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Ten best things of 2009

Compiling a list of the ten best of anything is always a bit of a leap in the dark. For example, list the ten best golfers in the world today and do you include Tiger Woods? Two months ago that was a no-brainer, but in the middle of his self-imposed break is he still as competitive as ten of the other best players? Despite how it seemed, Tiger never won every tournament he entered at the height of his game. And now?

Top ten lists fall victim of the flux of time. What’s an acclaimed film now loses some stature over time until it merely becomes a footnote—beloved by some, forgotten by more. Then there’s the question of how anyone can judge the best of something without experiencing all of it? If I were to make a list of the ten best films of the year I would have to sheepishly admit to having not yet seen critical darlings such as Precious or An Education, both of which I look forward to viewing.

Instead, this year I’ve compiled a broader list of the ten best things of the year to me personally. To further complicate things, I’m not even tackling the task of ranking these ten items. That’s right folks, for all you know the fourth list item could be number ten. Who knows? Not you, and perhaps it’ll make the list slightly less stressful for you.

Avatar
My dad used to say the best film of the year should be judged as the one people will still be watching and talking about twenty years from now. It’s a fairly logical approach, and by it Avatar would be my best film of the year. While others might have presented better acting performances or more gripping, gritty narratives, none made me relish in the experience of film quite so much. The scene where Jake finally takes flight is as enjoyable as the waterslide sequence in Goonies, the trench run in Star Wars, or the airport rescue chase in Toy Story 2. It lit up my face and reminded me why, despite all the annoying texters, I still love going to the movies.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Sony’s much hyped sequel was simply the best time I had playing a video game this year. While titles like Batman: Arkham Asylum deserve credit for finally making a decent game of the Caped Crusader, no other game ever has fully captured the feeling of riding a roller coaster while watching Raiders of the Lost Ark quite like Uncharted 2 did. It reminds us that not only do games need to be well-written with great voice-acting and graphics, but they also need to be a blast to play and haunt your dreams when you’re away from them.

Dollhouse
Joss Whedon has had a hand in three of my favorite television shows over the past ten years, including Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. Dollhouse is now his fourth on that list. While many have criticized it for being too slow in developing or too boring, Whedon has shown like a great novel his work is a slow burn revealing its genius the further it goes along. It has also proven to be perhaps the single most feminist show in the history of television, while slyly luring in teenage boys with the lure of women in short skirts. If for nothing else Dollhouse deserves praise for being so cunning.

Barack Obama sworn in as President
You may hate the man or his politics, but this year we saw an event that many figured they never would—a black man sworn in as President of the United States. In the same way that Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin would be a triumph despite any personal shortcomings, Barack Obama represents a great sign of progress in this country. Minorities may still not be on equal footing with whites in most arenas, but at least the opportunity and pathway have been lit for a generation.

“Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann
In full honesty, I haven’t read this. My wife’s recommendation puts it on this list, as I’m currently making my way through the newest by Jon Krakauer and Malcolm Gladwell. However, she raves about it as one of the best books she’s read in a while, and listing it seems far less self-serving than “Daniel X: Watch the Skies” by a certain Ned Rust (brother-in-law). Actually, just pick up all four books while you’re at it.

“Must Be Santa” music video by Bob Dylan
A few years back Bob Dylan famously appeared in a Victoria’s Secret ad and was accused of selling out. My philosophy has always been that if an entire generation has placed you into the position of being their voice through song for forty plus years, there should be some reward at the end. Dylan’s Christmas album seems to be him continuing to do exactly what it is he wants to do, and while it may not be the most important music of his career, it certainly comes close to being the most gleeful. Watch the music video for this song in particular and marvel at how he channels both Tom Petty and Dr. Demeto at once.

Steelers and Peenguins win championships
Here we go Pittsburgh, here we go!

Ty is born and Jill gets married
In a year that saw loved ones pass on (including my mother-in-law’s brother just last night), and many friends suffer through separations, it was good to have the occasional reminder that good news still exists. My brother and his wife welcomed their second child, Tyler, last January. My good friend Jill got married in June in the only wedding I made it to the whole year. Of course, they weren’t the only highlights. Cousins gave birth to at least two children (this is likely higher, but I’m from the south and tend to lose count on cousins), and at least a few friends found out they were expecting (including my sister). That’s a pretty good year.

Professor Hobo restarts publication
Obviously.