The last few days everyone has been making those next year jokes.
I can’t believe I have to wait until next year to go to the dentist! Did you know we won’t see each other until next year? I promise, God, I won’t drink beer again until next year!
Either that, or they have been making lists. Lists recounting this year’s occurrences or lists trying to shape dreams into next year’s possibilities.
I like lists.
Are annual ‘best of’ lists arbitrary? Yeah, probably. But so are most temporal distinctions – that shouldn’t stop us from sharing some good things that human beings make. And this list includes things from before 2011, so it’s pushing boundaries and that sort of thing.
So here are a few.
- The first large group of people who were diagnosed on the autism spectrum are now young adults, and are facing adult problems in very particular ways. Two New York Times articles, the first about autism and romance and the second about autism and work are both fantastic. (Bonus: an excellent article about how the evolution of psychiatry has distorted our ideas about mental illness and its treatments.)
- Two stories about being lost at sea: the first about a Japanese man who lived on his roof in the middle of the ocean for days after being swept away by the tsunami, the second about some teenagers stranded without supplies for fifty-one days after stealing a boat.
- A story about the mind of an octopus. And love.
- The most damning article about Scientology ever written.
- And, finally: another year has passed since David Foster Wallace died. He would’ve cringed at most of the articles written about him since his death, but two this year were incredible: a look into David Foster Wallace’s self-help library and an honest review of The Pale King.
Five albums, arbitarily listed and with no accompanying information.
- Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Amazon | Spotify)
- The Antlers – Burst Apart (Amazon | Spotify)
- Okkervil River – I Am Very Far (Amazon | Spotify)
- Blind Pilot – We Are The Tide (Amazon | Spotify)
- Bon Iver – Bon Iver (Amazon | Spotify)
And: DJ Earworm’s 2011 United States of Pop mash-up, which means that in just five minutes you can recognize every popular song of 2011 without actually having to listen to each individually.
I didn’t see too many films in 2011, but I really like The New Yorker’s list. Here are the best films I saw this year:
Websites & Webstuff
The internet, thanks to its democratization and Web 2.0-ness and so on, is mostly drivel. Some excellent websites help track down the good stuff, one of which is Longreads: It is committed to finding pieces that are “not just for scanning but for reading, savoring and digesting.”
I don’t always want to read something I come across right away, which is why Instapaper is the best thing ever created. A simple read-it-later button sits in my browser and collects all of the content I want to read and saves it for when I have the time. It syncs automatically with iPhones and iPads. It sends all new articles directly to a Kindle. It’s free. Anyone with a commute or a desire not to try and remember everything they want to read would benefit from signing up for Instapaper.
This year, my love of Dropbox has really blossomed. Dropbox is free storage ‘in the cloud’, which doesn’t mean anything until you need a document that’s on a USB stick five hundred miles away. Then it means that all you have to do is log on to Dropbox from any device connected to the internet and the file is there waiting for you. Every document I write and every photo I take is automatically synchronized with Dropbox, and available anywhere in the world. If you do sign up, using my referral link will get us both extra storage.
Finally, it’s been a good year for music on the internet. Spotify, which freely and legally streams thirteen million songs, was released in the United States. It’s akin to a client like iTunes, but instead of hitting “Buy”, all you have to do is press “Play”. Another great music service is Turntable.fm. Earlier this year I wrote a story about Turntable, which is like those creepy AOL chat rooms from the 1990s with less predators and more music.
I’ll see you all next year.