Staff Reviews

The Best of 2011

Reason writers on books, movies, music, & more


Tim Cavanaugh, managing editor,

While it was only a fair crowd-pleaser (denounced by one Amazon reviewer as an "annoying and pathetic movie that drags on for hours of tedium without remorse"), Cedar Rapids won me over by taking the business conference as its setting. The movie dispenses plenty of naïf-in-the-wide-world jokes, and Ed Helms' performance as an insurance agent so rustic that Iowa's second city seems to him a modern Gomorrah is funny enough. But the movie's real subject is the anxiety of an annual industry confab—a sensation that is widely familiar to Americans but rarely if ever depicted on the silver screen. Is your purpose at a business conference to work, to party, to make connections, to get laid, to explore a new locale, to prove yourself, or some excruciating combination of all of these goals? The movie resolves all this through a favorite movie trope—the ad hoc family of misfits. And its cast includes the kind of low-wattage actors (John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kurtwood Smith, Stephen Root) I think of as the real supernovae of the Hollywood firmament. But I like it because it captures the truth that every business conference starts out in dread and ends in unalloyed relief. 

Brian Doherty, senior editor

The plenitude of a dying record industry brings us the ultimate "beat the bootleg" package—the five-CD Beach Boys Smile Sessions box set. It's the great American pop-opera of discovery, the frontier, and naming your favorite vegetable, as unfinished as the American experiment itself (this is not a finished Smile—just all of its glorious rubble), and as I wrote in 2004 when Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson issued his own sort-of finished version, "listening to this heartwarmingly gorgeous slab of vocal melody pop, the final processing of the ambitions of a young Southern California man with lots of money…ambition, and…love for the sound of American voices (particularly the voices of his brothers, cousin, and school chum) raised in song—from old work songs to western ballads to turn of the century pop to doo-wop—makes all the myths of genius…thwarted…seem a whole lot less interesting than adding this music to your day." This is all the more true of this surfeit of finished tunes, vocal experiments, studio chatter, and joyous repetition, starring the impossibly rich, grand, sweet, homey, and moving voices of the Wilson Brothers, their cousin Mike, and their high school chum Al working at their most complex, demanding, and hilarious level.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief, and

When it comes to policy books, Peter Schweizer's Throw Them All Out is not just an irresistible read but an infuriating one. He details how politicians have openly enriched themselves in ways that would trigger insider-trading investigations in the private sector. If you need unquestionable proof that Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are in fact the same person, grok this dissection of crony capitalism. Better still are chapters on folks such as Warren Buffett, who promoted TARP, the stimulus, and other big-government boondoggles as part of an altruistic "social compact" that directly fattened his bottom line. Buffett, writes Schweizer, "is a financial genius. But even more important for his portfolio, he's a political genius."

Paul Levitz's 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking came out slightly more than a year ago, but if you're at all a comics nerd or a design geek, it'll take you 12 months to sift through a coffee table book that's the size of an actual coffee table. Lushly produced and intelligently written, it's as much a scrapbook of the nation's collective unconscious as it is the definitive reference work about Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and (god help us all) Aquaman.

David Harsanyi, columnist

Preposterous premise. Incomprehensible plot. The second season of the BBC television series Luther was even more refreshingly implausible than the remarkably far-fetched first season. This time some seriously twisted sociopaths, a self-destructive porn actress, and her nefariously cougarish mom have suicidal anti-hero Idris Elba tied up in knots.

Reading Neal Stephenson's last book Anathem felt like taking a crash course on the history of science, philosophy, and religion on a really boring alien planet. Though his latest, ReamDe, isn't exactly a return to form (it's the least ambitious Stephenson novel since Zodiac) it probably is more thought-provoking than most things you're bound to read. It's a thriller of sorts, pivoting on a huge multiplayer online game, but more importantly, if you enjoy hundreds of pages of geeky discourse on currency, mobsters, and video games, you'll be happy to have Stephenson writing on the 21st century.

Since I'm old and hopelessly nostalgic, I was excited to hear Merge Records had reissued Archers of Loaf's excellent first album Icky Mettle. The real value, though, is that the re-issue includes the EP (a word we used to use to signify short albums) vs. The Greatest of All Time, which finds the band at its heaviest and most boisterous.

A. Barton Hinkle, columnist

Those who enjoy hard-boiled detective fiction mourned the 2010 loss of Robert B. Parker, the author of the Spenser series and several others. What Raymond Chandler, who influenced Parker greatly (Parker even finished Chandler's last book) wrote in The Simple Art of Murder sums up Parker's protagonists well: "In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony….But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid." Parker's work is formulaic, but his formula is like that for KFC or Coke: It satisfies. So while Sixkill, a Spenser tale and the last book Parker completed before his death, is not his strongest, it's still a good yarn full of Parker trademarks: spare prose, dry laconic wit, boxing lessons, gunfights, undertones of allegory, and meditations on manhood. (Another Spenser novel, Painted Ladies, was published last year but came out in paperback in 2011. Check that one out, too—we won't tell.)

Bill Kauffman, author of Bye Bye, Miss American Empire

The wisemen of of post-republic America—Wendell Berry, Gore Vidal, Edward Abbey, Dorothy Day, Christopher Lasch; the list is long, which is one of many reasons hope abides—have understood that militarism subverts communities and destroys liberties. 'Twould be pretty to think that John and Yoko were right that war is over if we want it, but under the current dispensation war will never be over. Until, that is, we dismantle the goddamned anti-American Empire. Andrew Bacevich, a West Pointer out of the Midwest, a retired colonel, and now a professor at Boston University, is among today's wisemen, and in 2011 he came bearing the gift of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War. Read it and weep for our lost republic. (Okay, I'm cheating; the paperback was issued this year, the hardcover the year before. But if Cher could turn back time, so can I.) I was also mightily impressed by Susan J. Matt's Homesickness: An American History, a keen, even heartwrenching account of the dislocations—often due to big-government policies—that have fed the cancer of American rootlessness.

Kurt Loder, author of The Good, The Bad, and the Godawful: 21st Century Movie Reviews

Great little movie: Like Crazy, a sweet-and-sour transatlantic romance that's too smart to pass as a standard romcom. With Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, and breakthrough star Felicity Jones (already a winner at this year's Gotham Awards). The picture's still in theatres, or you could wait (but why?) for the DVD. 

Best book: Late as usual, I discovered the great Oslo crime novels of Jo Nesbo this year. His complicated cop is Harry Hole (think Norwegian pronunciation); the plots are as lurid as necessary and totally engrossing. Martin Scorsese is onboard to turn last year's The Snowman into a major motion picture, due out 2013. 

Best club show: Thanks to Greg Gutfeld for dragging me off to Brooklyn to see Tobacco, the solo incarnation of the mysterious Thomas Fec, leader of the Pittsburgh mind-melt band Black Moth Super Rainbow. The swirling low-budget majesty of Fec's sound is conjured up out of antique synths and effects gadgets. You might call it "neo-psychedelic," except that he has actual tunes. Might also say it recalls the first two Pink Floyd albums—although not any Pink Floyd album that followed. Last year's Maniac Meat is the one to have.

Katherine Mangu-Ward, managing editor

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is an impressive feat: Reams of data, digested into a single (surprising) conclusion by Harvard neuroscientist and hair model Steven Pinker. Namely, violence has been on the decline for millennia, and the world is more peaceful today than it has ever been. Makes a great, if potentially incendiary gift for pessimistic and paranoid relatives and friends. But, as Pinker points out in a recent interview with Reason, "people cutting off each other's noses, stabbing each other over the dinner table in response to an insult—there seems to be less now than there was then." Huzzah and happy holidays!

George Orwell floats lightly over Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, a story set in 1984 about a world that is—and isn't—our own. The title is a play on words: The Japanese word for the number nine is pronounced "kew." Originally released in Japan in three volumes, 1Q84 features a deadly, sexy lady protagonist not unlike Stieg Larsson's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, but with two marked advantages: 1) far, far better writing, and 2) an author who is not dead, and will (presumably) produce more of his beautiful, gripping books for future Festivus gift giving.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, author of It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong

I try to read two to three books a month, and in 2011 I got through about 25 books. The two most memorable were Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues, by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., and With Malice Aforethought: The Execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, by Theodore W. Grippo.

In Ten Universal Principles, Fr. Spitzer, who is a world-class philosopher and a former president of Gonzaga University, presents basic building blocks of thought with which few can disagree, and extrapolates them into a brilliant defense of the natural law and of human life at all its stages. If you are looking for a traditional Thomistic defense of human dignity and personal freedom, footnoted to classic and unassailable sources, this is it. Fr. Spitzer also offers the most powerful and rational defense I have seen for the proposition that life begins at conception; and you needn't be Catholic to accept his arguments.

In With Malice Aforethought, Ted Grippo, a very accomplished and now-retired Chicago trial lawyer, demolishes the government's case against Sacco and Vanzetti. That case is truly one of the most egregious government-orchestrated injustices of the 20th century, in which bias against immigrants, manipulation of evidence by the trial judge and the prosecutor, and institutional corruption condemned two innocent men to death. Grippo has scrutinized every word of the trial transcript and all the pre-trial and post-trial filings and appeals and has built a case that highlights some of the most serious violations of due process I have ever seen. Even though the outcome is well-known, this book reads like a fast-paced thriller that will leave you breathless. It made me weep.

Mike Riggs, associate editor

John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead has only been out a month and already earned a comparison (courtesy of The New Yorker's James Wood) to David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. The latter book is the gold standard for modern essay writing, its navel-gazing pop cultural theorizing is often imitated (see: Chuck Klosterman), but seldom matched (see: Chuck Klosterman). Sullivan's Pulphead, a collection of essays and reported features that span the topic spectrum from Michael Jackson to a Christian rock concert, doesn't deserve the comparison. Quite simply, Pulphead is a better book—infinitely more pleasurable to read than Wallace's long-winded (and allegedly fabricated) anthology, and featuring more elegant prose and tear-inducing insights.

Damon Root, senior editor

Nick Tosches has written indispensable books about country music, Dean Martin, blackface minstrelsy, and organized crime. He doesn't cover all that stuff in Save the Last Dance for Satan, but he comes close. His focus here are the "hipsters and hoodlums" who created the business of rock & roll in the rowdy decades after World War II, a time when "numerous little labels were founded by men and women who smelled money in what was happening." Among those on the scent was the velour jumpsuit-wearing Ewart Abner of Vee-Jay Records, whose roster included John Lee Hooker, The Dells, and, for a brief spell in the early '60s, The Beatles. At the other end of the spectrum was the Emby Distributing Company, which held an exclusive license to sell Wurlitzer jukeboxes, and which also just happened to be secretly controlled by mafia kingpins Frank Costello and Meyer Lanksy. And what history of American lowlife would be complete without Jack Ruby? As Tosches reveals, the Dallas nightclub owner and future slayer of Lee Harvey Oswald was also an occasional promoter for rhythm and blues singer Joe Johnson, who gifted the world with his 1959 song "Gila Monster," helpfully characterized by Billboard as a "novelty blues" that "describes the Gila monster, looking like he wants to do the rock and roll."

Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States

While politicians of the left and right prattle on about the glory of the American family and the state continues to prop up the institution with myriad marriage-supporting policies, Louis CK gives voice to all our dark and dirty thoughts about the home front. Though CK is a master of the comedic craft, his FX television series Louie is funny not because of timing or delivery but because, like all great comedy, it sets free our most illicit secrets.

Michael Moore and all the liberal gun-control moralists should be forced at the point of a sawed-off shotgun to read Adam Winkler's Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America. They'll find that they are the political descendants of the Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and a long line of reactionaries who regulated guns to keep the people—especially black people—down.

Lucy Steigerwald, associate editor

Kate Beaton's web comic Hark! A Vagrant has been turned into a proper paper book and thankfully her Quentin Blake-esque lines are as funny in ink as in pixels. Beaton is best known for making her deadpan jokes through the mouths of historical figures, and some characters do necessitate a research trip to Wikipedia. More familiar faces like the Bronte sisters, Teddy Roosevelt, and Napoleon also appear, as do affectionate jabs about Canadian niceness and American square-jawed hunks being solely responsible for the Allied victory in World War II (says a dying soldier: "You tell old Hitler…you tell him I was pretty"). Beaton's sly feminism also comes out when she draws a weary Louis Lane unable to investigate thanks to Superman's constant rescuing, as well as when Beaton mockingly reimagines the suffragette movement for the Sex and the City crowd. ("True friendship is more important than any vote," one woman tells another as they tearfully embrace.) Beaton's deceptively simple art, humor, and sincere love of history come through in every panel. She's another reason not to mourn the death of the newspaper too much. 

Peter Suderman, associate editor

Tired of your own life? You can have a new one, or 10, in Skyrim, almost certainly the most expansive open-world, single-player role-playing game ever released for a console. Even in the choice-and-openness obsessed world of contemporary video game design, Skyrim embraces open-ended, practically aimless gameplay with unusual vigor. Sure, there are missions and objectives and bad guys to kill—good guys too, if that's your thing—as well as a labyrinth of side-quests to get lost in, many involved enough to count as separate games. But mostly the game offers endless exploration and experience, immersion, and incident; you can play for 100 hours, maybe more, and not run out of sights to see, people to meet, places to go. Indeed, it's a game that sometimes seems designed to provide evidence to hecklers who ridicule gamers as losers with no lives. But that's the point. With Skyrim, you'll hardly need one. 

Jacob Sullum, senior editor 

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created shows that globalization has been going on much longer than WTO protesters seem to think, accounting for such once-novel phenomena as apples in America, tomatoes in Italy, coffee in Colombia, and hot peppers in China. Journalist Charles C. Mann does not paper over the destructive aspects of the "Columbian Exchange," such as the deadly microbes that fostered the African slave trade and devastated America's indigenous population. But he also shows how much richer the world is as a result of intercontinental trade in goods and biological material, which has created the very patterns of life that today's localists seek to protect against outside influences.

Jesse Walker, senior editor

J. Hoberman's An Army of Phantoms looks at the early years of the Cold War through the lens of Hollywood and at '40s/'50s Hollywood through the lens of the Cold War. The result is a thoughtful and entertaining portrait of an America beset by fear, not just of the Russians but of advertising, TV, juvenile delinquents, the mafia, and more. Along the way we encounter Communist propaganda, anti-Communist propaganda, UFO sightings, HUAC hearings, prestige pictures, monster movies, westerns, a war in Korea, and a cast of characters that ranges from Ronald Reagan to the film critics at the Daily Worker, who manage to describe both The Fountainhead and For Whom the Bell Tolls as "openly fascist." Hoberman even explores the politics of Biblical spectaculars, which turn out to be more pointed than you'd probably expect.

Matt Welch, editor in chief

Have you ever self-diagnosed a jammed-wrist situation and thought you could ameliorate it by buying one of those generic over-the-counter doo-hickies at your local every-other-block pharmacy? Think again, old people! The Titan Wrist Brace, given to me by a doctor at Howard University, is a lace-up, eminently adjustable (and fashionably jet-black) problem-solver, perfect for work and sleep alike. I mean, if your wrist really hurts.

(Note: I'm not kidding)

For parents of toddlers, or adults who occasionally put themselves into situations where watching non-verbal Communist-era cartoons about a comical mole is like the funniest thing ever, Krtek Little Mole 1, or any other collection of the classic and beloved Czech television series (whose creator, Zdenek Miler, died at the end of November) is a surprise and a delight.

Since baseball movies are by definition the only genre more debased than political cartoons, and since the terrific Michael Lewis book Moneyball (which I reviewed in 2003) was followed by an ambivalent real-life epilogue, the movie version's tale of revolutionary nerdboyism and management assholery seemed doomed from the start, and yet it wasn't. In part, that's due to Brad Pitt, but the filmmakers were also wise to let a little of the ambivalence hover in the air at the end. Being the first one through the door does damage your shoulder, and sometimes you don't really get past the doorway.

NEXT: ICE Continues Quest to Tear Apart American Families

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  1. Matt Welch, editor in chief

    Have you ever self-diagnosed a jammed-wrist situation and thought you could ameliorate it by buying one of those generic over-the-counter doo-hickies at your local every-other-block pharmacy? Think again, old people! The Titan Wrist Brace, given to me by a doctor at Howard University, is a lace-up, eminently adjustable (and fashionably jet-black) problem-solver, perfect for work and sleep alike. I mean, if your wrist really hurts.

    (Note: I’m not kidding)

    Well, if you weren’t a chronic masturbater…

  2. Suderman wins with Skyrim.

    1. I was about to say “List is useless without Skyrim,” but luckily I decided to read past page 2.

      1. The list is pretty useless with Skyrim.

        1. You speak in strange whispers. . .are you not of the Body?

        2. You’re just cranky because your beast blood prevents you from having restful sleep.

          1. My tendency with these games is to play them twice–first as a good guy, then as a baddie. If and when I start a bad character, I’m naming him Episiarch instead of my usual Mal Feasor.

            1. Only twice? I always do everything possible on my first playthrough, and then I start making characters to role-play as. I usually get sick of it around the 4th character.

              1. It’s a friggin’ miracle that I can find the time to play these games at all. Heck, it’s a miracle that I can comment here.

            2. I’ll generally play a top-notch game all the way through twice.

              I can’t imagine doing that with Skyrim, even though I lurv it yes I do, because its SO FREAKING HUGE!

              1. I was wondering the same thing last night after I spend an hour doing nothing more than collecting stuff for money. ‘Cause I just had to buy the Wall of Flame spell.

                1. Tick…tick…tick…

            3. How about a fisting character?

              1. Yes, I might have to do that.

              2. WOW I want to do that.

                1. holy shit! he punched a bear to death

                  i thought only john wayne could do that

              3. Now I know how to spend my next 100 hours.

    2. Well, I’m glad he finally reviewed it, but that was a piddling drop of nothing compared to the four page epic the commentariat demanded.

      1. How does one review reality?

        1. With a jaundiced and wary eye.

          1. The Universe, while having great graphics and a decent gaming engine, is often a dull and pointless game. The amount of time spent on various crafting tasks–working, digging ditches, whatever–is just incredible. And the action is limited, and usually involves pain and other negative stimuli. There’s also an entirely unbelievable amount of evil and stupidity among the NPCs, which jolts the player out of the fantasy by the many unlikely turns and twists.

            We give The Universe a 4/10.

            1. I’m picking THAT up on my way home from work. Can’t wait to get started.

              1. Another problem with the game–no saves. And no character generation!

                1. And a lousy karma system.

                2. Well, you get a randomly generated character, true, but you can do some customization later on.

            2. It’s all downhill after level 40.

            3. This sounds like a game made by Zynga.

      2. as I recall, Megan McArdle was on Bloggingheads sometime last week and mentioned that her husband had been shut in his office for a couple of weeks playing Skyrim.

        Who knew it was research?

        1. So that is what the kids are calling it these days.

          1. I’ll be… uhh… “summoning the Atronach”.

            1. I thought it was “Taking my Talents to South Beach”. But I guess that is so 2010.

            2. I’ll be… uhh… “summoning the Atronach”.

              Or, for the married/older players “raising the undead.”

            3. Pardoning the Turkey.

    3. Though Deus Ex would be more relevant from a political point of view, I think.

  3. 1493 is a very interesting book. And Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues, by Robert J. Spitzer sounds interesting. But you couldn’t pay me to read or watch any of the rest of that crap.

    And also, every time I read Chuck Klosterman I think “hey this guy is Aspie or retarded or something”. I really do. He is just awful.

    1. Chuck Klosterman

      Yeah, thanks for that, Bill Simmons. Hope Tom Brady breaks his clavicle falling on the last remaining print of “Almost Famous.”

      1. Part of me likes Simmons, which is why I hate Grantland and the collection of losers he has on it so much. Simmons can be a funny writer when he is not talking about anything related to Boston sports or pop culture. He should be the ESPN daily NBA guy. Everything else he writes sucks. But his NBA stuff is really good and really funny.

        Instead of editing him and controlling him, ESPN has just enabled him. Now not only does he get to write column inch after column inch about shit no one cares about or spend hour after hour talking to his degenerate cousin Sal about gambling lines, he now has an entire site filled with losers who exemplify everything that sucks about his writing.

  4. My faves:

    1. Ready Player One – SF novel that will satisfy gamers as well as hard SF readers. By the dude behind the sadly ignored movie, Fanboys.

    2. Community – is there a smarter ensemble comedy on TV? Or one that rewards its fans better? The show’s so good it makes me cry.

    3. Two improving TV surpises – Happy Endings and Raising Hope

  5. Best game of 2011 I’ve played is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The mix of FPS, RPG, and all the sneaking around is delightful.

    1. Got two thumbs up from me. I liked the hard, cynical edge, and the glassy-smooth gameplay.

      If I ever finish freaking Skyrim, I’l probably play it again.

      1. I still need to finish Oblivion before I move on to Skyrim.

        1. Best answer yet.

          1. I did beat Morrowind a long time ago though. I even killed Vivek after defeating Dagoth Ur.

            1. I never finished the expansions. Sad trumpet.

              1. i am getting (hopefully) deus ex for christmas

                i really liked thief, and from what i hear deus ex is thieflike (for those elements) but also has so much more…

                thief did the “sneak” game very well imo

                very atmospheric. you could totally feel the tension

                you even tried to type on your keyboard like all low and muffled so as not to give yourself away

              2. I never even bought them. I was fine with the main campaign. Speaking of which, I started playing it again a few months ago. I never tried doing the vampire quests.

  6. Fist of Etiquette on the Best Commenter of 2011

    Without a doubt the best Hit & Run commenter of the year was Fist of Etiquette. Many would agree, the kickass name alone should give him the title, but that’s not it. His quiet blandness coupled with his knowledge of The Wrath of Khan and B.J. and the Bear spin-off serieses makes him the perfect fit and yet head and shoulders above the others. He is at once the staunchest defender of Friday Funnies and the biggest Stosselophile. But his most shining contribution this past year was his ability to almost singlehandedly get Riggs to standardize Morning Links to around 9ish, making this choice truly a no-brainer.

    1. While I like the use of the term, “serieses”, I dispute your knowledge of Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

      Commenter of the Year as an April 1 posting would be awesome.

      1. …I dispute your knowledge of Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

        You task me. You task me, and I shall have you. (But, you know, not in a gay way.)

        1. If Khan was from India, how come he has a Mexican accent?

          1. Sikhs, Mexicans, what’s the difference?

          2. It was the 90s, baby, times was crazy.

            1. Yes, World War III really made a mess of things.

    2. and troll of the year?

      I’d give it to rather. More havoc at a lower quality than any other troll to date.

  7. Well, thanks for no one mentioning “Declaration of Independents”.

    Also, please – I cannot believe that no one mention THE media event of the year: clearly it was the BBC live stream podcast of the World Pipe Band Championship from Glasgow Green in August.

    AWESOME sound feed in addition to good camera work, and the benefit of Bob Worrall’s commentary.

    Fokin’. BRILLIANT.

    Although I still had Field Marshal Montgomery first, but WHATEVER…the judges saw it differently….

    1. Only because the Doctor Who Christmas Special has not yet aired.

  8. I liked when Reason Saved Cleveland…

    1. And when we won the war in Libya.

  9. “Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are in fact the same person”
    One of them needs to wear waterproof mascara

  10. Nobody asked me, but I’ll be a narcissist too and mention my favorite discovery of 2011: Casa de Garcia cigars. Cheap, Dominican, lovely, handmade, delicious medium-bodied Connecticut Shade-wrapped at unbelievably low prices. I’d like it to stay that way. Please don’t buy any. In fact, forget I mentioned it. Thanks.

  11. BEST MOVIE I’VE SEEN: Werner Herzog’s 3-D masterpiece Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Not only is it the first of the current wave of 3-D films to actually make use of the format, it is a beautiful, melancholy meditation on the instinctual human need to create.

    BEST BOOK I’VE FINISHED: (Note: I haven’t, for example, finished the new Murakami) V.S. Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain, which is a breezy survey of the latest neuroscience that is reshaping what we think we know about human nature; and Dan Gardner’s Future Babble, which is a distillation of all of the arguments about why you should never trust the talking heads on those Sunday-morning political chat shows.

    1. I hear Cave of Forgotten Dreams is incredible. I had to go overseas when it came out. Sorry I missed that one in the theater.

  12. The best television series is Doc Martin but I don’t watch American television but for news

    1. Those are shoes. Television is that box that lights up.

      1. I’m laughing at my desk. Out loud.

      2. So I see you’ve met my wife.

  13. The Herman Cain 15 minutes of fame was pretty entertaining.

    1. I laughed, I cried.

      1. I learned a little bit about myself.

        1. It was much better than Cats.

  14. IN a late comer, the Obama administration wins “Creepiest Program of the Year”


    The Obama presidential campaign is launching an effort to collect Republican email addresses by inviting its supporters to submit information about their Republican associates to the Obama 2012 website.


    1. I guess AttackWatch just wasn’t creepy/totalitarian enough.

  15. The list has a distinct lack of Mastodon. Buffoons.

    1. What about Finntroll?

      1. They were on any decent best of 2010 list, it’s true, but they didn’t put out an album this year.

  16. Of course, no mention of Ron Paul:…..president/

    1. Also, I want pics of Michelle with her AR-15.

    2. “He does, but a good 2nd Amendment person doesn’t tip off home invaders what guns are in the house and how many he has,” said Gary Howard, a spokesman for Paul.

      Are you kidding? That’s the best response of them all!

  17. Looks like Corzine may be headed for federal accommodations.…..abdc0.html

    Jon Corzine, the former chief executive of MF Global, “was aware” that the broker-dealer made use of customer funds during its desperate fight for survival, a US Senate hearing was told on Tuesday.

    Terry Duffy, chief executive of CME Group, the futures exchange operator that supervised MF Global’s handling of customer money, said a CME auditor heard an MF Global employee say during a conference call involving senior MF Global employees that “Mr Corzine was aware of the loans being made from segregated accounts”.

  18. What do Eric Holder and the Congressional Black Caucus have in common?…..ic-holder/

  19. http://www.americanscientist.o…..issue.aspx

    A fascinating take down of Freakonomics.

  20. Contender for Best film of 2012?

  21. I want to see War Horse.

    1. OK, why?

      1. Horses, World War I, how could it possibly go wrong? I bet it is the by far the best of the Hollywood movies this year.

        1. Sadly, that isn’t saying much.

          1. Hollywood still produces one or two good movies a year.

        2. a good WWI movie is a hard thing to find.

          The (ground) battle scenes in “The Blue Max” were surprisingly good though. And the original All Quiet on the Western Front, though a little soppy to modern eyes, still was good. Oh yeah, and Gallipoli and The Light Horsemen are worth watching too.

          1. Gallipoli is a great movie. Yeah, there have been very few. You know the 1978 remake of All Quiet with Richard Thomas in the lead is surprisingly good.

            1. hmmm… I haven’t seen the remake of All Quiet since the 1980s – I’ll have to revisit it someday.

              For some reason, I find WWI quite interesting – perhaps its WWII overkill – movies, articles, documentaries, etc etc.

              1. WW1 doesn’t get near the attention it deserves in the popular consciousness. People get into WW2 because there are fairly clear “good guy/bad guy” lines established, and up until about 5 years ago or so, a lot of the veterans were still around to tell their story. So there’s a rich oral narrative in place that the WW1 vets never really were able to provide, and WW1 was about as senseless as you can get when it came to war, period.

                But in all honesty, WW1 is VASTLY more important than the second one. It’s on par with the American and French Revolutions, and the Punic Wars, in terms of its significance as a watershed moment in the history of western civilization.

                1. WWII was directly borne of the policy failures of WWI.

                2. It gets ignored largely because it was a European conflict.

                3. WWII was definitely a more recorded war. And RRR you’re right on the oral narrative. Part of it is you have to find people willing to talk. My grandfather served in WWI but he never talked about his experiences. On the one hand I wish I had those stories but on the other hand I don’t blame him one bit for not wanting to talk about it.

              2. For some reason, I find WWI quite interesting – perhaps its WWII overkill – movies, articles, documentaries, etc etc.

                There was a fascinating series on one of the history channels a little while back on WWI. I just saw the first couple of hours on the runup and initial battles, and then it fell off my schedule. I was riveted.

                1. On the military channel they replay the first world war. It is a documentary by Hugh Stracken. It is really good.

                2. I think this is what you are talking about RC


                  1. I think that’s it, John.

              3. as far as WWI books go:

                Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves is a must-read.

                And John Keegan’s – The Face of Battle and The First World War are good history books.

                1. Any book of Keegan’s is good stuff.

                2. Goodbye to All That is one of the great books of the 20th Century. I love that book. As far as history of the war goes, The First World War is a good survey. And don’t forget The Guns of August.

          2. World War One is such a tough event to portray on screen. There’s SO much happening, both in the trenches and back on the home front, that any attempt to capture the cultural shifts that took place are damn near impossible. The closest I’ve seen to a comprehensive portrayal was, oddly enough, the Young Indiana Jones TV series.

            You’re not really going to do it in one film; it would require a two-three season “Band of Brothers”-style treatment by a filmmaker with a deft touch; an appreciation for all of the social, political, and military threads winding through those four years; and a shit-ton of money to finance it.

          3. How could you forget Paths of Glory? One of Kubrick’s best films.

            1. my mistake – I do have that movie in my collection.

              1. Not a movie but the fourth season of Black Adder is set in WWI. It’s a great absurdist take on how pointless that war was with a rather serious ending to the season finale.

                1. Yeah, Blackadder is awesome. The ending is one of the greatest TV moments and very moving for such a silly program.

        3. I’ve been craving a solid WWI movie to be made. This will not be it. Spielberg’s work has been nothing but downhill since Schindler’s List. This will likely be a sappy BS romanticized horse movie with WWI providing nothing but setting. Fuck that. Gimme an All’s Quiet remake instead.

          1. Wasn’t there supposed to be an All Quiet remake in the works with Daniel Radcliffe in the starring role?

            I’m not referring to the WW1 film “My Jack,” where he played Rudyard Kipling’s son; this was supposed to be an honest-to-goodness remake.

          2. Like that movie from a few years back about the World War I Christmas Truce?

            Oh wait, that was sappy and appallingly terrible. Damn French people, should have let the Brits make that one.

            Wait, you clearly forgot “Flyboys.” (Lord knows I tried to.)

            1. I loved Island at War for its WWII depiction

          3. a sappy BS romanticized horse movie

            You say that like it is a bad thing. Of course it will be that. And God damn it the world needs ore sappy romanticizing horse movies.

    2. I hear the Broadway show is very good (a close friend’s brother is the horse in the show). I didn’t know there was a movie.

  22. Andrew Sullivan officially endorses Ron Paul:


    1. Which voice in his head told him to do that?

    2. But all this is why a conservative like me is for Obama.

      Still calling himself a conservative, is he?

      1. Why not?
        He still calls himself a Catholic.

        1. If the Catholic Church would start ex communicating people again, they might get me to respect them and even join. As it is, they claim that abortion and sexual propriety or great moral issues. But then they refuse to excommunicate people like Sullivan and Nancy Pelosi who piss all over those things. That tells me that the church doesn’t believe anything that it says.

          1. Salvation is just another commodity to be bought and sold, John, and you don’t make them liras by shrinking your customer base.

            1. You are correct. And that is why I am not a member.

              1. sure, he;s a conservative…

                and maher has claimed to be a libertarian, also


                1. Maher was sort of libertarian-ish when he had Politically Incorrect. Now his libertarianism seems to end at weed.

    3. Breaking news:
      Andrew Sullivan will probably end up voting for Obama again.

      1. All conservatives will vote for Obama, you moron. He has the conservative vote all wrapped up, since he’s the only conservative in the race. Retard.

        1. None of the other candidates are serious.
          Obama just needs better messaging.

    4. He would never disown Reagan, as Romney once did.

      Except, you know, in 1988, when it he did.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

    5. If only Sarah Palin were running…

  23. movie: Viva Riva, Noirish crime drama set in the Congo. To quote the NY Times review: “Viva Riva!” is rated R [for] crime, killing and creative cunnilingus.

    book. Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, Wesley Stace. Classical music, murders, suicide, secret identities, all told (and retold) by an unreliable narrator.

    music. Thao and Mirah, Thao and Mirah. Two solo artists smash together their different styles. Album ranges from poignant folkiness (Hallelujah) to sparse alt-country (Folks) to amazing funk (Rubies and Rock) to to studio kitchen sink electronica (How Dare You) to stuff I’m won’t even bother labeling other than brilliant (Spaced Out Orbit, Sugar and Plastic, Squareneck). Couldn’t tell you who is Mirah or Thao, but love the voices separately and together.

    1. Why are music critics “best of year” lists always filled with acts few have ever heard of?

      1. they liked them the most?

    2. creative cunnilingus?

      1. Actually not that creative or interesting. Just funny that the NY Times chose to highlight it.

  24. “A Dance with Dragons”

  25. Harsanyi, for trashing Anathem you are dead to me. If I ever see you in person I’m going to Penrose tile your frickin’ ass!

    1. Oh yeah. I really liked that one. It was definitely more of a “the journey not the destination” book. I’ve been on the fence about getting ReamDe.

      1. Reamde is excellent. Sure, it’s just a thriller with SF elements.

        But tonewise, it’s a fun, novel-length chase scene in the manner of Snow Crash, but with all the metaverse and Sumerian neurolinguistic musings taken out.

        1. I enjoyed ReamDe, but it’s my least favorite Stephenson novel. He takes a 10-minute firefight and covers it impressive detail from multiple points of view for something like 150 pages. *Just because he can* Most of it made me appreciate the tighter/shorter narratives of the equally pulpy Zodiac and Cobweb.

      2. “How did you know the code?”

        “I selected a number at random.”

        It could’ve been edited down a bit but I enjoyed the journey. And Fraa Jad rocked.

        “I have no idea of all the parts and whatnot that go into a sextant.”

        “Neither do I. I was assuming we would design it from first principles.”

    2. Dude. Anathem needed an editor or three. And an ending. Much as I luv me some Neal, he needs an editor. Otherwise you get the Van Eck phreaking scene from Cryptonomicon.

      1. Like I said, it was the journey. I liked all the discussions, but I didn’t care for how the book just… stopped. And the wedding seemed really out of place and weird to me.

        1. Neal Stephenson hasn’t written an ending yet that I’ve noticed. He just stops writing when he gets tired.

    3. Harsanyi, for trashing Anathem you are dead to me.

      Ditto. Once in a while, I like to sit and have a good think about Anathem. Mmm… that’s some mathic goodness there.

      1. Oh, to tie this back in with the video game discussion above, I like how both Anathem and Deus Ex use the term “praxis”.

  26. I just bought this…..392&sr=1-1

    The reviews say it is as good as Massey’s other works on Russia, which is really saying something.

  27. OK, so, off topic…today I fought an invisible dragon in Skyrim. Is this a glitch?

    1. Is this another euphemism for ‘bating?

    2. Opinion is divided. Some people are saying that it is the dragon using a Shout to turn itself invisible.

      But the “no soul” thing is not unheard of… I’ve never gotten a soul from an Elder Dragon respawn on a cleared mount.

      Have you seen the backward flying dragon that you can’t get to come to the ground? That glitch has popped up four times in my current game.

      1. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing a backwards flying dragon. Can’t you bring it down with Unrelenting Force? That always works for me.

        1. No, it’s a glitch. It’s supposed to be a random spawn, but you can’y seem to hurt it.

          And I had one that I shot once with an arrow, and it flew away and never came back.

          I’ve been working on my smithing, enchanting, and alchemy. I have a Daedric Bow with a base damage of 206.

          1. I use a Flawless enchanted ebony bow and Daedric arrows, and I don’t have anywhere near that base damage, but I still one shot most enemies with stealth, except “bosses” and named enemies.

            1. Look into smithing potions, you could get that bow up to Legendary with probably just one improve round.

              Also, Lingering Health Damage potions. At Alchemy 70, I can make one that does 17 points of damage per second for 10 seconds. Kill a giant with one shot.

              1. you can also (cheaply) increase your smithing early on by just buying some ore and leather, tanning the leather and smelting the ore, and then just building cheap weapons, like a dagger

                do this over and over again, sell the daggers back buy more ore, etc.

                i need to get my alchemy up.

                i love the way there are so many ways you can approach stuff – brute force, sneaking, illusion (invisibility spells are great), etc.

                1. All this talk about this Skyrim game made me think I might be missing something. Then it got to this talk and I realized that I am not missing anything.

      2. Holy shit! Do you people just never sleep or what?

    3. Yeah, it’s a glitch. There are shouts that will make your character ethereal, but an invisible dragon is not mentioned in the player’s guide, and something that unusual would be noted.

  28. I second Ready Player One as the best new scifi of the year. Surprisingly good. Reamde gives you your money’s worth. GRRM’s new book was much better than the previous one. Also, I hear Wild Cards will be produced as a movie next year. Which will be either awesome or horrible. There is no middle.

    1. GRRM’s new book was much better than the previous one.

      What a low, low bar.

      1. It was going in the right direction.

        1. Oh, I’m not dissing DwD. It’s just calling it better FoC is some faint praise indeed.

          In case anyone was wondering, I re-read the entire series before reading DwD. FoC may actually be worse the 2nd time around.

      2. Hey, I wasn’t sure he could clear it.

        The Unincorporated Woman came out this year, too. The book added nothing of libertarian interest to the series, but those guys are getting better at the space opera genre.

        1. Yeah, I was going to push onto TUW, but after War, I just got tired. Those guys need an editor something fierce.

  29. For best music of 2011 (and I’m hopelessly out of the loop), I’ll have to go with –
    1) Mirrors – Lights and Offerings
    2) Detachments – s/t
    3) Peter Murphy – Ninth

    Red Orchestra 2 (for the hardcore FPS genre)

    Movies – uh… I haven’t been to a theater for 3-4 years now.

    Books: Who has the time to read?

  30. Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It!

    It was released in 2010, but was the best book in 2011 by far!

  31. You want to know what my favorite fantasy game is? It’s the Reason Hit & Run College Bowl Pick-em, and it’s still not even started.

    The password is: liberty and if you don’t play then you’re a fag.

    1. I’m the drinkinest, fightinest, filthiest, womanizingest clubbing gamer who ever didn’t give a damn about football until Superbowl time comes around. Skyrim and ME2 for the win!
      …Though, admittedly, I have bullshitted my way through a lot of football conversations to prove my manliness. I’ve gotten pretty skilled at it.

      1. We’re up to 19. I’m not gonna stop begging until we get to 25.

        Hear that, people? When we get to 25 players, I’ll stop my assclownery.*

        *Note: I will not stop my assclownery.

        1. I did my part.

  32. Music. My top 3 of the year:

    1. Symphony X – Iconoclast
    2. Arch/Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance
    3. Iced Earth – Dystopia

    Movies. The only two movies I saw in the theater this year were “The Debt” and “The Muppets.” Muppets were slightly disappointing, so I’ll go with “The Debt.”

    Books. The only new book I read this year was Tony Iommi’s memoir, Iron Man. A must-read if you’re a Sabbath fan.

  33. Music: I purchased an old console stereo with a record player and got a first print (mint) of Sticky Fingers as well as a first print (mint) of Moving Pictures. It’s a toss-up.

    Book: I read The Third Policeman at least once a year and it always tops my list.

    Movie: as the players in the FFL can attest, I had a great sexual experience by trying to “finish” when Chief Brodie blows Jaws out of the water, and although I was about 2 minutes off, it was still the best movie of the year.

    Game: Super Mario Bros. 3 because I finally got my two kids to appreciate how good the classics can be.

    1. Moving Picture – will listen to that tonight while on my elliptical device of unending torture.

    2. BTW sloopy, my best music purchase of the year was Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes: Live at the Greek.

      I heard Out On The Tiles on Pandora, was blwon away, and sheepishly discovered that the album was released in 2000. Better late than never, I suppose!

      1. I’m gonna have to find that.

        Just purchased on ebay.

  34. Game
    Skyrim, hands down.

    Dance With Dragons with an tight 2nd place showing for Neal Asher’s The Technician. (I haven’t gotten around to Ready Player One yet, my book backlog is about a year’s worth of reading at this point.)

    Simple Math – Manchester Orchestra in a tie with The King Is Dead – The Decemberists

    Homeland – So much better than I possibly thought it could be

    The only movies I’ve seen in the theater this year were Captain America and The Muppet Movie, and that’s not much of a sample base.

    1. Not in the Bowl Pick-em yet, SF? I am disappoint.

      1. Not really a college football fan. College basketball and professional tennis is all I watch.

        1. skyrim is the game that got me BACK into computer gaming.

          i’ve played some games over the last few years – crysis, fear, half life 2, etc. etc. but nothing really grabbed me and got me back into it

          skyrim is it

          i have not been this excited about a game since the original Doom

          (btw, i just replayed the original doom with the doom III engine via a mod, and that was awesome)

          skyrim is TRULY immersive and way more open ended than any single player RPG i have ever played.

    2. Homeland gets the win for me for best new TV series, but factoring in the ongoing, I just can’t put anything above BrBa.

      1. I was sticking with new stuff, but TV is in a Golden Age right now and it would be hard to choose among all of them.

  35. Doesn’t really fit into the book of the year, thing, but the Malazan series finally wrapped up this year. Dense and tough slogging in places, but I thought it was great stuff.

    1. A little too meandering.

  36. just watched rise of the planet of the apes.

    much better than i expected. i am a huge pofa fan, both the movie and the book. i’ve read the book about a dozen times and seen the movie at least that many times

    well acted, good story (it changes the story in the original series, but since this is a reboot, that’s to be expected. ). it nicely foreshadows stuff that will come in the next movie, it has great acting (especially by serkis), seamless special effects, and flows very well

    it plays proper homage to the original via character names, some hoary old lines “get your stinking paws…”, heston, etc. references

    and it’s way way better than the horrible pofa remake done a few years ago with marky mark

    1. A planet where apes evolved from men? There’s got to be an answer.

    2. Nothing makes a movie great like references to a much better movie.

  37. Best Game: Deus Ex HR or Skyrim, haven’t played Skyrim enough to make a final decision.

    Best TV: Breaking Bad Season 4
    Best New TV: Game of Thrones

    Best Book: Godel, Escher, Bach – Yes, I know it’s old, but this was my first time reading it and it was absolutely amazing.

    Best Music: Protest the Hero – Scurrilous

    1. yes, on Godel Escher Bach

      when i was a teenager, i read that thing so many times, it looked like a reject from nag hammadi

  38. Best Music: CSS-La Liberacion or Fleet Foxes-Helplessness Blues. (With studying for the bar and studying work I barely kept up with music and mainly listened to all my favorites from last year).

    Best TV: Game of Thrones

    Best Book: Only read old sci-fi and fantasy this year but I’m starting Terry Pratchett-Snuff so lets give it to that.

    Best Games: VVVVVV, The Binding of Issac, Space Chem & Limbo. (My comp can’t run new shit but these games are awesome and cheap, though some are pretty short)

  39. Best Music: Devin Townsend, Ghost
    Best TV: Reruns.
    Best Books: Neverwhere and Kings of the High Frontier. OK, I’m a little behind. I’ve got REAMDE on my bedside table waiting to be cracked.
    Best Game: Cootie, specifically Epic Double Cootie.

  40. When we met Gloria we knew right away that she is made for the world of nude modelling.

    She is moving on from her successes with beauty contests in her native Ukraine. She has the superb legs and a firm petite ass. And she knows exactly how to show them off.

    Those long, long legs will take her far. We’re sure you’ll want to follow behind her.

    Gloria loves the finer finer things in life. Fast cars, jewellery and high-end fashion. She is aiming for the Monte Carlo lifestyle. She is all-out to please – and to win the rewards for her terrific assets.

    Nothing is off-limits for Gloria whether she is on-camera or relaxing.

  41. 2001 great Books:

    I Sleep in Hitler’s Bed by Tuvia Tenenbaum

    How Civilizations Die by Spengler

  42. there is some really good selections in here, I will re-comment after putting some thought into my #1’s

  43. at the end of 2011 ,what do you think the best in 2011? such as the best books, movies, music, and more . Cedar Rapids is an annoying and pathetic movie .

  44. new book was much better than the previous one.
    Complete guide to sell your crafts at craft fairs and make more money

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