Two Thousand El Heaven

I know 2011 sucked for a lot of people (as manyothers have pointed out), but this was hands down the best year that I’ve had in over ten years.  I finally paid off my last student loan and some other pre-divorce debt, which coupled with the fact that my son was no longer going to a private school (where this is considered an appropriate science book; I’m in a good mood, so don’t ask) meant that I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck anymore.  I was in an awesome relationship for the first half of the year.  Granted, it sucks that it ended (mi-e dor de tine), but at least it didn’t end badly.  I'm probably in the best shape I've been in a long time.  I can run 5k’s—without stopping or walking—for the first time ever in my life.  And the closer I get to wrapping up the final draft of my chem book, the better it’s starting to look (hoping to finally have it out Fall 2012). 

I almost feel guilty talking about how great this year was, but then I remember that in the late 90’s, when we had a balanced budget and people were getting quick-rich off a pre-bubble internet, I was making less than fifteen grand a year working 50+ hours a week in grad school with a newborn son and a marriage that was showing its first signs of unraveling.  I deserved this year, so piss off if you don’t like me saying so.  Besides, considering what you probably came here to see, you got no room to talk.

Anyway, here’s what else I thought of 2011…

Protests are the new rallies.

If American politics were a collectable card game, conservatives made some pretty strange plays last year that more or less worked in their favor.

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This year, the left countered with an equally bewildering move of their own.

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Meanwhile the rest world was showing us as the pussies we really are by getting their voices heard the old fashioned way: with violent riots and bloodyregimechanges.  I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that the head of Merrill Lynch never worried about being dragged into to the streets and beaten to death by Wall Street protesters.

Probably because they were too busy turning Robert's Rules into an interpretive dance.

Here in Chapel Hill, UNC students naturally had to join in by occupying Franklin Street, or at least the corner in front of the courthouse. 

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For the love of Gaia, will someone pepper spray me before finals week.

Because if anyone’s responsible for our financial troubles it’s those bastards at the Shrunken Head, Pepper’s Pizza, and the Varsity Theater.

A disturbing new trend is emerging on Facebook.

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Thing of the year: Spotify

I listen to music a lot.  At the office, when I’m writing at home, and when I’m traveling.  I’ve been using Spotify since it debuted in the U.S. this past summer and I still can’t believe this thing actually exists.  Saying that it’s amazing doesn’t do it justice.  I even pay for the premium account so I can use it on my iPhone when I run or I'm driving (also so Spotify doesn’t interrupt my listening of the new Mastodon album with a LMFAO ad). 

Critics of the service have been doing a lot of math trying to show that the service doesn’t really treat musicians fairly and doesn't pay them enough.  While I can understand why a few mega-stars like Coldplay and Adele wouldn't want to put their new albums on Spotify during the first few weeks - or even months - of release, when has the music industry a) ever treated musicians fairly and b) ever not overvalued their "product?"

Here are a few artists I’ve been listening to on Spotify whose albums I don’t currently own, and the number of times I've presently played one of their tracks (according my Last.fm profile):

  • Patton Oswalt, 191 plays
  • The Death Set, 123 plays
  • Solar Fields, 123 plays
  • Swans, 98 plays
  • Kati King, 76 plays
  • Florence + the Machine, 73 plays
  • Alana Amran and the Rough Gems, 61 plays

 and I also listen to a lot of movie and video game scores when I work (and occassionally they make it into my workout playlist):

  • X-men: First Class, 134 plays
  • Batman: Arkham City, 107 plays (the score, not that shitty soundtrack)
  • Battlefield 3, 94 plays

As much as I love Patton Oswalt, I probably wouldn’t have even known about the album he released this year if it weren’t for Spotify.  And odds are I would have never even heard of Solar Fields if it weren't for Spotify's “Related Artists” section.  Same goes for Swans, Alana Amram and a bunch of others I didn’t bother mentioning.  Sure, these 1000+ plays might represent the equivalent of 10 iTunes downloads, but those 10 downloads were never going to happen in the first place.  Now multiply that by about 10 million Spotify accounts.

Gaming industry still can’t remember that the middle of the year exists.

Jesus, guys, would it kill you to put something out in July or August?  I’ve never purchased three games in as many weeks before last month, but Best Buy’s “pre-order 5, get $100 back” offer was too good to refuse.

How crazy has the last eight weeks been?  Two of my five weren’t Call of Duty or Skyrim.  For the curious, it was Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, Battlefield 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (arguably another “3”), and Arkham City.  Thank God things are finally calming down.  Hopefully I can get around to playing Skyrim and Modern Warfare 3 after the holi-

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Son of a bitch!

Here's my personal top 10 for 2011.  And remember, I haven’t played MW3 or Skyrim yet (or Gears or War 3; man, there were a lot of 3’s this year).

Single Player/Co-op:

  1. Portal 2
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Uncharted 3
  4. LittleBigPlanet 2
  5. Infamous 2

(close 6th: Dead Space 2, but I didn’t like the ending as much as the first one, plus the developers can screw themselves with that Hardcore trophy)

Multiplayer:

  1. Battlefied 3
  2. AC: Revelations (if more would play it, it would be my number 1).
  3. Resistance 3
  4. Uncharted 3
  5. Crysis 2 (what little I played of it).

Ebert Award (for the game that best shows that games are, indeed, art): Child of Eden.

Guitar Hero Memorial Award (for the game I feel most embarrassed playing by myself late at night): Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest

Zynga Award (for the game I “played” a lot, for reasons I can’t explain): Tiny Tower

Summer Movie Nerdvana

My son and I went to the movies nearly every weekend this summer, and I was surprised that - with one exception - they all ranged from being pretty good to great.  Hell, even Transformers wasn't that bad.  In May, not only would I have never guessed that Apes and X-men would be my two favorites (in that order), but I’m really looking forward to their sequels.

Dumbest Story (that didn’t involve Charlie Sheen or Fox News):

That Portal 2 adoption story still irritates me on several fronts.  As a gamer, as a North Carolinian (the story came out of Charlotte) and a UNC alum (the reporter got her journalism degree there).  On the plus side, that little piece was probably the best post I wrote this year (I'm still pretty proud of the "when you step off the cross" line).     

In Memoriam:

  • Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)
  • Patrice O’Neal (1969-2011)
  • Randy “Macho Man” Savage (1952-2011)
  • Steve Jobs (1955-2011)
  • Osam- nah…fuck that guy
  • Team Bondi (2003-2011)
  • Community (2009-2012...probably)
  • R.E.M. (1980-2011)
  • Guitar Hero (2005-2011)
  • Herman Cain’s political career (2011-2011)

Only one more year of stupid Mayan jokes.

Thank Hanab Ku.

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