I am perpetually behind the curve when it comes to pop culture.
I enjoy books, movies and music as much as the next person, but somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit of taking part in pop culture trends as they happen.
(Case in point, I’m only just now watching the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica).
I suspect my un-timeliness began during the two years I virtually lived in the wilderness while working for Canada’s national park service.
It’s hard to follow trends when you’re busy following wildlife (especially tiny wildlife, like skinks and ticks).
And seeing that birds didn’t start falling from the sky from me not watching the latest blockbuster movie or show for months or even years after its release, as an example, I’ve continued to take my time at taking in all media until the time is right for me.
There are, of course, downsides to this practice:
One, I often draw a blank when asked to contribute more than a cursory, social media-inspired commentary on the Next Big Thing.
And two, it makes it difficult for me to write “best of the year” blog posts in the true spirit that they’re meant to be written, i.e. pertaining to media that was actually released during the year in question. But I’m going to try.
I love a good challenge.
Recently on his blog, sci-fi/fantasy winter Chuck Wendig asked his readers to indicate their favourites for the year in 10 different categories. It is these 10 categories I will now attempt to answer solely with media from 2014.
1) Favorite novel of the year?
Books are where I’m the guiltiest in falling behind the curve, for my T(o) B(e) R(ead) shelf – both tangible and virtual – are overflowing.
Of the books I have read this year (which, for some reason, wasn’t nearly as many as in previous years), only two were published in 2014. Which, by near-process of elimination, makes The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, my favourite.
Which I guess I’m okay with. Even though this particular mystery – the crime, the culprit, and the motive – didn’t totally resonate with me compared to the first Robert Galbraith book, I think J.K. Rowling is an excellent writer with strong prose and great attention to detail, which she expresses in clever and nuanced ways (you’ll never read about a character’s stomach climbing into their throat in a J.K. Rowling novel).
She also creates memorable characters – not only main characters, like The Silkworm’s ex-military, amputee, son-of-a-rock star detective, Cormoran Strike, but also secondary characters – like Strike’s assistant, the clever, resourceful Robin – and even minor characters as well.
2) Favorite non-fiction book of the year?
I didn’t read any non-fiction published in 2014 (not surprising given much of my NF reading is in the name of historical research for my writing).
3) Favorite short story of the year?
Is it wrong to say my own for this question? Other than that, I don’t read short stories save those that others likewise post on their blogs.
4) Favorite movie of the year?
Movies are another category where I’m often late to the party. A general dislike for movie theatres keeps me from seeing most films on their first run, and the fact that I only watch movies/TV on weekends (largely devoting my free time during the week to writing) means I’ve yet to see many of the top movies released this year.
As well, as a media form, movies are my least favourite because,
- The book is always better
- I find the length and pace of movies insufficient to reveal the extent of character development I prefer and can more easily experience in books and TV series.
That said, I’ll throw my support behind the movie Belle, which I recently watched on the plane ride home from Australia.
Based on a true story, it depicts the life of Dido Belle Lindsay – the bi-racial daughter of a white, 18th century British Navy officer – as she navigates the aristocratic marriage market, set against the backdrop of a historically significant court case regarding the murder of an entire shipload of African slaves.
5) Favorite TV show of the year?
This is an easy one. So much so, I have two answers that span the divide between the dubious and the salubrious:
- The 100, a YA sci-fi set in a future where earth has been ravaged by nuclear war and all the known survivors live in an orbiting space station that is slowly breaking down. In order to lessen the burden on the station’s resources, and also to determine if Earth is yet habitable again, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent down to the surface. It’s a preposterous premise, I know, and yet the show is all kinds of awesome.
- Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. This documentary series, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, is a remake of the original done by Carl Sagan in the 80s. The series discusses the composition of the universe, the origins of life and evolution, and the contributions of various historical scientists to our modern understanding of the cosmos, all with breathtaking imagery and special effects showing what it’s like in outer space.
6) Favorite album?
Music is the one media format where I make a conscious effort to stay current, for I’m always eager to support the latest efforts of my favourite musicians. As well, because most musicians don’t put out new album every year, it’s much easier to keep up to date.
Without question or hesitation, my favourite album of 2014 is Unrepentant Geraldines, by my own personal goddess, Tori Amos. This album was released in time for both the 20th anniversary of her career as a professional musician and the 50th anniversary of her birth, the latter of which hasn’t seen a decline in her edge or relevancy as an artist in the least.
7) Favorite song of the year?
Obviously, my favourite song of 2014 comes from my favourite album of the year: Oysters, by Tori Amos, for its melody, imagery, and message are pure Tori and pure truth.
Honourable mention goes to the song Tessa from the Transformers: Age of Extinction EP by composer Steve Jablonsky. I love epic movie scores and this song in particular for its eastern influences and the presence of an ethereal male singing voice, which you don’t often encounter in movie music.
8) Favorite video game?
I haven’t played a video game since Tekken 3 in 1999, which just inspired me quit gaming and go learn some martial arts in real life.
9) Favorite app?
Okay, I’m going to cheat in this category. Evernote has been around a lot longer than 2014 but I only just downloaded it this year (October of this year no less).
I should have done so ages ago, for Evernote has really helped me boost my writing, productivity while on the go. As well, it possesses all the key features I was looking for in a word processing app, i.e. text formatting options, undo and redo functions, a recycle bin for deleted files, and of course, the ability to sync across multiple devices.
I’m also pretty fond of the recently upgraded Gmail app for Android, which is so much more colourful and user-friendly than the previous. I hope a Gmail upgrade for iPad is in the works next.
10) Favorite [something else] of the year?
My favourite concert, which was just a small one that I saw in Australia at the Melbourne Folk Club: an up-and-coming bluegrass trio called One Up, Two Down. Comprising an Aussie, a Kiwi, and a guy from North Carolina, USA, these dudes had the audience tapping and clapping along to their rousing melodies and tight harmonies. I bought their EP (which you can sample here), and eagerly await the release of a full-length album.
What were your favourite books, movies, albums, etc of 2014? Tell me about it in the comments.