The inaugural year of this blog is coming to a close and I felt that I should do the obligatory “end of the year” post. I have always had an issue with “Best of [year]” posts because while it makes sense for things like movies and video games, it doesn’t make sense for things like TV shows, podcasts and software where they span/change over multiple years. Therefore, my spin on this concept is little different, and rather than naming what was the pure “best” of the year, I limited the qualified properties to things that I discovered in 2011. So you may see things on this list that did not come out in 2011, but instead are things that I first used/watched/absorbed in 2011. I dub these my “2011 Newsies Awards”, which is also an homage to my all-time guilty pleasure movie Newsies.
TV Show – Breaking Bad
Although Breaking Bad premiered three years ago, I never watched a minute of it until this year. I have seen every episode and have no doubt that is the best show on television. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul deserve every award they have already received, and I think it will be a travesty if Paul doesn’t win another Emmy this year. He was so amazing in season five. Although this show probably isn’t for everyone, if you have ever considered watching it, you will not be let down.
- Game of Thrones – I never read the books and was hesitant to dive into what I thought was a lot more magic/sci-fi than it was; my mind was blown. Definitely a great, but at times confusing story.
- Shameless – A hilarious dark comedy about a rag-tag bunch of siblings who try to survive growing up in Chicago despite their alcoholic father’s constant hindering.
Did Not Qualify (DNQ):
- Friday Night Lights – Worthy of a mention for it’s brilliant final season. One of the most underrated TV shows of the last five years. As more people discover this on Netflix I expect it’s place in TV lore to grow.
Movie – The Hangover 2
A tough category as I saw very few movies that actually came out in 2011. I loved the follow-up to the now legendary 2009 comedy, and even thought as I walked out of the theatre thinking that it was as good as the original, upon my (recent) 2nd viewing, directly after re-watching the original, I realize that it’s not nearly as good, but still funny.
- Up in the Air – Oscar nominee from 2009 was another one I wish I had seen sooner. Vera Farmiga was very good and seemed so much more grown-up than in The Departed.
- Body of Lies – This 2008 Ridley Scott action movie is obviously not new, but I wish I had seen it sooner. I thought it was a very good conspiracy/action/political thriller. I like DiCaprio and Crowe very much.
iPhone App – Tweetbot
Released in April by a company known for making unique and beautiful applications, Tweetbot is the best Twitter client on any platform. If I could find a way to use it on my Mac I would. The rumors of an iPad version have me salivating, but in the meantime, it’s not only my pick for 2011, but it’s my #1 iPhone app.
- Instacast – I spend enough time listening to podcasts that I found it worthwhile to invest in a standalone podcast player as opposed to dealing with the annoying built-in app. Instacast was the 2nd one I tried and I find it to be nearly perfect. Downcast has emerged as a favorite of many, but I remain loyal.
- Due – Although it was released in 2010, I didn’t purchase Due until January. It has become invaluable in reminding me to do things, and it’s auto-snooze is a must have feature. I use it for very specific scenarios, mostly when I need to remember to something when I get home from work, but because it will nag you until you change the due time or mark it complete, it’s hard to miss.
iPad App – HBO Go
Because I just got an iPad this year, all the apps are new to me this year. HBO Go allows you to stream pretty much any episode from any season of any HBO show. The quality on the iPad is great, and although you can’t connect it to your TV it’s still nice.
- Reeder – The iPad version of one of my favorite iPhone and Mac apps, Reeder is the best Google Reader fronted out there. The iPad version has button placement that I don’t really agree with, but it’s still worth it.
- Flipboard – Heralded as one of the great examples of how an “out of the box” app can make the iPad revolutionary. I don’t use it all that often, mostly because I forget about it, but when I remember I like it a lot.
Mac App – Keyboard Maestro
A very nerdy application that automates tasks on a Mac by executing keyboard combinations and other tasks. It has become an integral part of my blogging workflow and does all kinds of little tasks that now take 1 keystroke instead of 10. I am constantly trying to think of creative and new ways to take advantage of this.
- Reeder – Officially released in June after a lengthy beta period, it’s possible that this app doesn’t actually qualify, but I love it so much as a native front-end to Google Reader that I couldn’t leave it off. I use the version on my iPhone more, but this is application is still amazing.
- OmniFocus – I finally took the plunge and bought OmniFocus this year to handle all of my task management. So far I have been very happy with my decision and have benefited from the “upgrade” from Things.app and the lack of no over-the-air sync.
Gadget – iPad
I didn’t buy an iPad in 2010 and wasn’t planning to buy one in 2011, but after my wife decided she wanted the 3G version, I ended up with her WiFi one. Although I still have difficulty at times finding a way to get extensive use out of it, it does serve several use cases very well. It has been useful when traveling, that is for sure.
- Belkin CarAudio Connect AUX with Bluetooth – I replaced the auxiliary cable from my iPhone to my car radio with this device. So far I have loved it, and while it has some minor annoyances with resuming playback when re-connecting, it’s still 1000x more convenient than having to plug/unplug a cable constantly, and be tethered to the radio all the time.
- Samson Meteor Mic – This is the microphone that I use to record the Hippo Podamus. It’s small, but solid, and the audio quality is pretty good. It seems like a great “entry-level” mic.
Website – Grantland.com
As much as I expressed my disappointment with Bill Simmons’ new venture on a recent podcast, I still spend a lot of time reading it and overall it has been good. There are more mediocre stories than great or bad ones, but the rate of return could still be better. I still enjoy Simmons’ columns as much as anyone anywhere though.
- Marco.org – Home to software developer Marco Arment, who I was aware of prior to 2011, but didn’t know much about. I thoroughly enjoy his blog posts and unfiltered take on technology.
- 52 Tiger – TUAW writer Dave Caolo’s musings about technology, Apple, iOS and productivity. Always finding useful apps and ideas from this guy.
Podcast – Solid Verbal
I discovered this just weeks before the 2011 college football season started, but it has easy cracked the top 3 podcasts on my iPhone. Dan and Ty put out 2-3 shows a week, one overall preview, one overall review and sometimes one about a specific game. These guys are funny and know their college football and it seems like the best way to get a complete picture of the week before and the week ahead.
- Mac Power Users – I had a revelation in the summer that most of the podcasts I listened to were just people yammering. I decided I wanted to find podcasts that were more about getting useful information. This podcast ended up being exactly what I was looking for, covering all kinds of extremely geeky Mac tips, tricks and applications. I have learned some completely new things, but often just learn little ways to make the tools I use better.
- Jalen Rose Podcast – One of the new podcasts created as a part of the Grantland.com network, it’s hosts are Dave Jacoby and former NBA player Jalen Rose. Rose is very open about how sports and athletes work, and is very knowledgable about current sports. It’s definitely an interesting take.