As 2010 fades into history, these were a few of my favorite things this year:
Favorite books: It wasn't the greatest year for books, but there were still a few gems, including:
• Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand. While no book on George Armstrong Custer will ever touch Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star, this wasn't bad. Connell's book chronicled much of Custer's adult life, culminating in his colossal misjudging of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, while Philbrick's book is simply a meticulously detailed account of the weeks leading up to and including the massacre. He doesn't dig up much that is new, but the apparent fact that the Lakota women, after the battle, stuck an arrow up Custer's penis is something I had never known before. And something I'd really like to forget, but just can't.
• The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America. In 1910, a combination of drought, rampant deforestation and ever-present human hubris combined to start a forest fire that destroyed millions of acres of forest in Idaho and neighboring states. The fire helped give Teddy's fledgling U.S. Forest Service a raison d'être and ushered in an era of conservation. In case you think that greedy bastards only exist in the modern world, one timber tycoon, a century ago, said, "We have the God-given right to use all the resources available to us. Let future generations make do the best they can."
• I also liked Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse, which is a follow-up by James L. Swanson to his really cool Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer; and Michael Korda's Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, in which we learn that the larger-than-life T.E. Lawrence was only about 5 feet 5 inches tall and probably died a virgin.
And finally, I have to admit I enjoyed reading Keith Richards' insane autobiography, Life. I generally shy away from autobiographies, mostly because they tend to be either self-serving and safe, or bitter and self-flagellating. But this thing is a hoot. I figured it doesn't even count as an autobiography, because Richards is like the drugged-out former numbers-runner about whom Richard Pryor said, "He used to book the numbers (and) didn't need paper or pencil. Now the n----- don't know who he is!"
The tales of sex and drugs are, like, yeah OK, but when he talks about the music with a profound reverence, the book takes off. It also recalls the question to which I am afraid I will never get a good answer: Why do pasty-faced white Brits have such a deep respect for and appreciation of the blues, while most black Americans (whose ancestors created the art form) don't?
Favorite movies: The movie-theater-going experience gets more and more excruciating with each passing year, so I hardly ever venture out. I hate sitting among drones who are so addicted to their phones that they can't go 10 minutes without checking them. I really hate paying $20 for popcorn and a soda. And I hate the fact that filmmakers actually believe that "3-D" would appeal to anyone older than the age of 10.
This past year, I saw the dreadful Valentine's Day with my basketball team when we were in Prescott for the state tournament, and the terribly disappointing Iron Man 2 when my track team was in Phoenix for the state meet. The only two movies I chose to see in the theater were Inception and The Social Network, both of which were very good and both of which are certain Best Picture Oscar nominees.
Of the two, I probably enjoyed the wildly inventive Inception a little bit more, but I did utter an audible expletive during the final scene, for which I apologized profusely to the two nuns sitting in front of me.
Favorite music: Remember when people used to make great albums? It was a bad year. I kinda liked Elton John and Leon Russell's The Union and Duffy's Endlessly. Boy, if Duffy actually speaks like that, she probably sends people running into the streets. But somehow, as a singing voice, it works.
Some people have touted Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as some kind of hot stuff, but I wouldn't listen to that clown if he were performing next to a naked Sofia Vergara and handing out free samples of Popeye's Chicken.
Mostly, I liked a few singles, including Eminem (with Rihanna) doing "Love the Way You Lie," B.o.B. (with Hayley Williams of Paramore) doing "Airplanes," and "Ain't Going Back" by Chicago-based, all-white soul/funk band The Right Now. And I love Cee-Lo's classic break-up song, "F--- You!" If you can listen to that without tapping a toe and laughing at lyrics like "Yeah, I'm sorry, I can't afford a Ferrari. ... I guess he's an X-Box and I'm an Atari," you must have died, and nobody told you.
Favorite television: I like Dexter. Probably way too much.
Favorite part of the 2010 University of Arizona football season: The first eight games. I just can't seem to remember much of what happened after that.