Randoms, Books, Lost

2015 Top Ten Round-Up

If I were to sum up 2015, it would be less reading, more watching. I took several shortcuts this year, opting to watch the movie/ TV versions instead of reading the book. But some of those shortcuts proved to be quite wonderful. With that as a caveat, here’s a summary round-up -- in no particular order -- of all the most memorable events of 2015 for me:

1. Jessica Jones
Binge-watching Jessica Jones was no hard feat; it was the most automatic “play next” in the world (link to trailer). I had read so many reviews about this show: the “neo-Noir” tones, a Marvel Comics hero who is grappling with a painful past slash disability, great relationships (especially female friendships), 3D characterizations, awesome acting and kickass women. All true, boyo. (Note: If you like Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, you will find Jessica Jones remarkably similar, as the self-deprecating, smart PI with supernatural powers.) Krysten Ritter acting as Jessica and David Tennant acting as the evil Kilgrave were jawdroppingly good. Kilgrave, Kilgrave, it is a mark to Melissa Rosenberg’s screenwriting that even for a villain like that, you hope for reformation.

2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
It’s no secret that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is one of my favourite books ever, and possibly in my top 3 SFF books ever. To see it televised in a 7-part show by Toby Haynes was a dream come true. Oh, how I loathed and pitied Norrell, admired Strange and loved Arabella, all over again. And the parts with Vinculus and the Raven King! They changed the ending slightly towards the end, possibly going for the HEA effect, which irked me. But how sharply directed this show was, how wonderfully acted, how beautifully shot — well, you get the gist. I haven’t gotten around to reading Ladies of Grace Adieu, but only Clarke can tell us what happens next with England’s two magicians.

3. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
I really don’t know why I skipped reading this book for such a long time. Perhaps the blurb was too nondescript, or the reviews deemed it more YA-ish. Really, its criminal how this book is so under-rated. But when I finally did start, I was hooked within the first five pages. This generally does not happen me to anymore! Usually I have to drone through at least 30-60 pages before I can carry on or toss it away. And sure, younger audiences can read this book, but this is also a treat for older folk. If you like masterfully handled Tamlin tales, or Fae stories, this is one of best versions you will ever find. I finished the book, only to start re-reading it immediately. This too does not often happen to me. I can’t give the book higher praise than that.

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I watched the movie near Christmas and walked out of the hall with a huge grin on my face — again, not something that happens frequently to me. I don’t think I need to explain here at all the plot or the reasons. Let’s just end it with — I can’t wait for the next movie, Episode VIII, which is slated to be some time around May 26, 2017. Ack, ack, ack! I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms already.

5. Kill Me, Heal Me
I didn’t think I would ever enjoy a show about a possibly deranged guy with seven, yes seven, multiple personalities. But this Korean drama of 2015, recommended highly by the super-duper-fan Hallyu Black, was just the most perfect show this side of Asian Television. Something in a rich scion’s traumatic past causes him to split up into seven different personalities, and boy, what acting by Ji Sung as the guy running from himself. Each episode left me with this giddy feeling that is difficult to describe and best experienced directly. No Top 10 List is ever complete for me without a South-East Asian Drama there, so this 20-episode show is one of my favourites from 2015.

6. Cups - Pitch Perfect
LadyBusiness recommended this song in one of her monthly best media series, and I was so enamoured of the song and Anna Kendrick, that I forced all my friends and colleagues to listen to it. The video version was of course better than the movie version, with that perfect pitch from the perfect cup-tapping choir. But the movie too made me smile all week. Pitch Perfect 2 was something of a disappointment, as is the way with several sequels, but I suspect this song will remain a perennial favourite. Embedding the video here for those might want to listen to the song again:

7. Mystery Marathon
I have summarised my mad whodunnit spree of 2015 earlier. The notable lovelies were: Dorothy Sayer’s books televised —particularly Have His Carcase and Murder Must Advertise Death Comes to Permberley and The Revenants. I am seeing a trend here — I like the period drama versions always more than the contemporary ones. Hmm. This 2016, I am going to go on a Comedy Marathon. (Any comedy recommendations for me?)

8. Miscrosoft Excel
As a lawyer, I mostly ever deal with words — and Microsoft Word. Recently, however, a demanding client asked us to stick to Excel instead. It was difficult to start off with, logging details into spreadsheets which do not always use “justified formatting” or “wrapped text” — but the learning curve was quite steep. Excel has a brain of its own, and I found myself experimenting with it even after I came back home. For a manic list-maker such as myself, Excel is turning into one of the highlights of 2015 and Beyond.

9. Podcasts and TED Talks
I discovered so many podcasts this year, and listening to podcasts while walking or doing some manual operations is a great way to multitask. My favourites are Writing Excuses (hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Kowal and Howard Tayler) for those who like to write, and the NPR Planet Money podcast, for those who like to explore behavioural economics. Other recommendations are Happier with Gretchen Rubin, who gives great advice on finding happiness in the little aspects of life, and the Public Speaker Podcast with Lisa Marshall who gives great tips on connecting with other people. And yes, TED Talks has been around for a while, so its really too deplorable that I started only in 2015 — but binge-watching/ hearing TED Talks too was enormous fun, especially while commuting to and fro office.

10. A Passion for Teaching
I realized a new passion in 2015 — teaching. I have done a lot of teaching gigs in the past, where I volunteered to teach local kids or apprenticed at vocational centres or as a teaching assistant. But 2015 was an important development — I seriously considered full-time teaching as a potential occupation. It was so much fun teaching concepts of law to law students; their enthusiasm was infectious and made me feel so much more, ahem, knowledgeable and respected. I was their friend too, and that was a great feeling to have. It also felt very enabling, that I could, with the right information and the right advice, help them mould their lives for the better. I don’t know if that’s a very idealistic way of thinking, but for 2015, it was one of my brightest notes.

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