Now that it’s too late for Christmas shopping recommendations except for the truly masochistic and insane, let me share some of my entertainment highlights from 2023!


I’m terrible about reading current books, so these aren’t really recent.

  • I re-read The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) for the first time in twenty years, and this unabridged edition reminded me of how this was the equivalent of appointment television in its time, full of tangents and asides and cross-purposes to draw out the story into a pleasant weighty significance.
Cover of Joe Sharkey's book Death Sentence
  • Death Sentence: The Inside Story of the John List Murders (Joe Sharkey) tells the story of one of my “favorite” true crimes. List murdered his wife, mother, and three children in 1971 and bolted on the lam for seventeen years. He was caught in 1989 after an episode of America’s Most Wanted showed an eerie sculpted bust of his age-progressed head. What I find fascinating about his story is that he was an uptight devout Lutheran with obsessive compulsive disorder and a horror of failing to keep up appearances, much like many of my older relatives. He killed his family to “spare them” from poverty, he claimed. The book covers the case well with good detail and insight.

  • The Elephant in the Brain (Keith Simler) explains a lot of our more annoying human tendencies as artifacts of our evolutionary heritage and desire to be part of a group. I think it’s a key text in understanding how we apply so much of our higher mental powers to rationalizing our baser drives.    


This is going to sound a little one-note, but Star Trek had a hell of a year with three fabulous seasons of television.

Picard Season 3
  • Picard Season Three may have pulled off the most dizzying reversal in television history from its first two abysmal seasons to a soaring and triumphant third. Showrunner Terry Matalas, a fan himself, finally understood what people wanted all along: 80% things we know and love mixed with 20% new cool shit. It’s a balance that the new Star Wars trilogy completely failed to achieve.
Strange New Worlds
  • Strange New Worlds Season Two took amazing risks with mostly fabulous results; though I still have mixed feelings about the musical episode, I’m glad they were brave enough to make it. The cast and producers are capturing the variety of the original series with a modern sensibility for continuing consequences, and this was fun to watch every week.
  • Lower Decks Season Four was still hilarious, but they faced some pretty heavy emotional consequences that demonstrated that this isn’t just a zany cartoon satire. What I like about Lower Decks is that it answers or addresses so many of the things we let pass us by unquestioned in the other iterations of Star Trek, patching holes and adding context with a sense of humor.


I don’t actually watch a lot of movies anymore, I’m sorry to say. It’s hard to sit still that long.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny was very good, though of course idiots came out to complain and demonstrate their commitment to the dogma of their childhoods by damning it as fan service. As I age, I’m enjoying stories more where heroes grapple with the longer term consequences of their lives, choosing once again to be heroic even when it costs more than it ever has.
  • The Menu was a wonderfully dark psychological study, full of surprises that turn out to be fully earned by the characters who get them.

  • I’m not sure what I’d pick for an even third film. Everything Everywhere All at Once was moving when I saw it, but I don’t remember much of it now and have no desire to watch it again. The Fabelmans should have been right up my alley (a nerdy kid learning to take command of his creativity), but it felt like it was missing a third act. Cocaine Bear was hilarious and had the virtue of delivering exactly what it said. So too did Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

Looking over this list and thinking back on my year in entertainment, I feel old and unwilling to take risks on weird new things that creators are making (or re-making). I’m falling out of the demographic for profitability.

When they remake Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I’m moving out to the woods away from all human contact.