Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 Roundup

I don't really believe in "best of," maybe more like "pretty good of" lists. Here's stuff I read/heard/saw/did/liked during 2006... and maybe you will too.

Book (Fiction): Pound for Pound - F.X. O'Toole.

I was a little leery of this novel, since it was edited from O'Toole's incomplete manuscript. And indeed, it's an uneven book, with characters disappearing and sketchy scenes begging to be fully fleshed out (and instead, told after the fact). But even so, it's a worthy successor to Rope Burns/Million Dollar Baby, and a fitting capstone to Jerry Boyd's much-too-short writing career. If you like boxing, boxing books, or the movie Million Dollar Baby, go find this book, which, like Rope Burns before the movie, already seems to have disappeared without garnering much fanfare.

Book (Nonfiction): The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast - Douglas Brinkley.

A lot of books came out in 2006 about Katrina. This is one of the best, in my opinion, with a clear time line of the storm and its aftermath,and the stories of both the heroes and villains... of which President Bush and his incompetent team of political appointees are the major ones.

Book (Graphic Novel) : Lost Girls - Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie.

A beautifully-package three-volume set. Certainly won't be to everyone's taste - and very probably will deeply offend some. Alice of Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy of Wizard of Oz, and Wendy of Peter Pan reimagined by one of comicdom's master storytellers as Victorian erotica. Amazon, btw, has this for 40 percent of its list of $75, and I would assume you can pick it up elsewhere for the same, or even less. Worth the full price, it's a bargain at $47.25.

Book (Graphic Novel): The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation - Sid Jacobson, Ernie Colon

The most accessible version of the 9/11 report available. I was able to get through the original 800-page report, but it was tough slogging at points. This version is painstakingly faithful to to the original, does not over dramatize the events, and provides a valuable visual time line on when things happened. Highly recommended.

Radio: Theme Time Radio Hour (with your host, Bob Dylan). Available through XM Radio, AOL Radio, and various other venues.

I'm writing an article with the working title of, How Bob Dylan Helped Me Fall in Love with Radio (Again) and... he did. One hour of dreams, themes, and schemes, a playlist that encompasses everything from I Heard the Voice of the Pork Chop to Jailbait (Peggy's favorite TTRH song to date), plus commentary and def poetry readings from Mr. D.

Radio the way it was, or maybe the way it should have been.

Online Poker site: PokerStars

I throw this one in only because of the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act," which, in fact may or not have an impact on playing online poker. Two members of Congress, in response to my mail, stated flatly that the UIGEA did not make the playing of online poker illegal. Of course, both of them conveniently overlooked the fact that the bill will - or may - make money transfers in/out of poker sites near-impossible, but who knows? We'll have to wait and see what happens.

In any case, while some poker sites - PartyPoker the most notorious - decided to cut off their relations with U.S. players and run for the hills, PokerStars (and some others) stepped up to the plate and said, "we're here to stay and the status is quo." So far, that's been so.

I've been with PokerStars almost since I started playing online lo' two years ago now. It's a good site, good graphics, minimum connection problems, relatively good and polite players (given that I play at the very low money levels).

If you were looking for a site to try online poker and asked me, my first recommendation would be Stars.

Podcast (non-commercial): Coverville

It's been kind of a bad year for the podcasts I like to listen to, "Card Club" closed its doors, unfortunately ending with a very poor final show. Columbo migrated his "One Minute Mysteries" over to another poker podcast which I find unlistenable on the whole. PokerDiagram is still around, but has gotten very erratic both with releases and sound quality. "This Week in Tech" seems to be suffering from burnout, with wildly inconsistent shows week-to-week. I still like "Five Hundy by Midnight," but there's only so much Vegas news you can take unless you're planning a trip to Vegas.

One of the few podcasts that I was listening to regularly last year that I'm still listening to regularly this year is Coverville. As the name says, host Brian Ibbott plays cover versions of popular songs, sometimes a hodge-podge, sometimes with a theme based around a particular artist. Or even album. One of my favorite Covervilles was a track-by-track cover of Dark Side of the Moon.

I've bought several pieces of music from iTunes after hearing them first on Coverville, and in fact played an artist's music on Dreamtime after hearing him on Coverville. Higher praise I can't think of giving to a DJ and his show.

If you still don't get podcasting, see if Coverville doesn't change your mind.

Podcasts (Commercial): This American Life and Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me

Well, "commercial" in the sense that they started life as NPR shows. NPR gets podcasts, happily. I used to listen to "This American Life" back in the days that Peggy and I were commuting to her parents every other weekend, and would try to catch WWDTM while I was out running my chores on Saturday. Now, I listen to them when I want. And that's what podcasting is all about folks.

I assume you know of both shows already. If not, WWDTM is a "weekly news quiz" show and one of the most consistently funny shows you'll hear. TAL is basically just like Car Talk. Except just one guy hosting. And no cars. No, I'm kidding. You can learn more about it here.

If the Car Talk boys and Prairie Home Companion weren't such greedy bustards, my NPR => podcast life would be complete.

Online news - PopURLs

I'm not doing a blog category as I'm suffering from blog-reading burnout. I still visit a few regularly, but with nothing near the consistency of even a few months ago. Partially that's because some blogs have changed - Scott McCloud is on a year-long family trip cum book tour, for example, and Mark Evanier has gotten more into posting YouTube videos than commentary - and in some cases I think I've just overdosed on the blogger's personality.

One agggregator site I like a lot and still tread every day is PopUrls - links, as they say to "the latest web buzz." One major plus of PopUrls is it spares me of even accidentally reading anything posted by Cory Doctorow - who is one of the few writers I've ever run across who can set my teeth on edge with almost every word he writes - while still having access to BoingBoing news.

CD - Modern Times

Kind of a mulligan, I know, but I don't buy all that much music. If you're not a fan of Dylan's, this probably isn't going to make you one. I wasn't even sure how much I liked it after a few listens. But, just like with 'Love and Theft,' I'll find myself humming something, and then realize it's Nettie Moore or Spirit on the Water.

Music that sticks.

CD - Modern Times Live - The Roots and Wounded Flowers

This is something you'll either know how to find without me telling you more... or you won't. A fan dream 3-CD compilation of music that can be traced as sources of Modern Times, interspersed with cuts from Dylan's latest U.S. tour. Johnny B. Goode; Roll and Tumble Blues Hambone; Beyond The Blue Horizon; Hellhound On My Trail; and Highway Of Regret are just some of the cuts.

The sort of labor of love that seldom makes it to commercial release.

Road Trip - Lopstick Lodge and Cabins, Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

If you've ever felt the need to go to the Great North Woods for a spell, you couldn't do better for accommodations than Lopstick. Their cabins have a nice blend of the modern and the rustic and the area's scenery is beautiful. Lots to do if you're into hiking, kayaking and the ilk. Nothing to do if you're into just rusticating.

I'd bring an SUV rather than a Mini the next time I went, though.

TV series - Day Break

Largely ignored by the media after it's premiere in November, I was leery about this show both because of its premise - which is essentially that of Groundhog Day done as a murder mystery - and a trashing review in The Boston Globe. But I like episodic TV thanks to TiVo, and decided to get a season pass to give it a try.

And boy, am I glad I did. I'm hooked. I like Heroes, but I like Day Break better. I like it almost as much as 24, which is #1 on Fred's TV hit parade.

Time travel/time loop shows have to follow their own internal logic religiously, or the viewer's suspension of belief quickly breaks down. It's one of the reasons why Back to the Future and Groundhog Day and various Star Trek: TNG work as well as they do. Day Break follows its rules, and while doing so tells an addicting story. Good acting, good writing, tight plotting.

Now, at this point I should tell you to go and see it. But if you haven't you're probably going to be totally Lost (pun intended) at this point in the series. But I'm going to be disingenuous and tell you to watch it anyway, because ABC has announced it's being pulled from its time slot after December 27th, with no word about where the hell it's going, and by god, if they leave me hanging with five episodes to go, there is going to be such plotzing in the Halls of Merrimack like you've never seen. And by God, it'd better come out on DVD then and quickly!

pant. pant. Okay, end of list. Hope I gave you one or two pointers to things you haven't tried and might like. See You Real Soon.

No comments: