2014 Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that I’m already writing my end-of-the-year blog post. Every year seems like time has just whizzed by, but 2014 really zoomed by exceptionally fast.

I made a concerted effort to read more books in 2014 than I did in 2013, and it worked.  This year, I read 30 books!  I gave each one my personal star rating, from 1 to 5, with five stars being the highest.  Rather than list them in the order that I read them, I’ll list them from best rating to worst.

Only two of the 30 books received five stars, and both were by Dave Eggers.  I read three by him this year, but the two below were really great, I thought.

Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? – Dave Eggers

The Circle – Dave Eggers

Thirteen books earned a four star rating.  Some of them were photography guides or manuals, but still… I did read them cover to cover, so they count as books I read J

Autobiography, by Morrissey
This highly anticipated book started a bit slow, and it was confusing trying to keep track of the Morrissey family tree as he describes his childhood, bullied by students and teachers alike, feeling different from the rest of the world.   Filled with hilarious phrasing and scathing indictments (you should hear what he says about Siousxie Sioux), Morrissey takes you through the formation, career, and eventual breakup of the Smiths, and then his long solo career. He shares his love of fellow musicians (Jobriath, the New York Dolls, Nancy Sinatra) and many film stars.  He spends an inordinate amount of pages dwelling on the court trial of ex-drummer Mike Joyce, expressing severe vitriol for the judge, though, which drags the book down a notch.  But he loves his fans, and he shares those feelings in the book very honestly.  A nice read.

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Complications – Atul Gawande

A Hologram for the King – Dave Eggers

Photographer’s Guide to the Sony DSC-RX100 II

Digital Photography: A Basic Manual by Henry Horenstein

My iPhoto by Michael Grothaus

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots – Deborah Feldman

Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks

My Struggle, Book Two – Karl Ove Knausgaard

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club – Benjamin Alire Saenz

Johnny Carson – Henry Bushkin

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera, by Bryan Peterson

Seven books received a three-star rating from me:

Punk 45: The Singles Cover Art of Punk 1976-80. Edited by Jon Savage & Stuart Baker
A series of essays and interviews with many of the graphic artists and designers responsible for much of the great artwork found on the picture sleeves of many punk 45 vinyl releases.  Included are hundreds of full-size photographs of the actual singles and their sleeves, along with brief histories of the bands.  The artwork that accompanied these records was pioneering in many ways, and was very underrated, so it’s nice to see them get their due.  I have a bunch of the singles that are described in the book, and it was cool to hear the history behind the artwork and the record labels (many of them small and independent) that released them.

Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks – Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

Paradox – Jim Al-Khalili

Let it Come Down – Paul Bowles

Beatles vs. Stones – John McMillian

Spook – Mary Roach

Six books warranted a two star rating:

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dumont
The story takes place at a New England boarding school.  I loved A Separate Peace, Dead Poet’s Society, and The Secret History, and was hoping there’d be some of the same feeling and intrigue.  Instead, I found it filled with unlikeable, financially privileged characters, and poorly explored plot developments.  The book barely skims the surface of racism and sexuality, barely touches on suicide (which plays an important role in the book), and somehow turns into an undeveloped murder mystery in the last 30 or 40 pages.  There’s lots of sailing descriptions and analogies, but it felt more like a Young Adult novel than a true adult fiction novel.  The book got great reviews, but I just found it tedious.

How Animals Grieve by Barbara J. King
A thought provoking collection of examples of ways animals may show grief and mourning for lost companions, mates and friends.  The book is long on anecdotes and short on hard evidence, but gathering unambiguous evidence for something relatively subjective like grief and mourning isn’t easy, and this is clearly acknowledged by the author, a professor of anthropology.  I don’t think there really is enough material about animals to fill a book, and the author fleshes it out with meditations on human grief and behavior that digress a bit from the book’s main premise. Still, as a veterinarian who feels strongly that animals do indeed grieve for others, I found most of the book pretty interesting.

Days by Paul Bowles

My Lunches with Orson – Peter Biskind

Every Day is an Atheist Holiday – Penn Jillette

Beautiful Thing – Sonia Faleiro

And my least favorite books this year (one star):

Songs Only You Know – Sean Madigan Hoen

Floating City – Sudhir Venkatesh

I saw a bunch of movies this year.  The best ones I saw all year were "Pride," "The Lunchbox," "12 Years a Slave," and "Dallas Buyers Club."

Movies I watched in 2014:

1. Hud
2. A Hijacking
3. Bus 174
4. Taken
5. More than Honey
6. Out in the Dark
7. Godzilla
8. Parts Per Billion
9. Charlie Countryman
10. Rob the Mob
11. Good People
12. Land Ho
13. Chef
14. Snowpiercer
15. Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger
16. Neighbors
17. Hellion
18. Cold in July
19. The Best Offer
20. The Broken Circle Breakdown
21. Hot Guys with Guns
22. Blood Ties
23. Fed Up
24. Arbitrage
25. We Are The Best!
26. Deceptive Practice
27. Nobody’s Perfect
28. Cyrus
29. Ilo Ilo
30. God’s Pocket
31. Filth
32. They Came Together
33. Proxy
34. Fading Gigolo
35. Mud
36. Frozen Ground
37. Under the Skin
38. The Lunchbox
39. The Summit
40. Out of the Furnace
41. Like Father Like Sun
42. Short Term 12
43. Closed Circuit
44. Joe
45. Admission
46. Her
47. Adult World
48. Child’s Pose
49. Tim’s Vermeer
50. Pit Stop
51. Free Fall
52. The Future
53. I Am Divine
54. Stranger by the Lake
55. Before Midnight
56. The Place Beyond the Pines
57. The Wolf of Wall Street
58. A Single Shot
59. Dallas Buyers Club
60. August: Osage County
61. American Hustle
62. 12 Years a Slave
63. Philomena
64. Let the Fire Burn
65. A Touch of Sin
66. Camille Claudel 1915
67. Wadjda
68. CBGB
69. Kill Your Darlings
70. The Counselor
71. Blackfish
72. Lee Daniels’ The Butler
73. Inside Llewyn Davis
74. To Sir, with Love
75. Blue is the Warmest Color
76. Nebraska
77. Concussion
78. All is Lost
79. Thanks for Sharing
80. Captain Phillips
81. Spinning Plates
82. C.O.G.
83. Enough Said
84. Fruitvale Station
85. Prisoners
86. Pride
87. 20 Feet from Stardom
88. Francis Ha
89. Fill the Void
90. The Torrid Zone
91. Angels with Dirty Faces
92. Juke Girl
93. They Drive by Night
94. Interstellar
95. The Skeleton Twins
96. Tammy
97. Words and Pictures
98. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
99. Moebius

I don’t really watch television.  I typicallywait until a series is over (or is mostly over) and then I’ll rent or stream the episodes.  This year I reconnected with "Mad Men," watched the entire series “The Shield”, and best of all, started watching "Downton Abbey."  I am absolutely addicted to "Downton Abbey" now.

I didn’t see as many shows in the theater as I normally see, but I did see 14, so I’m not complaining.  The two best were a Broadway show, "A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder," and  an Off-Off-Off Broadway show, "Snow White and the Seven Bottoms," which was absolutely hilarious.

Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows (with my star ratings):

1. Machinal***
2. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner ***
3. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder*****
4. The Tribute Artist ****
5. Nothing But Trash ***
6. And Baby Makes Seven **
7. The Substance of Fire**
8. Forbidden Broadway***
9. Drop Dead Perfect ****
10. The Fortress of Solitude****
11. Snow White and the Seven Bottoms*****
12. The River***
13. The Illusionists**
14. Lypsinka: The Boxed Set ****

I didn’t get to travel as much as I would have liked, but we went to Morocco, which was an extremely memorable trip (you can read all about the trip in detail), and we took a short trip to Mexico, where I was bold and tried my hand at zip lining in the jungle (you can check out that trip here).  Next year, if all goes as planned, we’ll visit Paris and Amsterdam in the spring, and India (or maybe Myanmar) in the fall.

Courses: This year, in addition to my regular veterinary continuing education, I did some non-veterinary CE as well, taking the in-person classes Digital Photography 1 and Street Photography at Photomanhattan.  I also took four online courses, through the website Coursera.org.  The Warhol class was interesting, but the music classes were the best.  Both parts of the History of Rock and Roll, and The Beatles class were superb and engrossing.  All three music classes were taught by John Covach, a professor from the University of Rochester.  He is a wealth of knowledge and was it was a true pleasure to watch the videos and hear what he had to say.  I urge all rock and roll fans to log onto Coursera.org (it’s free) and sign up for these classes.  I can’t wait to take Professor Covach’s new class, The Music of the Rolling Stones in January 2015.

The Life of Andy Warhol
History of Rock and Roll, Part 1
History of Rock and Roll, Part 2
The Music of The Beatles

That pretty much sums up my cultural pursuits in 2014.  Next year I plan to tackle some big books that have been languishing on my shelves for a while, so the quantity is sure to go down, but that’s okay.  I like getting immersed in a big dense novel.

I hope everyone had a prosperous and productive year, and even more so in 2015.  With any luck, I’ll be traveling a lot and posting more photos and tales of cats that I encounter on my journeys.