Yet another "Year-End Best Of" list - 2004 Edition

Well, we are at the tail-end of 2004 and there, I must do the usual year-end best-of lists. I’ve actually done this long before I had a blog, but this makes it feel more official. Every year, I’ve always picked my favorite album (since 1990’s ”Vivid” from Living Color--which actually came out in 1989, but I was slow) and started doing the same with movies. Last year, I decided to start keeping track of my favorite new technology/product. I called out many of the new features of Outlook 2003 that I felt made me far more productive. I thought it was a cool way it to see how (as Ward Cunningham puts it) technology has changed my life. The reason is that every year, some new product usually comes along that completely changes the way I live. I think back to 1993 (when I really got into e-mail, connecting with one of my best friends that went off the grad school) and 1994 (getting into the internet, mainly to find Nirvana lyrics) when my life was most profoundly changed. At the time, they both probably seemed like fads, but I can’t imagine life w/o the internet or e-mail. It’s interesting to see how these technologies come and never go and have a ripple effect with the rest of my life. Calling them out each year will be an interesting history lesson on what I thought would stick around and what is the technological “pet rock”.

So, without further ado, my three awards for 2004.

Best Album: Green Day, American Idiot

I blogged about this earlier, but it bears repeating because I am even bigger on this record now. This album gets better every time I listen to it. Provocative, Catchy, Unique. I don’t think there is a bad track on it. “Holiday” is the coolest song I’ve heard in a long time, both lyrically and melodically. This isn’t about making a political statement as much as capturing the emotions of several people in this country. Perhaps this isn’t as patriotic as “Have You Forgotten?”, but it stands as an important timepiece of the broad dissent to our foreign policy. I know, I know: not everyone is against the war and the election results proved that. But there are many who are against the war or, more importantly, don’t understand the war. Nothing captures their confusion better than this. This may not be remembered years from now the way Dylan’s “Blowin In the Wind” is often tied to the 1960s protest movement, but maybe it should be.

Honorable mention to Velvet Revolver, REM, U2, Garden State Soundtrack, the Hives, and a little over half of the Nirvana box set.

Best Movie: Garden State

Maybe it’s because I grew up in New Jersey. Maybe it’s because I moved to California, only to have to return for my mother’s funeral. Maybe it’s because I see similarities between my wife and Natalie Portman (yes, I am a lucky man). Or maybe it’s because it is also one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a long time. Whatever it is, this movie definitely touched me. It wasn’t sensory overload or star-studded, but the dialog and banter was very entertaining. I love “Scrubs” (I don’t think there’s a show on TV that make me laugh out loud as much as it does), but Zach Braff showed that he has a lot more talent than what he shows on TV.

Definite honorable mentions to two musical bio-pics: “Ray” and “Beyond the Sea”. Both very cool movies.

Most Impactful New Product for Me: ReplayTV/Dell DJ/Smartphone

Well, this year, it’s a three way tie. ReplayTV (aka Tivo-clone) has brought me more sleep (no more staying up for the Daily Show), more selection (why watch “Still Standing” when there’s an episode of “Desperate Housewives” I haven’t seen—uhh, did I just admit to watching that?), and more flexibility (get home 10 minutes late for “The Apprentice”—not problem, just watch it delayed and still manage to pause the show to discuss how boneheaded their decisions are). No more video tapes that run out, accidentally taping over shows that should be saved, etc. TV just got a whole lot cooler.

The Dell DJ (aka iPod clone) has awoken my musical senses. With that sort of selection, I take it wherever I go. It now dominates my morning and evening commutes and the workday in between. Anytime I get the urge for some 80s REM or 90s Moby, there it is. Plus, the battery lasts forever, so I never worry about conserving. Kudos to Apple for revolutionizing the MP3 space with high-capacity devices. But I still have a good feeling about what Windows Media devices can do in the long run with a more open platform. Could it be another Windows vs. Mac? (OK, I know this could incite people, and that’s fair, but please refrain from unconstructive venom).

Last, but not least, is my Smartphone. I’ve gone from enamored with it to reliant upon it. I never feel disconnected and my little pieces of free time when I feel unconstructive are gone because I can at least check my mail. Morning commute (while listening to the DJ), waiting rooms, standing on line, etc. Definitely my favorite MS product of the year.

So there’s my 2004. A great record, a great movie, and three technologies that make 2005 even more exciting to look forward to. With that, I wish everyone the best in the new year. May it provide us with even more art and technology that I can blog about a year from now…

{Some techno at a trendy Seattle café}