Tag Archives: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

My Year End Wrap-Up 2010

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look back and reflect on the best and worst of 2010.  I’m not going to be the least bit objective here.  This is my blog, so I get to ignore popular trends and public opinion.  You won’t find Lady Gaga or Dancing With The Stars or Harry Potter The First Part of the Last Book (Finally).  This is what entertained ME this year.

Best Books: This year, the recently published books that I most enjoyed were The Gates by John Connolly, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre, and The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart.  The biggest disappoint was One Day by David Nicholls.

Best Television: All year long, the television show that has been the most consistently funny and worth watching is The Big Bang Theory.  Jim Parsons gets a lot of the credit, but I’m also a big fan of Kunal Nayyar as Raj.   Another excellent series is Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  My favorite new show from the fall is Hawaii Five-O.  The worst show this year  was the incredibly dull American Idol season.  I can’t even remember the finalists anymore, probably because I was watching NCIS instead.   (People who know me will wonder about General Hospital.  Just keep reading.)

Best Twitter:  Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds tweets with charm and whimsy, and his photos, while not always in focus, are always worth clicking open.

Best Movie:  This category is very tricky.  I only saw five films this year in a movie theater, and two of them were silent.   Of the talkies, Easy A was the funniest and most endearing.  Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are so appealing, you easily forget the shortcomings of the story.  Fortunately, none of the films I paid good money to see actually sucked.  Considering the clunkers released this year, that’s pretty good luck.   All the good films released this month will have to go into next year’s list, because I haven’t seen them yet!

Best DVDs:  Here is where I make up for all the movies I missed in the theater.   The best films I watched on DVD weren’t even released this year, but they’re worth mentioning.  I loved Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont, Patrik Age 1.5, In the Loop, The Band’s Visit, and Heartlands.  Note that three of these films are British, one is Swedish, and one is Israeli.  Not one American film made my list this year.  Unfortunately, the worst thing I watched on DVD this year was also British.  It was a short-lived TV series called Bonekickers.  Avoid it.

Best Streaming:  A special thank you to my downstairs neighbors Nathan and Eric, because I share their wireless DSL.  They upgraded the speed a couple of months ago.  Now I can watch programs on my computer without all the stops for buffering.  The best thing I watched streaming was the British comedy series The IT Crowd.  A special mention goes to the hours of entertaining clips I watched on YouTube.

Best Music:  The music that gets the most space on my mp3 player, and the most plays, is by Enation.  I’ve also enjoyed the new albums by Hanson (Shout it Out) and Jason Castro.

Best Music Video:   I love dogs, so my favorite is White Knuckles by OK Go.

Best Entertainment News:  This is a weird category, but I have been fascinated by all the news about the making of The Hobbit.  The director changes, the New Zealand union controversy, the casting news—it could all prove to be more entertaining than the movie itself.  If it ever gets made.  The worst news was when Entertainment Weekly magazine refused to honor my great subscription rate from past years, so I didn’t renew.

Entertainer of the Year:  This one is a no-brainer.  Back in July, I started watching General Hospital to check out James Franco’s guest appearance.  I became interested in Jonathan Jackson, who plays Lucky Spencer.  I thought my interest would last about a week.   Six months later, I’m still watching him on GH, listening to his band Enation, and checking his facebook page every day.  I’ve watched his movies, his YouTube videos, and his live streaming events on Ustream.   He even answered a question from me on his Twitter Q & A last month.  Jonathan Jackson gets this “award” not just because he has entertained me, but because he has done it in so many different ways.  Thumbs up!

Enation in the recording studio

Jonathan Jackson and Enation (click to see larger)

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Bookends (2)

There’s nothing like a bout of flu to help you catch up on your reading!  I read three interesting books in the last few days.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a debut novel about a 68-year-old widower living in a small village in Essex, England.  His life is quiet and rather lonely until he becomes involved with the 58-year-old Pakistani widow who owns the village shop.   Feelings between them grow, but everything gets complicated by family obligations and duties, not to mention the bossy village ladies who rope both Major Pettigrew and Mrs Ali into helping with a disastrous country club dance.  I really enjoyed the dry humor and warm heart of this novel.  The climax seemed a little too much like a Bollywood melodrama, but I’m pretty sure it was deliberate.  I hope the author has another good one in the works.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre is the true story of a top secret plot in 1943 that successfully misdirected the Nazis into believing that the Allies would invade Greece instead of Sicily.   British Intelligence took the corpse of an itinerant Welshman who died of phosphorus poisoning, dressed it as a British officer, attached a briefcase filled with false papers, and then had a submarine float the body onto a beach in Southern Spain.  They hoped the Spanish would leak the false papers to the Germans, leading them to believe an invasion of Greece was the next big Allied target.  This is not the first book published about Operation Mincemeat, but it’s the most complete story, since it incorporates official secrets which were only recently made public.  Parts of the story are very funny, others macabre, and it all makes for a fascinating read.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann is about the explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925 while searching for a lost civilization deep in the rainforest.  It’s one of those enduring mysteries of history, like Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, that has captured the imagination of generations.  Grann himself went into the Amazon to try to find out what happened to Fawcett.  His adventures are interwoven with the story of Fawcett’s expedition and subsequent rescue attempts over the years.  To tell you what Grann found, or didn’t find, would spoil the book,  so read it yourself!

Strange fact:  in three of the last five books I’ve read, howler monkeys are mentioned.  What’s the deal with howler monkeys?  Why are howler monkeys suddenly so popular?

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