My 2006 Favorites

Yep, I’m joining the ranks of bloggers who write about their favorite pop culture releases of the past year. Sad, isn’t it?


This one’s easy: Stadium Arcadium is hands-down my favorite album of the year. I agree with Fred Wilson that this double album would’ve been better if it was pared down to a single CD, but figuring out which songs to remove would’ve been tricky because even the weakest tracks are enjoyable. I’ve witnessed many of my favorite bands disintegrate or turn into caricatures of themselves in the 15 years since I graduated from college. Not so with the Chili Peppers – this album shows them getting better with age.

Honorable mention: The Beatles Love. The mashups are hit-and-miss, but the CD is worth its weight in gold for the digitally remastered versions of “A Day in the Life,” “Revolution” and “I Am the Walrus” (three of my all-time favorite songs).


United 93 was the film that had the biggest impact on me this year. I initially avoided this movie because I mistakenly thought it was a cheap attempt to cash in on 9/11, but now I wish I would’ve seen it while it was still in theaters. United 93 is more respectful to history than any film I can remember, and it moved me much more than I expected it to.

Honorable mention: An Inconvenient Truth. I watched Al Gore’s presentation on global warming two weeks ago, and it was an eye-opener – especially since I stepped outside after viewing it and discovered it was 70°F (definitely not the norm here for the middle of December). That’s like hearing a banjo right after watching Deliverance.

And I’ll give a second honorable mention to Monster Road, a documentary released on DVD this year about the bizarre world of animator Bruce Bickford. If you like weird movies, this will be right up your alley.

Video Games

It’s rare that I have time for video games these days, and when I do play it’s usually something like Unreal Tournament. But this year my favorite game was a little different: Lego Star Wars II. My son saved up for this game over the summer, and the day he bought it we played it together for six hours straight. I doubt I’d enjoy playing Lego Star Wars II by myself, but playing it with a seven-year-old was an absolute blast.

Honorable mention: GameTap. Alright, so it’s not actually a video game – it’s a video game service. After signing up for GameTap, I downloaded a ton of classic games like Zaxxon and Joust. It was fun to wax nostalgic over the quarter-munchers I played in the arcade when I was a kid.


I read a lot of blogs, but Creating Passionate Users is one of the few that causes me to drop everything when it has a new post. I can’t say I’m always happy to read what Kathy Sierra has to say, though – all too often she points out mistakes in software design and usability that I’ve been guilty of :)

Honorable mention: The Dilbert Blog. I’m not a huge fan of Scott Adams’ comic strip (I’ve worked at a few Dilbertesque companies, so I find the strip too realistic for my tastes), but his blog has caused more coffee to be spilled (or spurted) onto my keyboard than anything else I’ve read this year.

Ray Harryhausen Weekend

CyclopsThis weekend I introduced my kids to the magic of Ray Harryhausen, who created some of the world’s greatest movie monsters (including my personal favorite, the cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad).

I loved monster movies when I was a kid, so it was great fun watching some of them again while curled up with my children.  I was afraid that they’d be unimpressed by the rubbery creatures – after all, they’ve both been exposed to the technical wizardry of the Star Wars films – but they were as spellbound as I was by Harryhausen’s creations.

My five-year-old daughter Hannah in particular was thrilled by them.  At 6:00 this morning she crawled out of bed, crept into my office, and asked, “Can I watch Sinbad again?”  So I shut down my email, and we started our day by watching The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

No Bitching!

The other night my wife and I were watching Misery on network TV, and I was surprised by how much violence was left uncensored. Given America’s current political climate, you’d think that graphic violence would be as frowned upon as a wardrobe malfunction, but apparently not. The scene at the end of the movie where the characters played by James Caan and Kathy Bates fight to the death was left intact, even the part where a bloody Kathy Bates is bashed senseless with a heavy typewriter.

Before Kathy Bates is killed, though, James Caan calls her “a crazy bitch” – except the word “bitch” was censored out.

I’m not sure what to make of this. The network censors were perfectly fine showing a bloody killing, but didn’t want to offend anyone with a swear word? What a strange country I live in.

Big Fish

I’ve always admired Tim Burton’s imagination and enjoyed his movies, even if many of them are uneven. Since I missed Big Fish when it was in theaters last year, I’ve been looking forward to seeing it on DVD. Well, last night I finally watched it – and now I really wish I’d seen it on the big screen.

Forget the poor reviews. This was – by far – his best work, and ranks as one of my favorite movies. Watch it if you get the chance!

(Yeah, I know this has nothing to do with my software, but I’m a movie buff as well as a software guy, so what the heck…)

Snakes, Sharks and Unexpected Associations

I love how the Web is full of unexpected associations that end up exposing me to new things.

After reading Don Box’s post about Frank Zappa’s “Baby Snakes” DVD, I immediately bought a copy on I’d seen Baby Snakes years ago, and although I wasn’t wild about most of the music on it (I usually love Zappa, but there’s too much of his “gotta pay the bills with cheap laughs” lyrics here), I remember being completely blown away by Bruce Bickford’s stunning animation.

A couple of days later the DVD arrived, and once again I was amazed by Bickford’s mind-boggling work. I Googled for more about Bickford, and discovered that a documentary about him will premiere soon. Reading on, I noticed that the documentary’s musical score was created by Shark Quest, a group I’d never heard of.

I figured any group that could write the score for a film about Bruce Bickford would be worth listening to, so back to I went. A minute later I ordered a Shark Quest CD, which I’m listening to right now – and I think it’s great.

So, thanks Don, for introducing me to some new music :)