The Best of 2012

Wouldn’t you rather read The Worst of 2012? Honestly, wouldn’t that be more fun, and slightly more original considering The Best Of has been coming through your feed for the past month or so? But the truth is, it has been a pretty good year for new discoveries.

BEST BOOK

Quiet by Susan Cain. This book is on a lot of lists, I’ve noticed. If by some chance you haven’t heard of this book you can listen to the author give a TED talk. That’s the Cliff’s Notes of it.

BEST PODCAST

Dishing Up Nutrition, from a company in Twin Cities, America, called Nutritional Weight and Wellness. The presenters are nutritionists, not professional presenters, and sometimes this shows, but what they have to say about food can be life changing. It was in this household. I recommend this podcast even though there seem to be advertisements every few minutes — advertisements for products and services which are only available in that part of the world and which are therefore of no use to me, or to most of us. And I normally hate listening to advertisements. Yet I still recommend this podcast. The website, too, does not look especially polished but contains excellent articles and recipes. Discovering Nutritional Weight and Wellness was a good reminder that not all that is glossy is great. Sometimes we must dig deeper for the gems.

BEST ALBUM

Last year, I, like the rest of Australia and subsequently the rest of the world fell in love with Gotye and then we heard it everywhere — in every cafe and shop and on the radio and on YouTube, parodied, and while I still really enjoy Somebody That I Used To Know, there’s this thing that happens when a song passes that threshold from a great discovery to completely over-played, and that definitely happened.

I bought less music this year in an effort to listen to my existing library of music, weeding out the songs I never actually liked, even though I might have liked, say, seven out of twelve tracks on an album. I got pretty ruthless and deleted entire albums, realising I have long since grown out of them: M People’s Elegant Slumming (the first CD I ever bought), a whole bunch of classical music with opera singers, which I have never really liked, and Bjork, who has original eye-makeup but who sounds just depressing.

An iTunes clean out is really worth it because, like most people I’m sure, I only listen to a tiny proportion of my library — the same 200 songs — and by having a clean out my iPod is far more likely to get it right if I trust it to play at random

So my best new discovery is Too Busy Dreamin’ by Chris Hurn, who also happened to compose the soundtrack to The Artifacts and who has also made an excellent job of the music to the forthcoming Midnight Feast. We had no idea until recently that Chris is also a talented folk singer. I’d describe him as a cross between James Blunt and Bob Dylan. He’s a less revolutionary Bob with a better singing voice. Whatcha Got is, about making the best out of a situation. I think the visual metaphor in the music video is ‘If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ (That phrase is cheesy and I actually don’t like it. The lyrics aren’t cheesy though.)

Once again, there’s a treasure trove of excellent music out there, but most of it we’ll never find because only a small proportion of it is heavily promoted. We only found it via personal connection.

BEST APP

Zite Personalised Magazine. Last year my favourite app was Flipboard, which is similar, and I use both of these apps every day to keep up with blogs, twitter, google reader and to discover new interesting articles.

See: 15 Fantastic Ways To Use Flipboard from Cool Cat Teacher Blog

Zite has continued to impress me and to get more ‘intelligent’ the more I use it, which is exactly what it’s designed to do. The latest update isn’t too stable, and I preferred it before. I’m not the only one. I see in the Australian app store they’ve lost a few stars in the latest version. But maybe I just take a while to get used to new things. Speaking of things, things sure changed this year. iTunes got even shittier, the WordPress dashboard keeps changing on me, and Facebook… As Brett and Jemaine would say from Flight of the Conchords, ‘There’s too many mutha’uckas ‘Uckin’ with my shi’.

BEST MOVIE

Unlike last year, I don’t have a written record of what I watched. This is because I accidentally lost all that info when I got a new hard drive. I thought Google Maps kept all your info. Anyway, it doesn’t.

So I’ll offer the movie which stands out to me as hugely affecting and that’s a Japanese film with the English title of ‘Nobody Knows’ about a mother who abandons her children in a modern suburban environment.

The most bizarre thing about this movie is the rolling credits, which of course give the names of all the actors. Finally, we have

‘Mother: You’.

At first I thought this was an absolute stroke of genius — a clever commentary on how all of us are responsible for looking after the children in our neighbourhoods and how we can’t only blame mothers for failing to raise children well. Later, I learnt that actually, the name of the Japanese actress who played the mother is called ‘You’. That’s her full stage name, apparently.

BEST FOOD DISCOVERY

Coconut oil. I cook lots of things in coconut oil now. I wondered if this would make everything taste like coconut — which I definitely don’t want — but it doesn’t. A friend recently told me where I can buy it locally for non-poncy-organic-freshf0od-market prices, without paying to ship it all the way from America so I’m very happy about that. (For locals, it’s sold at Supabarn in Civic, Canberra, which has an excellent health food section. There’s a decent hoard of healthy yuppies in Canberra, obviously.)

BEST NEW GADGETY THINGO

The Wacom Large Intuos drawing tablet. I was previously working on a Bamboo and wondered whether I would see the benefit of working on a larger surface. (The large ones are significantly more expensive, so I was taking a gamble.) I’m pleased to report that yes, buying a large Wacom is worth it because I’m now drawing from my elbow rather than from my wrist and this has made it easier to do wireframing in particular. The hot keys are also useful. I hardly use the touch capability because it’s not as responsive as an iPad — let’s face it, nothing is — so it tends to annoy me like our touchscreen GPS annoys me — usually when I’m hopelessly lost — and I leave it turned off.

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