2012 Round-Up

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It is helpful to look at—not just see—where we’ve been. So Steve and I took some time today in and around errands to ponder and reflect on 2012, which has been—particularly the last half—rather eventful and thus requiring some thought and analysis to make some sense of.

We began by listing various things we’d done and seen and been to; we then assessed, discussed, and ranked. Here are some of the findings.

Theater

  • Story Time (Bill T. Jones)
  • The Piano Store Plays (John Clancy)
  • La MaMa Cantata
  • Hot Lunch Apostles (Talking Band)
  • Rabbit Island (Chris Harcum)
  • Coosje (2x)
  • All the Indifferent Children of the Earth (Eric Bland)
  • Summer in Sanctuary  (NJ Rep)
  • Damn Yankees (Paper Mill)
  • Travesties (Princeton)
  • Tribes (Barrow Street)
  • Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain (Princeton)
  • American Stare (NJ Rep)
  • Democracy Festival (Brick)
  • The Peripherals (Talking Band)
  • The Best Man
  • Pippin (ReVision)
  • Quest for the West (NY Fringe)
  • A Chorus Line (Paper Mill)
  • Sarah’s Senior Showcase
  • Spaceman (Leegrid Stevens)
  • Esther’s Mustache (NJ Rep)

Our favorite was Spaceman, with Tribes a close second. We also enjoyed the hell out of The Peripherals. John and Nancy were fantastic in The Piano Store Plays, and we felt privileged to see this show. It was also an honor to see Bill T. Jones, Hal Holbrook, and the glittering cast of The Best Man—notably James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen, and John Laroquette. And of course, Julie’s and Sarah’s shows were wonderful; we are incapable of ranking them.

Dance

  • NJ Ballet: Ballet with a Latin Beat
  • Flamenco (NY Fringe)
  • Sarah’s dance play

The play Sarah wrote for the Skidmore Dance Conservatory was truly outstanding: it had heart, soul, and humor. And lots and lots of dancing.

Concerts

  • Steve Forbert
  • Felix Cavaliere (McLoone’s)
  • Ramblin’ Jack Elliott w/ Lizanne Knott
  • Chita Rivera
  • Chris Smither

These experiences were so different, they cannot be compared, only treasured.

Movies

  • Albert Nobbs
  • Pina
  • We Need to Talk about Kevin
  • Oscar-Nominated Shorts—Animated and Live Action
  • Garden State Film Festival
  • Friends with Kids
  • Potiche
  • Chico and Rita
  • The Woman in the Fifth
  • Arbitrage
  • Silent House
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • Hugo
  • Hysteria
  • Argo
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
  • The Sessions
  • Lincoln
  • Hitchcock

The ones we liked best, if forced to pick, are Moonrise Kingdom, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (animated short), Hugo, and Pina.

Books

  • Blood Is Not Enough, Ellen Datlow, editor
  • Sybil Exposed, Debbie Nathan
  • Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges
  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr
  • All Men Are Liars, Alberto Manguel
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman
  • Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, Molly Caldwell Crosby
  • The Mind’s Eye, Oliver Sacks
  • Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath, Michael Paul Mason
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
  • Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Deborah Feldman
  • Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart, Stefan Kanfer
  • Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent
  • Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother, Eve LaPlante

These are the books I read this year; Steve’s list is longer and more wide-ranging. Of the serious fiction, Manguel’s was the best (I think the only…). Of the popular fiction/pulp, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was outstanding, but not as good as the first book in the series. I will fervently miss Lisbeth Salander, a hero like no other. Of the science books, Carr’s book on the Internet was arresting, horrifying, fascinating, and eloquent. I heartily recommend it, as he explains clearly and succinctly how we are losing our ability to make deep connections and analyses as we surf and click. LaPlante’s biography was excellent, measured, even-handed, and factual. A pleasure.

I also started and did not finish a surprisingly large number of books this year: I who always have read every word of everything. Among the false start books are Christopher Priest’s The Affirmation, which I had so anticipated, but which went down a path I just couldn’t bring myself to like; two Peter Straub novels that I bought without remembering how clumsy I found Straub’s writing to be; and two imposing academic tomes—Peter Gay’s Modernism: The Lure of Heresy and Jean-Michel Palmier’s Wiemar in Exile—which, although fascinating and intelligently written, are just a little too heavy for night-time reading. And note too that this year, I edited over 2,000 pages of some 25 books. Of late, I’ve been reading Adobe Creative Suite user manuals…

Food

This is far and away our favorite thing to experience—at least judging by the monthly credit card bills. We made a concerted, thoughtful effort to eat less, particularly less saturated fat and carbohydrates. Here are some of the results of our research and efforts.

Best new recipes

  • Breakfast oatmeal “cobbler”
  • Whole grilled fish (bronzino) with herbs
  • White bean soup with rosemary
  • Baked fish and chips
  • Braised greens and beans

Important food discoveries of the year

  • Haddock!
  • Homemade baked goods should never be made according to healthy recipes
  • Turkey bacon and turkey sausage are pretty good
  • Chili made with turkey is good
  • Turkey soup is a wonderful idea and should be an annual post-Thanksgiving tradition

Field Trips and Outings

The niftiest place we found this year was the gorgeous Hamilton Sculpture Garden near Trenton. A picture from the garden is at the top of this post; below are two others (that’s us enjoying the place). But these don’t begin to do it justice. This is a vast, whimsical, charming, beautiful, peaceful place, filled with unexpected delights just around every bend. I have rarely felt as peaceful as I did there. We look forward to the spring!

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We also had a wonderfully peaceful walk along the Navesink River in Red Bank in October, and an equally memorable ramble in September outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art looking out over the water.

The year’s big events for us were, of course, Steve’s heart attack in September, his shift from full-time employment to a freelancing career with me starting in July, and Hurricane Sandy, which struck on our first anniversary. We are adjusting to the impacts and ramifications of all of these, and today’s discussions and this evening’s post are testament to our determination to take their collective lesson to heart: to pay attention, to live mindfully, to find connections.

And to keep the balance. Our enforced inactivity due to Sandy led our energies in other ways. Here is what I painted in the kitchen; we also created beautiful walls in Sarah’s room a la Monet’s waterlilies. These are the year’s lessons: stay balanced, stay focused. And eat well (and often).

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