When I conjure up the pop culture of my childhood, I sit in the back seat of my father’s car. He rides, his arm stretched out over the leather seat, his hand tapping along while the Eagles’ “The Long Run” plays on the tape deck. I watch the landscape through the rear window, highway signs pass almost in perfect time with the downbeat.
I described this scene to friends my age and while their memories are not identical we all share this experience of being happily trapped in the back seat nodding to the music our parents liked back then. The soundtrack is bound to come from a limited hit parade: the songs in heavy rotation in the 1970s and 80s.
Technology has made it so that in 2022 all passengers in a car can listen to their favorite music, make phone calls or watch their own movies with their own headphones and screen. We could all be listening to “The Long Run” on the stereo, but we might as well retreat to the bespoke specialty of our Spotify Wrapped Playlists.
The best of 2022
We’re right in the middle of the best of season, the time of year when critics come out with their lists of their favorite movies, songs, podcasts, and books from the last 12 months. The atomization of mainstream culture means that it’s possible that my pop culture wanderings don’t overlap with a particular critic’s, that I may not have read any of the books, or heard any of the songs on a particular list.
That’s why I love this time of year.
It’s queuing season. It’s a cultural potluck, making playlists, reserving Libbys, filling recipe boxes, a time to stray from your idiosyncratic media diet and try others’ dishes. Jon Pareles favorite albums. Eric Asimov’s most memorable wines. The performances that impressed Maya Phillips. I’ve been traveling with my own cultural boisterousness for the last year, so it’s likely that many of these critics’ decisions will be new to me.
Better best-of lists
I wrote last year about how I wish I could get annual best-of lists from everyone I know and that those lists weren’t limited to the usual genres of things to listen to, watch or can read. I want people’s highly subjective and specific lists: the best advice they’ve received and the best ideas they’ve had. The best seltzer they tried, or the best walks they took, the best changes they made to their morning routines. I want ideas for a better life across the spectrum of existence; no category is too idiosyncratic.
I asked a few people close to me what specific things, experiences, or ideas would make their best-of lists. My editor Amy Fiscus’ best vacation moment was watching the sun set over Lake Michigan. “Americans don’t have to travel to the West Coast to see the sun slide over the horizon of endless water,” she said.
My friend Ali’s best-of-everything list includes changing her grocery shopping routine and picking up exactly what she needs from the market instead of loading up the pantry like she was doing at the height of the pandemic. And she listed the video game Perfect Tides, a coming-of-age story from 2000. “The story is so sweet — I cried, I loved it,” she said.
The best thing I baked were these crunchy chocolate chip cookies; They’re like Tate’s but even better. The best advice I received this year came from a friend who told me what she would say to herself when her three children were very young and she felt overwhelmed, like there weren’t enough hours in the day : “You’re doing great,” she would say. “Keep going.” I found those simple words deeply inspiring in difficult moments. The best seltzer I’ve tried was Wegman’s ginger flavor—it’s like unsweetened ginger ale. The best gardening tip I received was to water my plants less. The best change I’ve made to my routine is to wear my dentist-issued night guard at least 75 percent of the time. I sleep better and worry less about grinding my teeth to dust. And because I can’t stop thinking about it, the best movie I’ve seen was the documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.
What are your very specific and personal bests from 2022? Best advice? Best decision? Best New Dance Move? Heck, best toothpaste? Tell me. Skip the usual categories and create your own. Provide your full name and city and I can include your response in next week’s newsletter.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🍿 Babylon (Friday): In 2016, director Damien Chazelle became the youngest person to win the Best Director Oscar for La La Land, his lush musical ode to love and ambition set in Los Angeles. This was followed by the arguably superior First Man, a radically understated account of Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon. Now he’s swinging back with this maximalist tale of debauched Hollywood gamers in the early days of the movie industry. It stars Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie and, well, just their presence would be enough for me.
📺 “1923” (Sunday): TV – that gets everyone at some point. Even Harrison Ford, the great laconic star of many film franchises. In this second prequel to the hit series Yellowstone, which premieres on Paramount+, he stars as the Montana ranch mogul’s great-great-great-uncle, played by Kevin Costner, alongside Helen Mirren.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Classic potato latkes
Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday. are you ready to fry If so, my latke recipe is as classic as it gets. The trick here is to place the shredded potato mixture in a tea towel (or colander) and press down as firmly as you can. This removes a lot of the moisture, a step that helps it get extra crispy in the hot oil. I like to use a combination of duck fat and oil for frying, but if you have vegetarians at the table, stick with all oil. You can serve latkes with the traditional applesauce and sour cream, or with smoked fish and caviar. Or mix and match as you like. Chances are you’ll eat more than one of these, so there’s ample opportunity for experimentation.
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What you get for $880,000: An 1886 townhouse in Savannah, Georgia; a 19th-century house in Rockport, Mass.; or a Victorian in Lake Oswego, Ore.
The Hunt: A single mom wanted a $350,000 condo in the Bronx. Which home did she choose? Play our game.
Supportive Development: A hotel has been converted into shelters for formerly homeless people.
Connecting with Nature: “Slow Birding” is designed to avoid the sometimes competitive feeling of bird watching.
Forget the puffer fish: a sleek, ankle-length coat is eternally stylish.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Stocking fillers for children
Children are counting down: Christmas morning is in eight days. And we know that the collection of adorable little surprises that fill a stocking is often the final piece of the gift-giving puzzle. If you’re looking for ideas, head over to Wirecutter’s list of the best stocking fillers for kids. Whether your family fills a sock in the traditional (candy, cards, and lip balm), whimsical (scented puzzles and temporary tattoos), or practical (underwear and toothbrushes), Wirecutter has plenty of suggestions for kids of all ages. –Kalee Thompson
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Argentina vs. France, World Cup Final: Soccer star Lionel Messi has never won a World Cup for Argentina. Now, at 35, he’s trying one last time. So far he hasn’t looked like a man on the brink of retirement: he leads the tournament in both goals and assists and plays with an obvious drive to win the one big prize that eluded him. “Messi is not here because he needs a World Cup to be remembered as a great,” wrote Rory Smith in The Times. “He’s here because he sees it somewhere between his duty and his destiny.” Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern on Fox.