Monday, January 31, 2011

Highlights of 2010, or, Almost On Time

2010 was, as Dicken's put it, the best of times and the worst of times. As I put it, 2010 was also the mediocorist* of times.

Best Books of 2010 - This category really gets a mediocrity score of 6. I have definitely had better.

1. David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Prince & Wright. This will only be an interesting book to a small portion of the world, but it provides a really fascinating view into the workings of the President and Prophet of the Mormon Church. Thanks to detailed notes kept by McKay's secretary, Clare Middlemiss, we now have this insider's view into an otherwise mysterious position.

2. Cecil’s Essentials of Medicine - Also only interesting to a small group of people, but this is also a great, appropriately detailed book that does not try and beat the reader senseless like Harrison's, while also giving enough background to help you remember, well, the essentials. I only wish I could say I'd read it all, or remembered half of what I've read.

3. All Things Brandon Sanderson - I've been reading this one dang series for far too long, and now we only have one book left. That alone would be enough to make Towers of Midnight a book-of-the-year in my lists, but this book was also sweet. Then Sanderson published two other great novels this year, too. The dude is really cruising.

4.Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut - I agree with my buddy Mark. I liked Cat's Cradle more, but that does not make this less of a great novel in its own right.

5. The Road, Cormac McArthy - easier to understand than No Country for Old Men, and deserving of the Pulitzer.

Movies of the Year, or rather, The Shows Bryce Really Liked - Mediocrity score of zero. This was a solid year for films.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - This show was so incredible. At least that's how I remember it. I saw it after being up all night at work, basically half-drunk with sleep-deprivation. This show hit all the right notes for my slap-happy self, and though it has a silly portrayal, the theme of tackling life as an adult and the unforgettable line, "I lesbians you," make my totally-awake-self agree with my definitely-impaired-self: this show rocked.

2. The Kids Are All Right - This was another winner (speaking of lesbians . . . ). I saw this show post-call as well, but I have no hesitation in this placement. My friend Crystal summed it well afterward by saying, "I can't remember a movie where I have been so interested in every single character." A really touching film. And funny. And with lesbians.

3. Exit Through The Gift Shop - Banksy is awesome.

4. The Social Network - Man this show had smart, snappy dialogue.

5. True Grit - The Coen Brothers are also awesome.

6. Toy Story 3 - I don't understand how Pixar is making films this good.

Best Albums - 2010 was an exceptional year. Mediocrity score of -5.

The New Pornographers - Together

The National - High Violet

Jonsi - Go

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Sleigh Bells - Treats

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

Florence + The Machine - Lungs

Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away

Metric - Fantasies

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Best Concerts of 2010- Mediocrity score of -10. Really. (Salt Lake has really shown up in this circuit. Mediocrity score: -3)

Best free shows: The Twilight Concert Series is just amazing. Beirut and The New Pornographers were absolutely incredible. I still can't believe I passed up Girl Talk for a bad Mediterranean dinner. The Utah Arts Festival had some great (basically) free shows, too, especially with Cadillac Sky.

Best Venue: The State Room, where I saw Punch Brothers. You know them as Chris Thile's band, and you know Chris Thile as the Mandoliner* from Nicklecreek. Man can he play.

Best ever: Jonsi. The only thing that was not absolutely incredible about this concert was the venue. This is undoubtedly the show that all others will be judged against for the rest of my life. Or the foreseeable future, at least. Runner up: Sufjan Stevens.

Most memorable: Freelance Whales, at Kilby Court. Most memorable for a great show, some great music, and just a great night.

Best in Columbus: Temper Trap. $5. Such a sweet disposition.

I am still bitter, though, that I missed the incredible lineup at the end of medical school, when Vampire Weekend, Teagan & Sarah, Passion Pit, and Band of Skulls were all playing in a three day span. But who wouldn't rather spend 36 hours driving 2000 miles from Columbus to San Diego? And then I missed Vampire Weekend again in Salt Lake because of call. Just like I missed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (quite possibly the most perfect piece of music - ever) again. But given the incredible concerts I did see this year, even I don't feel bad for me. And 2011 is looking even better.

*It is a word. Google it. Even if it's only on my blog.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hope For A Brighter Future, or, Waxing Philosophical

It being Civil Rights Day, I read MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail today. Here are a few thoughts from a 21st Century, worn-out, Mormon (eek), male(gasp) mind. Maybe we as Utahns, Americans, and people, can be a little better at attempts at dialogue and proving contraries. Then we can pay attention to what actually matters.* I think Mr. King would be happy about that.

From NYT article A Tale of Two Moralities, Paul Krugman (Nobel Laureate):

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.

This deep divide in American political morality — for that’s what it amounts to — is a relatively recent development. Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it. As many analysts have noted, the Obama health reform — whose passage was met with vandalism and death threats against members of Congress — was modeled on Republican plans from the 1990s.

And from MLK Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood...

RIP Mr. King. Hopefully.

*People, if you're a Democrat, and money, if you're a Republican.