Looking back on a year that was not as good as I had hoped, but not as bad as I had feared, these are a few of my favorite things:
• Best Book (That I Read): It was actually a slow year for books for me. I just started reading Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer; it's about the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.
The book I enjoyed reading the most this year was Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb, the gripping tale of how members of the recently created Israeli Mossad, working on a shoestring budget and making up the rules of engagement as they went along, brought one of the worst mass murderers in history to justice. Much of it is first-person accounts that are being made public for the first time. (Many of those involved either took the secrets to the grave or kept them for the past 50 years.)
It's an amazing mixture of the thrilling and the mundane. Eichmann had sealed the fate of millions of Jews, yet was largely anonymous, even inside the Nazi hierarchy. Unlike many top Nazis, he failed to provide himself with a golden parachute in case the war went badly. He ended up in American captivity after the war, albeit under an alias. He eventually escaped to South America—with the help of the Catholic Church!—where he worked a series of lousy jobs and was shunned by the large German (Nazi) community, mostly because he hadn't brought money with him.
His trail had gone almost completely cold, but a handful of men who refused to forget painstakingly tracked him down in Argentina, where they kidnapped him and smuggled him out of the country, risking international censure for the new state of Israel in the process.
The story is full of shocking turns, including the fact that after they finally grabbed Eichmann and were planning to take him to Israel, the Mossad man in charge in Argentina basically said, "Hey, we're already here. Let's go grab Josef Mengele while we're at it!"
It's an incredibly satisfying read.
• Best Movie: The Hurt Locker. It's simply the most suspenseful movie I've ever seen. I just hope that when this little-seen but widely praised movie comes out on DVD on Jan. 12, people will give it a try.
I also really liked District 9, the wildly imaginative sci-fi action thriller with razor-sharp political overtones.
In all honesty, I only saw four movies at the theater this year: the two previously mentioned, along with Star Trek and Invictus, which I also liked, but not as much as the other two.
They're still building movie theaters, so obviously there are still lots of people out there who enjoy that $10-a-pop, cell-phone-interrupted, commercial-laden experience. But, as Dylan once whined, "It ain't me, babe."
• Best E-mail Received: It was the day before my birthday, in mid-November, when Jerry K. e-mailed to let me know that it looked as though they were re-opening the Popeye's Chicken on East 22nd Street, near Kolb Road. I went by there a couple of weeks ago, and a guy was putting the finishing touches on the building. For all I know, it's already open. If it is, this will be the best Christmas EVER!
• Best Song: I don't know if it's the best, but the one I (voluntarily) listened to more than any other was "Tie My Hands" by Robin Thicke and Lil Wayne. Hey, good is good.
• Best New TV Show: I told you a long time ago about Glee, which Rolling Stone complimented by calling it the "Gayest. Show. Ever." In the months since I raved about the pilot, it has become a sensation, with huge ratings, millions of digital song downloads and two best-selling soundtrack albums.
However, my favorite new show is, without a doubt, Modern Family. Done in that faux-documentary style like The Office, it follows three branches of a family. The patriarch (Ed O'Neill) is married to a much-younger second wife, a Colombian woman (played by the ridiculously attractive Sofia Vergara) who has a nerdy middle-school-age son. The patriarch has two adult kids, a daughter who is married to a tries-too-hard-to-be-the-cool-dad guy (they have three kids), and a gay son who lives with his partner. In the pilot, the gay couple has just adopted a baby girl from Vietnam. When they tell the patriarch that they've named the girl Lily, he says, "Won't she have trouble saying that?"
It's got heart, and it's got humor.
• Best Concert: It would have been James Morrison, the British soul balladeer who was supposed to play at the Rialto, but he played Coachella, then cancelled his Rialto gig. My friend Junior loved the John Legend/Laura Izibor concert. He's still not sure whether Izibor can sing, but he says she stands on stage "really, really well."
• Best Local Sports News: The UA didn't hire Tim Floyd as its new men's basketball coach. Or Rick Pitino. Or John Calipari.
• Best Quote: Pro-bulimia spokesperson Kate Moss told a bunch of aspiring models, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."
Having been skinny for an extended part of my life (no, really!), I can tell you that's nonsense. In fact, the only two foods that don't taste better than skinny feels are broccoli and low-fat broccoli.