The Gosh Gee Golly Bests of The Year

Best-of-the-year list time is my favorite time of year, so if only for posterity, I am writing one for my own blog. Here it is: 

Book: I couldn't put down Detroit: An American Autopsy. You'll shake your head in disbelief just about every page. Charlie LeDuff doesn't pull any punches, even when he's writing about his own disfunction. What will happen to Detroit? How will this story end? I also was surprised that Bourdain pretty much rehashed the book in his Detroit Parts Unknown episode, but at least LeDuff was along for the ride.

Honorable mentions:  The Interestings, The Light Between Oceans, David and Goliath, Beautiful Ruins

Music: I felt kind of behind on new music this year, so I am going with what I know. Sorry haters, Vampire Weekend is a crowd-pleaser for a reason. Their latest, Modern Vampires of the City, seemed heart-felt. I played "Step" about a million time, but that's not my favorite moment. That has to be the spoken word lyrics on "Finger Back" that goes: "Should she have averted her eyes and just stared at the laminated poster of the Dome of the Rock?" This is just the best for some reason I can not articulate.

Honorable mentions: Tegan & Sara's Hearthrob, Lord Huron's Lonesome Dreams, Thao & The Getdown Staydown's We The Common, Jessie Ware's Devotion and for single, Wale's Bad, not the Rihanna version.

Concert: This is cheating, but Coachella. I can't believe we went. I wrote here about all of our adventures, including falling in love with Father John Misty and nearly getting squished by a giant snail.

Politicians: Our leaders continued to let us down this year at nearly every turn, so I am turning to Canada for some dark comic relief. Put aside Rob Ford's crack scandal for a moment, and let's just focus on his pratfalls. Running into a camera, inexplicably collapsing when attempting to throw a football, dropping candy just out of reach of children at a parade — here's one person who actually does need a reality show.  

Blog: The Racked.com universe!

Fashion: I like that the Topshop section at Nordstrom Pentagon City exists, that the Brooklyn Flea made it to Washington, and I thought that Thread at Union Market was ambitious, lovely, and unlike anything in D.C. 

Personal: I left Mount Pleasant and moved in with Joe to a groovy little (emphasis on little) apartment on H Street. I loved living in Mount Pleasant with the best roommate ever, but I was excited for Joe and I to start a home together. I counted down the months from January until July. We fell in love with our place and the neighborhood, from Hunted House to Boundary Road.

After three years and some change of growing my hair out, I pulled a Miley and chopped it all off. I think my hair likes being short. Don't know if the world likes it, but who cares.

I took barre classes and yoga classes and tennis classes and quit my gym.

I've challenged 10 bartenders in D.C. to make cocktails on the spot with crazy ingredients like quail eggs, Four Loko, and marmite for my WCP column Remixology (!) and I've been so amazed at the results from these creative folks. So impressive and unflappable.

I still need to pinch myself about Racked DC, I can't believe it. It's been amazing and I can't wait to hit the ground running in 2014. I made some tough decisions over the past two years, knuckled down and did work, got some very lucky breaks, and help from folks around me, and maybe that's the secret, huh? Just stick around and keep plugging away.

Farm City, Farm Farm City

I finished "Farm City" last month and realized I had a book with a very similar title on my bookshelf. You can see where my interests lie.  

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I really dug "Farm City."* Novella is just the perfect amount of weird for this kind of memoir. I felt for her neighbors though, especially when she raised pigs in an urban lot. But she's one tough cookie, snapping the necks of rabbits and digging through dumpsters outside of Chinese restaurants for leftovers for her livestock. Novella, write another book and until then I'll keep up with your blog and live vicariously through your urban farming. 

*Weak pun attempt 

So Sad About Roger Ebert

I cried earlier in the week when I heard that Roger's cancer had returned, and I cried again when I heard he had passed. I can't even read retrospectives of his life, it makes me too sad. Of course, I'm not alone in this reaction. Everyone recognized his genius as a writer. 

There are many of Roger's books and essays that I can go back to, thankfully, but I will so miss his voice in our world now. Whenever I watched a movie, I immediately wanted to know what Roger Ebert thought about it. And talk about prolific: he's written about nearly every movie out there. I always love to know what smart people think about a work of art, and his opinion was everything to me. For example, I just watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the review he wrote crystalized what I loved about the film. His writing was accessible, thought-provoking, laugh-out-loud funny, and most of all, life-affirming. Rest in peace, Roger, and thank you for your work.

Rabbit Ears

Here in cable-less land, when you want to watch the Oscars and your digital tuner/antenna only picks up Fox, Spanish television, and something called Cozi TV (?), you have to get creative.

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My roommate and I battled the antenna for an hour, with ABC flickering on occasionally then going back to the dreaded blue screen. Googling didn't help at first: the advice we found included "try adjusting the placement of the antenna." Doy. That must've been click bait. But a very high-tech solution of aluminum foil plus a box duct taped to the wall actually worked! And just in time, when the show was about to start and we had given up hope.

What did you think, if you watched? I realize now that I will never watch any live, national event on television without also scanning Twitter, and I don't know how I feel about that.  My personal Twittersphere hated Seth and thought he was the height of misogyny, but I follow a lot of feminists. Everyone's Twitter echo chamber is different, I suppose. His whole hosting schtick was so meta. And no one's dress really stood out to me. But 2012 was an amazing year for movies.

Judging from the previews I've seen recently, I don't know if I'm optimistic for 2013. Spring Breakers, I'm looking at you. And every movie set in the future about aliens invading the earth. There are a lot of them. I just saw Side Effects though and really enjoyed it. It's a corkscrew of a plot, and some fine performances.  

Back to our living room: should we keep the jerry-rigged box situation? Or just get cable already.

Too Many Magazines

I've always loved magazines, to the extent that I used to look forward to going the dentist so I could read the magazines in the waiting room. Now I'm grown up and I subscribe to a bazillion magazines and counting. I love magazines so much that I have a hard time throwing them away. Look at this stack in my room.

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I'm going to read these all. Some day. I swear.

They keep stacking up, and I'm not even getting rid of the ones I have read. It is a burden. Joe got me an iPad Mini for Christmas, which I love, and now I'm thinking about Next Issue. You pay a monthly subscription for an app that you lets read unlimited magazines on your iPad. Just reading the list of magazines involved made me realize this may be a dream come true. Bon Appetit, Marie Claire, EW, People, Lucky, The New Yorker, and more. I could hold onto them forever — for whatever reason I feel compelled to do so — without taking up shelf space. It's gonna put the airport bookshop out of business and keep magazines from folding.

Maybe. But I should I commit to another monthly fee? Yikes. If I subscribe to one app, then I wouldn't have an ungainly stack of magazines. But does the physical presence of a magazines compel one to read them? What do you think? My heart says yes to the app, but my head says no. For now. I might switch over and try it out when I have to renew my People magazine.

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I was clearing through the pile a bit, or at least trying to keep it from collapsing on itself. When I saw Angelina's mug the second time, I thought it looked familiar. Check this out. It's the British Marie Claire I got on vacation in France on the right and my normal U.S. subscription on the left.

Now Marie Claire is my absolute favorite women's print magazine, but this makes me think we are getting the short end of the stick in the U.S. Only 238 hot new looks to 419 for the Brits? The British magazine is bigger and has about 100 more pages. Angie looks a little tanner in the UK photo. And the headlines are saucier too. I may or may not have bought this solely because I needed to know more about the "I hid a crack pipe in the Ugg boots" tagline. C'mon, you know you're curious about that too. I've never seen a crack pipe referenced on American mags besides Whitney's tabloid exploits. Too soon?

I told Joe about the magazine discrepancy, including the difference in headlines and my preference for the British version. "When you saw the crack pipe headline, did you just throw a 100 euro note down on the counter and walk out with it?" he said. Haha, no, but you don't want to know how many dollars I paid for this particular magazine with the exchange rate. Add it to the pile!

Book Report, "Happier at Home"

This series is my attempt to reconnect with my English major roots by writing mini-essays about books I think are worth adding to your reading list. First up, Happier at Homea non-cheesy self improvement tome.

I'd like to just start out by saying that I don't have a ton in common with "Happier at Home" author Gretchen Rubin in terms of taste and hobbies. She is perfectly happy wearing yoga pants and a North Face computer backpack as a purse every day. Besides not being interested in fashion, travel isn't big on her list at all either. Or desserts. She decides that she will feel better about life if she doesn't eat a single sweet during the Christmas season and manages to accomplish that easily.

On the other hand, my tastes unfortunately lean toward ultimate consumption. I dream of wearing a cute new outfit while eating ice cream on vacation. 

So while we are opposites, and despite the fact that Rubin says at one point in the book that she's not very good at telling jokes — I may have nodded my head while reading that — I really enjoyed reading Happier at Home, the sequel to The Happiness Project. As a reader, you feel like you're part of Rubin's family and they seem like a loving, content bunch. And Rubin writes thoughtfully on parenting, marriage, and the physical realities of her home, incorporating arresting quotes from philosophers and writers about life and happiness. I like the idea of living an examined life, and following through on steps to make your life better.

Personally, I was intrigued by the first chapter about possessions and organization. I like that she doesn't equate possessions and consuming as shallow or detrimental to happiness. Rubin writes: "For better or worse, buying things (or photographing them, cataloging them, or writing reviews about them) is a way to engage with the world. When we're interested in something, we often express this interest by researching, shopping, buying, and collecting." 

I love fashion and home decor. I'm drawn to design, and I spend a ton of time reading fashion blogs and magazines for fun. But at the same time I know it's just stuff. If I bought everything I ever wanted, I would always want more. I suppose I feel conflicted about loving and wanting things. While I love shopping, I hate having too much stuff. Having to store it, and look at it, and get sick of it. Rubin understands the ties of ownership that can weigh us down. And her answer is engagement: to only own things that you use regularly or have meaning to you, and for those things to be organized.

I think this is a book I'll come back to as a way to simplify and improve my every day life, and I need to check out her first book too. What are your thoughts about possessions? What would make you happier in 2013?