Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Shots: 2008 In The Rear View Mirror

  • It's hard to see the end of the year approach without taking some stock of what you've done over the last 366 days. What I've done is play video games, watch TV and movies, and read a few books so that's all I have to write about.

  • Any review of the year would be lacking without talking about the One True Game, World of Warcraft. I started the year in a small guild raiding the most junior of Burning Crusade instances, Karazhan. By midyear, I'd switched to a larger guild raiding the higher level instances and rushing toward a giant case of burnout. Then as the end of the year neared, Blizzard released Wrath of the Lich King. Suddenly I was back in the game and having fun. My ardor for WoW has subsided recently. I don't have the grand desire to raid anymore, but there is plenty to still see in the game. I will enjoy my time in Northrend for a long time to come, though in greater moderation.

  • Just as I was burning out on WoW, the MMO blogsphere was reaching a fever pitch in anticipation of Warhammer Online. On paper it sounded like a great game. I was even lured to buying the gorgeous collector's edition of the game. But the more I played, the less I enjoyed myself. There was a lot to enjoy about the game and I'm sure it will get better over time. But they definitely designed it to be a next-gen MMO and I don't have a next-gen computer. On the other hand, the release of Mines of Moria recently drew me to try Lord of the Rings Online for a third time. So far, the third time is the charm. I don't know if Turbine has made the game that much better (though the Warden is awesome), but somehow LotRO is scratching the same itch WoW did, and Guild Wars did before it.

  • On the Xbox 360, it was not a huge year. But what I did play was amazing. At the beginning of the year, I was able to finish Bioware's amazing Mass Effect. It would be difficult for me to recommend this game even more. Any fan of role playing games or science fiction would be in for a treat with this game. Writing about it now makes me want to go back and experience the story again. When I wasn't saving the galaxy, I often found myself rocking the world with my plastic guitar skills in Rock Band. Although I had always wondered about the Guitar Hero games, I could not bring myself to spend the money to try it. Lucky for me, a borrowed guitar controller was all I need to find out how much fun it could be. And no matter how silly it might look from the outside, it is a lot of fun.

  • Outside of gaming, there was a lot more to keep me occupied. The two movies that I enjoyed most this year were, strangely enough, superhero films. First came Iron Man with a canny mix of humor, fun, and action. For a while, I thought it was the best superhero movie I'd seen. That was until The Dark Knight came out. This movie transgresses the boundaries of its genre so flagrantly that it deserves to be held up with the best of all film, not just locked in the spandex ghetto. It was a towering accomplishment and will not be soon surmounted.

  • On television, my tastes have narrowed considerably. Luckily for me, this was the year that The Wire wrapped up its five season journey. Though we followed the show primarily on DVD, my wife and I will always rate the show as one of television's best. We also discovered the BBC's new version of Doctor Who this year. Bringing modern sensibilities and production values to the series has made it a great find. And then HBO once again rescued us with True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books. While vampire fans were falling all over themselves over the chaste vampirics of Twilight, True Blood was where the blood was really pumping.

  • Even with all this, I was able to find the time to do a little reading. My favorite book this year was the creepy T Is For Trespass by Sue Grafton. Grafton is one of the best mystery writers still working and every new book is an event. Because of The Wire, I was inspired to pick up David Chase's Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets. Anyone who thinks they know all about the police from Law and Order or CSI would be well served to read this excellent work. 2008 was the year that I discovered Neal Stephenson. Early in the year I read his classic, Snow Crash and was blown away. When he released his newest work, the intricate and dense Anathem, I knew I had to try it out. This was also the year I fell in love with pulp works published by Hard Case Crime. I signed up for the monthly book club and have already read eleven of their books. They are decadent little books that don't waste any time getting to the action and I love them for it.

  • I hope 2008 was a good to you and that 2009 is better. At least we won't have to put up with the presidential election this year.


  1. I came over to visit you from your wife's blog. In reading your comments, I think I see in you exactly what my nine year old son will be as an adult. He is an avid gamer...I have to drag him by his hair outside to provide his skin the melatonin that it needs.

    I just wanted you to know that fans of The Kitty really want her to buy more books. We need her reviews of new and relevant material to keep us entertained and give us a reason to get up in the morning! We all appreciate your support!

  2. Hi! Literary Feline sent me :-). I enjoyed your recap of your favorite entertainments this year.

    My stepkids just got Guitar Hero for the Wii. It just might tempt me to try using that thing.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Stopping by from Literary Feline to wish you Happy New Year!

    My husband did a lot of gaming this year, too - always does, but he's never tried World of Warcraft. I'm kind of afraid to suggest it.

  4. @Sandy: Thanks for stopping by. I can't say I'm going to go out of my way to support my wife's book purchasing habit, but there's not much I can do to stop it either. I'm sure there will be plenty of Literary Feline to come.

    @Florinda: If you do try it (and enjoy it), tell my wife. She turns her nose up every time the plastic guitar comes out.

    @Carrie: If your husband is at all like me, don't tell your husband. I'm sure LF would prefer I didn't play so much.

    @everyone: Have a happy new year!

  5. Ms. Kitty sent me to read your favorites this year. While I would love to be a gamer, the last console I bought was when the original XBOX was brand new and way too much money LOL. By the way, Sue Grafton is my favorite too!
    Oh yeah...go easy on your wife when she buys a new book, I need more suggestions =) Thanks!

  6. @Kristina: The origial Xbox was a pretty hardcore gaming console. I don't think you can shake the "gamer" title after that.

    @everyone: Has anyone heard anything about U Is For...? I need another fix.