Year's End

My friend Kenny's year-end summation leads me to tote a few things up.

Best book: Alexander Nehamas, The Art of Living. Runners-up: The Care of the Self by Michel Foucault; The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder.

Best restaurant: Flora in Oakland. (I didn't go very far afield). Runners-up: Rivoli in Berkeley, Fringale and Hayes Street Grill in SF. (Tradition runs rampant.)

Best wine shop: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley. Runner-up: North Berkeley Wine Company.

Best play: "School for Scandal" by Richard Sheridan (at the Barbican, London).

Best film: The one by Tacita Dean on Merce Cunningham rehearsing at the Ford Plant in Richmond. Although a friend compared it to watching paint dry, I found it remarkable, both for the play of light and view in that huge, open space and for the way the piece came together with MC's ever-so-polite direction of his thoroughly professional company.

Best live event: The 17 May parade in Bergen, Norway, for which neighborhoods, schools, and university faculties fielded small bands, all of which played well, and everyone dressed in gorgeous handmade, colorful, traditional clothes with silver buttons. Runners-up: Davitt Moroney; Scandinavian Festival in Junction City, Oregon; UC Berkeley MFA presentation at Richmond Field Station.

Best bookstore: University Press Books in Berkeley. Runners-up: Daunts in London, noted by my friend Andrew; Stout's on Solano Avenue in Berkeley (best used architecture books on the planet); City Lights in SF (better even than the London Review of Books bookstore in London); Analog on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley (tiny, but excellent selection).

Best (and possibly last) classical CD store: Musical Offering, Berkeley. Worth preserving.

Best newspaper: The Guardian, which I read now on my iPad; runner-up: weekend FT.

Best place for architecture criticism: Sam Lubell's CA edition, Architect's Newspaper.

Best architecture mag: The redesigned, Catherine Slessor-edited Architectural Review. Runner-up: sister publication Architect's Journal.

Best music video: The wedding Bollywood riff made by my cousin Jonas in honor of his cousin Marius's marriage to Nina. (I'll find a link for this one.)

Best musical discovery: Sviatoslav Richter, noted by my friend Stefan. A lot of Russian classical music recordings from the Soviet era are coming out of the woodwork.

Best company: At this point, the most occasional. Runners-up: lunch division: Kenny; family division: my daughter Elizabeth.

Best news: Nephew Tom on the mend. (He was hit by a truck while walking on a sidewalk in Austin, TX.) Runner-up: Kim Jong-Il joins his dad.

Best reason to be appalled: The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Best reason to fight nascent fascism: Andres Breivik.

Best reason to riot: David Cameron.

Best signs of better times: Women marching against army ugliness in Cairo; SF designers having babies; Pirate Party doing well in Germany; Blue Labour.

Best opportunity for innovation: Higher education.

Best financial quote: "I have no idea what happened to the $1.2 billion."

Best Chinese saying to apply to high finance: "Kill some chickens to scare the monkeys."

Best election to do over: Russia's.

Best single example of blatant hypocrisy: Congress refusing to outlaw its members' insider trading.

Best religious epiphany: The public denunciation by the Irish PM of continued Vatican foot-dragging over turning predatory priests over to the police in Ireland. Runner-up: Theocracy in Iran, the best example of why to separate religion from the state (in case Rick Perry wasn't registering on that front).

Best projects to abandon: Apple's glass ring; Saltworks; California high-speed rail.

Best proof of karma: So many choices this year. Let's hope Berlusconi sticks.

Best candidates for apotheosis: Steve Jobs and Christopher Hitchens. (Both were deeply flawed, but then so are most of the gods.)

Best rich guys not taking it with them: Warren Hellman and Don Fisher.

Best mag: The Jean Nouvel issue of Abitare.

Best running gag: The Republican candidates. (That's "gag" in two senses.)

Best reason to support Obama: The Republican candidates.

Best art exhibit: Kurt Schwitters at Berkeley Art Museum. Runner-up: Francesca Woodman at SFMOMA. (Both obsessive; both unlucky, but in different ways.)

Best cultural organization: Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Artists (SECA) at SFMOMA. Runners-up: Art + Design Forum at SFMOMA; BAM/PFA; Cal Performances (but I miss Robert Cole).

Best moment at SPUR: David Lewis vs. Peter Calthorpe re: Saltworks. (Hate that project.)

Best beach: Stinson. (My Ostia Lido.)

Best cathedral: York.

Best career move: Cathy Ho heads up the US section of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Runner-up, M&A division: Bob Ivy heads up the AIA.

Best proof of sheer ability (and probable exploitation): Julie Kim is replaced at SPUR by three people.

Best living poet: John Burnside. Runner-up: Frederick Seidel.

Best dead poet: Byron ("Don Juan").

Best blog: "Design Faith," my fave, is one of four that I read closely. Each is written by one person.

Best lit review: London Review of Books. Runner-up: BookForum.

Best serious journal: New Left Review.

Best writer on architecture: Catherine Slessor. Many contenders, but she's the best writer.

Best deserving of a national honor received: Mara Hvistendahl, whose book on China's boy bias made top 10 lists of several national publications, including the WSJ.

Best deserving of a local honor received: David Baker. Does what he does really well. Runner-up: Yukiko Bowman.

Best local lecture by a designer: Jeanne Gang at Wurster Hall. More like her, please. Runners-up: Katherine Gustafson and Craig Dykers.

Best live event reporting: Eva Hagberg on Occupy Berkeley (on Facebook). Runner-up (with photos): Sabrina Brennan on Occupy Oakland, Port of Oakland, and Half Moon Bay.

Best coffee: Indoor: Blue Bottle; outdoor: Curbside Coffee - both SF. Beans: Espresso Forte, Peet's; machine: Pavoni (despite everything).

Best cab ride: Oslo (caught the ferry); runner-up: London ("Your president has made an unholy mess of this city").


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