Monday, January 09, 2006

Blogcritics Editors' Picks of the Week (Dec. 27 to Jan. 3): Celery Sticks and the Post-New Year Story Cornucopia

Kicking back into 2006 gear and already there is an undulating post-new year cornucopia of stories written by writers and editors to feast your eyes on.

You need something to feast on in between celery sticks and resolution-mandated runs to the gym, right?

Because we took a week off for the holidays up in these virtual parts, we relaxed the rules ('cause we like to break them too, actually, if truth be told) and let in a few bits of brilliance scribbled during the final week of '05.

We'd also like to officially welcome SciTech to the percolating picks party as well as SciTech Editor Lisa McKay.


Music Editor: Connie Phillips

CD Review: John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band Some Time in New York City by Al Barger (Dec. 24)
Al delivers a provocative review of a well-known album. Honest and articulated, he gives his detailed song-by-song take looking at all aspects of the production as well as the construction.

Does Your CD Lose Its Value By The Bedpost Overnight? by uao (Dec. 28)
This is an interesting look at how CDs hold their value by comparison of genre. A very fun, and yet still well-written piece.

Music with "Universal Appeal" Does Not Exist by Michael J. West (Dec. 29)
A well-articulated essay on the universal appeal of music or lack thereof, Michael examines many of the ways people react to music and how they associate music with events in their life.

CD Review: Nirvana - Sliver: The Best of the Box by El Bicho (Dec. 29)
Thank you, El Bicho, for this incredibly detailed look at Cobain, Nirvana, and this box set. The review is comprehensive and well balanced, giving the reader and informed look.

Books Editor: Warren Kelly

Graphic Novel Review: Epileptic by Nik Dirga (Jan. 02)
Nik doesn't treat this book as just another comic book — he treats it as a work of art. What could have been just another graphic novel review turns into an art review.

Book Review: An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture by Roger Scruton by Tony Dalmyn (Jan. 2)
Tony takes a scholarly topic and makes it accesible to everyone, providing links to more information on many of the people and ideas in the review. Wikipedia gets a workout with this review, but that's not a bad thing, given the subject matter of the book.

TV/Film Co-Editors: Alisha Karabinus and Joan Hunt

TV's Tough Timeslots by Diane Kristine (Jan. 3)
Diane probes the programming mess that prevents us from viewing all the great shows available on TV. Counter-programming is problematic, at best. Quality shows are pitted against each other, forcing viewers to choose between them. Regardless of how many televisions, VCRs, and TiVOs you have, you simply can't watch everything! Yet, we try.

Culture Editor: Lisa Hoover

The Good, the Bad, and the Truly Ugly: A Very Subjective Look at 2005 by Victor Lana (Dec. 31)
Victor takes us on a walk backwards through 2005. It's a great read and anyone who can use "pastiche" correctly in a sentence gets extra brownie points from me.

Poking Fun at Depression - Not a Sane Thing by Mark Edward Manning (Dec. 30)
Can you imagine if the commercial Mark referred to ran on US television? Instant anarchy. Mark, speaking as one who's been there, urges readers to take depression seriously.

Jerusalem Should Get What it Wants by diana hartman (Dec. 26)
Only Diana could use a brother, a light bulb and a jelly jar to make a point such an eloquent point about conflict resolution.

The Year in Pop Culture by Chip Ross (Dec. 23)
Chip takes his own look back at 2005, Hollywood-style. Confidential to Chip: South Africa last I heard and because chicks dig him.

Politics Editor: Natalie Davis

Bush's Most Frightening Policy To Date: Domestic Surveillance by Jackson Smith (Dec. 23)
In this finely written article, the author insists that the president's controversial
warrantless-eavesdropping operation - which many believe is illegal - is dangerous for the nation. Smith warns, "Using the precedent of this justification, Bush can now conceivably take any imaginable action against terrorism, no matter the inherent sacrifice of civil liberties. His power is virtually unlimited and unchecked. If the administration gets its way, the United States' presidency will go from being vaguely imperial to clearly tyrannical." (Suggested by Assistant Politics Editor Scott C. Smith)

The New York Times and US News & World Report - Aiding and Abetting? by Z.Z.
(Dec. 28)
I love Z.Z. Bachman's enthusiasm. In each of his writings, that passion for conservative ideals comes through, and even if one can't agree with the opinions presented, one must walk away impressed by the author's commitment to his point of view and amused by his targeting of the political left. In this piece, Bachman takes on two mainstream news outlets and charges them with aiding and abetting his nation's professed enemy via their reporting. Just when one might assume that the writer is all about dishing up rousing red meat for the right wing, Bachman turns the tables and offers a concluding call for real
balance. Very cool.

Energy Wars - Russian Gas Cut Off To Ukraine by Aaman Lamba (Jan. 2)
You think gas prices here are out of control? Aaman Lamba's informative report shows that those of us on these shores have nothing on those in the former Soviet Union, where Russia has cut off Ukraine's gas supply because of disputes over petrol pricing there. And things aren't much better in many eastern and western European countries either; many are suffering under high prices and low supply. Mr. Lamba earns readers' thanks by reminding us that sometimes, the grass isn't always greener.

Sports Editor: Matthew T. Sussman

UMass 66, St. Peter's 49 ... And A New Tradition Begins? by David
R. Mark
(Dec. 28)
David took a respite from his political conquest to reflect on his alma mater (University of Massachusetts) and their once dominant reign over college basketball in the '90s. Not only does he discover a good luck charm to take to games (his 4-year-old son), but he reminisces on the time he schooled UMass hoops legend Lorenzo Sutton, if only for a brief moment, in a pick-up game.

NFL Picks of a Thoughtful Fool, Week 17 by David Mazzotta (Dec. 29)
David's weekly column was claimed by Blogcritics on the waiver wire in midseason, but it's an addition that payed off huge dividends. It began as a weekly breakdown of an attempt to beat the spread and evolved into a witty and insightful look into each week in the NFL. Here's just one of his nuggets of wisdom found in his Week 17 piece:
From Rex Grossman's performance on Saturday, it's pretty clear that one can have a solid throwing arm or a full neck beard, but one cannot have both.

A job well done, David, on keeping up with the pace week-to-week!

Gaming Editor: Ken Edwards

The Worst in Video Games 2005 by Matt Paprocki (Dec. 21)
Jack Thompson, Grand Theft Auto sex, Spike TV, and Chinese MMO players. What a combo! Instead of those typical, boring, and cheaply planned out best of lists, let's hand out some awards for the "less fortunate" people, places, and things from the industry we love... some times.

Product Review: Mental Floss Trivia Game by Bill Wallo (Dec. 21)
From the creators of the magazine Mental Floss and a line of "irreverent" trivia books (such as Condensed Knowledge and Forbidden Knowledge) comes the Mental Floss trivia game. Promising to pick up "where every other party game stops," it adds a number of twists to the traditional trivial pursuits.

Not just one, but seven N-Gage Reviews by Matt Paprocki (Dec. 27 to Jan. 2)
Can you tell that Matt got an N-Gage? These are his first seven reviews, but keep a look out for even more. You know he is gonna' review every single one.

NEW! SciTech
SciTech Editor: Lisa McKay

Stay Away From Heightmax! by Sal Marinello (Dec. 30)
Professional strength and conditioning coach Sal Marinello warns parents of the dangers of untested dietary supplements in this piece. He explains why a lack of testing by the FDA and the absence of any verifiable, peer-reviewed studies on the clinical efficacy and safety of these products should serve as a red flag to parents who might be contemplating their use.

Titan's Halo and the Christmas Tree Cluster by Bennett Dawson (Jan. 2)
Bennett's space posts never fail to fascinate, and this one is no exception. Enhanced by two breath-taking (and seasonally appropriate) images from NASA, Bennett gives us a small taste of what to look forward to in the field of space exploration this year, and explains the Christmas Tree Cluster in terms that don't require a degree in rocket science to understand.

Best Articles Written By Editorial Team
As chosen by the very same, the self-referential and spotlight seeking thugs that we are! Executive Producer Eric Berlin chose:

Intel Re-brands, Leaps to New Logo by Phillip Winn (Jan. 3)
Blogcritics' all-around Secret Weapon delivers here, as always, by making it look easy. Bringing together elements of technology, the business world, and the uber-sphere of marketing and branding we now live in, Winn sails through Intel's re-branding, tells us what the significance might be, and all the while makes life easy on the reader. Strunk and White would be proud.

Sports Editor Matthew T. Sussman chose:

RJ's NFL Picks - Week 17 by RJ Elliott (Dec. 29)
Like David's "Thoughtful Fool" series, this pick more recognizes the season-long body of work. Not only did RJ provide his own insight into every NFL game played this year, but he created a forum for everyone to compete against him. He also selflessly compiled the right-wrong records of everyone who participated. Or maybe he just has nothing better to do. Regardless, free time well spent at Blogcritics should always be rewarded, even if he picked the Lions to win too many times.

TV/Film Co-editor Joan Hunt chose:

There's Just Too Much TV by Eric Berlin (Jan. 2)
Having experienced the phenomenon of "too much TV" myself, I felt Eric's pain as I read his article about all the choices available on television today. This hit home most recently as I ended up ill during the holidays. The cure for my boredom? TV. And, I discovered some great shows that I missed while watching my pre-programmed favorites. I finally understood the buzz behind certain shows (I'll refrain from naming them here) and realized that I needed to invest in TiVO. Eric has given into the temptation, too, and explored the depths of "you gotta see this!" programming.

Can't Stop Serenity by Alisha Karabinus (Jan. 2)
When a movie spawns such deep devotion, how is it possible to continue to find compelling material for new articles? Alisha does a bang up job here. Summarizing the premise of the show Firefly and segueing into the film Serenity, she takes us to a brand new world that is intriguing, but somehow familiar. She also offers us a peek at past coverage from Had it not been for this article, I might have missed some of the finer points of the Serenity charm as well as our site's influence in an interview with Joss Whedon. This is how it's done, folks!

More Best of Articles of the Week
As chosen by Blogcritics who have had their work highlighted by editors last week

No picks this time, which is likely due to the holidays and post-holiday ramping up to full-speed rather than a lack of fine selections to choose from!

Production Notes
Blogcritics selected this week: please feel free to make a selection for next week's edition. You can leave them in the comments or send them to Eric Berlin:

All are more than free to leave general impressions and personal selections for this or any week below!

How'd we choose these things? Find out here.

Please send you input, ideas, and suggestions to Eric Berlin:

Thanks for stopping by!

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