An idiosyncratic list of the most intriguing, most mind altering, and just plain fun books/movies/games/etc. I read/watched/played in (not necessarily published in) 2013:
Winner: Getting More
Possibly the most useful book on the “dark arts” ever written.
“The Vegan Myth” would be a more accurate title. Nonetheless this book still manages to eviscerate most of the arguments in favor of vegetarianism; and point out just how badly flawed they are (or that they’re accurate but don’t actually make the point they claim to make. In particular, legitimate concerns with factory farming and animal cruelty are not arguments against consumption of animal products. Many are equally strong arguments against consuming any agricultural products.) A pure-plant-based diet is neither healthy nor environmentally sustainable. If you’re morally opposed to the domestication of higher animal life and not morally opposed to the destruction of lower life forms (e.g. insects and worms) then you may still choose to be a vegan. Just realize that you will damage your health by doing so. I wish I had read this book 30 years ago.
A fascinating look at the cognitive biases that affect us. The most important thing I leaned from this book was how to take the outside view.
A mind opening look at intelligence tests: both what they do measure and more importantly what they don’t. There may in fact be something that intelligence tests are measuring and that some people like to call “g”, but g misses a lot of things, including some cognitive skills we include in the word “intelligence” in common English usage.
Writing Fiction for Dummies
This year I began writing my novel; and this book showed me how to do it. It sucks, and I’ll probably never show it to anyone; but it’s further than I’ve gotten in fiction writing before. I have hopes that my second novel may actually be worth reading.
2013 was a boring year in movies, especially major Hollywood productions. I can’t think of one that wasn’t a predictable action flick or a sitcom knockoff. Gravity was probably the best of a bad lot. However one independent film did stand out. Short Term 12 is a brilliant, riveting, completely unexpected movie that tells a story I’ve never seen before with characters you come to care about deeply. It’s a deeply human story that plays against all the tropes we’ve come to expect in movies about government, institutions, and youth services. If you missed its brief run in theaters, get it on DVD.
2013 was another bleak year for network television. Not even the fourth season of Arrested Development could save it. No winners.
The Panasonic Lumix FZ200. The 600mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, surprisingly fast autofocus, raw support, burst mode, and sharpness that rivals Canon L glass make this the best point-and-shoot for birds ever. It’s still not SLR quality, and high-ISO performance leaves a lot to be desired; but the low weight make taking this on a birding trip a no-brainer when you don’t feel like dragging along ten pounds of professional gear.
Candy Crush. Best casual game ever.