My Favorite Things of 2014

For the last few years, Lindsey has thrown a New Year’s Eve party for all of our friends. In true Lindsey form, this is always quite the shindig and she puts countless hours into making it a great experience for all. As part of the event, everyone is asked to bring something, a movie, a CD, a gift card, etc. that represents their favorite thing of 2014 and at the end of the evening, each item is auctioned off. Last year I used this event as inspiration for a post on my 13 favorite things on 2013 (not including anything directly related to Cooper) and I thought it only fitting that I turn that post into an annual thing.

435
435

I won’t lie to you, dear readers. 2014 was not an easy year. Cooper’s health problems, several unexpected big expenditures that left us continually playing catch-up, work issues, my stupid shoulder injury, etc. all conspired to make 2014 feel like a consistent uphill grind. And yet, looking back over the 2014 in preparation for this post reminded me of the year’s many triumphs. Lindsey and I celebrated five years of marriage, we got to share some awesome adventures with our friends and family, and I watched my son grow into an actual little boy, which is one of the coolest (ongoing) experiences of my life. So, not so bad after all. And then, of course, 2014 also brought with it the following little joys.

Guardians of the Galaxy As always, I will soon devote an entire week to movie coverage and delve into my top 10 lists like every other professional, semi-professional, and wanna-be professional movie critic is doing right now. It’s safe to say, however, that Guardians of the Galaxy will be featured prominently. Very rarely in the last decade or so have I had as much fun with a movie as I did with this one and yet its quality is, for me, just as good as its pure entertainment value.

“This is Where I Leave You” (the book) As always, I intended to read far more books than I actually got through this year and I imagine the same thing will probably happen in 2015. But the one book I read in 2014 that really got me was “This is Where I Leave You.” The film adaptation was a frustrating affair but the novel got so much right about the pains of divorce and the human experience in general that I found myself completely unprepared for all the weeping that transpired. And yet, it is a glorious read.

Relevant Medias I’m hesitant if not downright wary of most Christian media. I get very frustrated very quickly with the books and the music and the various publications and, fairly or not, I tend to shy away from it as a result. But in 2014, I started REALLY paying attention to what Relevant is doing and I’ve been thoroughly impressed. From the magazine to the weekly podcast to the free, downloadable playlists they make available to subscribers, Relevant is producing a consistently strong product and kind of doing Christian media the way I would do Christian media were I in charge of my own Christian media company. (How’s that for a sentence?)

Jack White, “Lazaretto” There’s a scene at the end of The Dark Knight in which the cops chase a falsely-condemned Batman as Commissioner Gordon laments that he is, “not the hero we deserve but the hero we need.” I feel like that’s Jack White. He could be the savior of pop music, this generation’s Nirvana, if the masses would just embrace him fully. Instead, music critics attack his grandiose showmanship and his gimmicks while younger would-be listeners continue to overlook him. “Lazaretto” is a BRILLIANT album that plays magnificently as a whole but just as well when cut up and taken one song at a time. Never stop, Jack.

Vinyl It wasn’t the most original choice I could’ve made, given the ridiculous number of hipsters who have embraced the vinyl movement before me, but in 2014, I stopped buying CDs entirely and went full vinyl. Here’s what I love about vinyl: besides the fact that analog sounds more authentic if not actually better, it’s a medium that demands attention to an entire album rather than just a catchy single. It was a great year to go vinyl, too, thanks to great new albums from a bunch of my favorite bands and performers, like Ryan Adams, The Foo Fighters, The War on Drugs, and the aforementioned Jack White.

Cable TV Dramas Overall, 2014 wasn’t a particularly great year for TV. Too many of the new shows failed to catch hold and too many of my favorite returning shows took a dip in quality. But there were a few bright spots that not only delivered on quality but also got people talking, the most underrated part of the TV watching experience. Nothing quite came close to the watercooler importance of Breaking Bad last year but Fargo and True Detective burst out of their respective gates with brilliance and flair while Mad Men regained much of its former glory and The Americans took a decisive step forward.

AMC Palace It’s been a long time since I’ve had a favorite theater but in 2014, the AMC Palace in Downtown Fort Worth was renovated and suddenly it became our go-to movie destination. Nice new seats, a cool but non-distracting environment, and maybe best of all, reserved seating so you can arrive one minute before showtime and not wait in line…that’s the good stuff right there. Plus they have refrigerated Junior Mints, which nearly made this list on their own merits.

Dirk Climbs the Charts Look, my love for the great Dirk Nowitzki probably needs no further elaboration. Sometimes I wake up at night filled with regret over my failure to name my son Dirk; that’s how deep this love goes. It was very fulfilling, then, to watch Dirk climb the career scoring charts this year, going from number 14 to number 8 in the span of a few months and passing a number of NBA legends along the way. He’s just the best, you guys. Also he contributed to the best viral video of the year.

Mad About Movies Podcast Rise to Semi-Fame In 2013, two friends and I started the Mad About Movies podcast and what a blast we had. In 2014, though, things really took off when we were twice featured on the front page of iTunes and saw our little project climb the charts on the way to becoming the number two movie podcast in the land. It’s been such a cool ride and the fun we have each week when discussing film is, I think, quite evident in each finished episode. If you’re not already subscribed, I hope you’ll hop on board in 2015.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Trailer I was hanging out with Cooper the morning this thing hit the Internet and we watched it together about a dozen times. Rationally, I know that he will watch literally any video or picture I might choose to show him on my phone because he’s obsessed with electronics right now. But perhaps irrationally, I just know he’s turning into a little Star Wars nerd just like his dad and knowing that we will get to see new Star Wars movies together warms my heart (and maybe made me cry, like, a lot).

Keurig Just like last year, when I joined the ranks of iPad users about seven years late, this year another “brand new” technology made its way into my home and changed my life. The Keurig is pretty stinking great, you guys. Why didn’t any of you tell me what I was missing out on?! Thanks to this delightful little machine, my coffee intake has gone through the roof and I’m not sleeping very well but hey, it’s totally worth it to not have to re-teach myself how to make a pot of coffee six times a year.

Apple Christmas Commercial Apple has upped their game in the advertising department of late, what with last year’s Christmas commercial and the Dead Poets Society-inspired spot, but this tiny emotional roller coaster took the proverbial cake. I’d like to think even the most cynical humans found themselves in a slightly dusty room upon seeing this for the first time and it doesn’t hurt that Jack White’s restored record machine from the 50’s makes a cameo.

Nature Box Early in 2014, this service called Nature Box started advertising heavily within a lot of the podcasts I listen to and I guess the ads worked because at some point I somewhat sheepishly paid for a membership and man, is it awesome! Once a month a box containing five healthy snacks arrives at my doorstep and sometimes those snacks even make it through the first week before I’ve consumed them all. Even Lucy the Beagle (who you will notice is NOT on my Favorite Things list) likes Nature Box!

Baptism By far, the coolest (non-Cooper related) moment for me came when one the kiddos from my program asked if I would baptize him during church this spring. I’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of kids over the last seven years and have had a ton of significant experiences with many of them. But having the privilege of spending this moment with my young friend was truly something special for me.

aDSC_5778_filtered
aDSC_5778_filtered

Hopefully I will learn how to spell privilege in 2015, Brian

And just for kicks, here are the links to my favorite things I wrote in 2014: In Defense of NoahThings My Son Has Put In His MouthA New Sense of RenewFather's Day 2.0The First Five YearsA Letter to My College Bound FriendsWalk This Way