I love this time of year not only because it's Christmas and I love seeing the houses decked out with the lights and lawn decorations(I even love the silly, crazy gaudy decorations. I particularly love the wacky decorations like inflatable Simpsons on a sled or Christmas Elmo. Outrageous!) but also because it's time for the "year end lists." Amazon has a bunch of book lists up and Paste and Blender have out some music lists. You can find a frequently updated rundown of various lists at largeheartedboy. I'm a fan of lists, of categorizing things, and creating connections among topics. Currently, my students are working on an inventory project, inspired by an assignment a fellow graduate student did in her class at ISU that I thought was genius. I've modified the assignment to fit our purposes but the students are really into it, choosing topics from great film lines to songs that question the existence of God. We've been looking at some of the year-end lists as well as other inventories as part of our "research" but mostly we've been geeking out and disagreeing with critics, bloggers and other listmakers.

I love what Paste has done in asking some of its favorite authors to talk about the best books they read in 2008. I'm fascinated with what writers read and listen to because I'm intrigued with processes and where others find inspiration. Unfortunately, I have only recently started reading non-research, non-academic books. So I can't exactly build my own best of '08 list but I'll begin compiling one for next year. I haven't seen many movies this year and I haven't been as tuned in to new music as I normally am.

My own list which follows is a bit random but that's been my year: random chaos and big changes. So here's some stuff I enjoyed in 2008. I won't claim it's a best of list, merely a list of stuff I liked or discovered this year.

Music (Albums) in no particular order:
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend: I first heard this band in late February and thought their lyrics were clever, self-deprecating and fun. The more I listened, the more I liked and soon I didn't care about the Oxford Comma either, though I'm not sure I ever did.

Coldplay, Viva LaVida: While the title track has gotten a bit overplayed, the album is full of great songs like "Strawberry Swing", "Cemeteries of London" and "42." What I loved about Coldplay's first album is that I could listen to it over and over again. With this album, the range of sounds and influences keeps my attention and I discover something new with each listen. I heard the song "Yellow" on the way to campus today and I thought, "man, that's still a good song." I think I will be able to say that about a number of songs from VLV.

Jack Johnson, Sleep Through Static: My brother suggested I listen to this album and I was happy he suggested it. My favorites from this are "If I Had Eyes," "Angel" and "Same Girl."

The Ting Tings, We Started Nothing: Admittedly, I heard one of their songs in a Gossip Girl promo but quickly found some better ones on the album including "Shut Up and Let me Go" and "Great DJ".

Adele, 19: "Chasing Pavements" is getting the most airplay now but there are other soulful songs like "Hometown Glory," "Cold Shoulder" and "Best for Last" and "Melt my Heart to Stone." Some people have compared Adele to her British counterparts Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen but I don't think that does her justice.

MGMT Oracular Spectacular: This band was hard to miss as their songs appeared on all kinds of TV shows and commercials and all over YouTube. The thing is, they're fantastic. If I had to choose I'd say download "Time to Pretend" and "Kids" and "Electric Feel."

TV Shows:

Supernatural: Okay, obviously I have a soft spot for the show. But the season started off intense and hasn't let up. It's been one great episode after another, leaving me wondering what is going to happen next and feeling sad I have to wait until January to find out.

True Blood: I just heard this got picked up for a 2nd season which is good news for me. With tweeny vampire overload thanks to Twilight it was good to see some vampires who didn't sparkle in the sun. Seriously, this show is twisted and weird and messy. There are times I can't believe what I'm seeing. I like what Alan Ball is doing with the vampire myth but the show is about relationships and the tangled-ness of life, particularly when you're "different," like if you can read minds or shapeshift or... undead.

I'm also not hating Smallville's storyline and Bones has been hit or miss for me so far. I still like each episode but they feel a bit... like there's something missing. Maybe it's because the storyline seems more singular than episodic. House has been good. Weird, but good.

Top Chef is always good TV. This season's cast is full of characters with big egos and it will be interesting to see the sparks fly. These chefs do not always mix well. Plus how do you not love the judges; impossible.

I'll have to think of more things I liked in 2008 for the next installment.