In what may have been an ill-advised decision, earlier this week I decided to email a bunch of writers, musicians, general smart people, and total weirdos, to ask “What is the best Whatever of 2011?”. The idea was that people would say “I really liked this music video.” But I should have known better. Here's a wild assortment of people's favorite things, places, ideas, moments, and concepts, organized roughly in the order that people responded to the original email, with links added so that you aren't completely confused. If you are looking for a really great 2011 yearbook, here you go. – Ari Spool
The best thing that happened in 2011 was the world premier of Sonntag, the final installment of Karlheinz Stockhausen's mystical and monumental 7 part opera cycle, LICHT. Each opera is named after a day of the week. It is well known that earlier in Stockhausen's career he was considered to be on the leading edge of music history, producing pioneering serialist, aleatoric, electronic and spectral compositions like Kontre-Punkte, Gesange des Jungen, Kontakte and Stimmung. By the time he was writing LICHT, many considered him to have lost his mind. The operas have been mostly ignored are rarely performed. But they're amazing. This first performance of Sonntag took place in Koln; I wasn't there probably neither were you. But we can see clips here and a great interview with Stockhausen here.
Also notable is that the opera is based on the Book of Urantia, a mysterious mystical text written apparently by no one, which puts it in the public domain. Apparently there's an interesting story about the Urantia Foundation attempting to copyright the book but being declined due to its alleged lack of authorship by anyone affiliated with the Urantia foundation or anyone at all. Stockhausen believed that he was an alien from Sirius, and this belief came from his reading of Urantia.
Best restaurant: I grew up in Elmhurst, Queens (birthplace of William J. Casey, Director of the CIA from 1981-1987) , so having moved to Ridgewood, Queens in 2011, I spent many weekends taking the Q58 bus with my gf (that's short for girlfriend) to explore my old neighborhood. One reason I continue to revisit Elmhurst is the Malaysian restaurant Taste Good. It used to have a B health grade, but we went anyways, and now the health grade is an A. Here's a list of our favorite dishes:
Singapore Kari Laksa
Sizzling Bean Curd
Malaysian Chicken Curry
The Best Product of 2011: Livermore, California's Centennial Light celebrated its 110th birthday this past June. It's the world's longest burning lightbulb, a symbol of quality, human creativity, and a reminder that things can last longer than a warranty. Created to outperform the Edison bulb and suffocated by an international cartel of lightbulb manufacturers in order to sell more bulbs, this little guy has beat the system. Let's all commit ourselves to outlasting the capitalist death warrant of planned obsolescence in 2012.
Best Ad: This is a cheesy answer, but I love the Stella ads. Beer's classy again, ya'll.
Best Internet: Drinkify. (esp. Slayer and Miles Davis.) Some of the best music/alcohol related humor on the net.
Best Country: Musically, Australia was on fire this year (Twerps, Total Control) but since I grew up in Germany, my alliance is always with the fatherland.
Best Phrase: My roommate started using the verb “motorboat” to express excitement or passion about something, and it's totally caught on. Example: “I'm going to motorboat this kale salad.” or “Does that band, like, motorboat reverb?”
Best Shoes: Loafers. Old man at heart.
Best Curse word(s): Lana del Rey
Best Song to karaoke to: “Zombie” by The Cranberries. 2k11 was all about the ladies.
Almost celebrity siting: Henry Rollins on Grand and Havemeyer in Williamsburg. Turns out it was just some muscular dude in a hat.
Sloth has lagged behind obvious frontrunners Dog and Cat for the last few years, and has also tied with Fox (which is sort of like a cross between a dog and a cat) a few times, but was really able to pull ahead this year thanks to their permanently chilled-out facial expression. There's a video where David Attenborough of the BBC talks about how Sloths poop, and it's the best kind of YouTube video because it combines Sloths, poop, and weird British pronunciation.
Best Nationality: Australian
It seems like suddenly almost every famous person is Australian. Some of them are secret Australians. Australia seems like a weird place for someone to be from, but relative to its population it produces a lot of attractive and talented people.
Best Internet Thing: Netflix Instant
Want to watch a documenary about Doctor Bronner's soap? On your laptop? In bed? Well then quit bitching about the price increase and grab some fucking popcorn.
Best Street Food: Tamale
While tacos and hot dogs are still being served out of trucks and trailers, only Tamales have the courage to come from a shopping cart. They're filling, they're never more than a dollar fifty, and they come in biodegradable wrapping. Each one is like a fun little present.
Best Drug: Weed
Remember that kid in high school who bragged about smoking some “G-13” and you knew it was bullshit because you saw American Beauty too? Now, thanks to California State Law, these brand names are actually somewhat legitimate, if still a little silly. And there's also tinctures, lollipops, cupcakes, and all kinds of other crazy products that contain the stickiest of icky. So much fun, you guys.
Best Ingredient: Water
Still on top after all these years. Good in everything.
Best Kitchen Appliance: Waffle Iron
Portable, easy to use, and impressive. Bring it to a party, ask to use an outlet, and blow some minds.
Best Addiction: Scratch Tickets
Have fun. Be careful.
Best Beach: Dead Horse Bay
This was written about in the New York Times already, so it's probably not long for this world. It's not the kind of beach where you can swim or look at beautiful people (for that, try Fort Tilden on the other side of the Bay). It used to be a glue factory and then it was a landfill and then it exploded, so it's got all kinds of weird trash from bygone days. In 2011, we found all sorts of weird stuff there, including a shoe from the 1800s, a sprite bottle from the 1960s, old action figures, dentures, and a soldier's dog tag.
“Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, it's never easy when there is so much on the line.” A runner-up is Herman Cain Singing About Pizza To The Tune Of a Medley of John Lennon Songs.
Best Use Of Twitter: Cyber-bullying a Corporate Giant
McDonalds, Taco Bell, Starbucks, Carnival Cruise Lines – they're all on Twitter. Why not @ them every now and then to see what they think of diaper fetishists?
Best Event Type: Poetry Reading
Move over, noise show. There's a new thing in town for stoner weirdos to go to. It used to be that you couldn't drag someone to a reading if you promised them free heroin, but now readings are packed with all sorts of fun, good-looking folks. Who knew?
A line from Proust which ought to speak for itself: “Indeed, this is one of the great and wondrous characteristics of beautiful books (and one which enables us to understand the simultaneously essential and limited role that reading can play in our spiritual life): that for the author they may be called Conclusions, but for the reader, Provocations. We can feel that our wisdom begins where the author's ends, and we want him to give us answers when all he can do is give us desires.”
2011 = Best Year For The Saxophone In A Long Fucking Time!
As many of you may know, the saxophone has been in bad shape for the better part of the last four decades, at least as far as pop consciousness is concerned. I know there's someone out there who's like 'dude, what about John Butcher'… And to s/he I say, 'get out more bro(ette)!'… Somehow, the saxophone, almost alchemically, transmuted from the number one musical symbol of politics and spirituality in the late 1960s, to the number one symbol of oily white bros with perms in a matter of about 5 years between, like, 1972 and 1977, or so… Regrettable, but we move forward. Valient efforts have been made by the likes of New York No Wave nihilists such as James Chance, and the Lincoln Center crowd rocks really tasteful suits, but nothing has captured the popular imagination in a manner that has been meaningful for the saxophone… Until 2011.
Why did Katy Perry hire a washed up, middle aged, Smooth Jazz cat to be in her video? Well, from this specialists point of view, he was memed in. Thanks to the 'SNL Sergio skit' – 'Epic Sax Guy' – 'Sexy Sax Man' meme continuum, Kenny G was the natural choice for Katy in her video T.G.I.F., itself an inhabiting of Rebecca Black's pathologically unsyncopated youtube hit 'Friday'. In this post-post modern duet, Katy and Kenny mediate the rising tide of youtube meme musical populism. While this may be a low point for Katy, who seems to be grasping to legitimate the role of 'pop star' (clearly your average teenager on the ADHD/Autism spectrum can crank out the hits just as well as Katy can), it is a role that any saxophonist worth her salt should be stoked to assume.
Best ice cream: Enough with the weird sweet and savory fusion garbage already.
Best financial decision: Making that jump from commercial banking to a not-for-profit credit union.
Best insect: Not whatever we find crawling out of our floor boards, thats for damn sure.
Best color: Overcast is the new red
Best show attended: “Don't fuckin' call us twee” Aberdeen's guitarist John Girgus sabotaging the band's reunion with some upstaging angry guitar and interfering with the rest of the band's instrumentation at Cafe Du Nord bringing frontwoman Beth Arzy to tears after a barely 20 minute set at the SFPop Fest.
I feel like this year was a hard year for almost everyone around the globe. From couples breaking up to soldiers killing soldiers, natural disasters, financial crises and so on, people are upset and the system is breaking down. However, I think it's the best to see it as a positive crisis.
If we break it down in numerology, 2011 is 20 minus 11 and that equals 9. 9 in the Tarot is the number that represents a positive crisis. A positive crisis is the mistake or the accident that makes us realize ourselves and the truth for a new construction. 20 in the tarot is Judgement and 11 is Justice. The card Judgement represents how we can unify our inner self, our opposites, the conflict. To look in to ourselves and see what is wrong and to resolve it. 11, the Justice card, represents the idea of perfection. 2011 then is to perfect the judgement of our individual self and the world around us through this positive crisis and disaster. A beautiful disaster. I believe that breakdowns are the brink of breakthroughs. It's not something we really wish for, I don't think anybody does, I definitely don't wish for it, but it happens just like life happens, and when it does we ideally need to greet it and welcome it. Like the 9th month of pregnancy, something is about to be born. Like the water of pregnancy breaks, these breakdowns can be the best thing that can happen to us, or else we won't be born. It is opening our eyes and our eyes are opening to the truth, the truth that we have been blinded from through anesthetics of the media, politics, social formalities and conformities. We are waking up from this dream and we are getting ready to make something.
Best viral video: When everybody put “Come On Eileen” on their Facebook profile because Hurricane Irene was approaching.
Best Chinese food: EVERYDAY Chinese Food across the street from 915 Wyckoff.
Best ice cream: Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Snack (the Ben & Jerry's with potato chips)
Best outfit: Jordan Bernstein's pink wig, glitter antennae, red sweater dress covered in black arrow zig zags, and rollerskates when he played in PC Worship on Halloween.
Best joke: I forgot how it goes but the punchline is “Damn near rectum!”
Best city: Indianapolis
Best apartment: The residential portion of the Outpost
Best hair product: Vaseline
Best financial decision: Getting a monthly, dawg.
Best insect: worm
Best color: imperial purple
Best show attended: Nonhorse under Peter Edward's sound responsive orbs at the Silent Barn funeral, Dog Leather at Silent Barn, Death Grips at Market Hotel (they left their guillotine there), Ashcan Orchestra at Death By Audio, Sleep at Terminal 5, Guardian Alien/Hair Jail at the Wallet, Dustin Wong at Clocktower Gallery, Smhoak Mosheein at Secret Project Robot 2, Shams at Vibes HQ, GDFX at 285 Kent
Best visual art: Cory Arcangel at the Whitney, Carsten Höller's slide and upside-down glasses at New Museum, sneaking into a party in the penthouse of New Museum, Marco Brambilla’s 3D film Civilization playing in a cathedral during the Festival of Ideas for the New City, PS1 Art Book Fair 2011 especially Certain Distinctions, The 2nd Showpaper “Community Serviced” newsboxes (all the dramatic happenings with the first batch were So 2010), Jesse Hlebo's 1st solo show at Printed Matter when Lucas and Rob A. A. Lowe played, the Printed Matter Christmas Party, when that woman gave birth in the tiny gallery next to Little Skip's and nobody was alerted to it, the rise and fall of Cinders 2. Gabrielle Bell and Lizz Hickey's dual comic release party at Desert Island with special appearance by Michel Gondry.
Best internet: BAND NAME THREAD
Best country: Lebanon
Best phrase: “Cold world,” “What, no hello?”
Best shoes: I got a pair of black steel-toed “snakeskin” boots with silver zippers up the side from a church on Myrtle Avenue for FREE, and after they turned down my money, they blessed me.
Best curse word: “Ya piece of shit,” “Randos”
Best sandwich: Lemon pepper chicken at TK's Deli at Myrtle-Broadway, the #2 bahn mi at Sau Voi (which also sells casettes, porn DVDs, and lacey bras near the Clocktower Gallery in Lower Manhattan), the reuben from This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef on Ave A.
Best city: Always New York. With all the nightmarish things going on, both specifically here, and everywhere, NYC is still on top. It's only here that i can pass tourists giving peace signs and cabbies tossing a thumbs up while shutting down 7th Avenue with a thousand other people. and despite an insane amount of money going to this police force to stop us, half the cops are still good guys about it. and every time i think NYC might have run out of good bands, a new local kid blows my mind, sometimes it's even someone i know just knocking their new thing out of the park. it's the best.
Best color: Revolution
Keith Gray, Writer
Best Performance with a Temple in the Way
The Wordless Music Orchestra performed an arrangement of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops DLP 1.1 in the Temple of Dendur at the Met Museum. It’s an amazing space for a show. The back-history around the piece is maybe well known, and perfect in its way. Basinski rediscovers his analog recordings from the '80s, and they play continuously on his rooftop in 2001 as he watches the World Trade Center smolder. The tapes are badly deteriorated and in places the iron oxide is stripped from the tape reel. Silence punches through. Absence overtakes the strings, horns, snare and glockenspiel. It’s a short refrain–about 6 seconds long–recurring in a shattered loop. It’s 40 minutes of this, little flourishes in tempo and then longer gaps of silence as the piece decays. The performance ends and no one makes a noise. There’s more than 2 minutes of silence before anyone starts to applaud. I’ve never seen anything like that. Everyone is exhausted and reeling like tapes stripped clear.