I may be late to the party, but it’s nice to reflect on some good things once in a while. (Here’s my list from last year.) Probably more than once in a while, but besides 2016 not being a good year politically it was also a worse year personally. So let’s start: Gravitational waves! Solar power!
Whew, I feel better already.
It wasn’t all bad personally because …
My wife and I finally moved to the US! We’re currently living in the Raleigh, NC suburbs within walking distance of my wife’s work. If you know me at all you know I loathe the suburbs, but public transportation is relegated to few cities so the next best option is to live as close to work as possible and drive everywhere else. (Another option is to not take a job in the suburbs, but it’s not relevant to our case since my wife wanted this job, turned down others, and I support her decision.) The trick to living in the suburbs is to actually force yourself to gtfo, which isn’t always easy. We’ve been doing an okay job (there’s a wonderful state park just a few miles away!), but we should probably sit down to budget time and money specifically for getting out more often.
I didn’t read very much last year. I completed 30 books, the lowest total in years. I gave two books 5 stars on GoodReads.
Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
First off, Ms. Ali is a hero. Second off, this is a must-read for liberals (and moderates too), particularly those who consider themselves progressives.
Digging Up Mother: A Love Story by Doug Stanhope
This was so good and sweet and sad and hilarious and I hate that when something is all of those things I don’t know how to express it. Doug Stanhope is one of my favorite stand up comics, but his comedy is not for everybody. Which, I know, is true of probably literally everything in the world so I just used a bunch of words to say nothing and wasted time, yours and mine. Anyway, this book is the story of Doug helping his mother commit suicide. But it’s actually a lot more than that. Read it if you want to cry and laugh, or cry laughing.
Bonus, although I didn’t give this one 5 stars, I gave it 4 and it was great:
Elon Musk: Inventing The Future by Ashley Vance
This is engagingly written and Elon Musk is a world treasure. If only we could create more people like him.
Since I don’t use Spotify anymore I wasn’t able to keep track of my most played music of the year. It’s the one downside to Amazon Music, but I can deal with it since the only benefit of keeping track of what I listen to is writing about it here. Also, a note: I cancelled Spotify last January and started only using Amazon Prime Music. But we got an Amazon Echo a few months ago and now have the $3.99/month Amazon Music Unlimited plan for it. It’s working out swimmingly. (More on Echo soon.)
Every Open Eye by Chvrches
Really, it should be both Chvrches albums since they’re both on repeat constantly in the house. Every Open Eye was released in 2015, but I didn’t listen to this band until January 2016 — thanks to my obsession with Metric — so it counts for me here.
Must listen track: Bury It
22, A Million by Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago is still tops for me, but Justin Vernon can do no wrong. This album is spectacular.
I can’t currently name any other new albums I listened to and loved in 2016. There has to be something that I’m missing, but as it is I listened to a lot of these artists: Coheed & Cambria, Metric, Leonard Cohen, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, The White Buffalo, Creedence Clearwater Revival, silverchair … well, ok, I think I’ll stop naming everything I listen to because we’ll be here all day.
One interesting aside: after a 5 year obsession with country music it mostly waned last year. I still listen to Tammy Wynette, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert fairly regularly, though. Those three have some of the best voices in music.
I’ve been a stand up comedy fan since 6th grade when I bought George Carlin’s Classic Gold from the Columbia House music club. If there is one profession I wish I was brave enough to try it would be stand up comedy. My wife laughs at me because when I listen to comedy I usually have a total serious expression on my face, but inside I am often bursting at the seams. I don’t know what that’s about, but maybe it’s because great comedy will make you think.
Thoughts & Prayers by Anthony Jeselnik
Anthony Jeselnik is the funniest comedian of the past decade. His older albums are perfect. His latest, Thoughts & Prayers, is as well. I’ve easily listened to it a dozen times by now.
No Place Like Home by Doug Stanhope
You probably won’t like Stanhope’s comedy, but if you’re a misanthropic fuck up then it might just be up your alley.
If you like Louis C.K. because you think, “wtf! did he just say that?!” then you need to listen to both of these guys.
I saw very few new movies last year, but one can only watch Ghost World so many times before needing a change.
I know there have been a lot of good animated films made in my time, but I would put this one right at the top. It’s sweet and hilarious.
Do you remember when you were 13 and you had a 6 CD changer stereo and you just couldn’t believe you could listen to so much great music so easily? Now add just about every album ever released, top it off with instant timers and weather and personal assistant type features, and you have Amazon Echo.
I considered getting the Google Home device, but Echo is better for our needs. It’s cheaper ($3.99 for Amazon Music Unlimited vs $9.99/month for Google Music), the wake word is human (“Alexa” as opposed to “OK Google”) which feels nice, and it has more integration possibilities at the moment. (Although we don’t use any of them yet.)
Audiophiles may complain that the speakers don’t compare to a high end stereo. They would be correct. The lack of EQ or even fine tuned volume control (for example, the difference between a volume setting of 2 and 3 is too vast and there is no in between) is disappointing. But it suits our needs and I would buy Echo again.
My other favorites — Apps, YouTubers, and Podcasts el al. — aren’t all that different from last year so I won’t repeat them.
That’s all for this year. Thanks for reading.
My favorites this year: The album Life As a Dog by K.Flay. The books Fellside by M.R. Carey, Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau, and A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install. My new-to-me Fitbit Charge HR. Finding a great counselor who’s doing much to help me be more healthy and happy.
Ooohhh! I’ve been a K.Flay fan for years. Even “kickstarted” that album on Pledge Music. Great pick. Have not heard of those books but will take a look and see.
I love Doug Stanhope, great suggestions Karol. You’re right that he is not for everybody, just those of us who tend to view humanity from outside of the fish bowl.