Author Archives: Jason Carter

Visual Arts 2017

What’s this, an update to a blog?! Why yes, I’m going to rewind things 15 years and try to post something occasionally here, even if it’s only updates to this one entry. Mainly to give myself a routine, something constant for 2017, a year of change.

I really like that Steven Soderbergh keeps track of everything he’s watched or read throughout the year, so I’d like to do the same for 2017. I’ll copy his convention, which is as follows:

All caps, bold: MOVIE

All caps: TV SERIES

Italics: Book

Quotes: “Game”

1/3 – TONY ROBBINS: I’M NOT YOUR GURU
1/5 – SULLY
1/9 – BLACK MIRROR S03E02 (Playtest), DEADWOOD S03E09 (Amateur Night), DEADWOOD S03E10 (A Constant Throb)
1/10 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E02 (Vehicular Fellatio)
1/11 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E03 (The Reunion)
1/13 – BLACK MIRROR S03E03 (Shut Up and Dance)
1/15 – BLACK MIRROR S03E04 (San Junipero)
1/16 – DEADWOOD S03E11 (The Catbird Seat), DEADWOOD S03E12 (Tell Him Something Pretty)
1/17 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E04 (The Hot Towel)
1/18 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E05 (Denise Handicap)
1/19 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E06 (The Bare Midriff)
1/21 – DEEPWATER HORIZON
1/22 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E07 (The Black Swan)
1/23 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E08 (Officer Krupke), CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E09 (The Table Read)
1/24 – SUPERMARKET SWEEP
1/25 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S07E10 (Seinfeld)
1/26 – The Frozen Dead
1/28 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E01 (The Divorce)
1/30 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E02 (The Safe House), CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E03 (Palestinian Chicken)
2/2 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E04 (The Smiley Face)
2/10 – The Book of Fate
2/13 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E05 (Vow of Silence), FOXCATCHER
2/13 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E06 (The Hero)
2/15 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E07 (The Bi-Sexual)
2/16 – NARCOS S02E08 (Exit El Patrón)
2/18 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S01E01 (The Pants Tent), CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S01E02 (Ted & Mary), LAST WEEK TONIGHT, “Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain”
2/19 – STATE OF THE UNION
2/20 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E08 (Car Periscope)
2/26 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM S08E09 (Mister Softie), CURB YOUR ENTHUSIAM S08E10 (Larry vs. Michael J. Fox)
2/28 – BILL BURR: LET IT GO
3/2 – WESTWORLD S01E01 (The Original); WESTWORLD S01E02 (Chestnut)
3/3 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S01E01
3/4 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S01E02
3/5 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S01E03
3/6 – NARCOS S02E09 (Nuestra Finca), NARCOS S02E10 (Al Fin Cayó!)
3/9 – BLACK MIRROR S03E05 (Men Against Fire)
3/10 – WESTWORLD S01E03 (The Stray); WESTWORLD S01E04 (Dissonance Theory)
3/16 – WESTWORLD S01E05 (Contrapasso); WESTWORLD S01E06 (The Adversary)
3/18 – BLACK HAWK DOWN
3/20 – SNOWDEN
3/22 – WESTWORLD S01E07 (Trompe D’Oeil); WESTWORLD S01E08 (Trace Decay)
3/26 – BACK TO THE FUTURE
3/27 – WESTWORLD S01E01 (The Original)
3/29 – WESTWORLD S01E02 (Chestnut)
3/30 – WILD
4/2 – HACKSAW RIDGE; HORRIBLE BOSSES; BLACK MIRROW S03E06 (Hated in the Nation); THE CROWN S01E01 (Wolferton Splash)
4/5 – LOUIS C.K. 2017
4/6 – BLOOD SIMPLE
4/8 – BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II; THE CROWN S01E02 (Hyde Park Corner); EASTBOUND & DOWN S01E04; JIM JEFFERIES: BARE
4/9 – BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III
4/10 – THE CROWN S01E03 (Windsor)
4/12 – WESTWORLD S01E03 (The Stray)
4/13 – FULL HOUSE S03E01 (Tanner’s Island); EASTBOUND & DOWN S01E05
4/14 – THE CROWN S01E04 (Act of God); EASTBOUND & DOWN S01E06
4/16 – THE CROWN S01E05 (Smoke and Mirrors); WESTWORLD S01E04 (Dissonance Theory)
4/19 – THE CROWN S01E06 (Gelignite)
4/22 – SUPER TROOPERS
4/25 – THE CROWN S01E07 (Scientia Potentia Est)
4/26 – WESTWORLD S01E09 (The Well-Tempered Clavier); WESTWORLD S01E10 (The Bicameral Mind)
4/27 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E01
4/30 – “Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain”
5/1 – “Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain”
5/2 – THE CROWN S01E08 (Pride & Joy); The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
5/3 – “Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain”
5/4 – JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E01 (The Friends of English Magic); JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E02 (How Is Lady Pole?)
5/6 – “Minecraft”; THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
5/7 – The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea; “Minecraft”; STORKS; HELL OR HIGH WATER
5/9 – JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E03 (The Education of a Magician); JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E04 (All the Mirrors of the World)
5/12 – “Zoo Tycoon”
5/13 – BAD MOMS
5/14 – EX MACHINA
5/16 – Steve Jobs
5/17 – OJ: MADE IN AMERICA – PART ONE
5/18 – OJ: MADE IN AMERICA – PART TWO
5/19 – OJ: MADE IN AMERICA – PART THREE; OJ: MADE IN AMERICA – PART FOUR
5/20 – OJ: MADE IN AMERICA – PART FIVE
5/21 – INSIDE OUT; PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY
5/22 – JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E05 (Arabella); JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E06 (The Black Tower)
5/24 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL
5/25 – WEINER
5/26 – JIM JEFFERIES: I SWEAR TO GOD
5/27 – THE GODFATHER: PART II
5/30 – A Dangerous Fortune
6/1 – THE CROWN S01E09 (Assassins)
6/3 – THE CROWN S01E10 (Gloriana)
6/4 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E02
6/6 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E03; SLOW TV: TRAIN RIDE BERGEN TO OSLO; HOUSE OF CARDS S05E01
6/7 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E04; JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL S01E07 (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell); THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E01 (The New World)
6/8 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E02; HOUSE OF CARDS S05E03
6/9 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E05; EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E06
6/10 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E04; HOUSE OF CARDS S05E05
6/11 – ROCKET MEN
6/13 – THE JIM JEFFERIES SHOW S01E01
6/14 – THE JIM JEFFERIES SHOW S01E02; EASTBOUND & DOWN S02E07; My Struggle: Book 4
6/15 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E01
6/16 – THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E02 (Sunrise); EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E02
6/17 – BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
6/20 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E06
6/21 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E03
6/22 – THE JIM JEFFERIES SHOW S01E03
6/24 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E04
6/25 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E05; HOUSE OF CARDS S05E07
6/26 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E08; HOUSE OF CARDS S05E09
6/27 – EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E06
6/28 – Mindfulness in Plain English
7/2 – CLUE
7/3 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E10; BABY DRIVER
7/4 – Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way; HOUSE OF CARDS S05E11
7/6 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E12
7/7 – HOUSE OF CARDS S05E13
7/9 – THE AMERICANS S03E01 (EST Men)
7/10 – THE AMERICANS S03E02 (Baggage)
7/12 – THE AMERICANS S03E03 (Open House)
7/15 – “Minecraft”
7/16 – “Minecraft”; GAME OF THRONES S07E01 (Dragonstone)
7/17 – STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON; See You in the Cosmos
7/19 – “Minecraft”
7/20 – SNOWPIERCER
7/23 – OBLIVION; THE AMERICANS S03E04 (Dimebag)
7/25 – “Minecraft”
7/26 – “Minecraft”
7/27 – “Minecraft”; APOLLO 13
7/28 – “Minecraft”
7/29 – “Minecraft”
7/30 – GAME OF THRONES S07E02 (Stormborn)
8/1 – JIM JEFFERIES: BARE
8/3 – “Minecraft”; FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR
8/5 – “Grand Theft Auto V”; DUNKIRK
8/8 – GAME OF THRONES S07E03 (The Queen’s Justice)
8/9 – POLAR BEAR TOWN S01E01 (Welcome to Churchill)
8/10 – GAME OF THRONES S07E04 (The Spoils of War)
8/15 – GAME OF THRONES S07E05 (Eastwatch)
8/22 – GAME OF THRONES S07E06 (Beyond the Wall)
8/23 – POLAR BEAR TOWN S01E02 (Paparazzi Alert)
8/28 – HIDDEN FIGURES, THE DEFIANT ONES (Part 1), GAME OF THRONES S07E07 (The Dragon and the Wolf)
8/29 – THE DEFIANT ONES (Part 2)
8/30 – THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E03 (The Illustrated Woman); THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E04 (Revelations)
9/2 – THE DEFIANT ONES (Part 3); EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E07; EASTBOUND & DOWN S03E08; An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943
9/3 – LA LA LAND; THE DEFIANT ONES (Part 4)
9/4 – THE OFFICE S01E01 (Downsize); THE OFFICE S01E02 (Work Experience); THE OFFICE S01E03 (The Quiz); THE OFFICE S01E04 (Training); THE OFFICE S01E05 (New Girl)
9/11 – THE OFFICE S01E06 (Judgement)
9/13 – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
9/15 – THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E05 (The New Normal); THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E06 (Three Monkeys)
9/16 – MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE
9/22 – THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E07 (Truth); THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E08 (End of the World)
9/25 – MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: COWBOYS VS. CARDINALS
10/1 – MOONLIGHT
10/4 – THE AMERICANS S03E05 (Salang Pass)
10/7 – WHIPLASH
10/8 – Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue
10/9 – THE AMERICANS S03E06 (Born Again)
10/10 – THE AMERICANS S03E07 (Walter Taffet); THE AMERICANS S03E08 (Divestment)
10/12 – RUN LOLA RUN
10/14 – THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E09 (Kindness); THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE S01E10 (A Way Out)
10/16 – JERRY BEFORE SEINFELD
10/18 – THE STAIRCASE – CHAPTER ONE (Crime or Accident?); THE STAIRCASE – CHAPTER TWO (Secrets and Lies)
10/19 – THE STAIRCASE – CHAPTER THREE (A Striking Coincidence); THE STAIRCASE – CHAPTER FOUR (A Prosecution Trickery)

The Green Button – Monitoring Your Energy Usage

I am betting we’ll hear more over the years about new hardware and software that will help us monitor and control our home energy usage. One that I’ve been really excited about is Nest, a completely reinvented home thermostat that learns from your behavior to save heating and cooling costs. And I read today about how (some) consumers now have access to detailed energy usage records and apps that provide reporting on that detailed data. Sadly, I can tell you today, after a bit of experimenting, that the process of finding and using that information is not yet ready for the masses.

What I read was a news article about the US government (particularly the CTO, Aneesh Chopra) pushing public utilities to provide consumers with more information about home energy usage. I was excited to hear that SDG&E was one of the first to offer detailed extracts through the Green Button. So I decided to go online to see what could be done with the data.

The article mentioned an app published by Tendril called Energize, so I went to the Android market and downloaded it. After installing it, the home screen asked for my Energize URL, my username, and my password. No instructions about where to find the URL or how to set up an account. So right away I was lost.

I decided to go to the SDG&E website for more info. I signed into my account, but nothing was jumping out at me for where I could download data or link to a feed. I finally stumbled over to “My Energy”, where, huzzah!, the Green Button was finally visible. I was able to download an XML feed without too much difficulty, but still didn’t understand how I was supposed to get the Tendril app to interface with this data.

The next stop was the Tendril website. There is a section for Consumers with some text about the Energize application suite, but when I clicked through, I was taken to a profile page of one of their designers. Flying in the dark now, I backed up and clicked on the Developers link. It finally looked like I was in the right place because I saw a link to Green Button Connect, where I can sign up, upload, download, and learn more about apps.

So, I signed up and tried to upload the XML data I downloaded earlier. Except it failed to upload, multiple times. And I gave up on the process here, finally realizing they mean it when they say “Beta” in the logo.

After reading this narrative, are you lost yet? Can you imagine how anyone is supposed to get motivated to monitor their energy usage after hitting so many brick walls?

Thinking about this data more tonight, I wonder how helpful it really is. The utility company is only giving you a historical view, so they can’t tell you anything about how you’re currently using energy. And the smart meters aren’t quite smart enough to tell you energy usage about specific components in your house. SDG&E does give you usage details for the prior day and breakdowns by hour, which is a huge step up from the month-over-month views you get on paper bills. But I found myself wanting more; it’s very interesting to know my usage was higher for one month, but why was it higher and what should I do differently?

If you really want to learn more about your energy usage and make some changes, start with a Kill A Watt. You may need to wait a bit longer for the Green Button and apps to get a bit smarter.

Meal Planning with The Fresh 20

Stephanie and I have 3.5 year old twin girls, and my frequent joke is that we have no business having kids because we can barely feed or clothe ourselves some days. We both enjoy cooking, but far too often the last four years we’ve stared at each other at 5pm and asked “What do you want to eat?” And far too often, that has resulted in us getting unhealthy take-out, spending too much at a restaurant, or eating separately from the girls. Constantly having to think about dinner menus and grocery shopping was adding a lot of stress to our lives.

For the past six months, we’ve subscribed to The Fresh 20 and have loved it. For about $5 a month, you get access to a weekly menu with five balanced dinners, a shopping list with no more than 20 ingredients, and a checklist for things you should have stocked in your pantry. They offer Classic, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free menus.

There are several things I love about this service. First, we no longer have to think about what to make each night, when to go grocery shopping, and how much food to get. Having a menu and grocery list takes away all the thought (and stress) about what to do for dinner. Second, we found ourselves shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store and very rarely venturing into the aisles; we buy a lot more milk, cheese, meat, seafood, and fresh fruits and vegetables, and a lot less boxed, frozen, canned, and processed foods. We also waste a lot less food because all the things you buy are accounted for in the recipes you make that week. Finally, it has promoted family meal time each night, which is currently very frustrating with our two wild animals, but will hopefully pay dividends in the future.

There are a few recipes we would have never tried on our own, but we’ve learned to trust the system and find ourselves enjoying new things. We are starting to see a few recipe repeats after six months and some recipes we’ll skip because it’s not worth the headache (like homemade chicken nuggets). But all in all, we’ve been really pleased with The Fresh 20, and are going to stick with it.

2011 Books

In terms of volume, 2011 was an average year, with 23 books read. It was also average in terms of quality – no good or bad stand-outs.

San Dieguito Half Marathon Elevation Profile

If you are running the 2012 San Dieguito Half Marathon on February 12th, you may be interested in the elevation profile below (click for a larger view):

We’d heard rumors of this being a tough course, so we drove it to see how bad it really was. There are rolling hills throughout, but the really brutal climb is at mile 6. The rise from mile 2 to 3 is also intimidating, but it is early enough in the race. Of course, it could wipe you out early if you go out too strong. The hill just before mile 10 will also be tough. The final climb from mile 12.5 to the finish looks bad, but isn’t in comparison to other hills on the course. I’m sure after 12 miles it will feel like the largest hill of all!

The roads are in fair to poor condition (potholes), which is surprising considering this is one of the richest neighborhoods in the US.

See you at the race!

2010 Books

For no other reason than for the sake of completeness, here are the books I read in 2010. I will be better about writing here this year, I promise.

Why I Won’t Renew Hulu Plus

I recently signed up for a one-month Hulu Plus trial by linking my Facebook account. I had high hopes that Hulu would let me finally cancel cable, but so far I’ve been very disappointed. It looks like we’re still a long way from straightforward and logical TV and movie streaming options; the content owners and distributors really need to get their act together to make this less confusing and frustrating for the consumer.

  • Some shows are only available through the content owner’s website, mainly CBS: Amazing Race, The Good Wife
  • Some are only available with a paid subscription to another service, such as HBO and Showtime: United States of Tara, In Treatment, Treme, the list goes on and on here.
  • Some shows can’t be found at all: Homicide
  • I thought one benefit of Hulu Plus would be access to prior seasons, but several shows appear to only have the most recent season listed: Modern Family, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights
  • The Hulu Plus app on our Sony TV stinks. If you search for a show, there isn’t a way to modify or cancel that search, you have to restart the app. Once you find a show, it isn’t obvious which season and episode you’re opening. I haven’t been able to figure out how to play or queue an entire season, starting from the first episode.

As of now, I don’t see a good reason for continuing Hulu Plus at $7.99 a month. I’m standing on the sidelines and sticking with Netflix discs until the networks, studios, and distributors can all start pulling together.

2010 Movies

It’s been almost 18 months since my last post, which has to be the low point for this poor site. I’d like to write more, but even the simplest post takes me forever and I don’t have the time. I’m going to try to be better the second half of 2011.

Even though we’re almost halfway through the year, I thought I would post all of the movies I watched in 2010. I did this last year and was very surprised to get a response from the real life son of Robert “Flash of Genius” Kearns about my hastily written one paragraph movie review. So, in hopes of getting a response from Ricky Gervais, here are the movies I watched in 2010 in order. No comment on the movie means I can’t remember it, which I’m chalking up to either life with twins or too much Stone (or both).

  • Up – Had a very touching opening, don’t remember much after that.
  • Food, Inc. – I loved  The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, but didn’t find this film to be the ‘call to arms’ I was hoping it would be. I also liked the story about Polyface Farms, but was a little turned off in the film because he was so kooky.
  • Ghost Town – I had greater expectations for Gervais. This was amusing, but nothing has matched Liar, Liar in the gimmick comedy genre. That statement will probably forever turn you off on all future reviews.
  • Live Free or Die Hard
  • American Psycho – The book was so much better, but there is no way you could ever match it. I’m impressed the film-makers even tried.
  • The Hangover – Saw this in the theatres, loved it, thought it was hilarious.
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • The Invention of Lying – Gervais disappoints again.
  • The Hurt Locker – Very good, even though my Navy friend refuses to see it and says there’s not much reality in it.
  • Love Actually
  • Marley & Me – Liked this so much more than I ever expected. Perfectly captured the passage of life with all the ups and downs.
  • Lost Boys of Sudan
  • The Assassination of Jesse James – Disliked this, found the soft focus and voice-overs too pretentious.
  • It Happened One Night – Part of my attempt to see all Oscar Best Picture films.
  • For All Mankind – Incredible footage of the Apollo missions.
  • Moon – Interesting mind bending film.
  • Weeds: Season 5
  • Californication: Season 1 – A perfect series in every way. Very strong performances from Duchovny.
  • The Blind Side – I passed this up on an airplane, only to watch it later. I was surprised by how much I liked this, but shouldn’t have been because I love everything Michael Lewis puts out.
  • The Informant!
  • Californication: Season 2 – Possibly even better than season one. I literally cried during one episode because of some of the dialog about life, love, and family.
  • When You’re Strange – Liked it; how can one man consume so many drugs in such a short lifespan?
  • Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire – I thought I hated this, but Netflix says three stars, so now I’m confused.
  • Going My Way – Another Oscar Best Picture film.
  • The Pillars of the Earth – We loved the book, and this miniseries was very true to it.
  • (500) Days of Summer – I liked the non-sequential story line.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine – I loved the concept, was expecting to be disappointed by the film, and ended up liking it overall.
  • District 9 – I don’t think any movie attempting to show a real depiction of aliens has ever been rated higher than two stars.
  • Up in the Air
  • Breaking Bad: Season 1 – We both really hated this, which was amazing because of how highly rated this series is. We could never sympathize with any of the characters. And I don’t know if I can ever forgive Cranston for Malcolm in the Middle.
  • The Machinist – Very dark and strange
  • Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon – Incredible documentary. After watching you’ll listen to the album in a whole new way.
  • The September Issue – Interesting, but still have a hard time taking the material seriously.
  • Kramer vs. Kramer – The breakfast making scene is something I remember often during “Daddy Daughter Days”.
  • Dexter: Season 4 – Lithgow was an awesome addition to this season, which was significantly better than Season 3.
  • Waiting for Guffman – I’ve tried Guest’s films a few times, but have never found them better than mildly amusing. Just not my type of humor I guess.
  • Beer Wars – Good film overall, was nice to see Stone a few times and really liked the Dogfish Head guys. The caffeinated beer woman was a little sad, especially knowing that a few years down the road “functional alcoholic beverages” would be banned.
  • The OH in Ohio – A Laura recommendation, good and went in a direction I didn’t expect with DeVito.
  • Coco Before Chanel
  • Entourage: Season 6 – More of the same, but I’ll keep watching.

2009 Books

My one sentence movie reviews for 2009 seems to have struck a chord, so let’s see if I get a response from someone (Dan Brown?) for my books of 2009.

  • The Pump House Gang – I generally like Tom Wolfe; a few of these essays were excellent, like the La Jolla surfers and Hugh Hefner, but many others were incredibly boring.
  • Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old – Bought when we were desperate for the girls to sleep through the night.  This had much more practical real world advice than other sleep books we’ve read.
  • Childhood’s End – Revisiting a high school book.
  • Brave New World – Another high school book.  These two were paired together, probably because they offer two different views of a Utopian society.  I enjoyed them both the second time around.
  • Tesla: Man Out of Time – A long read, dry at times.  I found it hard to respect Tesla at times; he seemed to be a genius but had trouble following through on so many great ideas.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns – Hard to believe, but this was equal to Kite Runner in my opinion.  Not as much heartache in this one though.
  • Underworld – I really disliked this book; worst book of the year.  It was extremely popular when it came out (still is), but I just didn’t get it.  I was very disappointed by the end and am turned off Delillo now.  Tell me if there’s another one of his that I would like better.
  • Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know – Very good, but a little scary.  Am I remembering to follow through on all 10 secrets everyday?
  • Bringing Down the House – Excellent, a page turner.  Way better than the movie, naturally.
  • House to House: A Soldier’s Memoir – This was an amazing story.  It definitely got my heart racing at times and gave me a whole new level of respect for soldiers in Iraq.  It was a tough call between this and The Right Stuff, but I’m giving this best book of the year.
  • The Pillars of the Earth – Really good, fastest 1,000 pages I’ve ever read.
  • The Right Stuff – Two Wolfe books in a year.  This was one of my favorites for the year.  I loved the dialog and all the different personalities Wolfe developed.
  • The World Without Us – A big disappointment, although it was because my expectations were different.  I wanted a whole lot more detail about how things will fall apart, and less about how the natural world will evolve in our absence.
  • The Black Swan – I liked this book, but it was very dense at times.  He was quite funny in some parts, which was unexpected.
  • The Murder Book – Just so-so.  Something I read so we could get rid of it without guilt.
  • John Adams – Great book about an under-appreciated president.  Got a little misty at the end when he and Jefferson (SPOILER ALERT!) died.
  • Under the Banner of Heaven – Not a great effort from Krakauer.  There was probably too much to cover in just one book, although he did do a good job explaining a very bizarre faith.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I thought this was good, but perhaps a bit overrated.  I still think I’ll read the next in the series.
  • The Lost Symbol – I’ll admit it – I like the Dan Brown books.  His style doesn’t really bother me; you know what you’re getting, kind of like a summer popcorn movie.  I thought this was a good follow up to one of the best selling books of all time, which is a tough act to follow.
  • Casino Royale – I was very surprised how much I liked this.  Bond has some issues with women, which doesn’t come out as much in the movies.  I’ll definitely pick up some others in this series.

2009 Movies

Inspired by my friend Jake’s post on the same topic, I’ve decided to run down my year in movies.

  • In Bruge – Very good, darker than I expected. Made me wish I visited Belgium during my Europe trips.
  • Dexter: Season 1 – My favorite series of the year.
  • La Dolce Vita – I came away not liking this one, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all year.  This will require a second viewing.
  • Man on Wire – Very entertaining.  This is someone who loves life.
  • Burn After Reading – Good, not great.  Also darker than expected.
  • Dexter: Season 2 – Not quite as good as the first.
  • Blade Runner – It took me a long time to finally get around to this one.  It has been hyped too much and a bit too dated for my tastes.
  • I Am Legend – Disappointing.  Will Smith needs to stick to the thoughtful drama category.
  • The Edge of Heaven – I don’t remember this one very well, but know that I liked it a lot.  This lack of memory will be a recurring theme for the year (thanks to twins, I guess).
  • WALL-E – Much better than expected.  I don’t get the controversy that surrounded the message.
  • Brotherhood: Season 1 – Just OK.  We didn’t care about any of the characters.  Probably won’t pick up Season 2.
  • The Duchess – No memory of this at all.
  • Lust, Caution – Very good, beautiful film.  I picked it up for the NC-17 rating, and it turned out to be good for a whole bunch of other reasons.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera – Did not like this, although I didn’t much like the book either.
  • Slumdog Millionaire – Very good, but way over hyped.
  • Step Into Liquid – Good.  I am one step closer to seeing every surfing movie ever made.
  • Tsotsi – Pretty good, but I wanted to like the main character more.  Maybe that was the point.
  • Milk – Interesting story, thought Penn was pretty good.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Story was too much of a gimmick to ever make a great movie.
  • The Wrestler – Painfully good.  I can’t believe Rourke looks the way he does.
  • Frost/Nixon – Interesting, made me want to see the original footage.  The Nixon actor was excellent.
  • The Reader – Good, but forgettable.
  • Gran Torino – Great role for Eastwood.  Consistently loving his movies.
  • Lords of Dogtown – Can’t hold a candle to Dogtown and Z-Boys.
  • Weeds: Season 4 – This is holding up in the fourth season.  Nice twist at the end.
  • Changeling – Decent but not very memorable.
  • Mad Men: Season 2 – Very good, love that Roger Sterling.
  • Tell No One – Have it down as a highly rated movie, but don’t remember it that well.
  • 21 – Disappointing, book was so much better.
  • The Right Stuff – Exact opposite of 21, very true to the book and a great flick.
  • Superbad – Dumb, but was expected.
  • Deep Water – Interesting, depressing documentary about a sailor.
  • Flash of Genius – Pretty predictable. I think Kinnear has better roles in him.
  • Jeopardy: An Inside Look – The process of creating the questions/answers was very interesting.  Would have like more on Alex.
  • The Tao of Steve – Showing its age.  The main character was not at all redeeming.
  • Life After People – I was disappointed in this, and also in the book The World Without Us.  Can anyone do the “world post humans” concept well?
  • Revolutionary Road – Did not like this one either.  I wanted everyone to die in the end and I almost got my wish.
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona – Another beautiful film.  Decent story and acting.  All round good effort, but nothing like Match Point.
  • Entourage: Season 5 – I’ll keep sticking with this series even though it’s pretty predictable.
  • Following – Good for those wanting to see the Nolan body of work.  He’s just cutting his teeth here.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum – This has turned out to be a great series, even better than the Jack Ryan films or later Bond films.
  • John Adams – An amazing performance from Giamatti.  A good format for those wanting something faster than the book.
  • Dexter: Season 3 – It was a bit harder to get into this season, but it finished strong.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – Interesting perspective of the Holocaust.  There are many others that are more powerful, The Pianist for example.
  • The Proposal – Predictable, but better than expected.
  • Julia – Hands down the worst movie of the year.  I could have watched this at 2x speed and it still would have been too long.
  • Valkyrie – I was prepared to hate this because the loon Tom Cruise was in it, but I ended up liking it.
  • Duplicity – Good, but I found myself needing an org chart at times.  The old brain isn’t what it used to be.
  • Angels & Demons – Much better than The Da Vinci Code.  Beautiful in the Blu-Ray format.
  • Tyson – A surprise, very poignant and made me feel bad for this nut job.
  • Yes Man – Blah, tried too hard for the laughs, about 45 minutes too long.