Goodbye 2008

December 31, 2008 at 11:20 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve always loved “best of…” lists. Agree, disagree, compare, discuss. So, in no particular order, 20 things which made the year fun for me. . (And yesterday, it would have been a different list – of course all those music and comic notes ought to figure here too)

1. Belgium.

It was my first time in Europe in almost ten years, and it’s always a thrill. In North America, so much seems so, well, new. Of course, it’s not, but compared to Europe. I stayed in Brussels most of the tine, but had day trips to Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. The country is full of incredible scenery. On the day I went to Bruges, it poured with rain lending a sort of majestic Gothic splendor to the place. (If you haven’t seen In Bruges, it’s worth renting). I actually preferred Ghent, which in addition to great churches and architecture had a more lived in feel. Did I mention the beer? Strangest experience was a visit to Doel.Most of the people in the town moved out after the port of Antwerp planned an expansion. The expansion never came, so the town is now populated by some of the original residents who refused to leave, and an increasing number of squatters. I walked around with a friend, but it had a real zombie town vibe. Deserted. Very weird.

2. Darlene Love – So Much Love 

Quick, name someone else who worked with Duane Eddy, Phil Spector, Dick Dale, Little Stephen, Gene Pitney and… well you get the picture. Darlene Love is one of those amazing talents who never really got all the acclaim she deserved. This collection does something to redress the balance. 24 songs (including 3 previously unreleased tracks), and a great booklet. (Reminds me, one of the things I dislike about MP3s is the lack of extra information).

3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig! 

And Nick Cave is one of those odd talents. He seems to get better as he gets older. Most bands/singers peak and then coast, but Cave keeps raising the bar. This album doesn’t quite beat Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, but it comes close.

4. Kiran Desai – The Inheritence of Loss

A few people who read this at my wife’s book club found this difficult. True, it’s a fragmented story, past and present, but it’s beautifully told, with all to human characters, all with an interwoven story nursing their personal tragedies and slights.

5. The Dark Knight

I see the blacklash has started in some of the cooler circles. Dark Knightis a pretty good thrill ride for the first two thirds. The final section drags a little.  That and the fact that the plot seems largely recycled from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. But, hey, Heath Ledger is really, really creepy.  No wonder Jack Nicholson was upset. He’s being compared to Caesar Romero now.

6. Torchwood

The Dr. Who spin-off: Daleks, Cybermen, monstrous villains, family reunions. James Marsters. Didn’t you cry at the end of the second season? apparently Captain Jack Harkness is the most popular bi-sexual lead character on television.

7. The Kills – Midnight Boom

I don’t remember how many years it’s been since the last Kills record, but this one is a lot more fun. Still grimly, still garagey, but  a lot more fun. It occupied my CD player almost exclusively for a few weeks this year.

8. New York 

Ooh, if I could  afford it, if I could get a good job, if I could find a nice apartment, i ‘d like to live in New York. There in February, and although it poured with rain one day, it was still a great trip.

9. TUK shoes.

I bought a pair of faux-creepers from this UK company earlier this year. I remember back in 1977, The Sunran an expose on "punk rock." The second part featured the Clash, and there was Joe Strummer wearing a pair of these really cool shoes. Funny how, things come back in style.  (Now when I go to New York later this year, it’ll have to be for a pair of OPOP sneakers)

10. Neil Gaiman 

He keeps turning out amazing books.  The first story I read by Gaiman was a Hellblazer. Then of course Sandman. Simply an incredibly talented storyteller. I’m not crazy about the Dangerous Omens novel, but it was worth standing in line to meet Gaiman and get it signed. In 2003, I bought his children’s story The Wolves in the Walls. My daughter loved, and still loves it. Now my son loves it too. Bought The Dangerous Alphabet a few days ago. And now, The Graveyard Book has arrived. Oh happy day.

11. Samosa King.

How many times do you read, [this town’s] best coffee, pizza., somasa etc?; Hard to know if Samosa King really has the best samosa in Toronto, but I imagine they are pretty high on the list. And it’s 5 for a $1! Midland and Finch in Scarborough. (I think my mother in law makes the best chutney though)

12. Hiro Kunzru – My Revolutions

A flashback heavy narrative of a former radical, and the path that led to where he was. Powerful in that it doesn’t dismiss radicalism as a product of foolish youth, but seeks to explain it in the context of  larger events. Still, as the American Trotskyist James Cannon remarked, if you lock people in a room long enough, they will talk themselves into anything.  

13. Ricky Gervais

Why isn’t this man a bigger star? The Office was brilliant. Likewise Extras.(for me, the funniest thing about extras was the willingness of celebrities to appear in extremely unflattering ways:  Kate Winslett’s strategy for winning an Oscar, or Patrick Stewart’s movie for example) I’ll forgive A Night at the Museum.  Ghost Town was sweet and funny (although the extra entitled “some People Can Do it” is hysterical). Subscribe to his pod cast.

14. I like to Watch

Hosted by Salon, Heather Havrilevsky’s column is one of the best on TV writing. It makes me want to watch some of the shows, I’ve never seen, but that she recommend.

15. The Sunday New York Times

I used to live downtown (though not in New York). I used to go out to see bands once a week. I used to see movies once a week. Times change. It’s still nice to read the paper Sunday morning and feel lie you’re part of something larger. Hey, my wife and I finished the crossword last week!

16. Soundscapes

Some people liken it to the record shop in High Fidelity. Others complain the staff are stuck-up and unfriendly. But I’ve never had any problems with the staff at 572 College. A great record shop for those people who love music.

17. Fables

Bill Willingham’s what- if- the -children’s -stories- we -read- were- actually- real comic book has now published 75 issues. Published by Vertigo, all but the most recent are available as trade paperbacks, so it’s easy to catch up.  

18. The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson’s latest film. Funny, sad; comic, tragic. Ultimately, uplifting. A great story, a great soundtrack (Peter Sarstedt’s “Where do you go to my lovely”), and hey wasn’t Natalie Portman at the beginning?  Well well.

19. Minty the hamster. My daughter’s pet. Nuff said.

20. The possibility of  a better future. On this, the last day of 2008, let’s remember Durutti’s words:

  • It is we the workers who built these palaces and cities here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.
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