“After Yang” was a beautiful, sensitive, and contemplative movie. Quiet, unrushed. The characters' world is strikingly, confidently created — of the future, but earthy, calm. Written and directed by Kogonada, whose “Columbus” I also loved. He’s got a singular vision and vibe. I’ll watch whatever he makes for however long he makes it.
Since 2000, I’ve been publishing a kind of year in review — mainly cultural highlights from the prior 12 months, along with a few personal notes. Here’s my post for 2022.
In the mid–2000s, I was completely taken by the book “Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences,” written by Lawrence Weschler and beautifully published by McSweeney’s. Weschler surfaced “strange connections” between images and wrote about them intriguingly. I still think of the book when I come across an image — a photograph, a painting, a movie moment — that brings to mind another one.
I spent part of this evening with Julie Blackmon’s absorbing book of photographs, “Midwest Materials.” Blackmon has some intentional allusions in her photographs, but others I think just come from the consciousness of the viewer.
There’s something, for instance, about the turf and peculiar (and menacing) objects in her photograph “Spray Paint” that brings to mind Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” (picture the poster, and the final 30 minutes).
Or, seen below, “Snow Days,” which immediately brought me back to a moment in Tarkovsky’s “Mirror,” which I recently rewatched and posted about early in the month:
I realize there’s a risk in it seeming like I’m undervaluing the originality of one work by graphing it over another. But one of the pleasures I get in taking in art of all kinds is not just the pieces themselves — which I’m grateful for individually — but for how they intermingle in my mind.
Rewatched Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Mirror,” a dozen years after first seeing it. Some unforgettable moments, meditative and life-enriching.
[em]Family selfie in Forest Park’s new Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape. Grateful to all those who made pandemic year two more livable, from caretakers of outdoor spaces like this one to the healthcare workers, educational staff, and local librarians we so depended on. [/em]
Since 2000, I’ve had a year-end tradition of sharing my cultural highlights of the past 12 months. For this year’s post, I’ll first note the major life change I had in 2021.
After eight years leading comms and marketing for the nonprofit conservancy Forest Park Forever, I re-entered the agency world this summer by joining The Stoke Group, a fully distributed digital marketing and content studio that focuses on the B2B tech sector.
As the Senior Director of Editorial Content, I spend most of my time on editorial projects for Adobe (a key client, and one that values great writing and design), as well as helping produce the video podcast Real Creative Leadership with its host, Adam Morgan. While I miss the connection to my St. Louis community, I’m enjoying working with strategists, writers, and designers on content work for large global clients. I hadn’t worked with clients at this scale or in this specific sector, so it’s been broadening in the way I hoped. The team’s packed with interesting, talented, upbeat people.
With that 2021 milestone covered, here’s a look at some cultural-intake highlights from the year:
1. Lanny, Max Porter
2. Second Place, Rachel Cusk
3. Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam
4. The Copenhagen Trilogy, Tove Ditlevsen
5. Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri
6. The Morning Star, Karl Ove Knausgaard
7. Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney
8. The Sellout, Paul Beatty
9. Tenth of December, George Saunders
10. My Heart, Semezdin Mehmedinović
11. Fox 8, George Saunders
12. The Carrying: Poems, Ada Limon
13. New Teeth, Simon Rich
1. Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning, Philip Kennicott
2. The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life, Kyle Beachy
3. Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, Michael Bierut
4. Suppose a Sentence: Brian Dillon
5. Hannah Wilke: Art for Life’s Sake (Eds., Tamara Schenkenberg and Donna Wingate)
6. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo
7. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib
8. The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War, Louis Menand
9. Of Human Kindness: What Shakespeare Teaches Us About Empathy, Paula Marantz Cohen
10. Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres, Kelefa Sanneh
11. The Monocle Book of Homes (Monocle)
12. The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time, Jim McKelvey
13. Studio Culture Now (Ed. Mark Sinclair)
14. The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel, Kati Marton
15. Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, Adam Nayman
16. This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century, Steven Hyden
17. After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made, Ben Rhodes
18. Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald
19. An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang
20. The Master: The Long Run and Beautiful Game of Roger Federer, Christopher Clarey
21. Proustian Uncertainties, Saul Friedländer
22. Seeing Serena, Gerald Marzorati
23. Graphic Life, Michael Gericke
24. How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims
25. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, paired with Twelve New Essays by Jessica Helfand
26. Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century, Tim Higgins
27. The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alter
28. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer
29. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant
30. Sorry Spock, Emotions Drive Business, Adam W. Morgan
1. The French Dispatch
2. Cold War
3. Certain Women
4. Meek’s Cutoff
5. The Power of the Dog
6. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
7. Let Them All Talk
8. The Farewell
9. To the Wonder
11. In One Breath: Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark
12. Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell
14. Untold: Breaking Point
15. WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
1. Succession, Season 3
2. The Bureau, Season 1
3. Ted Lasso, Season 2
4. Great British Baking Show, Season 12
5. The Chair 6. Only Murders in the Building
7. The Other Two, Seasons 1 and 2
8. This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist
Visual Art This was the second year in a row with little travel (which often prompts new art-viewing) and sadly little museum-going here at home (that’s on me). That said, and acknowledging my bias, the exhibition Hannah Wilke: Art for Life's Sake — curated by my wife, Tamara H. Schenkenberg, at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation — gained in richness and meaning every time I saw it. If you’re here in St. Louis, I highly encourage a visit before its January 16 close.
Music A million years ago, my year-end lists included dozens of individual albums and concerts. While music’s a daily essential for me, I see almost nothing live and dip in and out of all kinds of new things I learn about, often without good record-keeping.
I usually work listening to classical, then jazz is on in the evening. The only specific new recordings I’d surface this year are the terrific records from Tyler, the Creator, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker. Phoebe Bridgers didn’t have a new album, but I loved her live Pitchfork Festival set that I happened to catch the evening it streamed.
In terms of new discoveries, there was one artist — and one song — that I’ll long connect with 2021: “A Lot’s Gonna Change” by Weyes Blood (Natalie Laura Mering). I was introduced to this singer/songwriter through a Spotify station as I drove on an errand of some kind. I was transfixed.
At about 1:20, Mering sings the title phrase — “A lot’s gonna change / in your …. life / … time.” — and it swallowed me up in the way great song moments do. Likely because my wife and I spend so much of our non-working time focused on raising our young kids and thinking about what their future lives will be like, the line took on all kinds poignancy and significance in the seconds I heard it.
Later on, the second time that part of the song comes around (2:55 in the video above), Mering sings, “‘Cause you’ve got what it takes / in your … life / … time.”
*Sylvie, sipping through a backyard quarantine concert by a friend and SLSO musician*
Year 20 of my annual cultural-recap tradition was quite something.
Thus far my family’s had good fortune amid the global pandemic, so we’re spending most of our time feeling grateful, yet exhausted, then grateful, yet exhausted.
With lots of time at home, there was some enjoyable culture to take in. Here’s a look at some highlights:
The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches & Meditations, Toni Morrison
Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, Anna Wiener
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, George Packer
Having and Being Had: Eula Biss
My Parents: An Introduction, Aleksandar Hemon
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, Cathy Park Hong
Weather, Jenny Offill
Promised Land, Barack Obama
Then the Fish Swallowed Him, Amir Ahmadi Arian
Jack, Marilyn Robinson
My Life in France, Julia Child
Severance, Ling Ma
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson
Luster, Raven Leilani
Intimations, Zadie Smith
Monocle: How to Make a Nation
The Passion Economy, Adam Davidson
These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson, Martha Ackmann
Wine Simple, Aldo Sohm
Normal People, Sally Rooney
The Lying Lives of Adults, Elena Ferrante
Girl, Edna O’Brien
Lurking: How a Person Became a User, Joanne McNeil
How to Be a Family, Dan Kois
Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece, Alex Beam
The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, Sarah Frier
Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, Hanif Abdurraqub
How to Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy
How Architecture Works, Witold Rybczynski
Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, Barton Gellman
To Start a War, Robert Draper
The Spy Masters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future, Chris Whipple
Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré
The Monocle Guide to Better Living
Hell and Other Destinations, Madeline Albright
The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger
Bitter Brew, William Knoedelseder
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (exquisite, perfect)
Meyerowitz Stories: New & Collected
The Trip to Greece
The Other Guys
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The Price of Everything
Ford v. Ferrari
Better Call Saul, Seasons 4 and 5
Atlanta, Seasons 1 and 2
Schitt’s Creek, All Seasons
Never Have I Ever
Call My Agent, Season 1
Great British Bake-Off, Season 6 and 8
I can’t recall a year when I saw less art — whether here in St. Louis or in cities we didn’t travel to. With that unfortunate reality, I’m especially grateful to have been able to see the fantastic exhibition “Terry Adkins: Resounding” at the Pulitzer this summer.
My Spotify’s a shared-with-kids mess, and for loads of weekly hours I stream jazz and classical music that I don’t make a note of to be recalled. That said, I did especially enjoy new records from Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Lomelda, Bob Dylan, Run the Jewels, and Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist. I’m grateful to have been turned on to the music of Big Thief, Harold Budd (via the e-newsletter Flow State), Eleanor Bindman, and Haley Heynderickx, whose “Oom Sha La La” always brightened our family’s quarantine, with the kids screaming and jumping along to the swelling refrain, “I need to start a garden!” Here’s to what’s to come.
Best for last: We finished season 5 of “Better Call Saul.” Tremendous television. (How in the world did Lalo just show up so late and start owning scenes with major talent that had four seasons of episode strength beneath them? What a character and performance.)
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
Hadn’t seen this Camus quote before. (It appropriately closed a new profile on Sam Mendes in TNY.)
With a nod to Kottke's monthly "Media Diet" posts, I'm experimenting this year with short monthly recaps of interesting things I've read, watched or listened to. (This is as much for myself, as noting what I took in can help me better recall it.)
Paula Scher: Works — Terrific, from the opening essay and interview to the work itself. (A)
Abbott Miller: Design & Content — Intelligent and beautiful. Especially loved reading about Miller's co-founding of a "content-based studio" years before 'content strategy' became a thing. (A+)
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates — I'd read most of these essays when they were published in The Atlantic, but they were even more powerful here as a package. I liked Coates' brief introductions to each one, noting any changes (to what happened in the world, to how he thought about the issues) since original publication. (A)
Continuing a 17-year tradition, I’m happy to share my Annual Favorites list for the year 2017:
Family Let’s start with the best thing that happened to my family this year, which is the arrival of Sylvia Huremović Schenkenberg in late April. We’re still smiling at her the way Leo was above, just a few days in.
My Struggle: Book 5, Karl Ove Knausgård
Blind Spot, Teju Cole
Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Swing Time, Zadie Smith
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, John Hodgman
Now You See It and Other Essays on Design, Michael Bierut
Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game, Karl Ove Knausgård and Fredrik Ekelund
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
Obama: The Call of History, Peter Baker
Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure, Bianca Bosker
A Separation, Katie Kitamura
Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art
More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers, Jonathan Lethem
Powers of Ten, Philip Morrison
Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind, Peter D. Kramer
Under the Skin
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Clouds of Sils Maria
Better Call Saul, Season 3
The Americans, Seasons 4-5
OJ: Made in America
Master of None, Season 2
Audio I’m going to skip making a long list of favorite albums and podcasts, and instead note a discovery in each, respectively: Phoebe Bridgers (watch her Tiny Desk Concert here), and S-Town. They each feel a bit haunted, and they share, in parts, a gothic sensibility. (Also: I can’t not mention Black Thought’s instantly classic 11-minute freestyle video, which c’mon.)
Technology Our SONOS Play: 1 is used every evening for listening to music as we get ready for dinner or just goof around with the kids. Things 3 finally launched, and it’s attractive and enjoyable to use. It’s only been a month or so, but I’ve been enjoying trying out Ulysses as a writing environment (despite having no interest in using Markdown.) I’ve been impressed with Airtable as a flexible, humane alternative to Excel, when you need a database of some kind but have zero needs for financial calculations. (I’d seen the fancy Sandwich video when it launched, but didn’t realize it could fit my needs until the co-founder’s segment on Track Changes.)
Personal As noted on this website earlier this month, I was sad to see an end to the remarkable life of William H. Gass, who I was lucky enough to get to know over the past decade-plus. Bill lived a long and productive life, dying at 93, and working through his final year. I was honored to write briefly about him for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and speak about his life and work on St. Louis Public Radio. I continue posting notes from readers and admirers at ReadingGass.org.
I can still remember encountering Crewdson’s work for the first time in The New York Times Magazine more than a decade ago. Original, absorbing and haunting. Today’s “Monocle Weekly” interview with him had me heading to his website, which alerted me to this documentary.
Music I used to make long lists of specific albums purchased and enjoyed, but since I’ve gone to paid streaming (and, maybe, since I’ve become a committed podcast listener), it’s harder for me to point to specific recordings at a year’s end. This is especially the case since Rdio shut down, and I’m now starting fresh with Spotify — my digital records are kind of a mess. While I listen to hours of classical and ambient/lush music through the headphones during work, a few specific artists I spent more time with in 2015 include Angel Olsen, Youth Lagoon, Sun Kil Moon, Sharon Van Etten, My Bubba, Jennifer O’Connor, Girlpool, Atlas Sound, Earl Sweatshirt, J Cole, Common, Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Villagers, Natalie Prass, and Perfume Genius.
NYC + D.C. I had the good fortune of accompanying my wife on a work trip she had to NYC, and it was incredibly culture-rich. Highlights included the new Whitney, MoMA (Yoko Ono and Bjork special exhibitions), The Drawing Center, David Zwirner Gallery (Serra show), Neue Galerie (sensational collection), the Cooper Hewitt, and “Drifting in Daylight” in Central Park (where I shot this short phone video). We also enjoyed a long weekend in D.C. with family, with pleasant dips into the National Gallery (terrific Caillebotte show) and The Phillips Collection (first time, great time).
Work I’m fortunate to have a great job at Forest Park Forever, and 2015 saw a few especially fun projects ship. This includes the introduction of our new brand platform, our launch of Forestparkmap.org and the formal introduction of Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future, with a new website that features a beautiful campaign video we made with the team at Once Films.
Family As referenced appropriately at top, so much of this year — and so much of every day — has been about Tamara and I raising our son. I’d been told that right around 2 is a fun age, and it’s true. This year had a ton of special moments, including — just to pick one, which we happened to catch on film — Leo’s changing expression during his first ride on a carousel at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Back before Tamara and I had our son in the summer of 2013, I used to keep regular lists of my “Annual Favorites” of the year — the best books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, exhibitions and so on that I’d consumed that year.
To say my rate of cultural digestion changed with fatherhood would be an understatement; that said, I still have an interest in logging the great stuff (if only for myself). So while I skipped 2013 entirely, here’s a go at some highlights from 2014:
Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays, Eula Biss
What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund
Inferno (The Divine Comedy, #1), Dante Alighieri (Mary Jo Bang, Translator)
Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips
Like Someone In Love
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jane Eyre (2011)
A Most Wanted Man
Take This Waltz
The One I Love
Your Sister’s Sister
Slate Culture Gabfest
The Monocle Weekly
In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg
The Entrepreneurs (Monocle)
The Stack (Monocle)
The Political Scene (The New Yorker)
New Yorker: Out Loud
Articles & Essays If you follow me on Twitter, you have likely already seen links to the best articles and essays I read in 2014. I use it mainly as a way to praise and recommend.
Music I listen to Rdio every day of the week — on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. A great deal of what I stream is classical, since I listen while I work. And on that front I do a poor job of logging what I like, as I hop quickly from label to composer, from soloist to trio. So for this post I’ll skip classical (and hip-hop, where I also jump around) and point simply to a handful of indie albums I enjoyed this year:
A short film about the radio station’s first year. Can’t say I’ve ever connected with the music they play, but I enjoy subscribing to a handful of podcasts, with The Stack, Section D, and The Entrepreneurs at the top of the list.
Gerhard Richter Painting,” certainly one of the finest artist documentaries I’ve ever seen. Smart, measured, surprising. Watch the trailer, then find it in your city. A big thanks to Webster University for bringing it to St. Louis.