2012 in Review (and 2013 in Preview): A List of My Favourite Things

With 2012 coming to an end, it’s a good time to reflect. While I usually spend time over the holidays planning for the new year, I also like to think about some of the things I’ve enjoyed and valued. Last year, I posted a list of some of my favourite things and some things I’m looking forward to, and I want to continue and do that again for 2012/13.

Cities

Petco Park and the East Village in San Diego.

Petco Park and the East Village in San Diego.

San Diego – I visited for the first time, and ended up making two trips. one for the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in February, and again as part of a Southern California baseball trip, where I also ran the San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I enjoyed the distinctiveness of the different neighbourhoods, the natural landscape, and many of the attractions (Petco Park is great, and the artists’ village at Balboa Park has great work for sale).
Philadelphia – I think this city gets overlooked due to its proximity to NYC and Washington, both prominent and attractions in their own way. I’ve visited family there three years in a row, getting to see and appreciate many places. The Art Museum is top notch, as are many of the historical sites. There’s an excellent food scene too beyond the cheesesteak.
Montreal – This has been my favourite city for most of my life. I used to visit pretty much every year as a kid, and spending time exploring the old city was one of the major influences in forming my interest in urbanism. I went back for the first time in 6 years this November, and was happy to see it was vibrant and enjoyable as ever. I need to go back again, soon and often.

For 2013 – Few firm plans yet, but will be back in Portland in March, and I hope to return to Chicago and actually be in form to run the Marathon this year. Also looking to continue my trend of netting one new city and one new major league ballpark by visiting the Bay Area.

Politics/Ideas/Issues
Canada – I’ve started to think more about my concept of the country, and what I value about it. Much of this, admittedly, has been prompted by a decline in many of the things I value. Bilingualism and the role of French (Canadians) in institutions feels less central than in the past (and some institutions – such as the Parti Quebecois), are contributing to a polarization, environmental regulations are being rolled back, and it feels like there is a growing disconnect between regions. We have a pretty amazing country, and it would be tragic to lose some of the things – bilingualism/multiculturalism, pristine nature, and a common sense of purpose – that make Canada great.

Ending Homelessness – a worthwhile goal that I’m privileged to be a part of, and one that hopefully won’t be lost as more governments and institutions turn towards austerity.

Tactical Urbanism – I love this concept for small-scale actions (as opposed to mega-projects) that can make a city better.

For 2013 – hoping that #IdleNoMore leads to meaningful action that improves the lives of Indigenous Canadians; hoping to see more cities (including my own!) avoid the lure of mega projects and invest in small-scale projects that make a big difference. More meaningful action from government, civic institutions, and citizens to ameliorate poverty and inequality. Doing my best to contribute to all of the above.

Sports

Nationals Park on a sunny July evening.

Nationals Park on a sunny July evening.

#Natitude – I’ve had something of an affinity for the Nats, being an Expos fan as a kid, and really bought into them at the start of the year by adding a few of their players to my fantasy team. They were a ton of fun to watch, especially Bryce Harper once he got called up, and exceeded almost everyone’s (including my) expectations. The Game 5 NLDS loss to St. Louis was an all-time heartbreaker, but they should be a World Series contender for the next few years at least.
Vin Scully – the best announcer in the game. Any game. I ended up watching a lot of Dodgers on MLB.TV, and listening to him call a ballgame is the main reason why.
The Pistol Offense – I’ve enjoyed the NFL less and less in recent years, finding the product less enjoyable to watch than the college game (often, the players are almost too technically good, resulting in a boring product). The emergence of spread offenses, and the pistol formation, has made the game much more enjoyable to watch again. I highly recommend reading this longform piece on the pistol offense’s evolution and move to the pro game.

For 2013 – Natitude, redux; the launch of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Music/Pop Culture/Entertainment Recommendations

Bruce Springsteen performing at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Bruce Springsteen performing at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Bruce Springsteen (Music) – The Boss has been one of my favourite artists since I was a teenager. This year, not only did he release Wrecking Ball, a terrific, important album (how many artists do this 40 years into their career?), but I finally got to see him in concert with the E Street Band. My dad and I caught his Toronto show in August, where he kept 40,000 fans on their feet through an electric 3h40m set. As for other music, I also liked the Japandroids and Alabama Shakes albums. CBC Music’s online player is fantastic, and my usual soundtrack at the office.
Veep (TV) – Most of the TV I watched was HBO shows through Air Canada’s On-Board TV. I got through all 8 episodes of Veep, which is a fun political comedy. I’m also through 7 episodes of The Newsroom. I enjoy it for the first part, but feel like there’s something missing. This might be high expectations around any Aaron Sorking show, though. Episode 7, about Bin Laden’s killing, is oustanding.
Sports Documentaries (TV) – I’ve really enjoyed the episodes of TSN’s Engraved on a Nation that I’ve been able to watch. Playing a Dangerous Game and Western Swagger capture the geo-political relationship between sports and society at large. Ghosts of Ole Miss is the only of the new 30 for 30 episodes I’ve seen, but it’s up there with the best of them.

Movies – I don’t watch many, but Lincoln and The Dark Knight Rises are both excellent.

Good Books I Read – Two biographies of Robert Baldwin: John Ralston Saul’s book on LaFontaine and Baldwin, and Michael Cross’ The Morning-Star of Memory. Laura Vanderkam‘s 168 Hours and What Successful People Do Before Breakfast are both good works on how to more effectively use your time. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is the best fiction book (non-Chabon division) I’ve read in years. Someplace Like America is a must read on the growing problem of poverty and the decline of the working class.

For 2013 – Catching up on the current seasons of 30 Rock and Parks and Rec (TV). Reading Richard Gwyn’s 2-part bio on Sir John A. Macdonald, Tim Cook’s books on Canada in World War I, Ken Greenberg’s Walking Home – and many other books on my overflowing shelves.

Websites
Cartoon Machine – Mike Winters is getting well-earned recognition for his Wonderdick comics, a brilliant satire of overly self-serious urbanists, but every one of his strips is worth a look.
Grantland – Bill Barnwell, Katie Baker, Jonah Keri, and Rany Jazayerli are all amongst my favourite writers on any sports site.
Quartz – The Atlantic’s new business website has excellent coverage, and a different perspective from many outlets. For that matter, the Atlantic main site and Atlantic Cities (which I plugged last year) should be regular visits too.
Next City – I’ve been a reader of Next American City for many years, and in 2012 they undertook many changes. It began by discontinuing the print magazine in favour of weekly long-form writing on the web, and ended by launching the new brand – and name – of Next City.

For 2013 – writing more blog posts of my own.

Lifestyle/Other
Foot Traffic – This Portland-based retailer organizes the Holiday Half Marathon and the Flat Marathon/Half Marathon (4th of July race). I ran the Holiday Half for the second consecutive year, and had a blast once again. They know how to throw a good race (and party), and the downtown location at least has a solid selection of running gear. I rarely leave empty-handed.
Simons – I’ve long been a fan, visiting regularly since I was a kid whenever I’ve been in Quebec. They launched their first location outside the province in West Edmonton Mall, which is excellent, excellent news.
Vegetarian Food – I’ve cut down my meat intake substantially over the past year or two. This isn’t a principled or ethical decision. Rather, I’ve found that I feel much better physically when I do so. I cook at home a lot (being celiac encourages this), and have come to embrace a vegetarian-heavy diet while doing so. Meat is still delicious, but for me best enjoyed in small doses.

For 2013 – getting into cross-country skiing, Foot Traffic’s new Easter race and other runs, using my many cookbooks that are presently collecting dust on my bookshelf.

4 Responses

  1. Wanted to hit ‘Like’ so many times!! Agreed, The Art of Fielding tore open my heart. ( You MUST read ‘Tigers in Red Weather’.) And if I had to pick a ‘#yeg Business of the Year’—I might just happen to choose Homeward Trust-who realize that edgy business and innovative social agency are the alchemy required to meet our City’s goal of Ending Homelessness. You practice –maybe invented– the latest trend of spirituality in business and have joyfully included all sorts of strays (like me) in your movement . Wondrous, magical, strategic, tactical times ahead!

  2. Oh, I got all excited, thinking I had made your list of favourite things….only to find you were actually enthused about a department store! (Actually, I think it’s a pretty fabulous addition to our city. I’ve really enjoyed my two shopping trips there, and not just because I ended up the proud owner of a “personalized” garment bag!

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