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[Comments] (3) The Crummy.com Review of Things 2010: That's right. I haven't covered everything I want to, because Rachel has arrived (yay) and I need to go to sleep so we can visit a museum in the morning. But you're not gonna read this until you go back to work anyway, so here it is:

Books: I read about 35 books in 2010, compared to 88 in 2009. Not many books, and not much fiction. I did read Gravity's Rainbow and the prose was great, but I found it annoying in the way that only a book from the 1960s or 1970s can be annoying.

The Crummy.com Book of the Year is James Tiptree, Jr., Julie Phillips's biography of Alice Sheldon. Runners-up are two books I read for Constellation Games research: From Eternity to Here by Sean Carroll, and Packing For Mars by Mary Roach. According to my contemporaneous ratings, I really liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, but neither seems terribly appetizing right now. Oh, and the first half of A Case of Conscience is really good.

Games: My big discovery of 2010 was board games. With Sumana away so often, I did a lot of game nights with my Astoria friends: Pat, Lucian and Beth. Our favorites are Dominion, Carcassonne, Cosmic Encounter (Crummy.com Game of the Year), and (Pat only) Twilight Struggle. Yes, by BoardGameGeek standards we are not indie at all. By anyone else's standards, we're trailblazers. In 2011 I plan to get into Power Grid, Agricola, and Small World.

I don't really have video game recommendations because I didn't play many deep or obscure games in 2010--mostly grindy stuff like Etrian Odyssey III to kill time during travel. (EO3 is a great game, and even innovative, but its innovations are very subtle.) I did think What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? 2 was really interesting--like a puzzle version of Conway's Life. I would also like to publicize the fact that Super Scribblenauts fixes all of the non-conceptual problems with Scribblenauts. And if you can play Pac-Man vs., you should.

Video: 2010 was the year I finished a project I began in 2005, to watch all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes more or less in order. I still haven't seen a couple KTMA episodes that were reused as Comedy Central episodes, but I'm basically done. I don't think you need me to tell you this, but MST3K is an amazing TV show. It has some big problems, and I think it's a less important show now that the Internet serves as your inoculation against the idea of passive media consumption. But it's really fun, there's a surprising amount of continuity, and in terms of sheer volume it's probably humanity's largest aggregation of jokes (at least until The Simpsons does a couple more seasons). Eventually I'll turn my show notes into an enormous web page, but don't hold your breath (or, indeed, postpone any vital biological function) waiting for it.

Online video: Board Games With Scott is great and may lead to you spending money.

Audio: MST3K isn't the only groundbreaking media from the 1990s I've been re-experiencing. In 2010 I spent many a sleepless hour in a strange hotel room listening to Schickele Mix, from PRI, Public Radio International. If you're not familiar: Schickele Mix was a radio show which gave you an education in music theory as part of a relentless, endearingly corny schtick. I'm almost through all the shows I have, and near the end it becomes less a music-theory show and more of a themed clip show, but nearly every episode is great.

It occurs to me that Schickele Mix was a podcast avant la lettre. Are there any other good music theory podcasts? I know that Pandora used to have one, but I don't think they do anymore.

Speaking of podcasts: this year I became able to exercise without visual stimulus, an adaptation that served me well. I'm a fan of a bunch of gaming podcasts: Three Moves Ahead, selectbutton.net, Dwarf Fortress Talk, and The Retro League. My favorite non-gaming podcasts are Astronomy Cast and the Long Now Foundation's Seminars About Long-Term Thinking.

This was not a big music-album year for me, but Schickele Mix introduced me to Laurie Anderson, and re-introduced me to Igor Stravinsky. The coveted "Best New Artist" award goes to Tally Hall.


Posted by Susie at Fri Dec 31 2010 00:48

I enjoyed Carcassonne! Thanks for introducing me to new games. You gave us Guillotine one Christmas and I know of at least two other people that bought it after playing it with us.

Posted by Yatima at Fri Dec 31 2010 02:28

You have a standing invitation to come and play Carcassonne at mine any day or night. Also, you are awesome.

Posted by Brendan at Fri Dec 31 2010 21:17

The Tiptree bio would have been my book of the year 2007 but for Spook Country. It's amazing. I still haven't read enough actual Tiptree stories to fully grasp it, where I was able to plumb SC more fully, but Tiptree was a startling combination of tragic and mind-expanding.

Come visit and I'll demo Small World and Agricola for you. Both are great, but Small World is a lot more accessible and quick-moving, and Agricola deeper.

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