Best of 2020

December 30, 2020

Oh boy, one year ago I had the courage to write I didn’t feel inspired to compile this kind of list… if only I knew what 2020 had planned for all of us, and yet here I am, very lucky to be able to do it once more.

On paper and unwillingly, I had more time - more than ever, really - to watch and listen and read and play. I won’t go into sad considerations about the awful year we had, or reflect on how that huge amount of time seems to have disappeared into very little, and (mostly) concentrate on the good stuff I discovered instead.

Here are the picks that made 2020 a little more bearable (same categories I used the past couple of years, and as always no affiliate links):

Best song: Last Hope by Paramore, and I especially and truly love this live version I linked to. I’ve occasionally listened to Paramore albums for over a decade, but somehow I never heard Last Hope before being in lockdown last March, and it feels perfect for this year, and one of the best songs I’ve ever listened to, period.

Best album: While I listened to many good singles this year, I couldn’t say I had a favorite album, and then Taylor Swift released Evermore and saved the day; I really like Willow (the photography and colors in the video are also great!), Marjorie, Long Story Short, ‘tis the damn season, Champagne problems… almost every song is good, and one has to wonder how did she do it, twice in one year.

Best book: Despite all the time I had on my hands, I read an unusual small number of books this year, and among them my favorite was (for the second year in a row) a novel by David Baldacci, The Christmas Train; not a masterpiece, but it was light and delightful during the uneasy months of the last spring. I also liked How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, even if it’s in a category of books I usually avoid.

Best movie: I have watched 21 movies this year, according to the ratings I usually leave for myself in IMDB. While I’ve seen a few pleasant titles (Togo, Wild Rose, Christmas in Conway and Jack of the Red Hearts all deserved a 7, and I had no higher ratings for “movie-movies” in 2020), and I watched the last four Star Wars movies (confession: I never saw any film of this saga before, and I skipped the originals going directly to The Last Jedi, which also was my favorite), I have a 10 that stands out in IMDB while not being a “real” movie - but sort of fits this category: Hamilton was everything, and more. Actually, I should watch it again…

Best TV show: The hours I didn’t spend watching movies and reading, very much went into TV shows. And it was a great year for TV. Honorable mentions: the second season of Castle Rock, Line of Duty, Home Before Dark, Defending Jacob and Mythic Quest (especially the 10th episode, Quarantine, which can only be appreciated after seeing the previous episodes, though). AppleTV+ played a big role in my entertainment this year, but the show of 2020 is certainly Homeland, which had a fantastic last season and the perfect finale.

Best podcast: On the top of my head, I would have not said that This is Love was my favorite podcast this year, but when I stopped and thought about it, 3 of 4 of my favorite podcast episodes in 2020 were from Criminal’s sister podcast in rose-colored glasses: The Wolves was a masterpiece and my favorite, with Gobi immediately behind and Something Large and Wild was also very good. In case you wonder what was the 4th podcast episode I really enjoyed, it was Modern Love’s Dusty-Danger Dog, even if it was really, really sad… “No, you’re crying” sad.

Best tech podcast: I renew my appreciation for Automators for the second year in a row, but to be honest tech podcasts don’t entertain me much anymore. I’ve started The Ladybug Podcast, which at least brings me some fresh perspective, and Cortex, though, and I think I might continue listening to both in 2021… so maybe there’s hope for tech?

Best investigative reporting podcast: oh well, I’m going to keep the category alive for the future, but I don’t have a pick this year.

Best news article I read: While I am breaking rules… this year I’ve had enough with the news. I am thankful, they played the most important role ever, and deserve to be praised, but I’m picking a blog post I very much enjoyed instead… go read Give Yourself More Playtime by Martin Rue today, instead of a news website, and you’ll thank me later.

Best Mac app: In 2020 I started using Drafts much more, and it’s being a useful and effective tool (but not the perfect single solution for my notes, because I need and want inline images), and yet I think the most delightful app for me to use this year was Pixelmator Pro.

Best iOS app: Shortcuts deserves the spot again this year (it was my pick in 2018 too)… thanks to its widget and the Airtable API I’ve built some neat automations, and had lots of fun doing it.

Best videogame: While my ankle kept me on the sofa for over a month, I did spend an unreasonable amount of time playing Butter Royal, and I regret nothing. Actually, I’ve just noticed that the game is now available on macOS too, so you might not see me for a while…

Best video: as much as I tried to ignore the elephant in the room for most of this post, 2020 was the year of a tragic pandemic and lockdowns, and I did find How to Be at Home moving and the perfect fit for this category. On a lighter note, 2020 by Ben Folds also deserves a mention…

Thank you for bearing with me while I remembered the few good things 2020 had to offer.

I want to leave you with my best wishes for a completely different - much better, safer, happier, vaccinated - new year, but also with the wise words of John Oliver about 2020, because they perfectly express my feelings towards a year that lasted a decade, and finally ends tomorrow 🍾.

Best of 2019

December 31, 2019

This December I didn’t really feel like writing this post, or anything really, but I also do not want to break the streak of Best of posts after a few years publishing them. So, here are my picks (same categories as 2018, no affiliate links):

Best song: An easy one for me, Lying Down by Céline Dion.

Best album: I can’t say I have a pick. I just started an Apple Music subscription, so hopefully in 2020 I’ll find something new and nice to listen to, as the year that ends today was not great for music, in my opinion.

Best book: Wish You Well by David Baldacci is a lovely, old school and heart-warming story, and definitely the best book I’ve read this year.

Best movie: I’m having a hard time choosing between Green Book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Mia and White Lion, so I’m not picking one, and recommending all three of them.

Best TV show: Another easy pick after best song, For All Mankind was a really great TV series, and I miss it already.

Best podcast: ATP is an easy choice this year, because the Mac Pro shipped and we recently got the episodes we all were expecting 😉.

Best tech podcast: I found myself listening to Automators as soon as a new episode releases, and I honestly can’t say the same for other more established podcasts.

Best investigative reporting podcast: Bundyville The Remnant was as good as the first season, which by the way was my pick for 2018.

Best news article I read: My memory these days is not good enough to pick an older article, but A Conversation With Rudy Giuliani Over Bloody Marys at the Mark Hotel is already a perfectly appropriate choice for the times we live in.

Best Mac app: I can’t say I discovered a groudbreaking new Mac app this year (how surprising, no Catalyst great app yet 😛), but I love OmniFocus as much as one year ago, so I’m confirming my pick for 2019 too.

Best iOS app: Pushcut is a very neat utility to make Shortcuts even more useful and was a good candidate, but I’m going to give my award to the Tractive iOS app, as it’s really well made, feature complete and useful to my peace of mind every single day.

Best videogame: I played so little games this year, my choice is basically restricted to the games available in Apple Arcade during the month I kept the free subscrition alive. So, not an expert opinion here, but Sayonara Wild Hearts is certainly worth playing to.

Best video: I’m leaving you with something inspirational… NASA’s How We Are Going to the Moon.

I wish you the best 2020 possible.

Best of 2018

December 28, 2018

For the last few years, I’ve made an habit of writing a short list of the best things I’ve experienced in the last 12 months.

This is something I write mostly for myself, to be able to revisit these posts (and, previously, tweets) in the future and maybe rediscover contents I enjoyed, but hopefully something I liked so much to be listed here will be enjoyable to whomever reads my blog too. Yes, the three of you ;)

For 2018, I’m mostly keeping the same categories of 2017; choosing podcasts was extremely easy, as it’s the media I consumed the most. I’ve watched very little TV and read an embarrassing low number of books, so those categories were a bit harder, but I can live with my picks.

Best song: Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne; I also love the colors of the video.

Best album: A Star Is Born Soundtrack, and I haven’t seen the movie yet.

Best book: after loving the movie, I finally got around reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and it was even better. A part of me would love to walk the PCT sometimes during this life, but another part is sorely aware that it would also probably be the last thing happening in said life 👻…

Best movie: Funny coincidence, I have an ex aequo and both movie star the same actress, Jessica Chastain, who I previously didn’t even know: Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game.

Best TV show: I think this year has been pretty terrible for TV shows, and actually the best thing I’ve watched, and the one I feel the most to recommend, is from 2008… John Adams was truly a revelation and you should not miss it.

Best podcast: I’m going with an obscure choice here 😝… Serial’s season 3 was very, very good and I don’t care if it’s everyone’s favorite of the year; if you, like me, didn’t love the first two seasons, give this one a chance, end especially to episode 2 and episode 8.

Best tech podcast: I am an admirer of Brent Simmons and The Omni Group makes my favorite app (see the Mac app category below), so it’s not a surprise that the short interviews to Omni people by Brent in The Omni Show were really enjoyable to me; I recommend 3 episodes to start, if you never listened to it: Tami Snyder’s interview, How we built OmniFocus for the web and Tim Wood’s interview.

Best investigative reporting podcast: Serial would obviously fit here too, and this was a competitive category with both In The Dark’s season 2 and Bundyville being really interesting, but I found Bag Man the most surprising, because I didn’t know anything about Spiro Agnew’s uncanny story.

Best news article I read: The Patrician President and the Reporterette: A Screwball Story. I miss the times when Americans chose great human beings for the higher office in their land and, therefore, in the world.

Best Mac app: OmniFocus 3 is an obvious winner for me: my day starts and ends in OmniFocus, and all the work that happens in between is mostly organized there; this new version with Tags and Dark Mode really makes me happy every day. I also have a runner up: Xcode 10 is an amazing IDE and I love it, every year it gets better and is a pleasure to use!

Best iOS app: Another competitive category… my most used app is by far Overcast, and I am positively impressed by Working Copy, that I started using a few weeks ago, but I have to give the award to Shortcuts: Apple showed us a compelling version of the automation future and, while I haven’t used it much so far and I don’t see replace the automations I have running on my Mac, the app is so well executed and promising that deserves the first spot.

Best videogame: I have played almost zero videogames during most of the year, but in the first few months I remember I was still enjoying Super Mario Odissey, so yes, I’m picking the same game for two years in a row… but there’s a good chance that, if I had more time to play with it, this year’s best game would have been Ori and the Blind Forest: the intro I’m linking to is a masterpiece and almost made me tear up, and I really want to play it in 2019.

Best video: This category had an oddly specific name in the previous years, “Most moving TV moment”, so I’m renaming and expanding it’s purpose… but it’s still pretty hard to pick just one thing with all the content, fun, serious and useful, that’s available online. I’m choosing something inspirational, since we’re starting a new year: Simone Giertz’s TED Talk Why you should make useless things

And these are my choices for 2018, a year that honestly I won’t miss. Let’s all have an amazing new year instead!

Best of 2017

December 30, 2017

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote here, so I thought to stop by and do something different for this New Year’s Eve: instead of posting my favorite things of 2017 on Twitter, like I did last year, I thought about making my “best of” post a bit more permanent here on the blog.

I’ll start by saying that, as far as music, movies and TV, I believe my picks for 2016 where stronger and will resist to the passage of time better than this year’s, and overall I think 2017 hasn’t been the best year possible for entertainment. Or almost everything else.

On the other hand, this year I’ve listened to so many amazing podcasts, making a selection was terribly difficult and, while I believe I picked my favorites, there’s so much good stuff out there, and so little time to listen to it, that I should probably write more about the podcasts I enjoy in the future.

But let’s start. Please add drumrolls after reading every category.

Best song: Dear Hate, Maren Morris & Vince Gill

Best album: Melodrama, Lorde

Best book: Raven Rock, Garrett M. Graff

Best movie: Dogville (I know, I know, it is 14 years old… but I never saw it before; it would be really hard for me to pick a really good 2017 movie… maybe Gifted)

Best TV show (debut): Godless (I know, a western… who would have thought?)

Best TV show (continued): Halt and Catch Fire final season… it started slowly but concluded a great show perfectly

Best podcast: NPR’s Up First

Best tech podcast: Welcome to Macintosh, and especially episode 15 The Orchard

Best investigative reporting podcast: I’m stretching the category a bit and choose What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

Best news article I read: How science found a way to help coma patients communicate

Best videogame: an easy one… Super Mario Odissey

Most moving TV moment: without a doubt, this MSNBC interview with Vice President Biden

And that’s all… here’s to a great new year and best wishes!

Where am I?

In sunny Italy ☀️ 🇮🇹