MOST SATISFYING MOVIE EXPERIENCE: Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. As usual, I don't have any idea what the national critics have to say, but this off-kilter tale of innocent love in New England makes its quirkiness serve the larger purpose, unlike, say, Fargo, and so the characters matter and the charm of the film is so overwhelming that even Bruce Willis is perfect. Yes, it follows the standard comic pattern, but in no way that is standard.
MOST RAUNCHY MOVIE EXPERIENCE THAT SOMEHOW MANAGES TO BE SWEET AS WELL: Ted, hands down. Endearing characters and a heart that Family Guy has never had. The writing is clever, the acting is top-notch, and you never doubt the premise. Plus, an homage to the 1980's Flash Gordon. Way better than it has any right to be.
MOST POWERFUL BOOK: Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat. I taught this one to a group of boys--female writer/female narrator, and though their praise was not universal, they could not deny the overwhelming complexity of ethical choices that the book presents in a very human way. You may not particularly like Grace Winters, but you cannot deny how her station in life impacts the decisions that she makes. No survivor in any situation emerges unscathed, and she never withholds her thought processes, however unsavory they might be.
MOST EDIFYING CONCERT EXPERIENCE: Seats behind the stage at Springsteen--twice! As everyone likes to remind me, I fought for decades the need to see Springsteen again after the transcendent 1978 shows, but the man "rages against the dying of the light" better than anyone, and it would be a callous person who did not get caught up in the infectious joy that Springsteen and co. delivered each time I saw them. Love or hate his music, he is America's consummate live performer in our 237 year old history.
MOST INNOCENT CONCERT EXPERIENCE THAT MANAGED TO FREAK OUT CHRISTIANS AND UNBELIEVERS: So, at least in Chattanooga, we still have some work to do on accepting gay people. Sufjan Stevens' Christmas show was a pinnacle of joyous innocence, a Christian celebration that also gently mocks all of the holiday's commercial trappings, but that goes all out in expressing the artist's love for its sacred origins. Sometimes true believers freak out other people, even those who see themselves as true believers, and that seemed to happen here. A wondrous spectacle that I will remember for years to come, everytime I listen to Stevens' original songs.
MOST AWESOME CHRISTMAS GIFT: Yep, I'm rockin' the Big Green Egg. God grant me the fortitude to actually take care of it.
MOST USEFUL APP (TIE): Zite and Pinterest. Even though I don't like the Zite upgrade that has happened in the past few weeks, no form of media got me through the presidential election like Zite. Building continually on my preferences, Zite gave me Nate Silver and Rachel Maddow and other sites that actually knew what was happening in the election, especially when the mainstream was buying the bullshit. That I cook regularly from Pinterest is a testament to its ever-growing usefulness.
MOST LEGITIMATE PROOF THAT TELEVISION IS BETTER THAN MOVIES: The list continues to be overwhelming: Scandal, Game Of Thrones, Season 2, Homeland, Bored To Death, Archer, Veep, The Newsroom, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and yes, even The Office, which may not be as funny as it once was, but the writing may be better than ever.
MOST "ADULT" EXPERIENCE: No, not that kind. I'm talking about testifying in a child-custody hearing, but then, I'm only a minor player and I know the principals never expected to be there, either. Add that to the list of things I never thought about having to do.
MOST DISAPPOINTING SPORTS YEAR: The Vols, the Pirates, the Steelers, my high school, no hockey, the list is endless. That, like Billy, I also kind of lost interest, made the losses worse, not better.
MOST EXCITING TRAVEL STORY: Leaving New York City just late enough that it wasn't too much of a stretch to claim that we barely got out of there ahead of the hurricane. And, add to it the disillusionment of discovering that an airline will sell your seats out from under you even when they know that you will land in Charlotte in time to make your connection.
MOST EXCITING TRAVEL: My Blues grant to Mississippi ranks as the top trip because it was a trip where my friend and I committed to a total immersion into the blues--every song, every second in the car had a blues song playing in the background, and that was only the soundtrack for exploring the history, geography, food, museums, reading, photographing, graveyard searching, juke joints, and accidental discoveries that constitute a full exploration of a topic.
MOST INVIGORATING FOOD: Getting to eat at Momofuku in NYC, the pastrami sandwich at Katz's Deli in the same town, finding Hansen's Sno-Blitz finally open in New Orleans, the Oreo Concrete at Ted Drewe's in St. Louis, the steak and fries and salad at Doe's Eats in Greenville, and, most of all, Tuesdays at NaGoYa with my pals.
I hope it was a "most" year in some positive ways for you.