<< Merry Whathaveyou | Idi-um? >>
Belated 2004 Recap

Biggest Event Of The Year: Up and borning a kid.

Second Biggest Event Of The Year: Finally getting "Who Let The Dogs Out" out of my head. ARGH NOW ITS IN THERE AGAIN FUCK!

Favorite Movies Seen In The Theater: Lost In Translation (Yeah, it's a 2003 film, but I saw it early in 2004), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (ditto), The Incredibles, Garden State, Shaun of the Dead.

Most Disappointing Movie Seen In The Theater: Didn't see any real duds this year, although the headache-inducing shaky-cam style of The Bourne Supremacy prevented me from really enjoying it.

Best TV Shows (Seen On DVD): Freaks & Geeks (so great!) and The Office (so great!).

Movie I got on DVD and didn't watch for weeks because I was scared that it would be godawful and ruin my fond childhood memories of it, but turned out to be pretty good: Ghostbusters. Dan Ackroyd's delivery of "I couldn't help it, he just popped in there" is one of the funniest moments in cinema.

Movie I Watched On DVD That Inspired The Aforementioned Dread By Being Awful And Fond-Memory Ruinous: Tron.

Favorite Fiction Books Read: You know, I can't say that I read any particularly outstanding fiction books in 2004. Recommendations for 2005 in the comments, please.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book Read: The Elegant Universe, The Last American Man, Stiff.

Book I Read The Least Of: Foucault's Pendulum (text on back, first paragraph)

Favorite Album: I listened to the Garden State Soundtrack a lot, despite owning almost all the CDs the songs were taken from.

Only Show I Went To: Sondre Lerche.

My Review: "The best show I saw all year!"

Favorite Board Games: Ticket To Ride, Attika, Hansa.

Video Game Tried At A Friend's House That Made Me Want To Devote The Remainder Of My Life To Playing: Katamari Damacy. Exhibit A as to why I don't own a video game system.

Life Lesson Learned Playing Panda Pang: If you see a bomb on the ground, do not pick it up.

Thing That I Really Like That I Continued To Really Like In 2004: Beer.

Thing That I Really Hate That I Continued To Really Hate In 2004: Powerpoint.

Worst Ramification Of The Presidential Election: Bush wins second term.

Most Astute (And Depressing) Observation Made After The Presidential Election: "I feel rotten for wasting so much of my spare time reading political blogs. It's like when I got hooked on the OJ Simpson trial -- I could have learned a foreign language or written a book in the block of time I allocated to OJ." -- my dad

Best Ramification Of The Presidential Election, And A Direct Result Of The Above Two Items: I haven't paid a whit of attention to politics since November 2. I'm so much happier! I'm like a born-again apathetic!

Longtime Goal That I Actually Met in 2004: Started riding my bicycle to work.

Longtime Goals That I Failed Meet In 2004: The rest.

Posted on January 03, 2005 to Misc


Hey, the same thing happened to me with Tron! How could I have ever liked that movie!?

Posted by: Eric Cotton on January 3, 2005 2:43 PM

Depends what you like, but the novels I particularly enjoyed this year were:

Freedom & Necessity by Stephen Brust and Emma Bull
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Age of Innocence and The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Plus anything by Alice Munro or Terry Pratchett.

Posted by: Yatima on January 3, 2005 3:05 PM

My favourite book of 2004 was Joseph O'Conner's (did I get the apostrophe right?) ' Star of the Sea'. It's worth sticking with 'Foucault's Pendulum' if only so that you can do even more effective eye-rolling and tutting when people mention 'The Da Vinci Code'.

Posted by: Pollo on January 3, 2005 3:06 PM

...oh, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is wonderful.

Posted by: Yatima on January 3, 2005 3:17 PM

Another Tron victim and GB celebrant here.

Posted by: Chris Beck on January 3, 2005 3:30 PM

Dang, a browser crash prevented me from being first to mention The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Posted by: Jon on January 3, 2005 3:42 PM

I must tell you, in all honesty, that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the books I read in 2004 that I found "not particularly outstanding".

Posted by: Matthew on January 3, 2005 3:46 PM

"Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Christ's childhood pal", by Christopher Moore

"Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the west" by Gregory Maguire

Excellent fiction books!

Posted by: Diana on January 3, 2005 4:05 PM

Having read as much as one-third of Foucalt's Pendulum, I know infinitely more about it than you. Which winds up being nothing, because the entire book is merely the first paragraph and back cover text repeated.

I found it much more entertaining to listen to the babies scream on the airplane than to read that book. Thank God I didn't buy it.

Posted by: breath on January 3, 2005 4:07 PM

Man, and I even misspelled the name. Screw you, Foucault.

Posted by: breath on January 3, 2005 4:08 PM

war games is another childhood movie that doesn't stand up.

Posted by: dana on January 3, 2005 4:20 PM

Thanks to this blog I read -- and enjoyed -- Stiff. I just finished reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, which I highly recommend. The best re-read of 2004 was An Instance of the Fingerpost. Larry McMurtry's Sin Killer trilogy was excellent, but his recent Loop Group is a bit of a dud.

Posted by: Ed on January 3, 2005 4:36 PM

If you read all the way through Foucault's Pendulum, there is a coupon on the last page that entitles you to get those hours of your life back.

(No, there isn't. Don't make the mistake I made.)

Posted by: alkali on January 3, 2005 4:37 PM

Heh, my disappointment at Tron pales in comparison against the let down when I saw "Silent Running". That was awesome at age 10, and one of the worst I've seen as an adult. Ack!

I read Foucault's Pendulum when my truck was broken down for 3 days in the middle of nowhere in Texas, and all I had was a copy of that book, a carton of cigarettes, and a drinking fountain to keep from dying of thirst.

Trust me, as someone who has had nothing BUT that stinker that Eco pooped out to occupy their mind, you aren't missing much!

Posted by: David Mercer on January 3, 2005 4:42 PM

I'm still reeling from the sheer greatness that was Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The world needs more literary sci-fi.

Posted by: Greg on January 3, 2005 5:48 PM

Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett

Posted by: sarah on January 3, 2005 6:29 PM

hitchhikers guide to the galaxy - douglas adams...
not a 2004 orginal - but damn if it's not fun to read.

Posted by: porkchop on January 3, 2005 6:36 PM

The very best tv show ever, and by far, is Hamish Macbeth. Where you would find a copy of this series is beyond me, though.

Posted by: pippi on January 3, 2005 7:24 PM

Presuming your ditto for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was to mean "it's a 2003 film, but I saw it early in 2004", just wanted to point out that the film's IMDB listing says 2004. I think it was a February or March release, so it just *seems* like it was the previous year ;)

Posted by: filmgoerjuan on January 3, 2005 7:49 PM

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. You'll love it.

Posted by: rgedob on January 3, 2005 8:02 PM

Recommended bookage : "Facing the Music", a story collection by Larry Brown, very minimaist ain't-a-gonna-be-no-fuckin'-around-here style, and heavy on the heartbreak. Also "The Etched City" by K.J. Bishop, the oddest and coolest fantasy I've read in years (NOTHING like Tolkien, which I think is a Damn Good Thing).

Posted by: flick on January 3, 2005 9:28 PM

If any of you haven't, read:
Fahrenheit 451
Animal Farm
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

They got me through summer school without severe atrophy of the brain.

Posted by: brendan on January 3, 2005 9:58 PM

Top Fiction Reads of 2004 (in alphabetical author order):

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad - Minister Faust
Sock - Penn Jillette
Fluke - Christopher Moore
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Jesus' Childhood Pal - Christopher Moore

Posted by: Jago on January 3, 2005 10:09 PM

i'm not sure if it's actually classified as fiction but you're looking for a light entertaining read i recommend mcarthy's bar by pete mcarthy.

Posted by: chewy on January 3, 2005 11:06 PM

Proud to say I never bothered with tron.

And I realy want to see garden state now.

Posted by: Wedge on January 4, 2005 5:33 AM

hope you continue riding your bike to work and elsewhere in 2005 and forever. bicycle commuting is better for everyone.

Posted by: giantsister on January 4, 2005 6:24 AM

Sorry, rgedob, but I have to pitch this in: I found A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to be a Tedious Work of Self-indulgence.

And here's another vote for A Curious Incident.

Posted by: ken on January 4, 2005 6:45 AM

I wish I could stop reading political blogs. At least I don't comment anymore. Now I'm just watching the train wreck.

Posted by: Buck on January 4, 2005 6:49 AM

"Gringos" by Charles Portis is good. Heck, it was recommended by none other than TMN's Rosecrans Baldwin!

Posted by: MrChucho on January 4, 2005 7:48 AM

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the best novel I've read this year that was actually published this year. One of those great novels about novels, in the tradition of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler....

Posted by: Rhorsman on January 4, 2005 9:06 AM

i totally talked up Tron to my 5 and 6 year old sons before getting the DVD.
watching same has re-enforced their low opinion of my parental competence.

Posted by: domin8trix on January 4, 2005 9:10 AM

The Pleasure of My Company - Steve Martin

Posted by: Angela on January 4, 2005 9:11 AM

Max's First Word by Rosemary Wells held up to repeated (and I mean these-words-have-ceased-to-hold-meaning repeated) readings.

In between "bang!"s, I read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which was finely written, and blessedly parent-lengthed.

Posted by: Gregg on January 4, 2005 9:34 AM

Not sure if you have ever heard of a book called House of Leaves by Mark Z. Dainielewski, but you REALLY, REALLY need to check it out. Trust me, once you pick it up and flip through it you will understand why the book is amazing. Look for it the next time you are at a book store, and just flip through the book.

Posted by: mindsuckr on January 4, 2005 9:41 AM

I didn't like Tron as a kid because me brother watched it incessently and I didn't know jack about computers. Now that I know what a central processor is, I actually enjoyed the film. Funny how understanding what is going on can heighten your movie experience.

Posted by: PastaQueen on January 4, 2005 9:41 AM

Not sure if you have ever heard of a book called House of Leaves by Mark Z. Dainielewski, but you REALLY, REALLY need to check it out. Trust me, once you pick it up and flip through it you will understand why the book is amazing. Look for it the next time you are at a book store, and just flip through the book.

Posted by: mindsuckr on January 4, 2005 9:41 AM

I've been lusting after Katamari Damacy for a while now. It just looks so ridiculously interesting, and more than a bit creepy.

I personally avoid Massively Multiplayer Online games, because I recognize that they would be a huge time sink for me.

Posted by: Keith on January 4, 2005 10:01 AM

Who Let The Dogs Out?


Posted by: Robin on January 4, 2005 10:53 AM

Check out the Neal Stephenson's System of the World series.

Posted by: Swamp on January 4, 2005 11:03 AM

tron rules, end of story.

Posted by: zach. on January 4, 2005 11:42 AM

Seconding Wicked (I read it for the 4th time this year... again. The author's other books are mostly crap though.) and the Neal Stephenson series (though I've only just started the third book).

George Saunders- Pastoralia
and also Civil Warlands in Bad Decline

Paul Auster- Oracle Night
(or really anything by him if you haven't read much of him yet; especially The New York Trilogy, In the Country of Last Things, Timbuktu and The Book of Illusions.)

David Benioff- When the Nines Roll Over

Posted by: Nione on January 4, 2005 11:56 AM

This one isn't a new book for 2004 by any means but this was the year I read it first - Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow. It's the story of Jesus's half-sister, born via immaculate conception (at a sperm bank) to a bachelor jew in modern Atlantic City New Jersey. Morrow approaches religous satire similiarly to the way Vonnegut writes about the human condition but with a very different writing style.

Posted by: Matt on January 4, 2005 12:02 PM

Quoth Swamp, "Check out the Neal Stephenson's System of the World series."

You can check it out, but don't forget to renew it as well. As I found out, it's highly unlikely that you'll finish before it's due back.

Engrossing, well-written books (at least the first one which I've read so far), but a little gratuitous in places, and very long.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 4, 2005 12:04 PM

My husband recently retrieved our copy of Katamari Damacy from the friend who'd borrowed it, and we've gotten hooked all over again. Solving the game is disappointingly quick, but after that you can go back and try to get better times/sizes on each round, thereby unlocking... stuff. Each time we discover some new feature, my husband bounces up and down and laughs his fool head off. He keeps saying, "I can't believe this was only $20!"

Major. Time. Sink. Absolutely loving it. It is a Box Full Of Fun.

mindsuckr - none of my friends who've borrowed it like it much, but HOUSE OF LEAVES blew me away and absolutely fucked my mind over. It is responsible for several nights running of me lying awake and staring at the walls in the dark, mentally daring them to move. The bit with the bookshelf, and the chapter on echos, were acts of especial genius.

Fave GB quote at the moment: "When someone asks if you're a God, you say YES!!!"

Posted by: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little on January 4, 2005 12:34 PM

I was very much enjoying Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman until I left it on the plane earlier this week. I will most likely buy it again just so I can finish the thing, even though it will greatly pain me to do so, it being a hardback and all.

All the other books I read are poker books, so...probably wouldn't interest you much. :)
(Although, even for someone without much interest in the game, Positively Fifth Street by Jim McManus is a great read as well)

Posted by: April on January 4, 2005 1:34 PM

Another vote for Christopher Moore's "Lamb" here. Fantastic funny story!

Posted by: Kirk on January 4, 2005 2:06 PM

"Foucault's Pendulum," is one of my all-time favorite books. No kidding. An intellectual farce based on the idea of conspiracy theory as the secular replacement to the religious impulse -- great stuff!

Posted by: Larry O'Brien on January 4, 2005 2:14 PM

I'm absolutely baffled that people recommending Stephenson's 2800-page "System of the World" wouldn't like "Foucault's Pendulum". I mean, if you don't like long, meandering stories filled with tangents of intellectual gamesmanship, that's one thing, but if you like "System of the World," then I would think "Foucault's Pendulum," would be your cup of tea.

Posted by: Larry O'Brien on January 4, 2005 2:22 PM

Fond memory ruinous: Mad Max.

Posted by: Larry O'Brien on January 4, 2005 2:27 PM

ok, here's two fiction rec's: "dirt music," by tim winton. aussie writer, brilliant. shortlisted for the booker prize, methinks. perhaps also try "hardboiled wonderland and the end of the world," by hurakai murakami. both take fictional badassery to new levels, even if they are a few years old.

Posted by: markus on January 4, 2005 2:59 PM

you likely do not have time, but Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time fantasy series are my fav books of all time. i actually re-read them yearly. first of the series is Eye of the World.

Posted by: Lisa on January 4, 2005 3:04 PM

I want to second "Gilead." It's one of those books that makes me want to grab people by the collar and say "You have to read this book." (On the other hand, if such behavior is not in your New Year's resolutions, perhaps it's best to skip it.)

I also was quite chilled by Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America." I was halfway through before I realized how sucked-in I had become -- to the extent of becoming close to paranoid.

And, if you haven't read it, even though it's mildly old-fashioned now, I must insist that all adults who care about fiction read "Lolita." I recently reread it for the sixth (seventh?) time, and was amazed, and beguiled, and lifted to a state of esthetic bliss (Nabokov's own term for his goal) all over again.

Posted by: Bill on January 4, 2005 3:18 PM

naw, man, Tron's not that bad. it should get a little cover from nostalgia.

and you didn't miss anything skipping Foucault's Pendulum. suffered through it and thought 'what a waste', unlike the splendid 'Name of the Rose'.

Posted by: Sean on January 4, 2005 4:06 PM

Nice to see somebody else out there in the universe that hate's Powerpoint. It is absolute evil, and the cause of a squillion unbearable rubber chicken presentations. When I see some character standing in front of a crowd, reading bullets from a Powerpoint presentation, I want to scream and throw the stale muffins from the food table at the speaker. (Ahhhh, I feel better now!)

Posted by: mister anchovy on January 4, 2005 5:32 PM

dude, if you haven't read Franzen's The Corrections, get on that shit. best contemporary fiction i've read in the past 5 years. period.

Posted by: sweetney on January 4, 2005 5:45 PM

ps: my husband is all ga-ga over Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. quoth: "like a really adult version of Harry Potter...but better."

Posted by: sweetney on January 4, 2005 5:47 PM

If you're fond of fantasy, read stuff by David Gemmel. I regard his books as a sort of literary candy for guys- sword & sorcery epics with heroes that aren't all spotless, but are incredibly cool. His first and longest series starts with Legend, but my favorite series of his starts with Sword in the Storm. Truly excellent.

Oh, and Cory Doctorow writes the most innovative science fiction I am aware of. I need to read more of his stuff.

Posted by: SpacemanSpiff on January 4, 2005 8:14 PM

I'd like to 2nd that Cory Doctorow mention. If you want, you can read or reprint any of his books for free at his site http://www.craphound.com
I just finished his "Eastern Standard Tribe" last week. Can't wait for the next, due out soon.

Posted by: Robin on January 4, 2005 8:48 PM

Hey, someone else mentioned House of Leaves.. I love that book. Honestly, I havn't found anything I really enjoyed reading since I read that. (SO maybe it's not such a great idea)

Posted by: EaterstheManFool on January 4, 2005 9:21 PM

Squirrely I'm sure made 2004 the best year ever.

Bummer about Tron. I totally loved that movie. Does it really suck now? I had the same experience with the book "On The Road" a few years back.

By the way your dad! Wow...he's so cool. And he went to Cal...When I read what you said about learning another language I thought "yeah, right..." (I always think such things myself about time wasting activities but in the end when I give up surfing the internet for news I just waste the exact same amount of time reading The Economist.) But your dad seems like the kind of guy who WOULD learn another langugage.

Posted by: Miel on January 4, 2005 11:11 PM

A huge second on Cloud Atlas. The middle two stories are just about perfect, and the other aren't too bad, either. Together, they're great. (Although I do wonder why none of the reviews I read mentioned Riddley Walker - there's even a pig at the start of the sixth story.)

Also, Lamb is wicked funny. At the very least you'll find out why jews have chinese food on Christmas.

My System of the World story: checked The Confusion out from new releases at the Mechanics' Institute in SF. Two weeks! That's 90 pages a day, and I have a job and a two-year-old. I made to about 100, although I will go back and finish it eventually.

And you come across a TV show called The Games, watch it. Aussie mokumentary about putting on the Olympics - very funny.

Posted by: Dave on January 4, 2005 11:28 PM

You got as far as the bottom of the paragraph on the back of Foucault's Pendulum? Well done!

Posted by: Oliver on January 5, 2005 4:20 AM

I'd like to second Freedom and Necessity, up there in the second post. Although I had to read it twice in order to figure out what was going on in some parts of the beginning.

For something on the lighter side, Terry Pratchett is a good recommendation. You can start with almost any book, but I think that Small Gods or Moving Pictures are good choices, or maybe Mort.

And if you haven't read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, I think you'd definitely enjoy it.

Posted by: Elizabeth on January 5, 2005 6:11 AM

I liked tron when I re-watched it on DVD. I can't wait to show it to my kids. The oldest is 5, so we'll probably watch it this year. Though I'm really most looking forward to showing him Star Wars eps IV-VI, then I and II, and then taking him to see III in the theater. He will be exactly the same age when the last one comes out as I was when the first one came out.

Anyway, as for books, (I'll bite my tongue here and not slam any of the aforementioned books that I absolutely loath), my personal recommendation would be the Black Company books by Glen Cook. A highly underrated series. The term "gritty realism" has never been more overused nor more aptly applied than to these books. They're just awesome. I've turned dozens of people onto them, and not a single complaint so far.

After that, I'd recommend George Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series. It's epic. And if you start now (assuming you haven't already read the first 3), you should finish them by the time the 4th one comes out....sometime in 2012, no doubt.

Posted by: Skane on January 5, 2005 9:35 AM

'Sputnik Sweetheart' by Haruki Murakami is simple and beautiful and complex and heartbreaking and wow. and it has a groovy name. check it out.

Posted by: Helen on January 5, 2005 2:17 PM

Nice to see the Squirrelly and The Queen have real names... ;)

Posted by: David Way on January 5, 2005 4:28 PM

I concur! Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell was the best read of the year. Still thinking about it.

Other decent fiction:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (2003, but read in 2004)

Napolean Dynomite
Garden State
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Posted by: Smac40 on January 6, 2005 7:07 AM

I recommend Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, if you haven't already read it.

Posted by: Cat on January 12, 2005 6:27 PM