December 30, 2008

The Yearlies: 2008 In Retrospect

The Yearly Person. Well, Owen of course. Owen joined our little family this year making slightly less little. Now he's a 10 month old little person who eats everything in sight and refuses to keep socks on.

The Yearly Worst Affliction. I'll go with shingles. Remember when I had those? That sure sucked.

The Yearly Ethnic Food. Mexican. Regardless of my level of consumption I've been craving Mexican for pretty much the whole year.

The Yearly Music. Here are my top ten in no particular order.

  • Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (David Byrne & Brian Eno). I always hated the Talking Heads. Absolutely loathed them. So why, now, have I developed an undying love for this album, the second collaboration between Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and everywhere-musician Brian Eno? Who knows. Maybe its simple - it's just damn fine hopeful music.
  • Vida la Vida (Coldplay). I originally knocked this album because I didn't get it. After a few listens, the light went on and I found out it was pretty damn good. You can knock Coldplay all you want but they can write good music.
  • Cardinology (Ryan Adams). Adams writes and releases, like, ten albums a year so its easy for one of his releases to get lost in the shuffle. Don't let Cardinology pass you by. It's fantastic. In fact it could easily be a career-defining album.
  • Harps and Angels (Randy Newman). Welcome back Randy Newman.
  • Stay Positive (The Hold Steady). I've made no secret of the fact that I think The Hold Steady might be the best band recording and performing today. Stay Positive merely reaffirms my position.
  • @#%&*! Smilers (Aimee Mann). A great return to form after the somewhat disappointing Forgotten Arm. Hell, an album featuring Dave Eggers with a whistle solo? Can't beat that.
  • The Seldom Seen Kid (Elbow). Elbow is just about the most underappreciated band on the face of the earth. Whenever I listen to them I feel like I'm being let in on a great secret.
  • Pretty. Odd. (Panic At The Disco). Yeah, it is pretty odd but it's damn good. Combine post-punk emo and Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles and you have Pretty. Odd. It's a good combination.
  • Accelerate (REM). REM's weird. At any given moment I either love them or hate them. Accelerate is aggressive and fantastic. Almost like they got fed up with the lush, soft productions they released over the last ten years. Good call.
  • Live Over Europe (Genesis). My love of Genesis - my favorite band - isn't a secret. When they regrouped last year and hit the road for a reunion tour, it could have been tragic. But it wasn't, as Live Over Europe proves. Sure, they sounded a little rusty from time to time but damn it was nice to hear them digging into their back catalog.
  • Certifiable (The Police). It's a shame the Police's reunion tour was a one-off because they sounded so damn good together, even after 20 years apart.

The Yearly Books.
  • The Unknown Terrorist (Richard Flannigan). I'm not exactly sure why but my mind keeps wandering back to The Unknown Terrorist. It wasn't exceptionally brilliant but is an interesting - and lasting - read. It was most interesting to me, perhaps, because it took place in Australia and, as the title would suggest, involve terrorism. Something that we often think starts and ends on our shores since 911. It doesn't.
  • The Delivery Man (Joe McGinnis). Vegas is a destination but aside from CSI, not a lot of time is spent on Vegas natives. Joe McGinnis paints a pretty twisted picture of at least a few of those citizens. It's not representative if the greater population, I'm sure, but it's a hell of a book.
  • I Love You Beth Cooper (Larry Doyle). Doyle's written a great, funny novel that reads like a John Hughes movie on steroids.
  • Flipping Out (Marshall Karp). Lomax and Biggs are back in Karp's third novel. And damn, it's good. You'll have to wait until April (I got an advance copy) but I promise it'll be worth it.
  • The Brief History of the Dead (Kevin Brockmeier). What happens when you die? Ask Kevin Brockmeier. In The Brief History of the Dead, he poses a particularly interesting theory and makes it seem convincing. Great novel.
  • Then We Came To The End (Joshua Ferris). Like the characters in the novel, I was caught up in the dot-com boom and the resulting bust and like many I got laid off. Perhaps that's why I appreciated it so much. But I'd be willing to bet that even if you didn't have these shared experiences, you'd still enjoy the novel.
  • Mixed Blood (Roger Smith). I've rarely run into a more brutal, disturbing thriller. It pretty much convinced me that I don't want to plan a trip to South Africa anytime soon. Though that wasn't really a new years resolution or anything.
  • The Dawn Patrol (Don Winslow). Winslow is brilliant. Absolutely, insanely brilliant. The Dawn Patrol may be his best novel but line it up with The Winter of Frankie Machine or California Fire And Life and it would be tough for me to choose a favorite. Damn. I think I might have to read it again.
  • The Memory Of Running and The Traveler (Ron McLarty). If forced to pick my favorite of 2008, I'd be forced to choose between two books by the same author. Odd how that worked out. Actor turned writer Ron McLarty's first two novels are extraordinary. I'd be hard-pressed to pick one over the other but if you need place to start, pick up The Memory of Running.

The Yearly Beverage. Beer. (I just looked at last year's year in review and my beverage of the year was Vitamin Water. What the hell has 2008 done to me?)

The Yearly Company to Whom I Managed to Donate A Lot of Cash. Disney.

The Yearly Schadenfreude. John McCain. Because I wanted Obama to win so badly, I, by necessity, took a certain amount of joy in watching the Straight Talk Express derail in such splendid fashion with the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket. Don't get me wrong - McCain's a good guy. But I got tired of liberal being used as a bad word.

The Yearly Question. What are your bests and worsts of 2008? And if you had a moment in 2008 you'd like to do over, what was it?

Posted by Chris at December 30, 2008 7:58 AM

Owen get's my vote! Mexican food? Yeah, me too! I think it has something to do with all the talk about Illegal Aliens. Viva la Mexico!
Beer? Sweetie, you have two kids now, beer is your friend!
And me? 2008 was the year I lost 51 pounds! Yes, count them, 51! Yay!!!

Posted by: Maribeth at December 30, 2008 8:21 AM

Yearly Person: Owen wins hands down.

Yearly Ethnic Food: I would kill for good Mexican food that I don't have to cook myself.

Yearly Worst Affliction: For me, it was a worse case of insomnia in a tight race with me contracting every disease/germ going around.

Yearly Company to Whom I Managed to Donate A Lot of Cash: For me, it was Harley Davidson. I bought Rob a Harley for his birthday in July. Do I win wife of the year or are the men in white coats on their way?

Yearly Schadenfreude: I would put Palin before McCain, but only by a slight margin.

I will think about my other best and worst and get back to you.

Posted by: Maria at December 30, 2008 8:49 AM

I've got to agreee with your assessment of The Hold Steady. They are beyond brilliant and everyone in my house is getting really sick of "Stay Positive" because it is in constant rotation at my place.

Posted by: Claudia at December 30, 2008 8:49 AM

Best: Getting offered a position in a program to which I hadn't applied because I'd thought that I wouldn't stand a chance of getting accepted. The acceptance meant that not only had I been an idiot, but I'd now get to continue living in the house that I'd remodeled and stay close to the friends and acquaintances in the area. Bonus+.

Worst: The $239 gas bill I just received for December. It was a cold month for North Carolina, sure, but holy shit. Old houses....they're a mixed blessing.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at December 30, 2008 10:38 AM

Coincidentally, about half of the albums you listed are available on sale on Amazon in .mp3 format for $5 each. Guess I'll be taking advantage of the sale price and using your reviews to guide me on what to spend my gift card on this week :-)

Here's the link to the $5 albums, for anyone who is interested:

Posted by: Ross at December 30, 2008 10:51 AM

This was a very long year. Major projects completed, new job, loss of some friends, gaining of some new. Definitely a chapter closing year.

Best of 2008:
1. Gaining new appreciation for my wife
2. Spending more time with my kids
3. New job
4. More meditating, less smoking
5. Facebook becoming the new way of getting back in touch

Worst of 2008:
1. Leaving friends behind at old job
2. Feeling of letdown when major project completed ( seriously anti-climatic )
3. Losing way too much value in the house
4. Working so hard to tread water and sink a little
5. Learning of old friends who had passed

We all took a hit this year losing some famous people:
George Carlin, Gary Gygax, Arthur C Clarke, Bettie Page, Michael Crichton, Bernie Mac, Heath Ledger, Roy Scheider

In all, this was a year that beat us all down, but I think that we are all stronger for having gone through it.

And if I could repeat any moment from 2008, it would be spending time in FL with my Dad. You are never treated as royally as time with your distant parents! :)

Best wishes for 2009, and have a Happy New Year!


Posted by: Austin at December 30, 2008 11:14 AM

I got my 2008 Awards over at my place. Come on by. :)

However, the alcoholic drink of the year for me is rum. For some reason, I went through a spell of just wanting rum. LOL.

Posted by: oakley at December 30, 2008 11:36 AM

I just did a year recap kind of post and totally forgot about the month that my husband and I spent with poison ivy and by far, that was the worst thing I have ever gone through. It may have been worse than childbirth. Best thing? Tough to say but day after day of watching my son become more of a person beats all else, really. To do over again? I'd like to rethink my dedication to 30 Day Shred.

Posted by: Claire at December 30, 2008 11:49 AM

I don't know why I'm surprised that you know about The Hold Steady - I really shouldn't be. I love them! A friend got me started listening to them earlier this year and after seeing them live in November I'm hooked. Good stuff!

Posted by: erin at December 30, 2008 12:22 PM

I don't know why I'm surprised that you know about The Hold Steady - I really shouldn't be. I love them! A friend got me started listening to them earlier this year and after seeing them live in November I'm hooked. Good stuff!

Posted by: erin at December 30, 2008 12:22 PM

Vitamin Water is for those of the pussy persuation!

My yearly person? Summer, my youngest. She started 3K this year and she has blossomed into such a little...person. It's very strange, and cute, and heartwrenching.

Worst Affliction? The death pukey puke plague that almost killed me, aka stomach flu.

Yearly Ethnic Food? Thai, I know I am like 2 years behind on getting on that boat but WHATEVER!

Yearly Music?
Marvin Gaye ANYTHING. He has always been a staple but this year he ruled my CD player and iPod with an iron fist.

Yearly Books?
I suck and what I've read is cheesy. I did finally get around to reading books like Water for Elephants and The Secret Life of Bees so I guess those books, and others.

Yearly Beverage?
Beer (I looked in my previous 5 years of yearly beverages and? yep, all beer)

Yearly Company...Money?
Kroger. I moved within walking distance of one and they sell food, pet food, and beer, which happen to be the three things that I buy the most of, and they have a pretty kickass organic food section. All Hail Kroger!

The Yearly Schadenfreude? I saw a girl from high school that I never particularly cared for. She's really fat.

Question? "How do you spell (fill in the blank)?" Mila is spelling now, which means so am I.

Posted by: mymilabean at December 30, 2008 12:26 PM

Best moment for sure is my son. He's just the coolest. Never knew he was missing from our family until he was here.

Also Obama winning, that's on my best list.

Worst: Losing both of my grandparents three months apart.

Posted by: Issa at December 30, 2008 12:28 PM

I visited your blog early this morning and said to myself "I cannot answer that question at the end until I have enjoyed some tea."

Now, hours later, post-tea, I am still having trouble. What would I re-do? Not lose an important piece of jewelry at Target last Saturday.

No, I can't do better than that. Pathetic, really. I blame the foggy memory banks.

Posted by: jessica at December 30, 2008 12:42 PM

Totally agree with you about the Elbow album, it's fantastic. Guy Garvey does a show on BBC 6 Music radio on a Sunday evening, good listening. Although Elbow are probably better known here, the album is still underated.

My best? Getting engaged! My worst? Job making me ill and having to be off for several weeks in the summer. Still haven't found myself a new job.

Posted by: Katherine at December 30, 2008 12:56 PM

Person of the Year: My new baby, of course.

Person of the Year, 2nd Place: Barack Obama. Duh.

Best Novel: The Lazarus Project, Sasha Hemon. Hemon is so brilliant, it's dizzying.

Best Album: 808s and Heartbreak, Kanye West. Many people didn't get it, but I loved the retro drum machines and synthesizers given a modern-- sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking-- twist.

Best Movie: Did I mention I had a baby? Not really qualified to answer this one, although I did like Wall-E.

My fave beverage this year, as always: Milk. It was my baby girl's favorite as well. ;)

My fave food this year, as always: Ethiopian. Sharing is fun!

Yearly Schadenfreude: Would have to be Blagojevich. We always suspected he was a jerk; thanks to Patrick Fitzgerald for proving it.

Disappointment of the Year: New England Patriots not making it to the playoffs despite being 11-5. (I suspect this is some people's yearly schadenfreude.)

Other Worsts This Year: There really weren't any. We were amazingly blessed. We saw our retirement fund shrink, but whatever, we're young(ish).

Best wishes to the Cactus-Fish family in 2009!

Posted by: Laura Svendlorific at December 30, 2008 1:04 PM

Just to make you feel better - my grandfather just got shingles. In his eye. Apparently it is so uncommon that the ER he first visited misdiagnosed him and gave him eyedrops that were entirely wrong for his condition. The misprescribed eyedrops blistered his eye so not only did he have to recover from painful shingles in his eye, he also had to recover from the blistering. UGH!

Posted by: Shelly at December 30, 2008 1:09 PM

2008 was a good year for me and mine as people, but a really crappy year for the economy and therefore it could mean a bad 2009. Time will tell.

The best feeling was the week Obama was elected.

I only have one regret and it involves my blog, and there's not much to say about it. I'm less happy in life because of it and I've not quite come to grips with what that means.

BTW, the individual entry template is the only one I see (when I comment) because I read you via RSS. So, I'll be glad to comment on your new layout when it makes it to here. :p

Best of luck on a prosperous 2009!

Posted by: Brad at December 30, 2008 2:15 PM

Yearly beverage: Corona with Lime

Yearly ethnic food: Cuban

Best moments:
1. My week in Paris with 3 friends;
2. The last weekend at our cottage with my husband and teenage son before he went to college;

Worst moments:
1. The worrying I did when the phones weren't ringing because we ended up fine at the end of the year -- worrying is a waste of time!

Do over:
1. Not worry so much and just carry on with life looking through rose colored glasses if needed!

Happy New Year!

Posted by: NancyJak at December 30, 2008 3:38 PM

best moment: leaving dallas

worst moment: if it takes as long as it has for me to think of this response, it must have been a pretty damn good year!

Posted by: Stella at December 30, 2008 6:11 PM

best moment: getting my new job and going back to school.

worst moments: all the changes. I hate changes.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at December 30, 2008 7:22 PM

I will never forget that it was because of your recommendation that I bought Coldplay's "X&Y" in 2005 and have not looked back since! So, thanks for making me a Coldplay fan.

Posted by: Stephanie at December 30, 2008 7:33 PM

The best - the addition of our own Owen to the family (while I love the Cactus-Fish family dearly, we really did pick out the name 3 years ago when we were expecting our first).

The worst - Hubby being transported to the hospital via ambulance in the middle of the night with heart palpitations. Scary.

Do-over - My pin-up photo shoot. That was super fun, super empowering and worth repeating! So, I wouldn't change anything, just do it again.

Posted by: kate at December 30, 2008 8:26 PM

Best of 2008 growing to know and love my boyfriend more than ever. Worst of 2008 losing my dad to cancer after a short and hard battle. I wouldn't redo anything again because everything is done and happens for a reason.

Posted by: Adi at December 30, 2008 9:40 PM

Best of 2008? Well, Lisa obviously. The recovery of my MIL after heart problems, the realization of our family of four being happy & healthy. And the fact that I got surgery and I turned out be just fine, no benign stuff.

And of course the fact the we will win 25 million euros in the national New Years lottery tonight.

Oh and that it is now 8.30 AM and both children are still asleep!

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Nadine at December 31, 2008 2:42 AM