I decided this year to look back on the stuff I've read, watched, played, or listened to. While not everything I've consumed is listed here, I did want to point out some items that I enjoyed. No full reviews here, I prefer simple lists and quick thoughts. Gives me an excuse for another blog post at least.
See my full list of books in my Books of 2023 post.
To be honest, I picked this up due to the immense popularity this book gained on release last year and wanted to see what all the fuss was. I was only on hold for the ebook at the library for five months, but it was worth it. I never watched iCarly (didn't have cable growing up) so I didn't read this for the nostalgia, but rather the perspective a child actor had in show business. And boy, is it rough. I'm sure some child actors have great experiences but it really takes its toll on those kids. I was also raised Mormon, so I understood some of the experiences McCurdy had, and how it shaped her life and her mother's actions. Fantastic memoir, highly recommended.
I follow Ryan North's SMBC comic but I didn't know he wrote books. This book was available at my library and I was on paternity leave so I figured I had some time to read it. I enjoy these types of non-fiction, humorous, science-y type books and North's work fit perfectly in that genre. Chances are I will not be taking over the world, but should the opportunity present itself, I'll be just a bit more prepared.
Some years ago, I stumbled across S.A. Cosby's book, Blacktop Wasteland, at the library (I judged the book by its cover). I read it and thoroughly enjoyed Cosby's writing. I've since read all his books (except My Darkest Prayer) and his latest, All the Sinners Bleed, was an enjoyable thriller. I liked the perspective Cosby provided via the characters, and trying to tackle current events. Looking forward to his next book.
Additionally, I've also started listening to audiobooks, thanks to self-hosting the Audiobookshelf server. The only books I've listened to so far are the Harry Potter series. It started out as testing the deployment of the server, but I ended up just listening to them all. Ah nostalgia. Next up is the The Lord of the Rings series.
Here are some artists/bands that I enjoyed listening to this year. You can see all my listening habits over on last.fm.
I've only listened to some of Metric's old stuff before this year, but their album Art of Doubt popped up in the algorithm and I was hooked. I try to listen to all their albums regularly. Standout track for me is "Risk".
Don't judge me but the only reason I started listening to The National was due to their song "The Alcott" featuring Taylor Swift. That song has been on repeat a few times for me this year, but I've enjoyed the rest of the album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein as well. The rest of their discography has started popping up in my rotations lately. Standout track is "The Alcott (feat. Taylor Swift)".
Similar to Metric, I've only heard the early songs of Cage the Elephant, but some of their newer albums popped up in my recommendations so I gave them a go. Their albums Tell Me I'm Pretty and Social Cues were a common occurrence in my music habits this year. Standout tracks are "Ready to Let Go" and "Social Cues".
This was a new band I had never heard before. Something about the voice of the lead singer was rather unique and I enjoyed it. Played a few tracks here and there on repeat. Standout track is "A Dream of You and Me".
At some point in passing, I heard the song "River Flows in You". I didn't know what it was, but thanks to my Pixel's Now Playing feature, I found this amazing piano player. I play the album The Best - Reminiscent 10th Anniversary, of which contains the above song, when I need some relaxing, modern classical music. Standout tracks are "River Flows in You" and "May Be".
I've been on a bit of a kick trying to listen to more bands featuring female lead singers (thanks to listening to a lot of Metric). CHVRCHES was the one band that kept coming up and I've listened to many of their songs. I'm sold. Standout track is "How Not To Drown (feat. Robert Smith)".
And yet one more instance of re-picking up a band that I hadn't listened to in years. The albums After the Disco and INTO THE BLUE are great albums. Standout track is "Good Luck".
I just wanted to share a song that I stumbled across on reddit of all places. It's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head (ft. Parcels)" by AnnenMayKantereit. It's a cover of the immortal song by Kylie Minogue, and dangit, I can't get it out of my head. My tracking isn't accurate because it's only available on YouTube, but it's probably in my top five played songs this year.
I need to find some new podcasts, but here's a couple I've listened to this year.
Currently, Darknet Diaries is the only podcast that I have notifications set up to alert me about new episodes. There's some really fantastic stories being told, and has definitely made me more aware of my own cybersecurity and general Internet habits. I especially enjoyed the episodes about game console hacking and the people who created modchips, game hackers, and the one about the money counterfeiter (episode 102).
A coworker mentioned that the comedian Nate Bargatze was one of the few "clean" comedians. I started listening to his podcast when I needed some light-hearted background chatter. I'd totally go to one of his shows, should he come back to Utah.
One of my favorite podcasts of all time is Reply All, but due to some controversies, the podcast lost one of its hosts, PJ Vogt. Once that died down, he started Search Engine. While I don't know the full story of what happened, I missed Reply All. I'd say Search Engine is adjacent to Reply All, covering similar stories. So for now it fills some of that void. I'll pick up new episodes when they sound interesting to me. I think I'll also go back to some of the Reply All archives in the meantime...
I need to track this section better. last.fm has been great for tracking music, but I think I want to check out one of those movie/TV tracking services. The following is from memory, and there's definitely more than what I've listed here.
If you're like me and have Superhero Fatigue™, I get it. I don't watch much anything anymore in this genre, post-Endgame. But if there's one series of superhero movies to watch, it's the Spider-Man Spider-Verse movies. The first one was amazing, and this sequel is no different. Across the Spider-Verse continues the story of Miles and totally delivers. If nothing else, watch it for the animation quality alone. In this time of AI-generated nonsense, it's refreshing to see some true homegrown art.
In college, I read the book this movie is based on, American Prometheus. I was very excited to see this adaptation come to the big screen, and it did not disappoint. The performance of Oppenheimer by Cillian Murphy was on point. A very emotional and thought provoking movie. I'm glad I saw this one in theaters too.
Barbie was one of my favorite movies this year. I did laugh many times, and the satire was perfect. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling (and everyone else) did a fantastic job. Remember, you are Kenough.
I have soft spot for spy-thriller movies, and apparently I enjoy a lot of movies starring Ryan Gosling. The Gray Man was a solid entry in the thriller genre. The scenes with both Gosling and Chris Evans were fantastic.
The spy-thriller genre strikes again. The cast was amazing in this movie. I'm not usually a Brad Pitt fan (the Ocean Eleven series notwithstanding) but he was the star of the show. Well, him and the duo of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as Tangerine and Lemon. Will need to watch again.
Next year I'm also going to try and track these better. I swear there was a show I really enjoyed this year, but I can't remember what it was...
I started watching Better Call Saul a couple years ago after finishing Breaking Bad. It was only this year that I finished latter half of the show. An absolute hit, one of my favorite shows (along with Breaking Bad). I daresay I kinda liked Better Call Saul over Breaking Bad, mostly due the amazing performances of Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn. 10/10, would watch again.
This show was an unexpected favorite for me. I'm usually not into animated shows, but the first episode was posted to YouTube by Netflix, and it hooked me. The story was great, characters well-written and developed, and the animation was gorgeous (I think this was the clincher) and soundtrack perfect. You never know what shows Netflix will cancel after the first season, but it has been confirmed a second season is coming.
I look forward to the new season of The Great British Baking Show every year, and this season was excellent as usual. I miss the duo of Noel and Matt, but the new host, Alison has kept up with the shenanigans pretty well.
I went into this show fairly blind. I've never watched the animated Star Wars shows (Clone Wars, Rebels), but I was faintly aware of who the character Ahsoka and her role in the greater Star Wars stories. Ahsoka turned out pretty well (much better than The Book of Boba Fett), and I enjoyed it. Looking forward to season 2, need to find out what happens to Baylan Skoll (RIP Ray Stevenson) and Shin Hati...
I'm pretty sure this show was created by BIG BARBECUE to try and convince me to buy a smoker. And it's working.
Haven't dedicated much time to gaming this year, with having a new kid and all, but here are some of the games I enjoyed playing. This list would probably be half this if it wasn't for getting a Steam Deck. Totally worth it.
I've been waiting for the day this was no longer an Epic exclusive (bleh) and it finally made its way to Steam this year. Fantastic remaster of the classic games, killer soundtrack, and runs fantastic on the Deck.
Out of the Vampire Survivors-inspired clones, this one is pretty simple and straightforward. Lots of fun! Though out of my six-ish hours of playing, I've only managed to get to get to level 20 once...
One of my favorite games of all time is Fallout 3, so decided to try and make progress in Fallout 4, especially now with a Deck (works great by the way). Certainly got further in the game, but so much to do, and I keep finding all the side quests. Despite that, I like Fallout 4, and one day I'll complete it.
I've had this one for a couple years, but I picked it back up once I got my Deck. And I finally managed to beat the final boss, the Corrupted Heart. It was one of my most satisfying gaming moments. Been plugging away at the Ascensions (currently at Ascension 12) lately. Slowly, but surely. One of the best games I've played. Ironclad for life.
I'm only including this because I love Rocket League (1300+ hours), or at least I loved the game it once was. While the core gameplay is the same, the post-Epic acquisition has left it a shell of its former indie self. I used to buy keys and the Rocket Pass, but I haven't spent a dime on it since Psyonix was bought out. And ever since Psyonix/Epic announced they were removing player-to-player trading, I simply stopped playing. I may pick it back up one day, though I feel its days are numbered, either being absorbed into Fortnite (bleh) or Rocket League 2. Well played! gg
For posterity, here's my Steam 2023 Year in Review
I don't really have anything I'm looking forward to. The only show I was waiting for was Andor, season 2, which was set to be released in August 2024, but as of today, it's been delayed. Probably to sometime in 2025. Maybe if The Umbrella Academy releases its final season...
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