Best of 2003

An inexhaustive list of the good and the overrated.

Best Blogger: if you have a weblog, and you kept it updated throughout 2003, you are the blogger of the year. Seriously. This is still early days for blogging, and even if you started in 2003, you were doing what most people never heard of. It takes a lot of time and effort and, yes, courage, to do it consistently. Even if all you did was link to those stupid online quizzes, at least you put something out there.

Best Weblog: Yours. See above.

Best Album: this is the not unexpected choice—Dizzee Rascal's Boy In Da Corner was the album that changed the game. I stand by my prediction that heads ain't ready when it drops in the United States. Runner-up was Basement Jaxx's Kish Kash (they're the Timbaland of house; perhaps strangely, I didn't like the Dizzee Rascal track all that much). As for the albums I can't claim to have purchased (yet: seriously, RIAA, I'm gonna buy them, I swear!), the highlights were Prefuse 73's One Word Extinguisher (it took me a while to enjoy it, but it grew on me), The Postal Service's Give Up and Pete Rock's Lost & Found Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics (the beats are consistently good throughout, but still don't come close to "Take Your Time" from his 1998 album Soul Survivor). Christmas present album of the year is Icelandic hiphop group Forgotten Lore's Týndi Hlekkurinn, which also wins for creepiest use of a George W. Bush quote. (Thanks go out to my cousin Katrín.) Overrated was Outkast's Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below. That said, they're still the most innovative group in hiphop these days, Dizzee Rascal excepted.

Best Book: I didn't read a whole lot of books published in 2003—I'm two thirds the way through the excellent Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power by Niall Ferguson (the illustrations and emphasis on primary sources are worth the price of admission)—but the best book that I read during the year was far and away Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian. Like how Dizzee Rascal changed how I listened to hiphop, Gao changed the way I read novels. There are quotes from it here, here and here. Of course, the quality of a translated book is, for those who don't read the language in which a novel was originally published, directly related to the quality of the translation. That choice may surprise those who think that I should have chosen What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman by Danielle Crittenden [references] but, quite frankly, I got tired of repeating myself. So Soul Mountain it is. Overrated was Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.

Best Movie: American Splendor. I identified strongly with the Harvey Pekar of the first half of the movie, if not so much the second half. (Sometimes the best movies are the ones that tell something about us, whether to ourselves or to others.) I loved the what I call Harvey Pekar Moments, such as when Pekar is sitting in a diner waiting for his wife to return, and a thought bubble appears overhead saying “I'm desperately lonely and horny as hell.” [more here] Bend It Like Beckham was formulaic, but that doesn't mean it sucked. Indeed, it was rather funny. The movie-not-released-in-2003 that I enjoyed the most was Adaptation. It helps to have seen Being John Malkovich beforehand, but it's not required.

Article of the Year: far and away it was "Caring for Your Introvert" by Jonathan Rauch [my self-identification]. It's required reading for anybody seeking to understand the way and how I relate with people. Coming in a distant second was "Modern Flirting: Girls Find Old Ways Did Have Their Charms" by Laura Sessions Stepp, which, as I said, is like reading a certain book but condensed into 5 pages. Another quote appears here.