It’s been a while since I wrote end-of-year lists, but in light of my re-emergence on this very (digital) soil, I’ll give it a shot this year. I’m taking my liberty with the sorts of things I award in this blog, so don’t be disappointed if I won’t write about my favourite colour of the year (it’s goldenrod, though, as always). Well, here goes, in no particular order:
Best book of 2015 I started reading but will probably still be reading way into 2016
This one is easy. It’s From Dawn to Decadence, an all-encompassing cultural history of Europe from 1500 to the present day. Written by eminent French-born but ultimately US historian Jacques Barzun. He had a rather illustrious career as an historian, wrote numerous books on a number of wildly different subjects (one about Baseball, as well). The book has been co-opted somewhat by conservatives in the US, probably because Barzun is a bit of a cultural pessimist. Unarguably, though, the book provides a clear, concise and wildly entertaining insight into what shaped Europe and ultimately all the other countries across the globe. It’s filled to the brim with insights and aha-moments. Barzun wrote this book at the end of his life (he lived basically through all of the 20th century, and then some). Asked how long it took him to write the book, he just said: “My whole life.” I like that.
The reason why I haven’t finished it yet is either because I like to savour every singly word, or maybe because I start ruminating about what he writes and consequently fall asleep. You choose.
Best Horror film I probably won’t be ever be watching with my girlfriend
Let Us Prey. I’m cheating here a bit, simply because I think it’s the best horror film I’ve seen this year, period. But it really isn’t one I’d be watching with my girlfriend. Not that she’s squeamish, but the level of Hellraiserishness is simply not her kind of horror. Apart from that, though, I think she might actually like it. It’s set in a quiet Scottish town, it features an incredible female protagonist who prevails even in the face of utter chaos and fuckedupness.
The film is rather flawlessly made by director Brian O’Malley, not least because of his DOP Piers McGrail, who did such a stellar job. The whole thing is rounded off by Steve Lynch’s Carpenteresque score. In fact, the opening sequence alone is worth the admission for this one.
Best horror film I did watch with my girlfriend
Babadook. That, too, is quite easy. I think it was the most lauded horror film of the last year and a half, and I can see why. Uncanny, terrifying on so many levels and great for doing impressions. “Ba Ba Dook!” finally replaced “Kagutaba!” to freak each other out (the latter by the way coming from the 2005 film “The Curse”, which was quite a shocker too).
Best horror film (save the other two above)
Yes, I do like watching horror films, so please excuse this final one. It’s called It Follows, and it’s one of those films that even though it doesn’t make sense all the time, feels just right. It’s a not so subtle, but still convincing parable about the, sometimes quite tangible, horrors of growing up. Again score and camerawork are spot on as well.
Best Film Festival I was invited to act as a juror on
Easy, that was of course the Vienna Film Festival Viennale! I loved having the opportunity to watch roughly 30 films in ten days (in the theatre, mind you), and then being able to actually, hopefully, help a film getting an Austrian release. The film we (my four great co-jurors and I) chose was the one by Portuguese filmmaker Carlos Saboga called “A Uma Hora Incerta”. I wrote about the film and why we chose it on my historical consultant blog. Read it!
Best five weddings I went to this year
I’d say the best five wedding were the ones I went to this year. So yeah, all weddings were great, none like the other. We spent nights drinking in the middle of Viennese Donaupark, in a Palais on the outskirts of Vienna, near an old water-mill in the Upper Austrian countryside, in a wine-cellar again at the outskirts of Vienna and finally right underneath a Viaduct again at the outskirts of Vienna (there’s a pattern there somewhere). As I’m actually quite a fan of ties, but am actually not forced to wear them on a daily basis, I was happy to finally have good reason to wear ties. Here’s one of them.
Best food I ate
I like to eat a whole lot. Currently not reflected in my food-blog, because I just haven’t had the time to write pithy comments about food. I do take a lot of pictures of my food, still. Picking out a single dish I had over the course of the year is amazingly difficult, if not even impossible. Always one to shy away from a hard task, I’ll just go ahead and post some of my favourite dishes here. You decide which one I liked best.
Best language I learned
SPANISH! I finally got real about using Duolingo. I’d started up courses a few years back, went through a bit of Spanish, Swedish and French. This year I decided to go all the way, at least with one of those languages. It turned out to be Spanish. I finished the whole course after five or so months, and now I’m just tirelessly repeating what I learned. Because hey, according to the Duolingo Owl, that’s how you learn a language. I’m by no means really good at it, but I’m good enough at it for now. Which is exactly what I wanted.
Best indie-game festival I visited
There’s a lot of indie-game developers in Austria and the neighboring countries. Especially for those in the Eastern European countries, champions and chances to network are needed. Radius Festival, originally a London-based games expo, does just that. In July 2015 it came to Vienna, and I got to meet some very interesting people in the process. There’s loads of great people making games in Austria and the neighboring countries, and events like these are great to foster that talent. Since I’m at it, have a look at Games Austria, a non-profit organization that is very active in that area. In February, they’ll even host their first real conference. So go there and have a look.
Best Podcast I became a part of
Well, I didn’t have a favourite one for the most part of the year, but then in late September my friend Daniel of Codinghistory fame approached me. Asked if I wanted to, I said yes, and two weeks later we had our first episode up. Ever since then we’ve been going strong, currently at episode 14, I think. The whole thing is called Zeitsprung (astute readers of this blog might have seen me mention it elsewhere already), it’s about stories from history and quite entertaining. Also, you’ll learn a whole lot of stuff and since we always publish the latest episodes on Sundays (or early Mondays), it’s the best thing to start off your week. And you’ll be able to tell cool stories at the water-cooler (like about that one German-Spanish bastard who happened to become one of Spain’s most famous heroes). A small caveat: the whole thing’s in German, so if you don’t understand it, you’ll have to wait until we make some English versions of the show (might happen sometime).
Best way to end this blogpost
It’s been a great year, and I did a whole lot of things that made me enjoy it, whether I managed to cram those into one of my “best of” categories or not. I finally started reading more, learning more, enjoyed more time with my girlfriend and my parents and met loads of new people. I started writing more, and even though it might be to the detriment of those people who feel obliged to read my ramblings because they’re my family and friends, I think a blog filled with new life is a great thing.
And who knows, maybe, a few thousand years in the future, when the AI-humans have found a way to read the fragments they found on those hard-disks buried beneath the rubble of long lost civilizations, they’ll see this post and re-evaluate their decision to use humankind as batteries to fuel their virtually endless lives.
Have a great 2016!