2011 has begun, but that doesn't mean my look back at 2010 is quite over. Today I've got my favorite list of them all - everything else that I loved about the year that doesn't fit into the categories I usually review on the Totally Rad Show. These are ten items or activities that enriched my year, that I'd like to recommend.
I love to travel, but don't remember a year in which I've had more opportunities to go more places, or it has meant more to my life. I was fortunate to be able to take a trip to Hawaii with my family, a wonderful rendezvous in Paris with my girlfriend, a hiking adventure in Bryce Canyon, Utah with @amtrekker and friends, several trips to Canada for work and pleasure, our annual trek to San Diego for Comic Con, and a few jaunts up to the San Francisco Bay Area, all in 2010. It can be expensive and stressful at times, but I am a firm believer that nothing is more interesting, educational, or fun than venturing away from home. Near or far, travel added more to my year than anything else.
2. WTF Podcast with Marc Maron
I make my living creating content for the web, and have hosted or participated in many of the top podcasts on the Internet. I can safely say that WTF with Marc Maron is the best use of the medium I have ever experienced. I LOVE THIS SHOW. As my friends can attest, I reference it constantly. I have learned so much about art and artists, the creative process, comedy, life... I could go on and on. On the surface, it is a standard interview show focusing on stand-up comedy (with a who's-who list of guests), but the secret is Maron's relentless honesty. He is so unflinchingly truthful about his own insecurities, opinions, and flaws, his guests can't help but join in. The result is a conversation so revealing and honest it never fails to be the most thought-provoking, inspiring way to spend my time. Plus, it is damn funny, and has opened me up to a ton of comedians I never knew I loved. Proof that truth is always the most engaging thing in art.
3. Volunteering at Comfort Zone Camp
Thanks to Totally Rad Show editor extraordinaire Mike Gaines for introducing me to this life-changing experience. I'll let our episode of TRS about it do most of the talking, but just add that volunteering and having a positive impact is incredibly rewarding. I know as well as anyone that finding the time and motivation to sign up to do something in your community can be daunting, but it really does feel great - even better than watching a great movie or downing an epic boss in WoW.
A few of my early-adopter friends have soured a bit on the iPad, but not I. I continue to use it every day, all day long, and it remains my favorite tech purchase of 2010. It is my preferred web surfing experience, even without flash, and I consider it the best airplane device ever invented - everything I could want on a flight is right there: books, videos, and games. Take my laptop, take my phone, but please don't take my iPad.
5. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Though it was released long before 2010 began, The Name of the Wind is the best book I read this year. I am a huge fantasy novel fan (The Song of Ice and Fire books ranked highly on my list last year), but few are as entertaining or well-written as Ruthfuss' first. Plus, it is about an actor and lover of words who becomes a badass. How could I not love it?
6. The Dice Tower podcast (Honorable Mention: Little Metal Dog Show)
My top 5 of everything else last year featured my newfound discovery of designer boardgames. Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Cutthroat Caverns and more helped build a love for the hobby in 2009. That love grew in 2010 (and got intense and expensive, as a forthcoming blog post will surely attest), fueled by the excellent boardgaming podcast, The Dice Tower. Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer make for affable hosts who know their stuff, and the wealth of informed, interesting contributors create a wonderful variety show. As an honorable mention, I'll throw in The Little Metal Dog Show - another fantastic board game podcast, looking at the hobby from the British perspective. As a one-two punch, those two shows have given me many hours of entertainment away from my gaming table this year.
7. Taking the physical challenge
2010 was a banner year for me in terms of having a go at things I'd always wanted to try. On TRS, we got a chance to do two big physical activities I'd always dreamed about. Our segment on professional wrestling training taught me that that particular form of entertainment is MUCH more difficult (and painful) than I ever imagined, while our attempt at Cirque du Soleil circus training made that seem much more doable. In all, I learned that there is somewhere nearby where I can try just about anything, and there is no excuse not to live out your dreams, even for just a day.
8. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Another product that was already out when 2010 began, but new to me this year, Sigh No More quickly became my most listened-to album of the year. What a phenomenal record. Each and every track is evocative, melodic, and so soulful. I dig the blend of Irish folk instruments and poetic, modern lyrics. Great rock and roll with powerful themes.
I don't know why I didn't start reading Mark Waid's new comic for BOOM! Studios until this year, but I'm sure glad got around to it. It is dark, post-modern superhero fiction at its best. The premise is delicious. What if Superman turned evil? Could the combined powers of the Justice League stop him? Here Superman is a guy named Plutonian and the other characters are analogues as well, but the ruthlessness and commitment to which Waid maintains the premise is awesome. Irredeemable is the definition of page-turner, and the best comic series I read in 2010.
10. Avatar: Extended Collector's Edition blu-ray
Since I started reviewing blu-rays for Reviews on the Run this year (and watched well over 200 movies and their special features in the process), I thought I should mention my favorite blu-ray of 2010. There were numerous excellent packages released this year, including the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest re-release, the A Man With no Name trilogy box set, and the Anchorman: Rich Mahogany Edition, but the pinnacle was undoubtedly the Collector's Edition release of Avatar. This might seem like a no-brainer, since Avatar was my favorite film of 2009, but let me tell you the movie is the least of the awesome crammed into this 3 disc package. Copious amounts of behind the scenes footage and making-of featurettes, wonderful interviews, rehearsal video, alternate scenes - everything in high-quality HD - simply the deepest, most rewarding blu-ray release I've ever seen.
So that sums up 2010. Thanks for counting down my favs over the past few posts. I plan to take this blog to new and better places in 2011, so be sure to check back often. :) Happy new year.