I'm going to go ahead and insist that my little blogging sabbatical is over. How can I not take advantage of this fancy new template?
It's the end of the year, and that means its time for a best-of. This list isn't confined to the best art and media produced in 2006; it's more about the things I encountered for the first time in 2006.
Once Were Warriors
A New Zealand film that a Kiwi friend introduced me to. It's the story of a Maori family disintergrating into chaos. Top flight acting and story, though there's a pivotal plot point that struck me as melodramatic. Nonetheless, this is one of the best movies I've ever seen... maybe top twenty quality.
A Bittersweet Life
A Korean gangster/revenge flick. It's pretty straightforward: one man insults another man, and the sheer quantity of testostone flowing through their veins makes apology impossible. It's not some slapdash action flick, though; the cinematopgraphy and acting (mostly) are top flight. The violence is keen too.
Ichi the Killer
If you think Han Solo or The Punisher are "anti-heros," you need to be introduced to this movie. Just... don't watch it with your mother.
Takashi Miike puts love into his violence. That's all there really is to say about this.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is a Japanese author I came across this past year; I've read 3 of his books, and they are all fantastic. I'm choosing Wind-Up over Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore because, well, Wind-Up was my first. This novel has some of the most truly gorgeous and affective writing I've ever come across; sensuous and dreamlike. Hiding behind the story of a rather passive man looking for his cat is an epic, sprawling battle for the soul of the Japanese people. I can't recommend Murakami enough, though if you wanted to dip your toes into something shorter begin with Norwegian Wood.
In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
A lot of the reviews I've seen around the net are pretty cool on this book; my own memories are strong and pleasant. I admit this might have something to do with the circumstances under which I read the book: on the flight home from Korea. The cabin was dark, and everyone around me was sleeping. I was in my own dimly lit little world while reading about a young Japanese man leading, and being led by, the vaguely mystical Frank through the back alleys of Tokyo. I remember it as a hazy nightmare. These two Murakamis aren't related to one another, by the way.
Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower IV by Stephen King
I'm slowly working my through King's Dark Tower series, enjoying every step of it. This has so far been my favourite installment of the five I've read. This book is essentially a booklength flashback, a prequel of sorts. The characters in this novel - long dead by the time of the larger storyline - are more interesting than the primary characters of the serious. There's a paradox here; the strength of this book is therefore the weakness of the rest. I hope books VI and VII have a lot more Cuthbert and Alain in them.
Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
This isn't the book of answers. It doesn't tell you if God exists or if eating babies is bad or who you should vote for. Heidegger's modest project just tells you how you can ask those questions in the first place.
Ethics by Benedictus de Spinoza
Written in 1677, it offers us a pretty good understanding of why Spinoza was kicked out of the Jewish community and labelled an atheist by... well, pretty much everyone.
It would be easy to see this as a stone-cold calculating book, but there's always an explosive Jewish mysticism just lurking beneath the surface. Forget the Kaballah, make this mandatory reading. For everyone; especially Intelligent Design fans. Spinoza pretty much curb stomps standard religious beliefs like final causes and anthropomorphic gods.
Talking Honky Tonk Blues by Buck 65
It's a mix of country, hip-hop, folk-rock and electronica. Yeah. And it all works to make my favourite album of the year. If you have an interest in any of those genres... Buck 65 can't be reccomended enough. Everyone should be this creative.
By the way, he's giving away the tracks from his new EP on his website. Go listen to all five, and tell if that this man is not going to single handedly save country and hip-hop from themselves.
Anger Do Not Enter by Beef Terminal
Why yes, I've picked up a taste for ambient beats. This is pretty much perfect night walking or reading music. It's about as relaxing as anything I've come across.
The Dusty Foot Philosopher by K'naan
This is definately runner up for my favourite album of the year. An unstoppable tour de force of world beat hip-hip.
So that's the year that was. An extraordinary year for music, books and movies all around; I'm very impressed with 2006 all around.