TV and Movies and Books, Oh My!
Happy New Year.
2021 is finally here, but there are still a few things from 2020 that we need to take care of. Like the lists of the best pop culture of the year. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.
NPR has a handy interactive list of the best books of the year. The Atlantic has their list too, as do The Washington Post, the New York Public Library, Time, Publisher’s Weekly, and Book Riot. Cookbooks? Epicurious has the best of 2020.
The New York Times has the 50 recipes their readers loved the most, while Food52 lists the best cooking lessons of 2020 and the favorite recipes they made. And here are more lists from Taste of Home and AllRecipes.
It was a weird year for movies since most theaters were closed, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any good ones. Rotten Tomatoes keeps a running tally of what the critics are saying via their “Tomatometer” and has their list of the best-reviewed films of the year. And here are lists from IndieWire, The New Yorker, and the editors of RogerEbert.com.
I usually include links to the “Worst of the Year” too, but there have already been too many worsts in 2020 and we don’t need any more of that.
The Holidays Are Over. Can You Still Listen to Holiday Music?
The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is “yes, but …”
If we’re talking “White Christmas” or “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” I’d say those two songs are now off limits since we’re in January. Christmas is over and Santa is on a two-week vacation, and reminding ourselves of the time that just went by can be somewhat depressing. But there are other seasonal songs that don’t mention specific Christmas-related people or activities, like “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” “Sleigh Bells,” and “Winter Wonderland.” These are more winter songs than Christmas songs, though they go well with December too. Same with “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Now, the song “Jingle Bells” is sort of in the middle. It’s not specifically about Christmas — it’s more about sleighs and horses and dashing through the snow — but it’s tied into Christmas in a way a song like “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” isn’t. Some versions of the song even throw the word Christmas in to make a stronger connection to the day. My vote would be to not include “Jingle Bells” on the list of songs you can still listen to in January and February.
So the answer to the question is, “yes, but make sure they’re winter songs and not specifically about Christmas.”
By the way, “Frosty the Snowman”? There’s nothing about Christmas in the lyrics, but please note that he dies at the end in a slow and grotesque manner.
Headline of the Week
Those We Lost in 2020
Every December, CBS Sunday Morning does a nice “In Memoriam” video. Here’s this year’s, followed by the annual video by Turner Classic Movies, which includes some people CBS missed.
Also check out “The Lives They Lived” from The New York Times Magazine, which goes in-depth into the lives of some of the people who died these past 12 months.
RIP Pierre Cardin, William Link, K.T. Oslin, Leslie West, Barry Lopez, K.C. Jones, Phil Niekro, James E. Gunn, and Tony Rice
Pierre Cardin was an influential designer who changed the clothing and home goods industries. He died this week at the age of 98.
William Link was the co-creator, along with Richard Levinson, of such classic TV shows as Columbo, Mannix, Ellery Queen, and Murder, She Wrote. The pair also wrote and produced many other shows and movies, including the acclaimed That Certain Summer and The Execution of Private Slovik. He died Sunday at the age of 87.
K.T. Oslin was a successful country pop singer and songwriter who had a hit at the age of 45 with “80’s Ladies.” She won several awards and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. She died last month at the age of 78.
Leslie West was the lead singer and guitarist for Mountain, known for such songs as “Mississippi Queen.” He died last week at the age of 75.
Barry Lopez was the author of several nonfiction books and short stories. He died last week at the age of 75.
K.C. Jones won 12 championships as a Boston Celtic: eight as a point guard, one as an assistant coach, and two as head coach. He also won an Olympic gold medal and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He died last week at the age of 88.
Phil Niekro was a Hall of Fame knuckleballer for the Atlanta Braves. He died Saturday at the age of 81.
James E. Gunn started his career in 1949 writing short stories for science fiction magazines and went on to become one of the giants of the genre, winning several awards. He also edited several anthologies. He died last week at the age of 97.
Tony Rice was a bluegrass guitarist who influenced an entire generation of guitarists in all genres. He died last week at the age of 69.
This Week in History
Monopoly Debuts (December 31, 1935)
A patent was issued to Charles Darrow on this date, but the game was actually invented by Lizzie Magie in 1903 and called The Landlord’s Game.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863)
The Post’s Ben Railton has an interesting piece on the meaning of the Civil War and how the Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg may have been just as important to ending slavery as Lincoln’s proclamation.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Norman Rockwell: In Loving Memory (January/February 1979)
Since 2021 marks the Post’s 200th anniversary, I thought I’d start things out with this issue, which celebrated the life and work of Norman Rockwell, who had died two months earlier.
The Most Popular Drink of 2020
The list of Google’s most-searched words and phrases of the year include all of the ones you’d suspect: “coronavirus,” “election results,” “Kobe Bryant,” and “Zoom.” But there’s another phrase that ended up at number two in their list of the most-searched recipes of the year (after “sourdough bread”), and that’s … “whipped coffee.”
I had no idea what whipped coffee was until about six minutes ago, and even if I had known I wouldn’t have guessed it was so popular. Here’s a video that explains how to make it. Basically you mix instant coffee, hot water, and sugar together and then mix it with a glass of iced milk. Not exactly groundbreaking, but people seem to be obsessed with it. Or perhaps they heard about something called whipped coffee being popular and then googled it themselves, having no intention of actually making it but inadvertently adding to the traffic numbers the phrase received.
Maybe your New Year’s resolution can be to try whipped coffee. You’re probably not going to get more organized or start working out or save more money anyway, and this is something you can actually accomplish.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Fruitcake Toss Day (January 3)
This is the day you can throw away that fruitcake you got from your Aunt Sally, or just put it in the closet and regift it next year.
National Trivia Day (January 4)
Here are three pieces of trivia you can impress your friends with: Star Trek’s Kirk never said “Beam me up, Scotty,” George Washington didn’t have wooden teeth, and Lassie’s Timmy was never trapped in a well.
Featured image: Ryan Rahman / Shutterstock
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