Best Things This Year (2021)

I did get a haircut a few weeks later.

Well, we’re still in year 2 of this pandemic. I feel lucky my family is vaccinated, boosted and able to fend off one covid case. But it’s still sad we haven’t returned to the world we had in 2019. I’m still hopeful we can in some ways, but things will always be different. 2021 was about adapting to new constraints and that isn’t all bad.

I never feel like I did much at the end of the year, but kind of the whole point of writing these is to remind myself I did.

2021 was a year of huge life changes. I got officially divorced on Zoom after separating in 2020 and started a new company with coworkers all over the country. I reconnected with someone and have gone on so many adventures with her already.

I feel like I’ve gotten so close with Sasha and Owen living in this small apartment and it’s been interesting to meet the people they’re becoming. They’re funny, getting straight As in school, and obsessed with anime.

These recaps are letters to my future self and I’m glad I write them every year. I wish they were more personal, but they help me remember who I was and how I got here. Here was 2021:

Carolyn Suzanne Busa

Carolyn and Ben at the One Day Smarter by Emily Winter book launch party
Carolyn and Ben at the One Day Smarter by Emily Winter book launch party

Our birthdays are just three days apart and I wrote this for her on hers:
“Happy birthday to this beautiful painter, comedian, business owner, dog owner, coffee fiend, pizza rater, subway solo artist and woman from la matcha.”
It’s hard to imagine this year without her and every entry below has a piece of her in it somewhere. We get a kick out of each other.

Vaccines were the hot item in 2021 and I got mine as soon as I was eligible. Everyone talked about their side effects like it was last night’s football. I got two doses of Moderna from Rowan and a Pfizer booster at Walgreens. Seems like boosters will be part of our lives for a few more years at least.

Yes I wear this shirt a lot.

I broke down a little after my first vaccine realizing it was the first step to this thing being over. Didn’t think we’d have this far to go.

Impossible Meat
The first time I tried Impossible Meat it was at Qdoba. It was one of the options for a burrito and I was into it. Since then at home I’ve made tacos, burritos, enchiladas, burgers, and of course my new specialty, korean beef. Trader Joe’s has the best price on it, just $5.99.

My car was destroyed
First accident I’ve been in where I wasn’t driving! The Honda Civic I bought from Jen Miller a while back was wrecked when someone plowed through a fence and drove into while it was parked. The damage totaled the 19 year old car and I got a newer model that was only 12 years old.

Common Paper
Holy crap I started a new company! I looooved my job at Betterment, but when Jake Stein asks you to start a new company what else are you going to say? We’re trying to create a seamless web of deserved trust between companies by standardizing and streamlining their legal documents and speed up the sales process. It’s been great so far and I love working with Jake and Lauren again, and getting to meet Garrett, Tiffany, and Stanley.

Focus Labs did a great job on our branding.

I’ve never been much of a plant person. I used to have one on my desk in a styrofoam cup in 2001, but it died. Now every window in my apartment is filled with plants collecting the light and I am on a strict watering schedule. So far only one has died, but I really enjoy the kitchen usable plants like the basil, mint, and green onion.

My plant highlight of the year is nursing Ricky the Snake Plant back to health. He’s thriving and recently had a baby!

I’ve always enjoyed the Studio Ghibli films, but Sasha and Owen have gotten me into some great anime such as Erased, Evangelion: Neon Genesis, Attack on Titan, and Death Note.

Ryuk is my favorite character from Death Note

Peak Secondhand
I’ve had a lot of jobs, but never worked retail until this year. It’s been so much fun helping Carolyn launch her store and get to work there as an intern on occasion. The pay is terrible but I’m gaining valuable experience. They did a write up about it in the Inquirer.

Carolyn’s secondhand clothing store, Peak

The business model of secondhand stores is fascinating, but it’s been even more enjoyable watching her build a brand and a following.

M1 Macbook
Believe the hype. The new MacBooks with the M1 processors are faster.

I played Collingswood Porchfest for the first time in years and it truly is the best day in town. I performed a bunch of newer songs that I haven’t played much.

Illinois Trip
Saw my brother’s kids for the first time in a while, the giant world of Casey, IL, and Al Bundy’s house.

Fort Mifflin
Before 2021 I never heard of Fort Mifflin and now I’ve been there twice to see Pam Selle and my new favorite DJ, Avalon Emerson.

Patco Thread
I was proud of this Patco Twitter thread twitter I wrote.

Pizza Spreadsheet
Carolyn and I visited 15 local jersey pizza places and ranked them. We still haven’t published the results but that’s coming, I promise.

Pocono Mountains
We hiked around the “trail of doom” at the top of this mountain and Owen was afraid to use a bathroom because the drop from the seat to the tank was too much for him to handle.

Collingswood Bikeshare
My mountain bike was stolen earlier this year, but I got the best bike ever from the Collingswood Bike Share. $25/year and they’ve already rebuilt major parts of it for me for nothing. (I gave an extra donation, though)

Odyssey of the Mind
My virtual Odyssey of the Mind team won the regional tournament and finished 3rd in NJ, our best finish in the 6 years i’ve been a coach.

Fear the potato army

Trash Night
Is it the east coast’s hottest new spot or is it just Thursday? Trash Night is finally over, but I even learned how to make my own Instagram filters for this.

Garvey Corp… sold
After 95 years of independence, Garvey Corporation was acquired by a public company. I spent 10 years working there (or 15 depending on how you count it) so there are a lot of feelings wrapped into it, but I think overall it’s a good thing. I’ve seen enough bottling lines to know my dad’s legacy will be the way products are buffered in transit. His innovations will become the standard.

Asbury Park
Never went to Asbury Park before, but now I’m a fan.

TV (non Anime)
Queen’s Gambit
Nathan for You
How To with John Wilson
His Dark Materials
White Lotus
The Americans
Mare of Easttown
Rewatched 5 seasons of Seinfeld with Sasha

Class Action Park
Woodstock ’99
The Many Saints of Newark
The Guilty
Matrix: Resurrections

Spotify said my number 1 song was Cotton Candy by spill tab, who we saw perform at the Fillmore Foundry.
I also really enjoyed marinelli, Palo and Pan, Jack Stauber, Midnight Sister, Avalon Emerson and Sasha got me into Surf Curse.
Live music was (somewhat) back in 2021 and I got to see Advance Base, Florry, Palo and Pan, spill tab, JAWNY and 1910 Chainsaw Company

Previous years

Top 100 Movies

It was 2009 the last time I revised this list and I’ve seen many movies since then. Some were kicked off by newcomers or just didn’t feel as important in 2018. There’s a new #1 for the first time and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you know me. I should analyze which decades rank the best and compare the choices to my previous list, but for now, here they are.

rank title year
100 The Iron Giant 1999
99 Run Lola Run 1998
98 The Lego Movie 2014
97 Logan 2017
96 Terminator 2 1991
95 Amelie 2001
94 District 9 2009
93 Eraserhead 1977
92 Mystic River 2003
91 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
90 Up 2009
89 Sideways 2004
88 Memento 2000
87 Howl’s Moving Castle 2004
86 Jackie Brown 1997
85 Life Is Beautiful 1997
84 The Big Sick 2017
83 The Matrix 1999
82 Monster’s Ball 2001
81 Drive 2011
80 This Is Spinal Tap 1984
79 Toy Story 3 2010
78 Interstellar 2014
77 Schindler’s List 1993
76 Young Frankenstein 1974
75 The Virgin Suicides 1999
74 Coco 2017
73 The Graduate 1967
72 The Kids are Alright 2010
71 Office Space 1999
70 Monty Python’s Life of Brian 1979
69 Kung Fu Panda 2008
68 Kung Fu Panda 2 2011
67 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
66 American Movie 1999
65 The Wolf of Wall Street 2013
64 Lion 2016
63 Swimming Pool 2003
62 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000
61 Superbad 2007
60 GoodFellas 1990
59 Beasts of the Southern Wild 2012
58 The Goonies 1985
57 Ghost World 2001
56 Birdman 2014
55 Wall-E 2008
54 The Godfather 1972
53 E.T. 1982
52 Taxi Driver 1976
51 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 1992
50 The Shawshank Redemption 1994
49 Fargo 1996
48 A Clockwork Orange 1971
47 The Social Network 2010
46 Inland Empire 2006
45 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure 1985
44 The Fountain 2006
43 Lost in Translation 2003
42 The Silence of the Lambs 1991
41 Blue Velvet 1986
40 Django Unchained 2012
39 Inception 2010
38 The Wrestler 2008
37 Notes on a Scandal 2006
36 Blade Runner 1982
35 The Third Man 1949
34 There Will be Blood 2007
33 The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014
32 The Revenant 2015
31 Citizen Kane 1941
30 Sexy Beast 2001
29 Zodiac 2007
28 Lost Highway 1997
27 Black Swan 2010
26 Groundhog Day 1993
25 Monster 2003
24 Throne of Blood 1957
23 Kill Bill: Vol. 2 2004
22 The Piano 1993
21 Rushmore 1998
20 The Pianist 2002
19 The Aviator 2004
18 Chinatown 1974
17 Blue Valentine 2010
16 Get Out 2017
15 Caddyshack 1980
14 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004
13 Rear Window 1954
12 Winter’s Bone 2010
11 Pulp Fiction 1994
10 The Last Picture Show 1971
9 Star Wars: Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back 1980
8 No Country for Old Men 2007
7 City of God 2002
6 Primer 2004
5 Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope 1977
4 Dr. Strangelove 1964
3 Vertigo 1958
2 House of Sand and Fog 2003
1 Mulholland Drive 2001

Best Things this Year (2017)

Twin Peaks: The Return
Twin Peaks: The Return

Every year I write a recap of things I did and enjoyed. 2017 was packed. I re-read my 2016 recap and there’s a lot of despair, but I’m glad it didn’t slow me down. Maybe it was motivating.

TV / Movies
Twin Peaks: The Return
Silicon Valley
The Leftovers
The Big Sick
Get Out
The Last Jedi
Manchester and the Sea

The Blow – Brand New Abyss
Beck – Colors
(Sandy) Alex G – Trick
(Sandy) Alex G – Rocket

This song by the Chromatics

Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Monument Valley 2

Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Functional Art by Alberto Cairo
Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
Tigerstar and Sasha by Erin Hunter (at the request of my daughter)
The Runic Warriors by Mickey Wren
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Kyiv – I spent a week in Ukraine! Magento has a huge office in Kyiv and I spent some time there in March working on the new Advanced Reporting feature that was just released in Magento 2.2.2. Kyiv (don’t say Kiev) is a beautiful city and I hope to go back.
Boston, MA – I attended the OpenVisConf in April and it pushed me to complete more dataviz projects this year.
Milwaukee, WI
Antioch, Illinois
Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright house near Pittsburgh

Speaking Gigs
In January I gave a talk about HTML5 canvas at the Philly Front-End / UX meetup at Industrious.
I went to BarCampPhilly for the first time in a while and gave a talk on Dataviz with Semiotic.
I gave a talk on Lineage v2 at the Philly D3 User Group Meetup
I spoke at the Data Labs meetup in Wilmington, DE in November about Dataviz and Storytelling.

The Data Labs meetup in Wilmington
The Data Labs meetup in Wilmington

I was a guest on the Data Labs podcast to talk about data visualization. I talked too much, but it was fun.

Plot Device
I started a new dataviz site called Plot Device which features 6 projects I did this year. So far they all use Semiotic. I’m especially proud of my work visualizing auto fatalities and Twin Peaks Halloween costumes.

Visualizing the top Twin Peaks Halloween costumes
Visualizing the top Twin Peaks Halloween costumes

I participated in the Collingswood Porchfest and had a blast.

Collingswood Porch Fest
Collingswood Porch Fest

Lineage v2
I launched v2 of Lineage, my genealogical data express engine, which I rewrote using D3 v4. It now includes a timeline and a surname categorical view.

I rewrote and added new features in Lineage v2
I rewrote and added new features in Lineage v2

Magento BI Essentials
In April we launched a new product called Magento BI Essentials, which is a fast, low cost, modern, business intelligence platform for Magento merchants and it’s freaking amazing. It features fast onboarding (15 minutes), low data latency, and powerful data modeling. I’m so proud of the work my team did this year.

Odyssey of the Mind
The Mind Masters won their regional tournament this year and competed at the State Finals. Their skit was about a super hero who was kind of like Aquaman for landfills (he can talk to garbage trucks). I loved it and so did the judges.

I started seeing a therapist twice/month for all of 2017 and I highly recommend it. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about it and thanks to all the people who answered mine.

Previous years

Ben Garvey’s 100 Greatest Movies of all Time

It’s been about two years since I updated my list, so I decided to redo it.? Some of the movies have shifted around and I added some new ones (The Departed, Wall-E, Zodiac, The Aviator, and Inland Empire).? A few good movies got bumped from the top 100 (The Royal Tannenbaums, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Magnolia, Clerks, LA Confidential, and Tommy Boy), but room had to be made!? The only movement at the top was swapping positions for Vertigo and Chinatown.? Here’s the new list!

100 Monty Python and the Holy Grail -1975
99 Psycho -1960
98 Sideways -2004
97 Napoleon Dynamite -2004
96 Network -1976
95 Zodiac 2007
94 Close Encounters of the Third Kind -1977
93 The Last Picture Show -1971
92 Little Miss Sunshine -2006
91 Heathers -1989
90 Terminator 2 -1991
89 Jackie Brown -1997
88 Full Metal Jacket -1987
87 Run Lola Run -1998
86 The Silence of the Lambs -1991
85 Young Frankenstein -1974
84 The Shining -1980
83 Superbad 2007
82 Swingers -1996
81 Office Space -1999
80 Pi: Faith in Chaos -1998
79 Being John Malkovich -1999
78 Taxi Driver -1976
77 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off -1986
76 The Usual Suspects -1995
75 This Is Spinal Tap -1984
74 Ray -2004
73 Requiem for a Dream -2000
72 The Pianist -2002
71 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me -1992
70 Amelie -2001
69 The Aviator 2004
68 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest -1975
67 Bowling for Columbine -2002
66 Monty Python’s Life of Brian -1979
65 Monster’s Ball -2001
64 The Deer Hunter -1978
63 Reservoir Dogs -1992
62 Sexy Beast -2001
61 Kids -1995
60 The Piano -1993
59 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure -1985
58 Life Is Beautiful -1997
57 Batman -1989
56 The Virgin Suicides -1999
55 Donnie Darko -2001
54 Raiders of the Lost Ark -1981
53 The Matrix -1999
52 Schindler’s List -1993
51 Memento -2000
50 American Movie -1999
49 The Graduate -1967
48 Forrest Gump -1994
47 Throne of Blood -1957
46 Saving Private Ryan -1998
45 Ran -1985
44 Fargo -1996
43 About Schmidt -2002
42 Braveheart -1995
41 American Beauty -1999
40 Kill Bill: Vol. 2 -2004
39 Blade Runner -1982
38 2001: A Space Odyssey -1968
37 Swimming Pool -2003
36 Ghost World -2001
35 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -2000
34 Wall-E 2008
33 Rear Window -1954
32 A Clockwork Orange -1971
31 Capote -2005
30 Fight Club -1999
29 Monster -2003
28 The Departed 2006
27 Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi -1983
26 Lost in Translation -2003
25 The Goonies -1985
24 Mystic River -2003
23 Rushmore -1998
22 Groundhog Day -1993
21 Caddyshack -1980
20 Blue Velvet -1986
19 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -2004
18 Lost Highway -1997
17 The Shawshank Redemption -1994
16 Pulp Fiction -1994
15 The Third Man -1949
14 Inland Empire 2006
13 E.T. -1982
12 The Godfather -1972
11 GoodFellas -1990
10 Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope -1977
9 Star Wars: Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back -1980
8 Eraserhead -1977
7 House of Sand and Fog -2003
6 Chinatown -1974
5 Vertigo -1958
4 Citizen Kane -1941
3 City of God -2002
2 Mulholland Drive -2001
1 Dr. Strangelove -1964

Here’s a link to the old list.

Cutie Theater: Episode V

The long awaited episode of Cutie Theater is here! We pick up where Episode IV left off. The Robots have been defeated and things are looking good in Cutie Land… or are they?

If you haven’t watched Cutie Theater before, get caught up before watching Episode V. Michaela, McKenzie, Jeanne and I worked really hard on Episodes 5 and 6 and we hope you like it!

Please send this to all your friends and digg it up!

Obligatory Dark Knight Review

The most hyped movie of the summer is undoubtedly Dark Knight, which Jeanne and I saw last night.? Was it really as good as everyone said it was?? Does Ledger deserve an Oscar for his performance as the Joker?

The quick answer is that it was not perfect, but pretty good.? I liked it a lot more than Batman Begins.? Heath Ledger was awesome, but I don’t see how you can give him an Oscar.? I was most impressed with how Chris Nolan took the character and found some way of making it even a little believable.

Read the rest if you’ve seen the movie.
Continue reading “Obligatory Dark Knight Review”

The Happening

I haven’t been to the theater in almost two years, but Jeanne and I made it out to see M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie, The Happening. It’s probably not as bad as the reviews say, but it’s not good either. Clearly M Night wants to be the next Hitchcock and this is his take on The Birds. Unfortunately for me, the Birds is my least favorite Hitchcock film.

As usual, the visual direction is great but The Happening’s dialog and pacing feels wrong. Casting Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher isn’t as unbelievable as Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist, but it still seemed strange. I think Wahlberg is a capable actor, too. He was great in the Departed.

The only part of the film I really liked was the overall concept, which is probably what most people hated. Read on if you’ve seen the movie.

Continue reading “The Happening”

Inland Empire (Again)

I watched Inland Empire again last night before sending it back to Netflix.? I think it’s easy to write it off as a random conglomeration of scenes, especially because David Lynch claims he didn’t use a script and filmed it as he went, but then I look at someone like Jackson Pollack who always claimed he had complete control over his art.? Who would you believe?? I think watching Lynch’s films, especially Inland Empire, requires you to let go of the traditional movie structure and enjoy it as you would an album or a painting.

Laura Dern

I love the movie.