Last year I accepted that I’m always well behind the times and quite slow at getting into new music, books, and movies. The present always seems to me saturated with new releases to the point of suffocation, and I end up preferring a slow, relaxing walk to a quick, jammed-up subway ride. I’m not saying this is any way for anyone else to live; the trouble is that I mostly just walk around the same four blocks closest to home. But, I yam what I yam. The point here is, instead of offering a list of my favorite things that were new in 2012, I’ll share things I liked that were new to me last year. As with any such list, the value to you, dear reader, is introduction to something you might like; given that simple goal, let’s damn the release year and treat them all equally.
I read 72 books last year, at about 45 pages per day. This is down from 122 books in 2011 and 90 books in 2010. My favorites were, in no particular order:
- Fifth Business, Robertson Davies (1970)
- To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis (1998)
- The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, David Simon & Ed Burns (1997)
- Tapping the Source, Kem Nunn (1984)
- The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (2012)
- Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset, Rick Veitch (2003)
- An Economist Gets Lunch, Tyler Cowen (2012)
- Enigma, Peter Milligan (1995)
I record all the books I read, and sometimes I write a word or two about them, at Goodreads.
That’s right, I liked a total of 1 (one) album released last year. It’s not that I disliked anything else I heard, it’s just that I probably didn’t hear it.
- Locked Down, Dr. John (2012)
- Return Of The Instro-Hipsters Volume 2, Various Artists (2011)
- The Greatest, Cat Power (2006)
- Escape From Dragon House, Dengue Fever (2005)
- The Taking of Pelham 123, David Shire (1974)
- Texas Thunder Soul (1968-1974), Kashmere Stage Band
- Supergrass, Supergrass (2000)
- Mark’s Keyboard Repair, Money Mark (1995)
I watched 81 movies, or about 1 movie every 4.5 days. Unlike with books and music, I make an effort to watch new movie releases. I imagine your habits are similar. I watched many classics and liked many of last year’s big releases—The Cabin in the Woods, Prometheus—so instead of boring you with those, I’ll mention the perhaps lesser-known movies I dug last year:
- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
- The House of the Devil (2009)
- Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
- The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
- The Grey (2012)
- Sorcerer (1977)
- The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
- Near Dark (1987)
You can track my movie viewing and read my reviews at Letterboxd.
My biggest culinary discovery of 2012 was bittersweet: I made a few Malaysian dishes in my kitchen, was sufficiently intrigued that I sought out more while traveling in Melbourne, and had my mind totally blown by the food at Coconut House. It was a good restaurant, but even beyond that, the cuisine itself is just totally up my alley.
So that’s the sweet part. The bitter is that here in Portland, a food-crazed city, we have zero Malaysian or even Indonesian restaurants. In 2013, I’ll seek them out wherever I travel, and I’ll continue figuring out Malay dishes at home.
My other obsession in 2012 was Mexican food. I did not have a single burrito; instead, I enjoyed a wide variety of moles and perfected my corn-tortilla technique. This was largely inspired by the wonderful guisados at Mi Mero Mole, my favorite new restaurant in Portland in 2012, and fueled by Rick Bayless’ great cookbooks.
Last year I kept a mini-diary of foods I cooked. Whenever I made something remotely interesting, I’d snap a picture of it and post it to a Flickr set, with some notes on how the dish turned out. These are mostly notes to myself, but if you find any of this interesting, let me know.