2010 was packed. So much that looking back I can hardly believe it all happened in just one single year. It was also a different sort of year for me as I did my best to focus on living, rather than simply consuming. This was as much a conscious decision as it was one born out of necessity. Now the father of two young boys, I find myself with less and less time to enjoy the frivolities that we generally celebrate here at Robot Panic, and more obliged to savor every moment I have that isn’t spent changing diapers, assembling toys, or pretending to chase invisible monsters in my house. As such, I purchased far fewer games, watched less than half the number of films I saw in 2009, and pulled the plug on a number of TV shows that I just didn’t have time for.

But don’t mistake my tone to be one of regret. 2010 was one of the most personally fulfilling years of my life. It was the year I was able to actually return to creating things, rather than just talking about them. The Shmopera was the first time in years that I sat behind a real drumset and felt competent. It was the year I really embraced fatherhood to the fullest and discovered that despite all my cynicism and reluctance, I really enjoy being a family man. I bought a cabin on the lake where I spent nearly every summer of my childhood, investing in a place where my young family can grow together and create great memories over the next several decades.

My Fortress of Solitude

Fret not, gentle readers. I won’t spend this entire post rambling about how I love my wife and kids and gushing over baby pictures. Without further ado, let’s get to the important shit, shall we?

Comics: I’m starting with comics because buying comics was the most consistent thing I did all year. Without fail, I made my weekly trip to the comic book shop to pick up books that provided me with much-needed escape from my hectic life. I found that I’ve all but left the Marvel universe this year, due to their over-emphasis on the multitude of Avengers franchises and lack of anything really interesting going on in their regular books. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, the only Marvel books I currently pick up on a regular basis are Iron Man, Captain America, and Secret Avengers. The first purely out of habit (Tony Stark’s journey to win back his fortune hasn’t been all that fascinating), and the last two simply because I’ll buy anything the Ed Brubaker writes.

In the superhero world, DC has been getting the bulk of my cash this year, and most of that is spent on the Batman franchise. Bruce Wayne finally returned, and as a result I now pull about a half-dozen bat-books per month. Detective Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Red Robin, Batman, Inc., and probably one or two others I’m forgetting. I’m glad they found a way to keep Dick Grayson in a Batman suit for the time being, but I can’t say I’m too fond of the whole “Bruce Wayne publicly admits to funding Batman all these years” story line. In fact, it makes the whole “secret identity” gimmick far less believable than ever; especially since Vicki Vale just about blew the lid on it last year anyway.

But the best comic books I’ve read this year have had nothing – or close to nothing – to do with men in tights and capes. The best book on the stands, bar none, continues to be Scalped. A pulp/crime drama set on an Indian reservation with all sorts of side stories, multiple story threads, and amazing action, Scalped finally beat out The Walking Dead this year as my favorite series.

The other book that has been blowing my mind is Chew, a story about FDA agent Tony Chu, a cibopath who can learn the backstory of any plant or animal simply by eating it. He uses his powers to solve murders (just take a bite out of the victim), and track down criminals. It’s an amazingly entertaining series full of brilliant writing and great hidden jokes on every page.

Scarlett by Brian Michael Bendis is also near the top of my list of must-read books this year. I know I gave Bendis a written lashing last year for the whole resolution to the big Marvel event that he orchestrated, but he sure came bouncing back with Scarlett, the story of a girl who’s been wronged and is out to whip some serious ass.

And then there was Casanova. It’s hard to describe Casanova. Spy book tripped out on acid? Sure, I guess. But that doesn’t do it justice. It’s complex, funny, and challenging. But it’s worth your time.

And finally, I can’t end a comic book rant without getting a plug in for my beloved Ed Brubaker. Whether it’s another great run on Criminal or his new installation of Incognito, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will buy anything this guy puts out. He’s never, ever let me down.

Music: My aforementioned process of stripping away the excess in my life has had a huge effect on my music buying and listening. I’ve spent much of the year rediscovering albums in my collection, and that included about a month or two where I listened to nothing but “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. I’m also just about finished re-purchasing the entire John Lennon solo catalog now that they’ve been remastered and reminding myself just how fucking brilliant the man was.

But in the way of “new” music this year, for me, nothing topped LCD Soundsystem’s “This is Happening”. It’s music in a genre I rarely get into, but every damn song on that album had me shaking my aged, fat ass. I’m ashamed that it took me so long to take SimpleNate’s advice to buy it, but I made up for my sins by listening to it over and over for nearly the entire month of August.

A close runner-up was “Brother” by The Black Keys. Two white dudes from Ohio doing a killer take on Delta blues. Gotta love it. I listened to this one almost as much as “This is Happening” and enjoyed every last track, especially “Ten Cent Pistol”. “Brother” was the perfect album for late nights sitting out under the stars while sipping on some Surly beer.

After that, the list starts to dwindle fast. I loved “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire, but can’t decide if I like it better than “Neon Bible.” Either way, it’s a great album and a remarkable achievement in the whole “concept album” endeavor they’ve been chipping away at for seemingly their entire career. And I can’t decide if I love MGMT’s “Congratulations” or find it silly and pretentious.

Aside from that, what really struck me about my music habits in 2010 is that while I’m always actively seeking out something new and interesting to listen to, the wonder of modern technology and programs like iTunes, Grooveshark, and my friends’ recommendations via word-of-mouth or Twitter mean that at long last I’m no longer slave to popular culture. To this day, I have never heard a song by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, or any of the other current “big things”. And I say this not as a badge of honor, but simply a recognition that I no longer have to participate in a musical culture in which I have no interest. I’ve been told that a few of those artists have put out interesting material, and I’m sure that’s true. But I’ve just reached the age where I simply don’t give a damn to turn the dial of my radio to the local “modern hits” station or watch whichever industry awards show where these types of people are paraded about. I’ll let the party-goers gossip about Kanye and Taylor as they dance to the latest auto-tuned bubblegum hit while I grow old clutching onto my Rolling Stones and Hendrix vinyl albums, not yearning for days gone by, but glad in the fact that my world no longer needs to overlap with that one.

Movies: This one’s gonna be short.

Am I crazy or did the majority of 2010 just seem as though it was about nothing but Inception and Toy Story 3? Granted, How to Train Your Dragon was pretty bad ass, but until December, those were the only two big-buzz films of the year that I can recall. To be fair, they were both phenomenal films and ones that I could watch repeatedly. But it certainly seemed like a slow year at the box office.

I did mention December, though, and that month brought True Grit, which further cements the Coen Brothers as two of the greatest filmmakers of our time. It’s great that they can go from producing little niche films like A Simple Man to massive hits like True Grit in the span of a year, and both films are so different yet fit perfectly within their catalog. I wanna see them take on sci-fi next. Deep space science fiction by the Coen Brothers. That shit’d be awesome.

And then there was Tron: Legacy. I’m sure Hilden will wax philosophic about this in much greater detail than I’m capable of, but I’m still of two minds about the movie. On one hand, I was just as apathetic about it as I was the original Tron. That movie was nerdy and 80s, which was a good thing, but it also was boring as absolute hell. This one upped the neat-o factor by a billion, gave Jeff Bridges’ character a Dude-like makeover, and oozed with style. Yet, it still felt a bit dumb and clumsy to me. If nothing else, it created an interesting world that I’d like to see more of. I just hope they remember to include an interesting story next time.

My favorite movie of the year, though? None of the above. My favorite flick was Machete. My wife and I went to see this on opening night and we both had a blast, quoting the movie for the rest of the week. What can I say? I like to have a good time at the movies.

Tech: The iPhone 4 is now more valuable to me than my dick. And that’s not just because I had a vasectomy this year. This thing does everything and it goes everywhere. I just need it to function as an automobile, provide shelter, and dispense food and I’ll never need anything else as long as I live. And you know what? iPhone games can be good. Damn good. Cave dropped a few wonderful titles for iPhone, and I now have an admittedly clunky, yet legitimate TurboGrafx-16 emulator on my phone! I can also listen to radio stations from all across the globe, watch Netflix, organize my comic book pull list, and write music…on my phone! We live in the future…

And then there was the iPad, a device I was certain I didn’t need until Hilden – that rat-bastard – bought one and brought it to the podcast. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it planted a seed. And that seed would grow over the next several weeks as I found out about all the new and awesome shit I could use it for. Next thing I knew – BAM! 64GB iPad in my possession. That thing is now loaded with movies, games, books, magazines, and tons of activities that keep my kids entertained and help them learn. And reading Wired magazine on iPad? One of the coolest things I’ve done all year.

And really, that’ll about do it for me. 2010 was pretty fucked up as far as world events went. Floods, earthquakes, oil spills, celebrity nonsense, crazy deaths. But for me? 2010 was pretty bad ass and I hope I’m able to build on it in 2011 and beyond. As always, thanks for sticking with us for another year and thanks for
hanging out. We enjoy having you around, talking about games, movies, and other random nonsense.

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5 Responses to John’s 2010 Stuff of the Year

  1. The Black Keys are local gods in my town. That album and all their other albums are just insanely good.

  2. Gruel says:

    I really need to expand my music catalog. All I really got into for 2010 was picking up The Beatles greatest hits album, and rediscovering and jamming out to The Jackson 5 for the past few months. They are my drive home from work music, and are a safe bet into getting me into an awesome mindset coming home.

  3. I too enjoyed “Brothers”. But I must ask you, John, did you every get the super-duper-awesome limited edition box set of the Big 4 concert? They only released a DVD version of the box set instead of a Blu-ray one to go along with the DVD version for some odd reason, but it’s the CD’s that really make the box set worth it. Those and the poster, autographed photos, guitar pick, and book full of pictures of the show.

    And I want to make this post only about music so I’ll just say that if I did one of these Stuff of the Year posts I’d slob the knobs of the guys in The Sword. “Age of Winters” is good, “Gods of the Earth” is outstanding, but their 2010 offering, “Warp Riders”, is flat out amazing in it’s mix of 70’s hard rock, stoner metal and sci-fi story line.

  4. John says:

    I didn’t get the suepr-the-hardest edition of The Big 4. Just the Bluray.

    The Sword kicks ass. Seriously.

  5. Now that I think about it, I think I heard about The Sword from Robot Panic.

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