The Best of 2016: Beauty among the ruins

If I was the type of person who looks for signs of the apocalypse, 2016 might have blown my mind. As it was, I had to turn off the world from time to time in order to salvage my sanity. The first big shocker was Prince’s death. Yes, I know Bowie died first but he had cancer so, while sad, his passing was not all that surprising. But Prince? Prince! He was full of life. When I saw him live a few years ago, I was amazed by how he moved, sang, and played — the man had not lost a drop of his mad skills.

The second shocker was the Brexit vote. That’s when I realized that all things preposterous were now very possible. But the less said about that the better. Onwards in beauty!

Top Event — Turning 40: My birthday falls at the half-way point in the year and, for me, the first half of 2016 was not great. Nothing really terrible happened, but everything kind of sucked. I had a series of small injuries that meant I was feeling bleh and couldn’t dance. And, after doing my job for over 8 years, saying the magic had gone is an understatement. In the second half of 2016, I was able to start exercising and dancing again. I got a term in my organization doing something far more creative than before. And the realization that now is the time to do stuff kicked in for real. Forty means worrying less about expectations and shifting the attention to what is most fulfilling. Yeah 40!

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We can all relate to Beyoncé in 2016

Top Song — Everything Beyoncé: No surprise here, she will make ALL the best of 2016 lists with Lemonade. Lately, my Monsieur and I have been digging Sorry. We walk around the house saying “I ain’t sorry” in a weird nasal voice because that’s the only way my francophone beau can say the word “ain’t.” It cracks me up. But back to Sorry — anyone who has ever been wronged, i.e. everybody, can get into this song. The video is a stand out as well. Miss Bey’s powers of transformation are as impressive as ever. I especially like the tribal look, and of course the Nefertiti homage at the end. Other songs on repeat are Hold Up and All Night.

These days, it’s a rare thing for me to discover new artists to like, but this year the band Cherry Glazerr really hit the spot in a delightfully grunge way. Had Ten Dollaz is the best! Another discovery was Alabama Shakes‘s Don’t Wanna Fight — so much grit. In other news, I dare you not to sign along to Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons. Also, Lady Gaga continues to be one of the bravest stars out there. I applaud her for talking publicly about her mental health issues. And can I just add? Hailee Steinfeld‘s Love Myself is my super fun dancey tune.

Top film — First Monday in May: Documentaries are my favourite, and this one is about the fashion event of the year, the Met Gala! It’s a fascinating look at the work of The Costume Institute’s curator (you know, if you’re into that kind of thing, and I so am). The surprise here is that Anna Wintour comes off as being almost human.

As usual, I didn’t watch very many new movies this year, but I landed on a hilarious 2015 British rom com on Netflix that I’d never heard of. Man Up staring Lake Bell (of In a World) and Simon Pegg is a weird charmer from start to finish. And, of course, I loved the new Ghostbusters so much I wrote a whole blog post about it!

Top TV — Shetland: I started watching BBC’s Shetland when I injured my foot and became immobilized for a few days. And then I couldn’t stop. I love a good murder mystery when it’s not too dark or violent. This one gets the key element right — a fine detective with a complex personality who, in this case, I’m happy to report is not plagued by some major darkness, like alcoholism or depression (ok, his wife is dead but he is coping). The remote setting and unique culture of the Shetland Islands adds to the spooky vibe. Plus the way they say “murder” (maRRdahRR) is just priceless.

I also found Netflix’s Chef’s Table: France to be even more beautiful and inspiring than the original. I don’t know why, but it seems that chefs always have profound insights on life and passion (and also, yum, food).

An overlooked book (found in the bargain bin!) by an overlooked author, The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

An overlooked book (found in the bargain bin!) by an overlooked author, The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Top Book — The Muse by Jesse Burton: Don’t let the crazy popularity of this one turn you off; it’s not an Oprah-like pick at all. The story alternates between 1960s London and pre-civil war Spain. A mysterious painting is the link between these time periods and the story is one of love, passion, and female independence. Totally addictive. The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro explores similar themes and was also highly enjoyable. Here, the story skips between 1950s London and Paris, and 1920s New York, but the mystery is around a scent. I just love Tessaro and I’m not sure why she isn’t known more. Perhaps she’s not taken seriously because she’s seen as a writer of “chick lit?”

This year, I also read Patti Smith’s immensely inspiring M Train, which I wrote about here. As well, I tend to like any book that follows a young single woman trying to make it in 1950s New York City (think The Best of Everything). This book is like that but with really excellent writing: Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility. I also want to mention the hottest book by the hottest author about which opinions abound, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. She is extremely talented so you can’t help but be drawn into her world. Was the book flawless? No. Was it a good read? Absolutely. (Though I still prefer On Beauty and White Teeth.)

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Ladies and gentlemen, Ms Sharon Jones (Ottawa, June 2014)

I have to acknowledge that 2016 was tough, yo… Collectively and personally, there was a lot of hurting. I lost a colleague to cancer this year, a truly joyful woman who touched everyone she worked with. And I want to take this moment to thank the spirit of another freaking awesome lady, the late great Sharon Jones. As much as I enjoy her recordings with the Dap Kings, it was her live performances that were transcendent. The woman got on that stage and gave everything she had! The last time I saw her she was in remission, much thinner, and we could see that she was struggling. But damn, she still sang each song to the max. Clearly, she had a love of performing, a love of soul, that was unstoppable. Ms Jones, the booty will continue to be shook thanks to you!

And dear 2017, bring us some sanity and a lot more beauty, please. “Beauty will save the world” so let’s try to create it every day… and notice it too. Peace out.

Comments

  1. 2016 was an interesting blend of “OMG this sucks” to finding simple pleasures.

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