It’s that time of year when those arbiters of taste—those pundits, essayists, bloggers, satirists, and other derelicts who have just enough skills to avoid ever having to have a real job, independently look back to determine the best and worst in every category known to humankind.
Why we are so enamored with one-to-ten ratings will remain a mystery for time eternal.
Since I don’t get around very much anymore, I have limited opportunities to offer much in the way of valid responses to American culture. What responses I do have come filtered through various forms of media. For instance, if I were to put forth a list of last year’s ten best songs, such a list would have come from hearing them on the radio. But because I mostly listen to classical music, it’s doubtful that the year’s best would include anything by either of the Justins or Bad Bunny, whoever that is.
Gustave Mahler would again top any top-ten music list of mine, followed by Antonin Dvořák and Igor Stravinsky.
By definition, there can’t be any top-ten list of country music.
It’s so easy to look for the bad in almost every corner. This past year, the Third Year of the Plague, there was no shortage of bad stuff. Take the 1/6 Select Committee hearings. Repetitive and tedious, unless it was Jamie Raskin being his articulate self or Liz Cheney acting like a Democrat, the hearings produced little of value. The Orange Menace is still not imprisoned while the people who did his dirty work are in jail, left to wonder whoever conspired to make them become members of the Proud Boys.
Because commercial television is the only service I seem capable of operating, I see more than my fair share of commercials. While I tend to watch news, sports, and reruns of Chicago PD, I see ads for medicines, insurance, Medicare Part C and this generation’s version of Popeil kitchen gadgets. The best of the worst for 2022 begs the question: “Who needs 180 batteries?”
The BatterieDaddy is a plastic carrier for batteries in all shapes and sizes. The commercial for this product shows a black-and-white video clip of some guy madly digging around in a junk drawer before giving up his search as the world turns to color with all the sensational beauty of Dorothy arriving to the Emerald City.
What the makers failed to show was that same guy actually finding two batteries, loading them into whatever device needs power and discovering that they don’t work. He then throws them back into the drawer.
It goes without saying that of all the insurance ads, the worst of the worst remains Liberty Mutual. Half of their ads seem like they were created by somebody suffering a bad trip.
My top-ten list of best movies of 2022 has no entries because I failed to see any new movies. There are some that look good, but I have no clear access to them over the seemingly dozens of new ways to see them. During the plague, I’m hesitant to go to a theater and share the air.
My top-ten list of books published last year has one entry. I read a lot, just very few new ones. So, by default, the winner is Booth by Karen Joy Fowler. It is a well-written piece of historical fiction about John Wilkes Booth and his family. If you’re interested in how truly dysfunctional a family can be, you’ll not want to miss reading this book.
A new way of pronouncing dysfunctional is “George Santos.” The Representative-elect from Queens, New York, lied about practically everything during the campaign. A Republican who has attended rallies hosted by the former President, he has claimed to have been a graduate of Baruch College (he isn’t), claimed to be Jewish (he’s not), claimed to have worked for two large Wall Street firms (he didn’t) and has tried to convince constituents he was straight (he’s gay).
I’m withdrawing my nomination for Idiot of the Year from Herschel Walker. Santos clearly takes that cake.
Photo artistry by Courtney A. Liska
New Year’s Lentils
Eating lentils is a tradition that dates to ancient Roman times. To mark the New Year and to wish friends and neighbors prosperity, the ancient Romans would gift a scarsella, a leather purse full of lentils, with the wish that they would turn into gold coins. The coin-shaped lentils symbolize prosperity and once cooked, increase in size, evoking the idea of abundance.
1 ½ cups (250 grams) dried brown lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3-4 Tbs. olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
2 Tbs. tomato paste
5 cups water
Pinch of salt
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Place the onion, carrot, and celery in a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté gently on low heat until the vegetables are very soft and the onion is somewhat translucent, but not colored. Add the bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, tomato paste, dry lentils, and 5 cups of water.
Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but retain their shape (20 to 35 minutes) depending on the lentils.
Keep checking them and add more water if necessary. Add salt to taste only once the lentils are tender, otherwise, they will remain tough. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve. Happy New Year.