The Year in Review: 2011

January 15, 2012

Never waste energy on worries or negative thoughts, all problems are brought into existence: drop them.” —Bruce Lee

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” –Dalai Lama

Hello, friends!  2011 was a great year for a lot of reasons (some obvious, some requiring work to find the good), and I’d like to recap with a look back.  I’ve been through a lot of life changes, a lot of growth, and seen some pretty exciting developments.  Some of the year-in-review action will be about personal growth, some about more general cultural items.  I’ll start with the cultural items to save you looking for them if you’re less interested in my personal journey.

Here we go!

Best single/video: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye.  The song is fantastic, the video beautiful.  I don’t know if anyone has ever written about the part of a breakup where you become strangers again.  Props to Gotye for pioneering new ground in a field overrun with entries.

Best album: The King is Dead by The Decemberists.  A back-to-basics release from one of my favorite bands.  I’ve loved their eclectic sound, from Castaways and Cutouts  to the recent, and more high-concept, The Hazards of Love, but this is the Decemberists at their best.  It’s simple, stripped-down, celebratory.  An almost bluegrass/Americana feel that is good any time of year, but seems particularly appropriate as the leaves turn in the fall.  Everything you loved about the Decemberists, only more concentrated (unless you’re really into the bloodier genre pieces like A Cautionary Tale; there’s no violent imagery on this record).

Best film: Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen.  There were three strong contenders – Midnight in Paris, The King’s Speech, and The Muppets.  Each has its own merits, and they’re hard to compare because they’re so different.  At the end of the day (year), though, Midnight in Paris is the one that I keep talking about, the one that defined my new year’s resolution, and the one that has the most to say to us in the present day.  Its overall message is to love where you are, not get nostalgic for an idealized past; that’s particularly important for us paleo types to remember.  Focusing on the historical/ancestral approach is good, but it’s important not to let it get in the way of enjoying the present.

Best book: Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  It wasn’t written this year, obviously, but was definitely the best read of the year.  It’s everything you love about fiction, plus everything you love about nonfiction.  Awesome.

Best crazy internet video: Shatner on the Mount.  Watch it here.  It will change you.  Thanks, Jeremy.

Best restaurant: Tie between Cafe Babareeba (Chicago) and Station 220 (Bloomington, IL).  Illinois’ best tapas restaurant and one of Illinois’ best full-meal restaurants.  Both were home to memorable occasions and amazing food.  I couldn’t pick.

Best single dish: Pumpkin bisque at Station 220.  See my review of the meal for a detailed account.

Best meal overall: Graduation dinner.  Sorry, Station 220, but the combination of amazing food and celebration got to me.

Best new ingredient: Beets.  This is the year I fell in love with beets.  I hadn’t really eaten them growing up (my mom doesn’t care for them), but living in central Illinois, where lots of people are of Polish descent, they make regular appearances in my day-to-day food life.  Amazing.  Don’t know how I made it this far without them.  See recipes here and here.

Most versatile fruit (fan suggestion): Coconut.  A nutritional powerhouse, you can bake with dried coconut, use coconut milk to replace dairy, eat the flesh, use the oil to cook other things.  What more can you ask for?

Best vestigial structure (fan suggestion): the occipitofrontalis muscle.  It used to be used to keep the head from falling.  Now, it serves no necessary function (in terms of survival) but is used for facial expression.  Go body language.  And anatomy class.

Best weekend/day/trip (fan suggestion): Joe and Laura’s Wedding.  If you know me, this one speaks for itself.  I got to see two of my best friends get married, visited with my Minnesota people, and some other big personal developments happened then, too.

Well, that’s all the categories I’ve got.  Leave a comment with your own answers, or any other categories you can think of!  Here’s to 2012, everyone.  Enjoy!

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