dr. Atmore’s Elixirs of Good Humour and Fortification”, “Arcane Wonders”, “Pulling the Strings”, and “Freakshow” (a haunting, melodic piano work that is the best new song I hear in 2011).

Most of my reading has an alien head on the spine, so I don’t get to read 100 new books a year like I want. I did plow through a lot of material, though. My favorite book this year was Sleepless by Charlie Huston.  It was released on December 28th, 2010, so I’m counting this as a 2011 title. This is his first foray into science fiction (he’s written an outstanding supernatural-noir vampire series you should check out, search for Joe Pitt) and he, being Charlie Huston, naturally knocks it out of the park. The story revolves around good cop and a real nasty (yet erudite and urbane) assassin in a Los Angeles on the verge of collapse. A disease that causes permanent insomnia has struck the population and there is no cure in sight. The only hope for those with the disease is relief in the drug called “DR33M3R”. The cop is assigned to discover who is behind the black market for “DR33M3R”. The assassin is sent on a mission to recover a stolen data chip. The two story threads collide and by the end of the book the reader is left entertained, morose, and wishing Mr. Huston would hurry up writing his next novel.

Here’s a five minute snippet:

I read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson (called, simply, Steve Jobs). I’ve had several people complain to me that they felt the book was dictated by Jobs to the author in a manner to make Jobs and Apple seem godlike. I never got that impression. If anything, Isaacson was too dry in his workman like outline of Jobs remarkable life. The best parts of the books were the directly transcribed memories by Jobs of his adventures. Fairly thorough, you will get a great picture of Jobs the man, and at least a partial idea of why he behaved as he did. The book does talk about the pancreatic cancer that took his life. Ends with it, actually, and I found myself hoping for a happy ending that I knew was not coming.

I read two other books of note in 2011. One was The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. The man writes fantasy action movies on the page. In what is some of the best fantasy writing I’ve read, Abercrombie takes the reader into the heart of battle, transitioning the point of view from character to character as they die. It’s a crazy entertaining ride. The Heroes is part of Abercrombie’s Book of Law universe, though you can enjoy it without having read any of the other works.

The second book was an older title that a movie prompted me to read: Moneyball by Michael Lewis. By now, most people probably know the story. Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane uses statistical analysis (sabermetrics) to push the small market team to the top of baseball (nearly the top, they lost in the playoffs, though they did win the toughest  division and 104 games). The most interesting part of the book is how Michael Lewis uses narrative momentum (centered around the transformation of player Scott Hatteburg) to turn a nonfiction story into page-turning excitement that culminates with the A’s record-breaking 20 game winning streak.

Community, my favorite television show, was put on hiatus. I’m still pissed about it. Justified had a great year with Margo Martindale providing the best acting I’ve seen on television in a long time. Revenge is my favorite new show from 2011 (love some Emily VanCamp). The Walking Dead mostly bored me, then nearly made me cry in the season finale. I found American Horror Story to be ridiculous and had a hard time watching the whole season (but damn, can Connie Britton and Zachary Quinto act!).

That’s enough recapping. I need to go finish my “Save Community” diorama!

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