Movable Type 3.2
December 31, 2010
The Best Movies I Saw in the Theater in 2010
Yes, that's kind of an unwieldy title, and I'm actually splitting this into two lists. At the beginning of 2010, I went to see five 2009 movies that were really good. Then I'll give you my top ten for 2010 itself. And there are a few 2010 movies I haven't seen yet but want to, so I'll probably end up doing a similar split list next year.
2009 Movies (Seen in 2010)
Top 10 Movies of 2010
My Top 10 Reads of 2010
I didn't read as much as I wanted to in 2010, but I guess I say that every year. (I have a crazy goal for 2011 to try to remedy this. More on that later.) I did manage to keep a list of the books I read all year, though, so that's something. I think the most important thing in my reading life this year was my discovery of YA urban fantasy, especially the works of Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Melissa Marr.
Anyway, here are my top ten, with some notes following:
1. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Morning Coffee (12/31/10)
Happy New Year's Eve! Let's clear out my "links to post" folder, eh? First, you can see the top story for each day of 2010 at the Guardian.
It's finally official: Murkowski won.
The oldest von Trapp child, inspiration for Liesl, has died.
What filibuster reform might look like.
The story of the first journalist to confirm John Lennon's death.
The Daily Beast's Oscar favorites
I'll admit I'm worried about what's going to happen on The Archers.
The rise of the "yes, but" headline.
The 19th-century British version of Wikileaks.
Henri IV's head: identified.
Colin Firth has broken with the Lib Dems.
Only in New York: clergy help a burger restaurant end a jinx.
Have you wondered what music Ian Somerhalder would use to seduce
December 30, 2010
My Five Favorite Albums of 2010
I realized while putting this together that I really didn't pay as much attention to music this year as I'd like - most notable is the fact that I'm not really aware of any new classical releases, and that's actually my favorite genre - and I'll try to remedy that next year. But here are my five favorite new albums. Please note that I am just saying favorite, not best. For example, I am in no way saying that Taylor Swift's album is musically better than any number of other things. What I'm saying is that I got it the day it came out and haven't managed to stop listening to it since. So, for better or worse, this is what grabbed me this year:
In list form:
And here, if this works correctly, you can listen to bits of all the songs. (It's just in a list, one album after the other, in the order listed above.)
Update: There is a God!
Ahem. Snooki is no longer dropping the New Year's ball in Times Square. The world might not actually end after all.
Morning Coffee (12/30/10)
Hello! Let's try to get back on track, (she says as she prepares to travel to CT yet again). Some of these links are pretty old at this point, but they provide interesting information/viewpoints even if the particular issues (START, Christmas) have been resolved.
Top 10 of 2010 from Dana Stevens, my favorite movie critic.
Two longish pieces you should really take the time to read: Christopher Beam on libertarianism and thisBoston Globe expose on retired generals taking jobs with defense firms.
A modernized Latina Sense and Sensibility? Starring Camilla Belle? I am . . . cautiously intrigued.
Best headline ever? Senate passes... everything.
Sugar plums: They're not what you think.
I don't think there's even much debate about the worst song of 2010.
This article about the last Kennedy leaving Washington (for now) made me cry, because I'm a dork.
The recently-widowed Julie Andrews is getting a lifetime Grammy.
I don't like Hockney's iPad nonsense either.
December 29, 2010
My principal creative achievement this Christmas was this towering, billowy Gingerbread-Pear Trifle:
It was delicious, if I do say so myself. And really, I'm not taking much credit: the recipe was from the Holiday Baking special issue of Cook's Illustrated and, as they always know what they're doing, I just followed instructions.
Here's a close-up on the pretty, pretty whipped cream top:
And the trifle in place on our rather Christmassy table:
(Yes, everything matches. It's Spode. You can tell because there's a Santa on top of the tree. Knock-offs generally have stars. Accept no substitutes!)
December 23, 2010
No time for Morning Coffee today - instead I got up and baked a gingerbread for the trifle I'm making on Christmas:
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated Holiday Baking issue. It smells divine.
December 22, 2010
Morning Coffee (12/22/10)
Hello! At this point I should probably just admit to myself and to you that blogging won't get back to normal until the new year. But I do have some links for you!
The Sandra Lee threat is real and spreading.
Knitting on planes is totally allowed. Really.
I am against the movement to get rid of caps lock.
Congress may allow iPads.
The campaign season never ends. Thank goodness. Primary debates are coming! Not that there are any official candidates yet, but whatever.
This new book on holiday punch sounds great.
Shakespeare in Love II? Must we?
December 17, 2010
Silver Linings and Golden Memories
Well, the silver lining here is that I have been reunited with my computer - and thus am more or less back to blogging - a week earlier than scheduled.
The reason why this is a silver lining and not just good news is that the reason why I'm back at my parents' house (where I left the computer) a week earlier than expected is for a funeral. My maternal grandmother's sister Margaret passed away a few days ago. She was 92 and had a good, long life, and had been ill for several years, so we are sad but not shocked. Deaths around the holidays always take on a slightly weird quality, don't they? The family will gather tomorrow, and after the funeral we'll probably go to some restaurant or someone's house, and things will be muted but when it comes down to it it won't be all that different from when we gather again next week for Christmas or the week after for New Year's Day. And that's as it should be, I suppose: holidays always bring up thoughts and memories of lost loved ones, so these accidents of timing only add immediacy to the bittersweet layer that always lurks just under the holiday joy.
Aunt Margaret had been too ill to attend most family events the past few years, so once - I think it was two Christmases ago - my parents and brother and I went to see her at her assisted living apartment after our main Christmas gathering. My dad and I both got new digital cameras that year, so we had them with us and kept taking pictures of everything - and each other - and Aunt Margaret thought that was hilarious. That's one of the few really specific holiday memories I have of her, so I'm happy that it's such a fun one. Mostly I remember her as a constant presence at family events, not as loud and gregarious as many members of the family, but always there with blunt opinions, a sense of humor, and a warm heart. And so the fabric of the family and of the holiday has changed this Christmas, as it always does, as it will keep doing each year, and we "muddle through somehow" with our memories of the past and hopes for the future.
Updated to add: Aunt Margaret was the one who made struffoli - traditional Italian Christmas honey cookies - every year, so I was delighted to find this on The Awl today.
December 14, 2010
Hello out there! Sorry for disappearing on you. I was traveling, and now my computer seems to be taking an extended vacation with my parents in CT, while I'm back in NH. I'm blogging on the iPad, which is doable but a little clunky, and makes it much harder to add links, video, etc. So some of the more complicated holiday posts I'd planned will probably end up waiting until next year, alas. I'll try to come up with something, though. Thanks for your patience!
December 09, 2010
Morning Cheer (12/9/10)
Good morning! Cookies, anyone?
That's what I've been doing this morning. Today is my Friday, and I'm off to Connecticut tonight and then New York tomorrow! I'll try to set up a few posts for the weekend in advance, but we'll see how it goes.
Britain's whole "number one single at Christmas" thing is adorable and quaint, but this John Cage contender is awesome.
Yes, Gibbs was making West Wing jokes yesterday.
Blue Valentine: No longer NC-17.
TWoP Gallery: TV's Naughty and Nice of 2010
The RSS reader summary of this straightforward Times item about Oprah picking Dickens for her book club read, in its entirety, "The author is not expected to appear on her show."
Christine O'Donnell is just . . . I don't know. There are no words.
If you only read one piece on Elizabeth Edwards, make it this one by Ezra Klein.
December 08, 2010
Morning Cheer (12/8/10)
Good morning! Wednesday. Right? I think. I'm having trouble keeping track of that this week. Elizabeth Edwards died yesterday - very sad. I'll try to round up some of the links to stories about her for you tomorrow. Today is the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's death, so I should post his Christmas song, even though it has never been one of my favorites.
Related: Is Paul McCartney the "Most Uninteresting Person Ever to Inspire a Mountain of Literature"?
Matt Bai and Matt Taibbi: two different people. Honestly, I did that with Michael Dirda and Michael Dibdin for years. Except I never actually met either of them, so it was less embarrassing.
These may be the worst interview questions ever.
Google has a new e-bookstore.
It seems like there are Russian spies all over the place recently.
Uh-oh. Mistletoe under threat!
People are still trying to make George Pataki happen.
Oh, but speaking of "inexplicably still trying to make people happen," Eliza Dushku is off her pilot.
I would like the German Christmas market craze to catch on here, please.
December 07, 2010
Hello! I feel I have been neglecting you in the cheer department. I'm sorry. I had so many big plans but then work is busy and I am tired and . . . you know. I am working on things, but they are coming along more slowly than anticipated. This evening I DID finish almost all of my shopping, so that's something. I just have a few more things that I'll be looking for during my trip this weekend. I even had one of those Amy March moments of putting back a dress I was going to buy for myself so I could buy more for the needy family I "adopted," so now I'm ruining all actual virtue involved by telling you I feel vaguely virtuous about it.
My Hanukkah cards finally went out, but there is STILL TIME to send me your address if you would like a Christmas or general winter CHEER card!
Oh! But I do have a little book review for you . . .
I don't remember whether I mentioned that I am GOING TO SEE The Nutcracker this weekend. In New York! The New York City Ballet! The Balanchine version! This one. When I was a kid, once of my absolute favorite books was called A Very Young Dancer, and it was all about a girl who played Clara in Balanchine's Nutcracker in 1976 or so. The book is (sadly) out of print, and my copy is MISSING, but I got it out of the library so I can reread it before I go. But ANYWAY. I was looking at the display of holiday books at the library and I grabbed Nutcracker Nation, partially because of my trip and partially because it's the sort of thing that would jump out at me anyway.
It was not at all what I expected, and that's a good thing. I didn't look at it that closely before I checked it out, and I was expecting. But that was good! I thought it was going to be one of those pop history Christmas books, but it was actually fairly academic - published by Yale University Press. It told the history of the ballet and then did a sociological and ethnographic study of a few productions in the 1990s. The author spent months with the dance companies and did extensive interviews. There's also plenty about other productions, movies, The Nutcracker in popular culture, etc. If you're interested in dance and social history, I definitely recommend it.
Oh, did I mention that my goal for 2011 is to read 100 books, and to write at least a few sentences here about each one? So that should be exciting.
I should go get some sleep, but I will TRY to have a playlist for you tomorrow. Good night!
Morning Cheer (12/7/10)
Good morning! It's Pearl Harbor Day, and Julian Assange was just arrested. And I'm rushing off to try to get an oil change before work, so I have little for you this morning, except eek! Someone stole a Stradivarius! I realized I haven't posted any Hanukkah music yet this year, so here's one of my favorites:
December 06, 2010
Morning Cheer (12/6/10)
Ah, Monday again. Three more work weeks until Christmas! Today is Dave Brubeck's 90th birthday, so we're going to take a break from the Christmas music for him:
I can get behind the Awl's "JUST DRINK BOURBON, YOU WUSSES" campaign. I mean, alcohol-infused whipped cream could be interesting on some desserts, but just as an alcohol delivery method? No.
December 05, 2010
Sunday Brunch Cheer (12/5/10)
Good morning! What's everyone up to today? I think I'm going to stay home and try to get stuff done around the house. I went and saw Tangled yesterday, and it was adorable. Highly recommended.
Hee. The lieutenant governors had a convention.
This project doing statistical research on Victorian novels is fascinating.
Does Apple have its eye on console games?
Marilyn Stasio's Notable Crime Books of 2010, which includes the amazing line "To be really bold, give gifts that make people cry."
December 04, 2010
Personalized Gift Guide: 5-Year-Old Girl
I offered to come up with gift suggestions for your hard-to-buy-for friends and relatives, and a friend has taken me up on the offer! I'm not going to name/link her just in case her kids are wily enough to find this. Knowing (of) her kids, it wouldn't surprise me. (Note: This friend is Canadian, so I've used Canadian links and prices where possible.)
The recipient: Her 5-year-old daughter
So, trying to avoid actual toys . . .
A baking book: Amazon.ca has Sara Lewis's Kids' Baking and Linda Collister's Baking with Kids. Oh, and Cakes for Kids looks fun. Wait, I just remembered that this child is also gluten-free, so scratch those cookbook ideas for her, but I'll leave them up here for others who might be interested. I don't see any gluten-free cookbooks designed for kids to use themselves, but, you know, someone should get on that. There's certainly a market.
Cookie cutters: Fun and (reasonably) practical! I have a set of 100 I got for $20 at a craft store, and they cover all seasons, letters, sports, etc. They're plastic, which would be easier for kids to handle. Here are animals and letters and numbers.
Other baking paraphernalia: There are some kids' baking sets, but they don't look that great. I'd go right to adult stuff - maybe some of the brightly-colored silicon stuff if you like that sort of thing - and look for fun shapes - I've seen cake pans in the shape of animals, Christmas themes, etc. Along these lines, or these. Or, oh!
How about a cupcake kit? Get her her very own cupcake pans, paper liners, some little jars of sprinkles and other decorations, and a cupcake stand on which to display her creations. For a child not on a special diet, you could also throw in one of the multitude of adorable cupcake cookbooks out there.
Any budding world dictator needs a fun coin bank to save her pennies to finance the revolution, right? This one has some sort of magic art and makes your coins disappear. Or Paint Your Own Piggy Bank! And I was looking for some sort of coin sorter but couldn't find one. Hmm.
Books! Books are always good, but I have no idea what she or her siblings already have. I think this kid might find mythology fun - D'Aulaires, of course, is the best. I was trying to find a series of biographies of explorers, to stay with the world domination theme, but I keep getting Dora the Explorer results. Ooh, So You Want to Be an Explorer? looks good. I also love Klutz books - they're really well-made activity and craft books with kits.
Craft kits, actually, are good for when you have too many toys, because theoretically they're consumable and don't just sit around, and at least they're an active, creative thing rather than another piece of plastic. And this girl has a crafty big sister, so maybe having some of her own stuff helps keep the little one out of the big sister's stash? One can hope. (Not that I'm suggesting that these children are anything but perfectly behaved at all times. Totally just extrapolating from my own experience here.) I love the Creativity for Kids brand, and it looks like they're available in Canada.
Since she likes stuffed animals, suggesting more stuffed animals probably isn't helpful. But how about somewhere for the stuffed animals to live? I had an open-topped toy box just for my stuffed animals, and that was nice.
I know they have a Nintendo Wii. How about Where's Waldo? or Just Dance Kids or Playmobil Circus? And as a bonus, I think they should get Epic Mickey as a joint gift for the whole family, because it looks awesome but I have no Wii, so someone should get it and play it on my behalf.
December is for reading.
I know, I know. December is for so many other things. Baking and shopping and decorating and watching bad Christmas movies on ABC Family. But that's why you should take some time out to relax and destress - and read. Here to help: Suzan Izik's ToBeReMo (To Be Read Month, I think). You can sign up for whatever level of difficulty you'd like. Because I'm insane, I signed up for the "Sleep Much?" level, which is 15 books or more. We'll see how that goes. I will be counting some rereads. Of course, I'm already a little behind since it's the fourth and I haven't actually finished a book yet, but I'm hoping to rectify that this weekend. Who's joining me?
MORNING CHEER (12/4/10)
Good morning! Happy Saturday! My weekend plans consist of cleaning, Christmas shopping, reading, and maybe seeing a few movies. You?
Important Notice: It has come to my attention that some people might not realize that Ari Shapiro is hot. Now you know.
Okay, I have a LOT of links for you today, because I've been getting behind. Ready?
Before we get into the rest of this nonsense, you should really take a moment and read Yglesias on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's short but important. And then Jamelle Bouie on the Catholic League and National Portrait Gallery. Same deal there.
People. PEOPLE. The President will not get a serious primary challenge. Charles will not and should not abdicate for William. Can we just STOP with these two rumors already?
Yes, food is part of the culture wars.
The Roosevelt Island Tramway has reopened.
The Times talks to a Christmas tree man.
People love single-focus restaurants.
I would be in favor of a port revival.
Hey look, a TV Advent Calendar.
This is the best explanation of the Comcast/Netflix thing that I've read.
I have been waiting for metamorphosis puns for months. Thank you, Byron Tau!
A slightly different take on the economics of gift-giving.
Automats have always sounded kind of fascinating.
Amazon Prime is a genius business move. And yes, I figured, considering the amount of money I now spend with them because of it.
Manjoo is right: disposable computing is the future.
I really kind of want some of these Lego architecture sets.
I now want to have holiday parties just to make these drinks.
Baking isn't scary if you just follow the recipe.
The Bartender Who Played with Fire isn't quite as weird as a Stieg Larsson book, but it's close.
December 03, 2010
Ah, Friday . . .
The week is finally over. Hallelujah. I decided it was time for some pizza:
I need a good crust recipe. Anyone have one?
And make sure you see the best thing on the Internet today . . .
I'll have more actual content for you tomorrow.
MORNING CHEER (12/3/10)
Happy Friday! My God, it has not come a moment too soon. One of my goals for the weekend is to finish planning out my baking and card-sending and all that. Wish me luck.
This Steve Martin story is completely ridiculous. Really, people? Really?
The Times has named their Ten Best Books of the year.
The real-life Swedish murder that came before Larsson and Mankell.
The state of the Hannukah song.
There are no Kennedys in Congress right now. Who's next?
Even when you look at it from a purely economic standpoint, Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits makes no sense.
I liked this article about the NYT selling their share of the Red Sox just for this line:
Even in 2002, the general consensus was that a print newspaper with $75 million to invest would have been better served throwing the money--literally throwing it--at the first programmer, TED panelist, or bronchial hobo who said he had an idea for making money off the Web.But I'd also forgotten they owned the Sox!
The Atlantic's Ideas of the Year
What's with Betsy Rothstein?
I like Doctor Who as much as the next girl, but I'd only pay $4500 for a TARDIS bed if the Doctor actually CAME WITH IT.
December 02, 2010
Holiday Book Spotlight: The Gregor Demarkian Mysteries
(First in an occasional series on my favorite holiday-themed books.)
Jane Haddam's first Gregor Demarkian novel, Not a Creature Was Stirring, is set at Christmas, and she moves through any number of other holidays (and back to Christmas a few times) in the next twenty-four volumes. Demarkian is a retired FBI agent who moves back to the Armenian neighborhood in Philadelphia where he grew up, and takes on cases as favors for various powerful people he knows. These definitely aren't cozies, holiday themes notwithstanding; they're more along the lines of Elizabeth George or P.D. James.
The later books are a little less holiday-themed than the earlier ones, but they're all great, and this is one series that, on average, improves as it goes rather than declining in quality. Unfortunately, the first bunch of books are out of print, but you can probably find them at your library. If you can't, just jump in later. It looks like the fifteenth, Skeleton Key (set at Halloween) is the earliest in print, but I started with the next, True Believers, and then went back and hunted down the older ones. The mysteries themselves stand alone, but if you read out of order, you will be spoiled for some events in the characters' personal lives. (It didn't really bother me in this case, and I care more about that sort of thing than most.)
In defense of Taylor Swift...
I've been listening to Swift's new album kind of constantly since it came out, so I wrote about her a little over at Alyssa's.
MORNING CHEER (12/2/10)
My God, is this week over yet? No? Really? Oh, but happy Hannukah to those celebrating!
The last Mitford sister has published her memoirs.
This history of ballet sounds fascinating.
This article about how Kate Middleton will fit into court protocol is detailed and fascinating, but sheesh, people. There are rules. Just follow them. Why all the drama?
This piece about the student demonstrations in London is fascinating, and has a picture of the best protest sign EVER.
December 01, 2010
Oh to be in Ambridge...
I've spent the last three days catching up on dozens of episodes of The Archers, so over at Alyssa's place I went on about it for a while. I also found this shop of Archers stuff, and I want practically everything. Sigh.
MORNING CHEER (12/1/10)
Oh, hey, look, it's December! Wow. Monday and Tuesday went pretty smoothly, at least around here, but today is a little rockier so far, so here's a cute video to ease you into Wednesday: A cat adopts a baby squirrel and teaches it to purr.
What are diplomatic cables, anyway?
I've always wanted to try making sourdough. This Slice Starter-Along might be enough to make me finally do it.
You should really read this essay by a Harvard student who was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child.
I've been looking for a list like this: 13 Movies to See Before the Oscars
I could get behind the drip coffee backlash backlash. I mean, seriously. A few minutes ago I tried to put a coffee filter in my teacup. The more labor-intensive coffee preparation methods sound nice and all, but don't ask me to do that before I've had caffeine.
The new Nutcracker movie sounds AWFUL, and that makes me sad.
Bob Geldof knows he wrote the worst Christmas song ever. He's sorry.