December 14, 2004

2004 Favorites

I realize Jon may have beat me to it by a bit (we’ll just chalk that up to the time difference ;D), but I figured I would throw this out there anyway. It’s been a good year to have ears and eyes, so here is a brief celebration of the best of what the year had to offer. These are just from my point of view… so if you don’t like what I like, politely piss off, especially the asshole who felt the need to break into my car. Ah, such a cheery season:


There were a lot of good films this year, and a few promising stragglers to come in the next couple weeks before 2004 comes to a close like The Life Aquatic, but only a select few rose above.

  • Return of the King Extended Edition - I know this just came out on DVD, but it is the last part of the trilogy, and I have been waiting for it a damn year for it. Like the previous two extended editions, this one come with plenty of bonus material you will be watching when you should be at your desk figuring out how to maintain the roof over your head.
  • Shaun of the Dead - Refreshing as hell, and hilarious to boot. Great, smart writing, and manages to breath new life (!) into the overpopulated zombie genre.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, still a winning combination. Jim Carey can be so good when he wants to.
  • The Incredibles - Pixar does a great job of making the other animation houses look bad. I don’t care what you say, Shrek was a miserable piece of shit, and probably only a smidge better than Shrek 2.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - Modern pulp film fully realized. Beautiful eye-candy and a surprisingly good story to boot.




I don’t read much that’s new, leaning more towards old design and fiction books, so this part is a bit short.

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - A long read, at least for those of us with short attention spans, but a very rewarding one. It’s NOT Harry Potter for adults, that is the result of reviewers trying to quickly label it. But it is a very engrossing tale of old English magic, full of beautifully written language and interesting characters.
  • McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 13 edited by Chris Ware - Chris Ware is perpetually more talented that 3 or 4 incredible artists and equally as self-defeating. This book is worth the cover price for the cover itself. Luckily, there are 263 more incredible pages they throw in for free.
  • The Learners by Chip Kidd - Chip Kidd’s very promising start (though not really a book yet, but an online novella) to the followup of his first book The Cheese Monkeys.
  • Eightball by Daniel Clowes - Sporadically released, but always well worth the wait.

From the web

  • Coudal Partners - The best redesign of the year. The best site of the year. Pound for pound, the most content bang for your buck. And they are damn fine designers to boot.
  • Dooce - I don’t have female bodily functions. I don’t have a newborn baby daughter. Dooce is still one of the personal and honest reads around.
  • JK Rowling - I usually hate this much content crammed into a Flash site, but JK Rowling’s site sings with personality and imaginative features for fans young and old.

Video Games

I know I don’t own a billion game systems anymore (I also just sold my Game Cube) and there are a lot of cool games out now, so this is a short list. I often wind up playing old NES games on my Mac when I am bored anyway.

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - When I am not sitting at my computer working, this is where I can be found. Rockstar just keeps cramming more and more goodness into their GTA line, making it one of the most emblematic and stylish game franchises around.

My Site

Yeah, I know, it’s self-indulgent, but so is having a personal site. I am starting to get more comfortable with this whole writing thing.

  • What’s In a Name? - Wow, the conversation that followed was this site’s longest and it even stayed on topic!
  • October Edition - This is the type of stuff I love doing from time to time, and it made me so happy this year, especially how many others replicated it!
  • The Cornell House - It may only be me, but these are some of my most favorite photos I’ve taken.
  • Grey Box Methodology - I still like what this article has to say because I do this every time I design a site.

There you have it! 2004 is nearly at an end, and so am I dear reader. I will be leaving in about 10 days for a week in the old country, but I will pop in once or twice more before then.

Commentary (20):

1. Rob Mientjes says… dec 14, 2004 | 1:30 pm

Sheesh, I had the idea of doing this a couple of days ago. Today Jon comes up with this and now even you! Whadda!

Anyway, The Life Aquatic surely looks promising, and Return of the King is just… wonderful.

Oh, and there’s a lot ‘good to boot’ for you, eh? ;)

2. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 14, 2004 | 1:46 pm

I like boots! Blame it on a weary writer. I cleaned it up a bit for ya.

3. Switch says… dec 14, 2004 | 3:30 pm

Nice list, I just recently listened to Interpol (Antics) and I must say they have some very, very good songs where one can really listen to.

And Rob is right, what’s up with the list? New trend? Should we all be making lists now!?

4. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 14, 2004 | 3:32 pm

Nah, this is pretty typical end of year fare. People always do these as a way to close the doors and move on to the new year.

5. Switch says… dec 14, 2004 | 4:03 pm

Haven’t been reading weblogs that long :) I can’t stop noticing how you webloggers lists’ look so similiar, I think you all just like the good stuff eh? :)

6. John Oxton says… dec 14, 2004 | 4:54 pm

Good call on the J.K Rowling site, it is an absoulte beauty; just one more reason why I ‘gave up’ on Flash!

7. Jon Hicks says… dec 14, 2004 | 6:27 pm

Ack! I can’t believe I forgot the Coudal redesign! Its even my homepage dammit!

8. JR says… dec 14, 2004 | 6:31 pm

Spike Jonze didn’t have much (anything?) to do with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”…that was a Michel Gondry production. They’re pals, though, and I seem to recall that Spike might’ve introduced Charlie to Michel maybe. Gondry’s video work is better than Spike’s, I think, though in the same vein (i.e. amazing and different).

9. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 14, 2004 | 6:35 pm

I stand corrected. Still, hats off to Kaufman.

10. Ian says… dec 14, 2004 | 9:21 pm


It’s been a whole year full of inspiration, Jason.


11. Humanic says… dec 15, 2004 | 12:07 am

Agreed on Futureheads-Jam connection. It’s almost like the long-lost, unreleased Jam album.

Good to see another Jam fan around!

12. Jeff says… dec 15, 2004 | 10:01 am

I just want to nominate Metal Gear Solid 3 as best game of the year. I love GTA, but that game just fucking rocked.

and on a side note, Sky Captain was like this horrible stomach cancer somehow realized as a big budget hollywood movie.

13. Andrew E says… dec 15, 2004 | 3:46 pm

Right on about The Empire Strikes First - that’s a great !@#! album.

14. nick santilli says… dec 15, 2004 | 4:05 pm

I love that you listed your own writing Jason - you’re awesome!

The Grey Box Methodology was a new read for me - I love seeing peoples’ brain-storming sketches. So interesting to see how they made their way to their final product. Heck, I like looking through my own notebooks at those sketches! (the pages and pages of doodles leading to my logo are pretty fun - my wife even got in on the exercise!)
Would love to see a post about the sketches - maybe a good idea for a flickr group…hm.

here’s to another great year. cheers all.

15. Johan says… dec 15, 2004 | 6:33 pm

I like Arcade Fire and Interpol as well, but these are my five most important tunes of 2004:
1. Wait Up by Uncle Tupelo (released:1992).
A song that has made me cry throughout the year, but, after a river of tears, my baby will join me me!! Love you Leah!
2. Pattern Recognition by Sonic Youth.
The “kids” have their best album perhaps ever.
3. Borderline by The Soundtrack Of Our Lives.
A purerly sentimental choice — the documentary “Ebbot - the movie” made me listen to the the album “Origin Vol. 1” over and over. Ebbot is the only rock star the world needs!
4. Money by Silverbullit.
Arrogant people, but I like the music.
5. Knife Party by the Deftones.
We can’t be f*n pop twats all day long, ok.

Books are way too Swedish to be of interest.

Thanks for all posts of 2004, Jason!

16. ryan says… dec 16, 2004 | 2:05 pm

Eightball really is a fantastic read.

17. P. Dalkner says… dec 16, 2004 | 3:36 pm

“You try to make the world a better place and what does it get you? I mean, christ, how the hell does one man stand a chance against four billion assholes?”

Amen, Andy. Amen.

18. Jeff says… dec 18, 2004 | 7:36 am

Sky Captain was one of the more beautiful films this year. I had heard reviews that the storyline was thin so I was “prepared.” But it didn’t seem to detract from my enjoyment.

One of the best films this year was Sideways. The character development and casting was great. And if you like wine or have tooled up the inland valleys of California, you will recognize yourself.

19. Josh says… dec 19, 2004 | 7:18 pm

.… just gone thru the list…

Grey Box Method? It owns… :)

20. Tom says… dec 22, 2004 | 6:36 pm

I thougth the same thought about the JKRowling site, its actually well designed. And there are lots of little secret areas to get to. Very nice none the less.