Sunday, December 31, 2006

Josh Best of 2006


Television Show: Psych, USA Network

Monk may be the best show on television, but its Friday night partner on USA was undoubtedly the best new program of 2006. Strong characters and smart humor make each episode of Psych worthy of several viewings. While the show has few shortcomings, Gus, the uptight sidekick, stands out as the highlight of the program. The new season starts on January 19. Be sure to check it out.

Album: Hello Love, The Be Good Tanyas

I actually just purchased this album for Ashlee for Christmas, but I think I've listened to it more than she has. I don't know whether to describe the Tanyas' music as bluegrass, alt-country, folk, pop, or americana; but whatever one decides to call it, the music on the band's third album, Hello Love, is excellent. Lead singer Frazey Ford's throaty vocals and the band's outstanding musicianship give the group a sound that is distinctive without being over the top. While the Tanyas are also adept songwriters, the highlight of Hello Love may be the final track, a cover of "When Doves Cry" that you'll need to hear for yourself.

Song: "Little Razorblade," The Pink Spiders

I'm annoyed that Nashville's The Pink Spiders became MTV darlings in 2006 while their fellow Middle Tennesseans The Features (who are considerably better and more deserving of success, in my opinion) were booted from Universal. Still, Teenage Graffiti is a decent album, and the Spiders' first major label single, "Little Razorblade," is a gem. I don't know that I'll ever get tired of listening to it.

Movie: Nacho Libre, Paramount

As a father of two small children, I rarely see movies in the theater. When I do, I often lack the emotional and intellectual energy to deal with heavy content. Thus Nacho Libre is my movie of the year. You can read my June 16 review of the film.

Book: Christianity for the Rest of Us, Diana Butler Bass

Bass tests the assumptions underlying the theory of "mainline decline" and finds them lacking. She concedes that many mainline congregations are shrinking and disappearing and that their mother denominations have lost hundreds of thousands of members in recent decades. But Bass locates several mainline congregations that have managed to grow spiritually and numerically without mimicking the Southern Baptist or nondenominational megachurch down the street. Then she identifies what makes these congregations so successful and what struggling congregations can learn from them. This book is a must read for anyone who is tired of hearing that conservative theology and contemporary worship are essential to church growth.

Website: Wonkette

Much like The Daily Show, Wonkette is at its best during the months leading up to an election. 2006 did not disappoint. Though the site specializes in satire, irreverence, and gossip, Wonkette is also an excellent source of political news.


Team: George Mason Men's Basketball

George Mason, a school that many college hoops fans hadn't heard of from an obscure conference that rarely garners more than one NCAA tournament bid, made it to the Final Four, beating perennial powers Michigan State, North Carolina, and Connecticut along the way. To quote the Wall Street Journal's Stefan Fatsis, "Never before has a school with such little name recognition ascended so unexpectedly to the national stage." But what was most impressive about the Patriots' postseason run was how they performed during overtime in their regional final matchup with UConn. George Mason led for much of the second half and seemed to have the game in hand before the Huskies came back to tie in the final minute of regulation. Many (including myself) felt that George Mason didn't stand a chance in OT with momentum on the side of much favored UConn. But the Patriots were resilient and pulled an upset for the ages.

Athlete: Roger Federer, Men's Tennis

Simply put: No one dominated his or her sport in 2006 like Roger Federer dominated men's tennis. Though he is quiet and South African, Federer's success on the court has forced American sports fans to pay attention to men's tennis again.

Coach: Maggie Dixon, Army Women's Basketball

I confess, if not for her untimely passing in April, Maggie Dixon wouldn't have gotten my coach of the year nod. But that doesn't mean that she's not deserving. In her first year as head coach at the U.S. Military Academy, the 28-year-old Dixon took the Black Knights to their first Patriot League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. During the 2005-2006 school year, the women's basketball team was second only to the Army-Navy game in the world of West Point athletics.


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