Dec 28, 2006

year in review

There's no denying it. I consume a lot of media. Especially for someone who doesn't watch broadcast or cable TV. As an exercise in futility, I kept track of what I watched, read, and heard in 2006. This started because my one goal for the year was to read 24 books.


Well 24 books in a year isn't too hard apparently. I cleared 34. Hitting 24 wasn't a sure thing in my mind. Not with a baby playing havoc with my schedule. But it really wasn't hard. My 20 minutes commute to and from work on the subway afforded me most of the time necessary to hit this goal. I can't say I really enjoyed hitting this goal because there were times I wanted to just take a break. But I have this terrible fetish with purchasing books and then never reading them. I really wanted to clean out the shelf of unread material this year. In fact I have more than 24 unread books and so there are still some more to go. But I'll tackle those another year.

My new goal for 2007 is to focus on a few authors. The ones I have in mind for 2007 are David Mitchell, Kazuo Ishiguro, Charles Buckowski, and Iain Banks.

Here are the books I read this year:

Chapterhouse Dune- Frank Herbert - Review here
The Eyes of Heisenberg- Frank Herbert
The Green Brain - Frank Herbert
The Dosadi Experiment- Frank Herbert
It's quite strange to read Mr. Herbert's non-Dune books. Until now, I'd never read anything else. Rather than Herbert stamping a brand on Dune, Dune has stamped a brand on Herbert. These books are unmistakably Dune-ish in quality but they have nothing to do with Dune. The themes are similar - ecology, genetics, politics. But it takes a while to get your head around the fact that Muad Dib isn't going to appear. They are all like test-runs for the Dune series. I will restate something I've said before. No one does violence like Mr. Herbert. It is awe inspiring, jaw dropping, and riveting stuff.

The Big Sleep- Raymond Chandler - Review here

White Jazz: A Novel - James Ellroy
Blood on the Moon- James Ellroy
Because the Night- James Ellroy
Killer on the Road- James Ellroy
There are two James Ellroy's. The one who wrote up to White Jazz and the one that wrote after. White Jazz is the separation point. Before White Jazz I like Ellroy. After White Jazz I can barely comprehend Ellroy. White Jazz itself is written by the bastard love child of both Ellroy's. Blood on the Moon and Because the Night are standard pre-White Jazz novels. The good Elroy. Well good in the sense that it is understandable. Having read most of his work I can probably close the book on Ellroy. I loved all his earlier works but I get the sense that reading one more, seedy L.A. crime novel won't add anything. There's only so many books of a certain style that an author can put out. This is probably why Ellroy changed his style so significantly. Killer on the Road is the one outlier. He takes the perspective of the killer. He's awfully good at being a bad guy. It's a bit chilling.

The Man Who Knew Too Much- David Leavitt - Review here

The Name of the Rose- Umberto Eco
Clever story. A whodunnit set in ancient times in a monastery. Not as impressive as I expected. While Eco is clearly a well read chap, I'm not sure the digressions really helped the story.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- J.K. Rowling
Pretty much what you'd expect. Rowling holds my attention for one simple reason. She doesn't feel the need to end chapters in cliff hangers that get resolved two chapters ahead (yes I am
indeed referring to crap like the Da Vinci Code). Thank you for not treating me like a moron.

The Egyptologist- Arthur Phillips
As long as you don't read this book expecting the Da Vinci Code (as some have suggested) this is a beautiful little read about the extent one's mind can suffer delusions. When I read the reviews stating that this was no Da Vinci Code I both knew it would be good and that I shouldn't go into the story with preconceptions. The book adles along and you aren't sure if it has something to do with Egypt, a murder mystery, or some period piece. I won't say if it is one of those or not. I will say that I found the ending utterly devastating. One of the best books I read this year.

Slaughterhouse-Five- Kurt Vonnegut
Written in the tone of a kid, this book doesn't quite have the impact it probably did back when it was written. Aren't we all now kind of aware that war is grim, bloody, and bleak? For me it was more interesting to read because of the literary devices he employs. They are everywhere. And they are unusual. It's no wonder kids read this in English class.

Dark Sun- Richard Rhodes - Review here

D Day - Stephen Ambrose
Make no mistake. This guy sucks as a historian and a writer. It's woefully lopsided and incomplete in it's presentation. I have no idea where the praise comes from. Nevertheless I felt the need to gain an understanding about this event beyond my "Saving Private Ryan opening sequence" knowledge. And I did gain that at least.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!- Richard Feynman
What Do You Care What Other People Think?- Richard Feynman
Taken together I've always found these two works as the antidote to pretentiousness. I make sure to read them every decade or so to reground myself. He's also such a clear writer that if he wasn't a Nobel prize winner you'd think he was simpleminded. This also teaches me to make sure when I write with the goal of clarity, write like an idiot.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World- Haruki Murakami
As you can tell from the title, this is part Franz Kafka, part Raymond Chandler, and part Lewis Carrol. And it is very good. He's on my list of authors to revisit.

Crime and Punishment- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Clearly this man needs an editor. Actually Russians in general need editors. What is it with Russians and long works (see Tarkovsky & Tolstoy)? Even the names are long. The main character here is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. There's a gem of a story in here if the extraneous stuff was removed. And while this is clearly a precursor to the French existentialists, it's basically christian existentialism. Just saying that out loud freaks me out. My main motivation for reading this however is simple - It seems like a tremendous amount of modern art references this work. I watched Matchpoint after reading the book and that entire movie is based on Crime and Punishment. I figured it was important to understand the book. I'm glad I read it.

The Devil in the White City- Erik Larson
The writing is a bit annoying but the story of Chicago's world exposition and Chicago's version of Jack the Ripper really tell the story of how different America was back at the turn of last century. However there is one big problem. The two stories just aren't that intertwined. Not because he didn't do a good job of intertwining them, but because they just aren't that related. This is problematic when it's the key foundation for your book.

Deep Down Things- Bruce Schumm - Review here

Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
I kind of suspected going into this book that it was going to be chick lit. I noticed the book numerous times on the subway and the ratio of female readers to male readers was 100%:0%. Plus it won the Pulitzer. The Pulitzer to me is the lamest of book awards. It almost guarantees I won't like the book. I mean Gone With The Wind won for crying out loud. Nevertheless, in between most of the annoyingness that probably got him the prize, there were some very nice moments of writing. He's got a unique playful style of writing that keeps this book from getting too serious about itself. I would pick up his next book.

The Motorcycle Diaries- Che Guevara - Review here

Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast- Bill Richardson
Gentle social humor. You know,like when an old lady says something offcolor. Cute and giggly. It's well written and he has a knack for carefully turned phrases. But I don't really know why I picked this book up in the first place. Recommended for my mom.

The Day I Turned Uncool - Dan Zevin.
I read a page in the bookstore before I bought this book years ago. I couldn't stop laughing. I don't recall ripping out that page but I didn't laugh once while I read the entire book. I guess what is funny changes over time. Basically awful. Recommended for someone going through a mid-life crisis.

A Scanner Darkly- Philip K. Dick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch- Philip K. Dick
The Divine Invasion- Philip K. Dick
Let me first make a general comment about Dick that I've learned. You can read Dick one of two ways. One, as if it were serious science fiction. Two, as if it were pure humor. The second approach works better. Dick can write a sentence to be both interpreted as serious and as comedy. Now when I read Dick I have a lot more fun than when I read him in a serious tone. Take for instance the premise of Divine Invasion. God has been exiled from Earth to a distant planet. How does a 'second coming' succeed in the face of a totalitarian and technological state. Serious or hilarious depending on how you read it. I chose hilarious.

Scanner Darkly is the best book I've read by Dick. If you've taken drugs or been around people who take drugs, you will relate to this both hilarious and sad tale of drug addiction. The paranoid scene where the main characters worry that someone has bugged their home out-Hunter Thompsons Hunter Thompson when it comes to pure drug induced paranoia. That scene alone is priceless and had me in stitches.

The last two books are part of Dick's religious phase later in his writing career. He has his typical form of playing with reality. These two books though are even more inpenetrable than his others. Not in a bad way mind you. You learn to let go almost in the same way you have to let go of Marushita. The resulting trip is amazing. I appreciate Dick more, the more I read him.

Morality Play- Barry Unsworth
This is one quirky book. It's set in medieval times at the dawn of the modern world. It is also a whodunnit that brings back memories of The Name of the Rose. It's well written and I think it was shorted for the Booker Award but it didn't make a lasting impression.

Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe- Leon Lederman
I'm about 50/50 on picking out great science books. This belongs in the ho-hum category.

Audrey Hepburn's Neck- Alan Brown
Another book I'm not sure I know why I bought. But it's an oddly moving story. The main character, a Japanese college grad and comic book artist has a set of parents who don't talk to him, a gay friend who makes him slightly uncomfortable, and a girlfriend who defines psycho. For anyone who has had a psycho girlfriend this book will bring back horrible memories. The story ends by answering all the lingering questions in a deeply moving way.

Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics- Simon Blackburn
A philosophical treatise on the creation of ethics. It's very well written and very interesting. If you've never been able to read a philosophy book yet are interested in philosophy, give this one a shot.

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer- Steven Millhauser
Again another ho-hum book. This book won a lot of praise. And there are a lot of good things. The writing is great. He reminds me of a modern day Camus. But there's just no payoff at the end. I kept expecting a satisfying conclusion that never emerged.

An Artist of the Floating World- Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro is one of those authors I just like. He could write complete garbage and I would like it. This is one of his earlier works and deals with Japan and its transition from pre-WWII to post-WWII. It's a gentle story with ungentle themes. Classic Ishiguro. It's not as well fleshed out as his later stories but you can see the beginnings of a great writer here.


It's funny. In May I pretty much stopped buying comics. While my 24 books in a year goal tied up much of my time, it was really the expense to consumption time ratio that did me in. A decent graphic novel costs $15 or so but takes a couple of hours to get through. It's just doesn't make economic sense. I will continue to buy comics but only standout, major TPBs. I don't see how this industry can survive.

Avengers Disassembled HC -Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch
New Avengers Vol 1 - Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch
New Avengers Vol 2 - Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch
New Avengers Vol 3 - Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch
Marvels - Kurt Busiek
Fables Vol 1 - Bill Willingham
Fables Vol 2 - Bill Willingham
Fables Vol 3 - Bill Willingham
The World's Greatest Superheroes - Paul Dini, Alex Ross
Kingdom Come - Mark Waid, Alex Ross
Infinite Crisis
Batman: Dark Victory - Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Batman: Haunted Knight - Jeph Loeb, Time Sale
Batman: War Games - Act 1 - Ed Brubaker
Batman: War Games - Act 2
Batman: War Games - Act 3 - Ed Brubaker


I consumed a lot of music this year. Actually I bought more than I consumed. I still haven't listened to some of this. A lot of this was an attempt to backfill my catalog. A lot of these are albums I have on vinyl and I wanted them in digital format. I've put (++) by some of the standouts.

Andrew Bird
- Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
Aphex Twin
- Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Arvo Part
- Moscow Virtuosi
Badly Drawn Boy
- About a Boy
- The Hour of Bewilderbeast
Band of Horses
- Everything All the Time ++
Barry Adamson
- King of Nothing Hill
- Oedipus Schmoedipus
- As Above, So Below
- Stranger on the Sofa
The Beach Boys
- Smile (unreleased 1966)
Belle & Sebastian
- The Life Pursuit ++
- Bizet: Carmen
Black Dog
- Spanners
Boards of Canada
- The Campfire Headphase ++
- Trans Canada Highway
Bobby Hutcherson
- Dialogue
- Fyuti ++
Boozoo Bajou
- Dust My Broom
Brad Mehldau
- Introducing Brad Mehldau
- The Art of the Trio, Vol. 2 ++
- The Art Of The Trio, Vol. 4
- Art of the Trio, Vol. 5
The Bravery
- The Bravery
Brahms, Johannes
- Brahms: Complete Trios
Original Soundtrack
- Broken Flowers ++
- Claro
Charles Mingus
- Mingus Ah Um
Cocteau Twins
- Milk And Kisses
- Four-Calendar Cafe
David Sylvian
- Approaching Silence
David Bowie
- Scary Monsters
- Space Oddity
- The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust
- Aladdin Sane
- The Crane Wife
Depeche Mode
- B-Sides & Instrumentals
- Ultra
- Songs of Faith and Devotion
- Violator
Dexter Gordon
- The Panther!
- Our Man in Paris ++
- Go!
- Dexter Digs In
DJ Shadow
- Endtroducing... (Deluxe Edition)
Donald Byrd
- Byrd in Hand
- With Strings
Eric Dolphy
- Out to Lunch ++
The Fixx
- Phantoms
- Reach the Beach
Flock of Seagulls
- A Flock of Seagulls
- Story of a Young Heart
Gary Numan
- Pure
- Jagged
Global Communication
- Remotion
- A Theory of Evolution
- Supernature
Grant Green
- Live at Club Mozambique
Green Day
- American Idiot
Vince Guaraldi
- A Charlie Brown Christmas ++
- Through the Windowpane
Herbie Hancock
- Inventions & Dimensions
- Empyrean Isles
- Maiden Voyage ++
- My Point of View
The Hold Steady
- Separation Sunday ++
Horace Silver Quintet
- The Cape Verdean Blues ++
- Silver's Serenade
- Song for My Father
- The Jody Grind
Iggy Pop
- The Idiot
Jackie McLean
- Let Freedom Ring
Joe Henderson
- Inner Urge
John Coltrane
- My Favorite Things
- One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note
- Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall ++
- Empire
- Under the Iron Sea ++
- Hopes and Fears ++
- Waltz for Koop
- Witching Hour ++
Lee Morgan
- The Cooker
Lou Donaldson
- Natural Soul
- The Midnight Creeper
- Split
Massive Attack
- Blue Lines
- Mezzanine
- Protection
- No Protection: Massive Attack Vs. Mad Professor
- Before the Dawn Heals Us
- Bona Drag ++
- Kill Uncle
- Maladjusted
- Ringleader Of The Tormentors
- Southpaw Grammar
- You Are the Quarry
- Your Arsenal
- Mozart: Great Piano Concertos
- Mozart: The Great Piano Concertos, Vol. 1
Mouse on Mars
- Vulvaland
- Agit Itter It It ++
My Morning Jacket
- Z ++
The New Pornographers
- Mass Romantic
- Electric Version
- Carmina Burana
Ornette Coleman
- The Shape of Jazz to Come
Peter, Bjorn, & John
- Writer's Block ++
- Doolittle
- Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim
The Police
- Outlandos d'Amour
- Regatta De Blanc
Red House Painters
- Ocean Beach
The Replacements
- Let It Be
- The Understanding
- String Quartet in D Minor (Death & The Maiden)
Scritti Politti
- White Bread Black Beer
- Symphony 11: The Year 1905
Sigur Rós
- Takk...
- Ágætis Byrjun
- ( )
Sonny Rollins
- Saxophone Colossus
- Girls Can Tell
- Mars Audiac Quintet
- Margerine Eclipse (Review) ++
- Sound-Dust
- Dots and Loops
- Oscillons from the Anti-Sun
- Fab Four Suture
- Instant 0 in the Universe
Sufjan Stevens
- Illinois
Thom Yorke
- The Eraser
Ulrich Schnauss
- Far Away Trains Passing By
Various Artists
- Verve Remixed
- Verve Remixed, Vol. 2
The Verve
- A Northern Soul
Wagon Christ
- Musipal
Wayne Shorter
- The All Seeing Eye
- Chocolate and Cheese (Review) ++
Wolf Parade
- Apologies to the Queen Mary
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Fever To Tell

Interestingly I only went to 2 movies in the movie theatre this year. In one case I was instantly reminded of how much I hate going to the movie theatre - noisy, 30 minutes of commercials before the movie starts, and ridiculously expensive. The second was a good experience because it was in the legendary Ziegfeld Theatre which is right next door to where I work. Beautiful digital picture and epic sound system. Worth every penny.

I've put (++) by the best movies I saw. 2046 was the most crushing disappointment. Just an awful movie. And Last Days about Kurt Cobain was the only unwatchable movie. I lasted 25 minutes before turning it off.

Shaolin Soccer
Lemony Snicket (Review)
The Constant Gardner
Hated (Review)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky
Team America
The Machinist
Batman Begins
Land of the Dead
King Kong
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Dirty Pretty Things
War of the Worlds
The Butterfly Effect
Sin City
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Assassination of Richard Nixon
Bus 174 (Review) (++)
Capote (++)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Name of the Rose
The Aristocrats
Fantastic Four
Comic Book Heroes Unmasked
THX 1138: Director's Cut
THX 1138 Bonus Materials (++)
Soylent Green
King Tut: The Face of Tutankhamun
Grizzly Man
Bukowski: Born Into This (++)
Bill Hicks
Night & Fog
The Alien Saga (++)
East of Eden
The Searchers
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Solaris (Tarkovsky edition)
Short Cuts
The 40 Year Old Virgin
Wedding Crashers
School of Rock
Last Days
The Spaghetti West
The Seventh Seal
Andrei Rublev (Review) (++)
V For Vendetta
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Game 6
Barry Lyndon
Downtown 81
The Thomas Crowne Affair (1968)
North by Northwest
The Day of the Jackal
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Killing
Death Race 2000
Broken Flowers
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
The Polar Express
Withnail & I (++)
Beach Boys: An American Band
Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys
Last Days
Look At Me
Casino Royale (++)
Seven Up / 7 Plus Seven (++)
21 Up
28 Up
35 Up
42 Up
49 Up
Corpse Bride
The Illusionist
Talladega Nights
A Scanner Darkly
Miami Vice

1 comment:

TecHunter said...

Im a Frank Herbert fan, I was looking for some old books and got here. I like your article and I think I will read the books you said they were great. Btw, I have almost the entire collection of Franck Herbert and It's totally the father of Sci-Fi. I've read like 25 books of him, i don't finish the entire collection but it's on the way.
You have to read his son's book, Hunter of Dune and Sandworms of Dune. it's the end of Cycle of Dune :)
have a nice read, anthony

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