Best of 2011

by TylerJ

The only thing more cliche than making a year-end list is talking about making a year-end list. And so I won’t. Below is a review of some of the things I enjoyed in the past year.

BOOKS

Books read: 30
Pages read: 13,487

One of the reasons I take literature to be the top artform is that it requires commitment. Listening to an album takes less than an hour; a film around two hours; a painting a few seconds. A book, though, requires over fifteen hours of attention. So while I listened to over 500 albums this past year, I was only able to read 30 books. As a result, books tend to linger with me longer. I find myself thinking back over interactions between characters or interesting quotations. I search for comparisons in my own life or to other books I’ve read. And every once and awhile a particular line in a novel will leave me stunned and unable to go on. Two books more than any other left me stunned this year (actually three, but I can’t bring myself to write about Pale King again):

A Visit From The Goon SquadJennifer Egan
Key Quote: “There are so many ways to go wrong. All we’ve got are metaphors, and they’re never exactly right. You can never just Say. The. Thing.”

The InstructionsAdam Levin
Key Quote: “The point was to learn what it was we feared more: being misunderstood or being betrayed.”

WORDS

2011 was a good year for me word-wise. I started two blogs tried to write for at least an hour a day. Writing, like reading (or jogging, or something), requires routine and discipline. The more you do it, the easier it gets–er…or maybe “the more you produce.” The thing I try to remember is that writing comes easily to no one; you just have to do it. The best thing I wrote this year was also the first thing:

Favorite Thing I WroteObama in 2012: Politics as Usual
Key Quote: “Obama’s political rhetoric has shifted from instilling an ethic through hard work to glorifying the pose of the everyday ideal American.”

Honorable MentionWeekly Kitsch: You’re Old
Key Quote: “We snark the existence of the shirt in order to protect ourselves from the inevitable truth that culture, once so in love with us, is passing us by.”

Favorite Post I Read Written By Someone Else: Now What?, William Bowers
Key Quote: “I was never too much of an unbearable goober about an act’s unoriginality or detectable influences, as long as their work seemed strong. Or so I thought, until fad-tentacles re-latched onto tones that I lived through the first time.”

Favorite Post I Read Written By A FriendI am not Fooled by You, Virgin America, AJ Aronstein (incidentally, the best way to find this is to google: “AJ Aronstein Virgin”).
Key Quote: “Next time you fly, just remember that you’re only ever one snowstorm, two malfunctioning on-board toilets, and a few angry New Yorkers away from a riot.”

LISTEN

Tracks Played: 23892
Unique Albums Played: Around 500

2011 was a year like any other: a lot of good music coupled with cries of “music sucks these days.” In the 90s, it was the end of history; in 2011 it was the end of pop culture. And if the Mayans have anything to say about, 2012 might just be the end. But let’s be clear: To declare the end of anything is pure vanity.
So let’s enjoy the music. 2011 was filled with plenty of smooth jazz saxophone. My favorite album of the year was one that reminded me of the brief moment between when my dad would say goodbye and when I would get out of the car before going to kindergarten. The volume was low enough so we could talk, but we wouldn’t. All we needed was a quick goodbye, a glance, and the smooth jazz saxophones of Sadé in the background.

My Favorite Album: Destroyer – Kaputt

WATCH

Movies Watched: Somewhere between 50 and 100.

Of all the films I watched this year, only a few were released in 2011. I spent most of the year catching up on Westerns ranging from Destry Rides Again (1939) to True Grit (2010). If there’s one thing I can point to that different between Westerns then and now, it’s that older Westerns tend to be less obsessed with authenticity and, paradoxically, feel realer as a result. It’s as if recent Westerns like True Grit, 3:10 To Yuma, and Cowboys and Aliens are more interested in costumes and randomly name-checking tropes than producing a compelling film.  My favorite film this year wasn’t a Western. My favorite film this year was a perfect thematic match for 2011 and it while watching it that I realized our culture’s current obsession with nostalgia has left us nostalgic for actual nostalgia.

My Favorite Film: Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

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