Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Top 10 of 2012

My friend Wally Conger used to have a “Top 10 of the Year” list. It wasn’t the Top 10 songs or the Top 10 movies, it was just the 10 top things he encountered each year. Seems like a good idea, so, in no particular order:

Folks, this ain’t normal. Joel Salatin believes the world is turned upside down. People have lost touch with where their food comes from. Government food safety agents are the biggest barrier to safe, locally produced and healthy food. In the quest for a clean and even sterile environment, we’ve made ourselves sick. This remarkable book changed the way I think, and it’ll do the same for you if you dare.

John Carter. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of books 100 years ago that has influenced many many people, a number of whom went on to become scientists and science fiction creators. A century later, this film is one of the best science fiction movies ever made, and the second-best science fiction movie made in the 21st century. Watching it re-ignited my sense of wonder.

Marvel’s The Avengers. Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the best science fiction film made in the 21st century (Serenity), this year wrote and directed the best comic-book movie ever made. Full of character, good humor and of course loud bangs and crashes, this was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in recent memory. (Caveat: I didn't see John Carter in the theater.)

A new home. Red and I have been a team for a decade and a half, and this year our partnership led to construction of a beautiful little house not far from the shores of Green Bay. The project occupied most of the year and is not quite finished, but by August it was finished enough. Love built this home, and I love it.

The Self-Publishing Podcast. This quirky weekly visit with authors Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David W. Wright is irreverant, informative and a heck of a lot of fun. I’ve begun to look forward to their weekly romp through what sometimes seems to be a stream of consciousness but always leaves me knowing a little bit more about writing, innovation, design and moving forward.

Scrivener. The SPP boys kept saying this software is the best tool out there for writers, and they offer a 30-day free trial so I figured, what the heck. By the 15th day I gave in and just bought the thing. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s every bit the great tool they said it is.

The Imaginary Revolution. I lost two of my surrogate mentors this year bookending the creation of my new science-fiction novel. Ray Bradbury showed me how to write and inspired me with his enthusiasm, and when he died I realized I’d been beating around the bush too long. A few days after I completed the novel, Zig Ziglar died, the guy who taught me not to get cooked in the squat. Between the house and the novel, this has been one of the most fulfilling years of creativity I’ve ever experienced. I hope Ray and Zig would be proud.

Men in Black 3. I found the first two MIB films with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones immensely entertaining, but you know, I only ever watched either of them once. They entertained me but didn’t make me care enough to come back. This installment made me want to go back to the beginning and pay closer attention, and I definitely want to see this one again and again.

Nancy. The comic strip that Ernie Bushmiller made famous has always been one of my guilty pleasures. It always was sweet and charming and a little goofy, but Guy Gilchrist has injected something more, by making Aunt Fritzi a music-loving child of the Sixties like, well, me. With the recent re-introduction of her old flame Phil Fumble, it looks like Gilchrist is poised to take the strip to a whole new level.

That’s Why God Made the Radio. The Beach Boys album of new songs marking their 50th anniversary of recording is better than it has any right to be. The harmonies are as crisp and supple as ever, the tunes linger the way their best stuff always has, and the project is a fitting finish if it does, in fact, turn out to be the core group’s last effort together. An endless summer, indeed.

Bubbling under the Top 10:

Christmas with the Annie Moses Band. You have to hear this band.

How to Be Legendary by Johnny B. Truant. Common sense advice about being as great as you can.

Thick As A Brick 2 by Ian Anderson. My first reaction upon hearing about this release was “Oh no!” But on actually hearing it, the reaction was “Oh yes!”

The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. I asked for it for Christmas based on a brief mention in Folks, this ain’t normal, and after 20 pages I can’t wait to start gardening.

I know I’ll think of a half-dozen other cool things I encountered during 2012, but these are the ones that rose in my consciousness this evening. If the year ahead has half as many treasures as this year offered, it’ll be lovely indeed.

Cross-posted to

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