The best of everything 2010

It's fun, and a strong blogging tradition, to look back over year just gone and create "best-of" lists. So here's absolutely the definitive list of the best music, books and films from the year. Just kidding, it’s just a random list of my favourite stuff of the past year, conjured by my imperfect memory and no-doubt riddled with omissions, but filled with gems regardless, promise!

Best Music (I discovered this year):

Tijuana Cartel

A great band from Australia's Gold Coast introduced to me by a friend who stayed with us earlier in the year. alternative/electronic/hip hop/flamenco. Unique and awesome.



An incredibly-talented kid from Berkely whose first album "The Human Condition" will be released next month. We found him a couple of months ago via a friend and he's been on high-rotation ever since. His sound is... um... pop-orchestral soul?


You can choose what you want to pay to download the album pre-release.


The ex-lead singer of Sigur Ros released his first solo album this year - "Go" - and it's wonderful. As ethereal and soaring and gorgeous as you would imagine.



I adore Shpongle, so no surprise I think their latest album "Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongeland" is another classic.


Ulrich Schnauss

This album isn't from 2010, or even close. A Strangely Isolated Place (which the track below is on) is from 2003, and Far Away Trains Passing By came out in 2001, but I only discovered them by chance this year and regret the years I was unaware of this gorgeous ambient music.


Best Books (I read this year):

The Tall Man - Death and Life on Palm Island - by Chloe Hooper

Absolutely my book of the year and genuinely one of the best things I've ever read, The Tall Man - Death and Life on Palm Island is the story of an Aboriginal death in police custody in 2004 and a searing portrait of white/indigenous relations. Should be required reading for all Australians.

Switch - How to Change Things When Change is Hard - by Dan Heath and Chip Heath

The follow up the Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath have done it again with Switch. It's both an inspiring call to action and a practical hand-book for creating change in your life, community or world. Switch is written with the journalistic flair and storytelling style of Malcolm Gladwell but rather than describing a phenomenon it extracts lessons and teaches you how to do it too.

The Eternal Frontier - An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples - By Tim Flannery

America is a very big, very diverse and very beautiful country. After we drove from DC-SF in June I wanted to know more about how it got to be the way it was, so read Flannery's riveting account of North America's evolution over the past 65 million years. Ever since I have been able to impress friends with insights on how the Sequoia's survived the asteroid impact, why most of the world's edible nuts are from North America and how horses evolved here. Americans - if you want to understand the continent you are standing on, read this book.

Cognitive Surplus - Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age - by Clay Shirky

[ted id=896]

Clay Shirky is the internet whisperer. He brings together diverse trends and disparate information and weaves them all together to reveal a deeper and more nuanced picture of the world social technologies are creating. Like his previous book Here Comes Everybody it is the most insightful thing I've read on the subject, aimed not at illuminating some business strategy or risk as so many books on the internet are but instead designed to reveal how these technologies are changing our cultures, societies and, ultimately, us.

Rand McNally Road Atlas

We set off from DC with two smartphones, an iPad and a GPS. They weren't nearly enough. With coverage in the middle of the country incredibly patchy and the GPS being useless for choosing long-distance routes on day 3 we bought a proper countrywide map, the kind you spread on your lap in the passenger seat (or "navigation station" is it became known) and get an overview of your next three days of driving and imagine alternative ways of getting there. So much more fun this way too.

Best Films (I saw this year):

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy's first film and, like much of his art, it's edgy, unique and a lot of fun. It combines incredible footage of now-famous street artists like Space Invader and Shepard Fairey with a is-this-real-or-not portrayal of the arts industry they (and he) have created.



A wonderful and bitter-sweet biopic of the short-lived but groundbreaking political career of Harvey Milk. And we live just a few blocks from where it all happened!



One-third Alan Ginsberg biopic, one-third the courtroom drama of the Howl obscenity trial, and one-third a psychedelic animated reading of Howl, Ginsberg's most famous poem. 100% great.


Avatar 3D

A genuine technical triumph. Just a great cinema experience.


Best Websites (I used for the first time this year):


I'm really enjoying keeping my alternative, shorter, "bits and bytes" blog over on Posterious. Check it out if you haven't yet.


A super-intelligent question-and-answer site. So much wisdom so freely shared.


I've been looking for a homepage like this for a while.

Best Software (I used for the first time this year):


Integrates social media with gmail, a really powerful tool for building business relationships.


What I'm using to draft this post. The opposite of Rapportive in a way - it blocks out all the noise on your screen (social media notifications, tabs, various programs), giving you just a plain black box to type in. It's helped me become much more productive when I write.

That's more than enough, I hope you either had or are about to have (depending on where you are in the world) a fun and fabulous New Years Eve and that 2011 has amazing things in store for you.

News and Notes from the New Year

So obviously I've been really really slack about keeping up the blog since Christmas, my apologies for the long pause between posts. It's been a busy time, with one of our best mates from Australia visiting and several days of relentless partying over NYE, followed by the inevitable recovery period. Good times, but poor commitment to this blog. Anyway, I'm back. As mentioned above NYE was a ball. In the days before and after NYE I was surprised by how many people mentioned to me that they didn't have any special plans for NYE, and that NYE was always "over-hyped" and they never had a terribly good time anyway. How could this be? As with any party you mostly have the time you choose to have, and NYE is the ultimate excuse to have a really, really, good time - it's the one day when the whole world (seemingly) is letting loose and having fun. It's when people usually give themselves a few days to do something nice, whether that is getting away to a cabin in the woods with close friends or rocking out at a big commercial party or something in between. I have had fantastically fun NYE's every year of my adult life, and this one was no exception.

What did make this NYE a little different was that I attended a house party for the first time in, I think, 8 years. Last year I was at a warehouse party in Montreal, the year before that on a houseboat in a river north of Sydney (with 30 friends spread over five boats, with two sound systems - perhaps the best NYE ever) and then for five years before that I attended outdoor festivals and parties. I really feel being outdoors is the way to celebrate NYE, but that clearly doesn't work in the northern hemisphere winter. So, a house party it was, and a lot of fun was had. The house had a lovely basement dance floor area and I DJed from 3-6am. I'll get the set online later this week if I can work out how.

NYE is also a wonderful time to reflect on the year that was and goals and aspirations for the year ahead. I have a card in my wallet which I created to remind myself of my goals for the second half of 2009. Here's how I did:

  • Exercise more, improve fitness - 7/10 - I bought a bike and started riding to work (although I haven't since injuring my back in September followed by it becoming horribly cold and icy), joined a gym and usually go 2 or 3 times/week.
  • Go to bed earlier, get to work earlier - 1/10 - Abject failure. Something I want to focus on this year.
  • Write more, experiment with video - 8/10 - A decent success I think. I started to blog to help with the writing goal and despite somewhat fluctuating commitment I write much more than I was previously. I also created three little films this year, a completely new medium for me.
  • Be proactive looking for additional opportunities - 4/10 - I got involved in a few things and was part of setting up the monthly #4Change chats on Twitter. This didn't go as far as I'd like though, and is something I'd like to focus on in 2010.

So, overall a passing grade, although with clear areas to work on. All these aspirations remain relevant to me.

My resolution this year is to be better at time. I want to sleep more and get to work earlier. I want to be more punctual in general and get things done on-time.  I've never been very good at time, it's always been a bit mysterious and difficult to manage, but I know that getting better at this will help me achieve everything else I want to do.

Goals for 2010:

  • Learn more. I want to seek out some professional development and skill-building opportunities this year, I feel I let that slip last year. To kick things off I've signed up for a speed reading class.
  • Explore more. Last year Kate and I visited several cities on the East Coast, as well as the week we spend in Nevada for Burning Man, but beyond that we didn't really explore the United States at all. This year I want to see much more of America, visit cities like New Orleans and Miami, and also get to nearby destinations like the Carribean and Europe. We won't be here forever and we should use it as a base of operations to explore this part of the world, keeping a travellers mindset even as we focus on our day-to-day jobs.
  • Create more. Stay aspirational at Ashoka; look for other professional opportunities (I'd love to do more speaking, facilitation and consulting); be creative and have fun (do more video, continue to write, collaborate with others). Build an amazing camp at Burning Man, and bring some of my favourite people from Australia over to share it. Support K in her creative pursuits.

I'm excited about 2010, and not just for the futuristic quality of the date (but seriously, 2010! Who would have thought we'd come this far?). Our visa's expire in August and we have some big decisions to make - do we stay in America? (Probably yes). If so do we stay in DC? (Probably no). If not where do we go next? (San Francisco?). And what do we do there? A year for pushing ourselves personally and professionally, looking for new opportunities to learn and grow and contribute. For new friends and the deepening of existing friendships. For adventures large and small, little steps on a big planet.

The journey itself is the thing, and we will see where it leads us, and be grateful for all that we experience along the way.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.

-Paula Coehlo

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.