A review of my life in 2006, or at least the bits that I want to share. (Previously: 2005 in review)
(or, the thing I do to get paid so I can have a life)
My summary would be that work generally sucked in 2006. Since I don’t write about work I can now remember the plenty of fun non-work things that happened during the year.
(or, how lucky I am to get paid to visit all these nice places)
I spent more nights away from home this year than any other, including a 5 week trip and a 7 week trip. There was a 12 week period where I was travelling for 9 of the 12 weeks.
Having said that, I probably travelled less distance than the last few years, but still enough to make me feel incredibly guilty about carbon emissions. I went on less trips, and spent more time in the places I visited. Great Circle Mapper has a diagram of the 258,880km I flew.
I added four new countries to my visited list: Morocco, China, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Five if you cheat and count Scotland.
Beijing was a stand out. I loved everything, from the sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City to just being amongst millions of people. Kids would stare and ask to take a photograph with you. I assume this was because they were visiting Beijing from somewhere more remote and it was the first time they’d seen foreigners. Or it could be that I’m a freak and they collect photos of freaks.
Morocco was also great - the most exotic place I’ve been to. I was annoyed to not have a camera, but that meant I spent time experiencing the place rather than taking photos of the experiences. I got terrible food poisoning and fell down a flight of stairs in a carpet shop but neither spoilt the trip in any way.
(or, how I can bore you by rambling on about films)
Warning: there might be some spoilers in here.
Overall I was very disappointed with movies of 2006. I didn’t see anything that I would call brilliant. The highlights of the year for me were comedies:
Borat was the funniest movie I’ve ever seen, even though it was quite repetitive and not as funny as watching a DVD with highlights from “Da Ali G show”. I was confused by the arguments and discussion about the movie being a comment on society. To me it was just a straightforward, but excellent, comedy. I didn’t suspect Sascha Baron Cohen of anything other than trying to make people laugh by saying/doing the unexpected (and that’s really what comedy is).
Plain and simple, Talledega Nights wakes up in the morning and pisses excellence. I was so impressed by how fast the movie started, with rapid-fire laughs for at least 30 minutes. The highlight was the dinner scene with Ricky saying grace (to the omnipotent Christmas baby Jesus) while his sons abuse their grandfather and his friend is complimenting his wife’s physical assets. And Sascha Baron Cohen was fantastic as Jean Girard from “Formula uuhnn”. Shake and bake!
Other good comedies: Little Miss Sunshine and Kenny (although I’m not sure it would be as amusing to a non-Aussie).
I had a great time with the singing and dancing penguins of Happy Feet. The story itself wasn’t great, and I was very annoyed to hear Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman use American accents. I also got the impression that Animal Logic were showing off some fancy digital effects when they were not really required for the story, something I don’t notice Pixar doing. But the dancing penguins made up for everything, and the soundtrack rocked.
The blockbusters of 2006 were fairly disappointing. MI3 was just average (and had an overly cheesy ending). Pirates of the Caribbean was fun but ridiculous. Superman Returns was painfully boring and lacked anyone with charisma (even Kevin Spacey bombed). XMen 3 was nowhere near as good as the excellent XMen 2. Poseidon was as bad as I expected it to be (the wave roared!!).
I spent some time thinking about The Illusionist and The Prestige, another case of two movies with very similar subjects releasing in the same year. While I enjoyed them both, I was ultimately disappointed by The Prestige. Where The Illusionist created a world which seemed to contain real magic until you discovered it was all a trick, The Prestige created a world where everything was trick until you discovered there was real magic. I’m always going to find it easier to get involved in a movie that is believable rather than one that relies on the impossible (and, in this case, ridiculous). I guess the novel’s author had a good reason for this, and the filmmakers can’t predict such a similar movie being released within months. I’m not really complaining here - both films where very enjoyable, looked fantastic and were well acted.
(FYI: I used the word “tricks” instead of “illusions” because I didn’t want to confuse it with the title of the film. I know that Gob says tricks are what a whore does for candy. I expect a call from the magicians’ alliance).
Casino Royale was my pleasant surprise for the year. I had concluded that Bond movies were going to continue being increasingly pathetic, but this one broke many of the traditions:
When the movie ended I immediately wanted to see more. I wanted to know what happens to Bond from that point on. I hope they continue the series in the same manner. I’m a little worried that this movie, as a prequel, was supposed to create the Bond we knew from previous films (and it does set it up that way) but it would be a terrible shame to destroy such an interesting character.
Lastly, here’s the films from 2006 that I suggest were crap: Firewall and Flightplan (both examples of criminals going using insanely complicated methods to carry out quite straight-forward crimes), the remake of the Pink Panther (why? why? was it attempting to be Zoolander-style funny) and The Chronicles of Narnia.
(or, stuff I listened to that I thought was better than the other stuff I listened to)
A pretty mainstream selection of favourite music this year:
Just so I’m not being completely boring, here’s an album that isn’t popular with the in-crowd: Justine Clarke - I like to sing. It’s meant for kids (Justine is from Play School) and it is great for singing along.
(or, I’d love to be a teenager again)
While I do own a Nintendo DS to keep me entertained while travelling, I thought my gamer days were well behind me. I have never been interested in getting an XBox or Playstation and I haven’t played a real computer game in many years.
But then came the Wii. It just looked so fun - I couldn’t resist. I loved that it was being promoted to non-gamers and that it wasn’t trying to compete in the bigger, better, faster world of Sony and Microsoft. As the Wii sold out immediately and I hadn’t pre-ordered, I was very lucky to find one a few days after release under the counter at Big W.
I’m enjoying it so much I can’t believe it.
I’m even playing Zelda! Yes, I’m pretending to be a elf-like boy warrior who is saving the world from the powers of darkness, and supposedly winning the Princess’s heart in the process. It has been a blast. Games are so much more impressive nowadays in terms of story and complexity. Sure, the graphics get better but that’s mostly fluff. These games are becoming more like immersive books that stretch your brain muscles.
The entire branding of the Wii is perfect. Everything looks beautiful, from the accessories and their packaging to the actual screen interface. It’s almost so good that you don’t notice it - everything just feels right. You don’t usually get such a completely uniform design aesthetic outside of Apple.
(or, it turns out you won’t get square eyes if you watch too much)
I relapsed into TV addiction in 2006. I’m not quite as bad as I was in school, but I did watch a lot. There are two main reasons:
I use those two reasons to justify not trying to cure the addiction.
I’ve been planning to write about my favourite TV shows for a while, so I’ll just mention the good shows I discovered in 2006.
Veronica Mars is my favourite show at the moment. It’s a high-school drama done right with a fantastically sassy and intelligent lead character. It’s not pretending to be anything more than it is, just lots of fun. I caught up on the first two seasons early in the year and am enjoying the third season that is in progress now. A special pleasure has been the consistent references to The Big Lebowski throughout the season.
House is similar. It’s been around for a while but I only found it in 2006. He’s by far the best character on television, and I’m almost decided on making Greg House my personal hero. I wish I could be him (or at least as smart, arrogant, funny and unfriendly).
(or, yet another addition to the Doolittle family)
My home welcomed Chase in 2006. He was born on the 6th of the 6th in 2006 and thus narrowly avoided being called Damien. Instead, he’s named after a character from the TV show House.
NooNoo and Bess quickly sorted the little doofus out, but poor Snow gets constantly harassed for play by Chase (Snow is his half-sister). Chase’s simple puppy brain hasn’t yet learnt the lesson from Pounce about who is the boss of the animals.
(or, if I didn’t have these I’d have to watch the in-flight movies)
My favourite podcasts where mostly from NPR, with the highlight being “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. I guess some people might call these time-shifted radio rather than podcasts.
My best “real” podcast was the Daily Podcast from Slate by Andy Bowers. With the exception of the political gabfests I found every topic interesting.
Other favourites: Ebert and Roeper, lots of Radio National, Enough Rope with Andrew Denton and the Ruby on Rails podcasts (nerd alert).
I tried to listen to some less-polished podcasts but everywhere I went I found morons rambling on or filling the space with annoying music tracks. I wanted information, not some fool trying to be funny. And if I wanted music I’d listen to my music, given that the device I’m using is a music player. I’ve nearly given up on everything but the more professional podcasts. End of rant.
(or, essential eating)
Easy: the banana. Due to the shortage in Australia bananas became yellow gold. I didn’t realise how much I would miss my daily banana. Luckily the end of the year saw prices return to normal.
(or, me wasting money again)
The 8G second generation black iPod nano, lovingly called Voldepod.
(or, me being proud of my country while watching a silly sport that I’ve never played)
I got completely swept up in the football World Cup, especially the performance of Australia, who hadn’t been to the finals since they used a cow’s stomach for a ball. For a game where nothing much happens 90% of the time it can be extremely nerve-wracking to watch. I might be the only person in Australia who thought that the penalty Italy were awarded in the last minute of the match was actually a penalty, but I still think Australia deserved to win.
What’s fantastic is the whole tournament will be remembered for one thing, and it didn’t involve any skill with a ball.
(or, get me out of here!)
I spent a couple of weeks near the beach in Tilba and then the Christmas period on a friends farm in the middle of nowhere. (It wasn’t really nowhere, but it felt like it to me). I loved both.
Having my digital camera and 60G fourth generation iPod stolen from my luggage. I travelled through Morocco, Prague and parts of Spain without a camera. Bummer.
Lastly, I feature myself as a lowlight. While I spent a lot of time with my work-related friends I was a failure with my non-work friends, especially Tom, Craig and Rachel (“hi” if you read this). It’s crazy to see people on the other side of the world more often than people 10 minutes away. I hope to change this in 2007.