2013 Round-Up

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Books (me)

  • You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier
  • The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, Jon Ronson
  • That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion, Rachel Herz
  • It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music, Amanda Petrusich
  • Bad Seeds: Evil Progeny, Steve Berman, editor
  • So Well Remembered, James Hilton
  • The Doll: Short Stories, Daphne du Maurier
  • The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Paper Men, William Golding
  • Homer & Langley: A Novel, E. L. Doctorow
  • Rothstein: Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, David Pietrusza
  • Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent
  • A Kiss Before Dying, Ira Levin
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
  • The Cater Street Hangman, Anne Perry
  • Assorted short fiction by John Updike, Harlan Ellison, Woody Allen, et al.

Summary: Most important/influential book read all year was You Are Not A Gadget, although I do not pretend to understand all of it. At the other end of the spectrum, in pulp reading, Steve Berman’s horror anthology contained the most consistently excellent collection of stories I have perhaps ever read (save for the magnificent anthologies of Alberto Manguel). None of the novels had much staying power; however, the best read was James Hilton, which was a pleasure and privilege every page. Among the nonfiction, Ronson’s was quirky and intriguing, but its very quirkiness may have undermined its quite serious message.

Books (Steve)

  • Zapata, John Steinbeck
  • Getting Even, Woody Allen
  • Side Effects, Woody Allen
  • The Paper Men, William Golding
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Floating Lady Murder, Daniel Stashower
  • The Great American Novel, Philip Roth
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
  • Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism, Bob Edwards
  • Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba, and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966, Jack Colhoun
  • King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America, J. North Conway
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  • Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent

Summary: Steve really enjoyed King of Heists; also really liked The Grapes of Wrath, which he had never read before.

Dance

  • Eclipsis Flamenco: Encounter of Two Worlds
  • New York City Ballet: Just for Fun (Carnival of the Animals, Jeu de Cartes, The Four Seasons)
  • New York City Ballet: Interplay, Fancy Free, I’m Old Fashioned
  • New York City Ballet: Sophisticated Lady, The Infernal Machine, Purple, Hallelujah Junction, West Side Story Suite

Summary: Despite all the ballet, I think our favorite, and the most memorable, was the flamenco at Dixon Place. Passionate, riveting, exciting, vibrant. It was of course wonderful to see at least a replication of West Side Story, though, too.

Concerts

  • Steve Forbert (McLoone’s)
  • Chris Smither (Joe’s Pub)

Summary: There is no contest here. The Chris Smither, where we sat in the very very first row, making eye contact with the performer, in a respectful room, was the standout. We had very much looked forward to seeing Steve Forbert right next door here in Asbury, but a table of inconsiderate drunks ruined the evening.

Theater

  • What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined
  • Old Hats
  • The Glass Menagerie
  • Picnic
  • Motown the Musical
  • Saving Kitty
  • Happy
  • Noir
  • Ants
  • FringeNYC: Uncertain Ground
  • FringeNYC: EPICish
  • FringeNYC: The Mythmakers
  • FringeNYC: Sure-Minded Uncertainties
  • Fringe NYC: Ex Machina
  • FringeNYC: Still Life
  • FringeNYC: The Spider
  • FringeNYC: Lula Del Ray
  • FringeNYC: Landscape with Missing Person
  • Darkroom Series 3
  • Lizzie Borden’s Party (Crane House)
  • Marcellus Shale
  • On the Outskirts of Everything (Tim Collins)
  • American Gun Show
  • When It Rains
  • The God Projekt
  • The Orphan Circus

Summary: Old Hats and What’s It All About? where both invigorating, delicious, delightful, life-affirming, and fun. We also saw some lovely pieces at the Fringe this summer, notably, Lula Del  Ray, Sure-Minded Uncertainties, and—especially—Landscape with Missing Person; these three were hauntingly beautiful. Talking Band’s Marcellus Shale and Anthony Black’s When It Rains were thought provoking and utterly absorbing. Steve was very glad to have seen The Glass Menagerie in this well-realized production.

Movies

  • Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
  • Side Effects
  • Behind the Candelabra
  • Garden State Film Festival: Bettie Page Reveals All
  • Blue Jasmine
  • If These Knishes Could Talk
  • The Master
  • Don Jon
  • Girl Most Likely
  • Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm
  • Good Ol’ Freda
  • Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation
  • Searching for Sugar Man
  • Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Live Action
  • Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation
  • Amour
  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • Stories We Tell
  • Beware of Mr. Baker
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Phil Spector
  • What Maisie Knew
  • If I Were You
  • Sweet Revenge
  • Curtain Call
  • Undertaking Betty
  • Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
  • The Gift
  • Rio Sex Comedy
  • House of Voices
  • Blue Valentine
  • Trainspotting
  • The Awakening
  • Ruby Sparks
  • The Straight Story
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • J. Edgar
  • Game Change
  • Frankenweenie
  • Not Fade Away
  • Starbuck
  • Stand Up Guys
  • Wild Target
  • The Scapegoat
  • The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
  • Nebraska
  • Queen of Versailles
  • Mama
  • Stoker
  • Frances Ha
  • The Giant Mechanical Man
  • Smoke
  • Blue in the Face
  • (A)Sexual
  • Lovelace
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Ira and Abby
  • Panic

Summary: This is a broad mix of old and new movies that we saw for the first time this year either in a theater or via Netflix. It is impossible to pick a “best,” but it is amazing how, on even reading through the list, so many have already faded completely from memory. We saw a lot of music-oriented documentaries, because that is a specialty of our own Showroom movie theater here in Asbury. Of these, Searching for Sugar Man and Beware of Mr. Baker are the standouts: one for its heart and one for its innovation; both were staggeringly good. This is not to discount the sweetness—and sometimes bittersweetness—of Good Ol’ Freda and Twenty Feet from Stardom. Of big indie films, Amour, Blue Jasmine, and Nebraska are superlative, each in very different ways. I loved Stories We Tell. Two charming pictures we happened on through Netflix streaming were Wild Target and The Scapegoat; these were delightful. Other memorable pictures from the year were the Bettie Page documentary (sad, smart, and sassy, by turns) and light years away from that thematically and budgetarily, Saving Mr. Banks; the acting here was magnificent, and it is such a shame that this will pit Emma Thompson against Cate Blanchett (I still cannot say how Blanchett, in her Blue Jasmine meltdown with Alec Baldwin over his infidelity, made it clear when she threw things from her purse, shaking and strewing them across the room, that this was the action not of a hysterical, overwrought woman, but of a spoiled and petulant one who knew someone would be in later to clean up after her).

Food

Our big food find for the year was Due Amici, a terrific New Jersey Italian restaurant in Brielle. Everything about it is generous: the portions, the ambience, the service. We save it for special occasions, when friends come, or when we feel we need a treat.

Our big market find was the Trenton Farmers’ Market. What a fun place! We’ve been twice, and can’t wait to see it in spring and summer; what glory it will be.

Another pleasant find was discovering Peruvian chicken in Brick (not TOO far…). We still lack good Chinese food, however.

Our major food experiment was canning our own applesauce. This was highly satisfying, and our favorite kind of food adventure, in that the jars, pot, utensils, and then the apples all needed to be carefully and lovingly purchased and then assembled. We are pleased with our efforts.

Recipewise, some new additions to the repertoire this year were:

  • Turkey london broil (marinated in lemon, garlic, wine, and herbs, and cooked on the rotisserie)
  • Chickpeas and spinach
  • Roasted cauliflower
  • Shrimp roasted high (500 degrees) with garlic and chili peppers
  • Honey-garlic-balsamic-olive oil dressing

Field Trips

Not too many this year: a couple trips to Philadelphia, a couple to DC, one to Baltimore, a return to Sandy Hook to search for snowy owls (that didn’t pan out, but our parameters were extremely limited in that we only stayed an hour and didn’t get out of the car since it was very cold; we did see an owl on a pole on 195, however).

New this year was a terrific trip to Paterson, and our discovery of Hoboken—a happening place. We plan to return, as there are a heap of interesting restaurants to check out.

So that more or less wraps up the year’s extracurricular activities. We might not have been as adventurous as in other years, but we enjoyed where we did go, and what we did see, mightily.

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