This year certainly has been weird. I can’t really place it, but 2013 just has been weird. Of course I’d be reminisce if I didn’t mention probably my favorite moment of the year: when our kickstarter funded and the again when we got another hundred dollars from a complete stranger.
It’s been a time of friends leaving and coming into my life at a rate I’ve never really experienced in my life before. Once again, things are weird, and by the looks of it next year has potential to be way weirder.
As I sit here and listen to Of Montreal swoon in my ears I realize you probably don’t care about how weird a year I had. So anyway here are my favorite 10 things from 2013. And remember I don’t constrict this list to things that came out in 2013. It’s just culled from all the things I did this year.
Best Movie: Heavenly Creatures
Yes Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson’s first big splash onto the film scene, has beaten out his newest, The Desolation of Smaug. It’s the true story of two New Zealand girls who become seriously attached and begin to live in a fantasy world together. Their parents think that they are taking things too far and try to separate the two of them. The girls can’t live with this and enact revenge on their parents.
I found that Heavenly Creatures not only scared me, but also connected with me on a pretty deep level. It’s a psychological ride that works on the shoulders of the imaginative direction and powerful performances of the two leads. No other movie this year hit me as hard as Heavenly Creatures did.
Heavenly Creatures is currently streaming on Netflix.
Best Worst Movie: Revenge of the Ninja
Revenge of the Ninja is with out a doubt one of the most entertaining movies I have ever seen. It only adds to the mystique of this film that when Tim and I originally watched it that the power went out in the ridiculous 20 minute climactic fight sequence that takes place on a series of roofs containing tennis courts, hot tubs and super long helicopter shots. We probably talked about the film for a good half an hour before we accepted that the power wasn’t coming back on.
It’s a special kind of film that is both extremely racially incentive and seemingly innocent. Because although, yes, the Asians, Italians, blacks, and Native American’s are all hilarious stereotypes they never feel malicious. They seem like what they are: a very sincere attempt at film making from someone who did not understand the culture or film itself.
The end product differs from something like say, Troll 2(Last years winner in this category), because it somehow actually quiet good at what it wants to be. It is more inventive than a lot of modern action films with it’s fight scenes and it is never boring. So, I guess Revenge of the Ninja is by some standards a really good movie.
Runners up: Nothing comes close
Best TV Show: West Wing
The TV category was by far the hardest one to pin down(which is why I split it into 3 categories). In any other year Friday Night Lights or Twin Peaks could have won. They are both incredible shows that will stick with me for a long time, but The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin’s, incredibly biting, surprisingly relevant, moving, and funny political drama wins every time.
The West Wing is not with out it’s flaws. Aaron Sorkin and the writing staff were pretty terrible at keeping long term story lines going over multiple episodes. Characters and their relationship’s drop in and out of the show with out explanation at times, and at times the cast becomes so large that the writers clearly didn’t know what to do with all the characters on their plate.
Despite these flaws, West Wing is so consistently fascinating, not only as a drama, but as a commentary on politics that I believe it’s one of the best TV shows that I’ve ever seen. The show was surprisingly ahead of it’s time in it’s politics bringing in issues that feel just as relevant in today’s climate as they were back in the day. Though this may be due to the stagnation of our political climate more than the show’s forward looking nature, it’s impossible to deny how level headed and ahead of it’s time the show was in presenting the 9/11 tragedy with a rational look at why the attacks occurred and the state of the people who we wanted to throw blame at. Plus they basically predicted Obama which is kinda weird when you think about it.
I could write about The West Wing pretty much forever. It has maybe the best cast ever assembled for a TV show and the characters are all brilliant, and I’m not lying when I say that it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. And no, West Wing does not have a great season plot structure that we’ve come to expect from modern dramas(the type of thing Friday Night Lights did so well), but each individual episode is nearly perfect on their own.
Oh yeah and all these shows(West Wing and runners up are on Netflix Streaming)
Animation that makes me realize I don’t dislike animated stuff: Venture Bros
I’ll keep this one short and simple. The Venture Bros made me realize that there is animated stuff out there for me. I mean, I’ve always watched South Park, but everything else has kinda turned me off.
The Venture Bro’s is a comedic take on science heroes like Johnny Quest and super heroes that continually pushes things to the extreme in the most hilarious and action packed way possible. It’s comparable to Arrested Development for me, in it’s style of humor, and it carries an emotional weight that I found lacking in this years outing of Arrested Development.
Best TV show that was actually on in 2013: Breaking Bad
I mean. You saw this coming right? I basically made this category because of how many damn shows I watched this year, and I didn’t want this stuff to be buried by The West Wing.
Now, you don’t need me to tell you how good Breaking Bad is, but I do just want to point out that they did such a good job at ending the show. And I don’t mean they had a good last episode. They did! They had a great last episode, but the entire last season that would have been so easy to mess up went off without a hitch.
Plus Landry from FNL was the bad guy! Like wat?
Runners up: Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black
Best End: Earthbound
Dude. It’s so good. Here you can watch it.
Best Game: FTL: Faster Than Light
Man. My favorite game of the year is a kickstarter project of yore that got released in 2012 for $10. FTL is a roguelike set in space. What is a roguelike? It’s a game where the map you travel through is randomly generated and each time you die you restart at the beginning. Each game of FTL will take you from 10 minutes to an hour and a half depending on how long you can make it.
I know it doesn’t immediately sound like it would super fun, and it certainly isn’t that great looking of a game, but it is so fun to see how far you can make it each time you press play. As you outfit your ship with a crew and weapons and upgrade your ships systems you become attached. You come to see each time you play as a unique experience with it’s own story.
Maybe your ship’s life supports caught fire and you didn’t have enough of a crew to put the fire out and the crew suffocated to death. Or maybe you nearly made it to the final sector in the game, but a mantis ship found you and boarded your ship and you had invested all of your money into better guns instead of a fighting crew. Or maybe you foolishly entered an asteroid field in the first sector and were torn apart by asteroids as you chased down a pirate ship.
These are all totally things that happened to me, and there’s so much more that could happen. Each time you play a new story is told, and it’s just super fun.
PLUS: The developer of the game is making a free update that adds a whole bunch more stuff. So great. I’ll have to sink another 20 hours into it…
Best Album: Pet Sounds
So yes, Pet Sounds is about as removed from 2013 as you can get, but for having came out in 1966 it feel remarkably fresh and as weird as it sounds relevant. Now, there’s no mistaking that the album was recorded a long time ago, but the fact that it sounds better than anything else I’ve heard all year gives it instant credence as a classic.
The first time I listened to Pet Sounds was in a car ride where I couldn’t give it my attention. Once I sat down with headphones and let it wash over me I was immediately hooked. I probably listened to the album five times in two days. There is just so much going on in the album that there was always something to listen for, and there really never is a dull moment.
Compared to it’s contemporaries(namely The Beatles albums of the era) Pet Sounds is much more relatable to me. Unlike The Beatles who at times who range from often cookie cutter love songs to songs completely devoid of anything I can comprehend, The Beach Boys were able to create an album that holds timeless themes of loneliness, confusion, love and depression that resonate even today.
Best Read: John Cleaver Series
I broke up this category into best read and best book because I wanted to recognize all these great books I read! To be clear the distinction is that “Best Read” was the funnest thing to read while “Best Book” was the best most meaty piece of text I read, if that makes sense… I mean again it’s really an excuse to highlight all the good books I read this year.
So the John Cleaver Series! You can read my review of the first book here, and the second and third books are way better. They have a great mix of teenage drama sort of through an extended metaphor, and intense thriller action that made them really honestly hard to put down, and I don’t say that about books often.
I would also like to call out Slapstick as the only book I read in a single day this year, and probably the only time I’ve done that for many years. It was super fun and bizarre, but it wasn’t quite as amazing as the John Cleaver books.
Then Them: Adventures With Extremists was just an insane read. I don’t want to spoil any of it, but it’s biting, ridiculous, hilarious journalism at it’s best.
Best Book: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This book, like a good book can do I think, changed me. I mean, it made me look at things differently. Not only in mental health, what is done to treat it, and how Native American’s were treated, but in how a book can be written and structured. The prose itself is so artful in Cuckoo’s Nest that it will make you sit up and take notice. The way Kesey uses words and sentence structure to convey the mental state of the narrator is haunting and flawless. It’s amazing how the reader is put entirely into Bromden’s shoes, and is never quite sure what is real and what isn’t at any given moment.
And of course the overarching almost western story of good versus evil is an incredible metaphor that is honestly easy to miss, and in any other book would have been overpowering, but as I’ve stated before this book just seems to get everything right.
I’m definitely not doing this book justice. It deserves to be read.
Death of a Salesmen deserves recognition as well for creating a tragedy that I could immediately relate to and with a hero(if not protagonist) that the reader can root for.
Runner up: Death of a Salesmen
Mikey Mason the geek comedy rocker is back for a second studio album, but he needs funding. I wrote about his first kickstarter having some of the craziest rewards around, and this time is no slouch either.
For only 10,000 dollars you can ruin(?) his life by making him legally change his name to “Captain Tightpants” or “Bobba Fett” and for 2,000 he’ll run an RPG for you. OK so those rewards are kind of silly and you might not want them, but for $10 you can get a digital copy of the album.
But will it be any good, you ask intrepidly? Why not peruse his first album Impotent Nerd Rage. Or if you don’t have time to listen to the whole album you can listen to the song I featured on the now dormant Geeky Song of the Week feature, Me and Alan Moore’s Beard.
Or if you want to hear a song that will be on the album itself you can listen to Best Game Ever.
Best Game Ever is a tribute to D&D, and for good measure has been blessed by the Gygax family which you can read about over on Mikey’s blog.
So if you’ve enjoyed listening to these songs please consider pledging to Barbarian Jetpack or if you lack the funds tell you moneybag friends about it so Mr. Mason can do what he loves.
My list is going to be a bit strange considering most of the time I get to things a little later than most people. So I spent a good part of the year watching old doctor who episodes, and reading back issues of Fables instead of getting to the new stuff. So because there is still a ton of stuff I want to get too and since this list would be pretty sparse with out them I’m going to include a few things that did not come out in 2011. Also keep in mind these are not compiled into a specific order, I can’ t choose my babies, or brats in case of worst.
Worst: Let’s get this crap out of the way!
Stupid Autotune pop radio songs
Yes! Every bodies booing this song tonight… Seriously, you guys stop listening to this shit. I’m subjegated to stuff like Party Rock Anthem, Sexy and I know it, and possible the best(ie worst) Moves like Jagger. Wasn’t Maroon 5 an actual rock band at some point? For those of you out their that like this music. I’m not attacking you, I’m just saying their are better songs in these genres, and that they get waaaaaaaaaaay over played on the radio. And no I’m not choosing to listen to the radio. What kind of person do you think I am.
Christmas time stage productions
Yes, I think its time for the stage production to go the way of the dodo. If your not Broadway or an actual professional British theater then I don’t think you belong any more. Yes its a bit harsh but they just can’t compete with TV or Movies. I’ve yet to go to a production that wasn’t under or overacted. You know why? Because you have to overact in theater, you have to almost scream everything. But what am I talking about specifically here? Well for the past few years I have been dragged along to Christmas time…things. The first was Zoozoo. Yep Zoozoo. What is a Zoozoo? Well I’m glad you asked. Basically its a group of gymnasts or something that dress up as animals and…move around. Either I’m crazy or I just read a quote from the New York Times saying “delightful…just watch!” . Maybe I’m just missing what makes this such a “delightful” experience, but to me watching dudes jump around in frog suits for over an hour, at the nice fee of $25 is just crazy. I mean whats the internet for?
Ok so now we get to the second production was an actual play. The Christmas Carol. Oh a classic, they can’t mess it up can they? What am I saying of course they can! I wish I could find a picture of their poster, because if you saw it you would think, “Hey, that looks like the Christmas Carol. Its got the knocker, man is that like blood, looks kinda dark.”
Then you would get to the play, and your treated to what is basically a) a mockery of the creative proccess, and b) akin to those really bad really dumb dreamworks animations where you cringe at each joke. And its like 2 hours long. At least Zoozoo had the decency to let me leave after about an hour.
My own god damn ambition
As you can put together this ones my fault. And I don’t even think its that bad of a thing, except it tears me in all these different directions. So over the course of 2011: I have started this blog(yes the one your on right now!), started 5 let’s plays(2 unrealeased and still not very far in but still), swam in the swimteam 10 out of the 12 months, taking mostly advanced classes in highschool(there are some that don’t have an advanced option, like health and its Laserdiscs for example),started to write a novel(la?),started to learn the C programming language, and I think finally start to learn pixel art at the very end of 2011. We will see what sticks around in 2012, and I’m planning on posting about what 2012 holds for us here at WeGetGeek.
Best: Whew let’s get to the good stuff
The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim
What is it about the Elder Scrolls games that makes them so damn fun? Sometimes I wonder that myself. It doesn’t have an amazing main story, or great combat, or super stunning visuals(unless your talking about those vistas, cause damn). No in one of the best years in my video gaming life its almost in spite of these things that Skyrim is such a spellbinding experience. The way that the world is presented, as a living breathing world is something you just don’t see in any other game except maybe the other games that Bethesda has worked on. The scope of Skyrim while being intensely captivating at the same time is almost too much at times. I’ve played a rough 50 hours in my main character not to mention the time I’ve spent with Ezekial everyone’s favorite gray Orc and I have yet to even enter some of the major cities. That’s right and each city has dozens and dozens of quests to complete. As an example I just entered the hold of Windhelm, and picked up a quest about solving the murders of three girls, by questioning witnesses and collecting evidence. There are no other quests like this one as far as I know. That’s super cool!
Also Colonel Tigh is in it as, you guessed it a general. Poor guys going to be typecast for the rest of his career.
Bastion is an inspiration. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played and it was made by five people. The art is beautiful, the game play snappy and fun, and the music FU**ING awesome. It’s a cool, surprisingly emotional story narrated brilliantly to respond to the players actions. I seriously can’t say enough about this game, its one of the smartest games I’ve ever played.
Mass Effect 2
What is there to say? Mass effect may end up being my favorite sci-fi universe when its all over. It’s got the crazy looking aliens from star wars, along with force like powers without all the spiritual crap. All the alien races have interesting developed cultures, and histories, and science. That’s right if you want to there are hundreds of pages on breeding, development, technology, species relations…you name it they thought about it and its in the game. But enough about the fiction, what do you actually do? Well, early in the game your put on a task to assemble the greatest team in the known universe. So you fly around recruiting these guys like Mordin up their. At its core its a shooter, with RPG mechanics backing it up. Besides guns characters also have tech powers, and biotic(see force like) powers to throw around. The gameplay doesn’t get in the way of what’s really important, and that’s the characters and setting.If I’ve not made my point clear Mass Effect is awesome. The first game is pretty clunky, and you can skip to the second and piece together what went before without losing out on too much, so do it.
The Morning Stream
A morning show? No thanks. That was my response upon hearing about the Morning Stream even though I listened to a bunch of other podcasts done by the host Scott Johnson. So I didn’t listen to it. Finally after I kept hearing about it on their shows, I decided to give it a chance. I’m glad I did, four days a week Scott and Brian take me through the day with stupid news stories and “celebrity poop”. I love hearing their stories like Brian’s son, who got his ipod stolen. Then Brian tracked the phone, staked out the place and discovered it was his kids friend from school. Tell me that didn’t sound like a sitcom’s plot. They are geeks to the biggest degree, and are the reason for me getting into A Song of Ice and Fire. Their nearing their one year anniversary so you can bet some crazy stuff is about to go down.
So bringing updating fairtales for the modern times is nothing new, especially after the recent glut of them, however Fables did start over ten years ago. Plus its so much better executed then everything else. The fables have been exiled to the human, or Mundy world and have to try to keep a low profile while fighting off an impending invasion from the Adversary, and no spoilers but apparently there are hints as to who it is withing the border of the first few issues of the book. I’m not their yet, but I think that the Adversary was revealed around issue 100, if that’s not good foreshadowing then what the crap is. Always surprising, always entertaining Fables is a must read.
A Song of Ice and Fire
Did somebody say must read? This one slides in close, because I didn’t finish reading the book till late December. Plus I have yet to see the show, because I don’t have HBO and they take forever to put out their dvds. A year…seriously? Whatever it just gave me time to catch up with the book, and figure out my own pronunciations of the characters names, so that when I watched it I could yell about how my pronunciations are better. The book has one of the best mid-book twists I can think of, and the only think I can really say bad about it is that it doesn’t really end. It just stops. But whatever there are four more ~700 page books out and I can’t wait to read them.
I saw this movie in the theater, which is pretty rare for me, but I’m glad I did because there are moments that just don’t play the same outside of the theater. Like the train sequence, it was just soooooo loud it freaked me out. Not in a bad way. I love the feeling this movie gives me. It’s not a dark, depressing movie and I love it for that. And come on its the Goonies meets E.T.
Like the sign says Powerful Ambition and Poor Impulse Control. I’ve played this game once, and it was one of my favorite roleplaying experiences ever. Plus its great for anyone out their who is afraid of RPG’s because of their genre trappings, or because you don’t know anyone who can DM. Fiasco is generally set in modern times, and there is no DM! The rules are simple and are only their to facilitate your groups crazy antics. Let me tell you what happened at my game. Now if I remember correctly I died at some point, my mom’s character thought she was psychic, two people were animal right activist radical terrorists and I think one of them turned out to be a vampire at the end. That’s just the kind of minds we have I guess, but it all started as a group of researches at an Antarctic research facility.
The first episode I watched was the D&D one. I watched it again pretty much right after I had finished. Then all of season 1, hooked Tim, and Season 3 started coming out. Still haven’t seen all of Season 2 but the discs should be here any day. Season 3 has been pretty great aside from what I thought was a lackluster halloween episode especially after the first two. But you should know that Community is awesome, and if you don’t now you do. So don’t let them cancel it. The second half of the season is going to be airing sometime this year(people are predicting summer) so tune in. Go Human Beings!
Yes, the music swells and we all get teary eyed…but seriously this.THIS right here has been one of the best consistently fun things this year. The relationships that I’ve acquired(You know who you are, and yes you can say you were on a best of 2011 list now) from doing this here thing have been great, and I have more faith in the internet because of it. I’ve done a lot of crap over the year and shared a lot of the crap up here, and…here’s to another year of crap!
Jonathon Coulton has decided in his infinite wisdom to give us a taste of artificial heart. You can go download it here.
It’s supposed to be a thing for newsletter subscribers only, but its pretty easy to get to. You should think about repaying the favor and subscribe to his newsletter just cause too.
If you’re new to JoCo then just navigate over to the music tab on his site and you can listen to everything for free. Heck you can even download a good portion of it for free.