BEST OF 2014: Stanley Johnson’s Favorite Things
This is not a “best of” list because, as recent comments about a local cancelled awards show indicate, these kind of things are often considered political and, even when judged by an educated panel of peers, are mostly just quantified opinions.
But even that non-event got me thinking. Just the other night while I was photographing a high school wrestling match (where I was paid to be) I witnessed something that occurred several times that evening. A wrestler in a weight class was brought out on the mat. But there was no opposing wrestler in the same weight class. So the ref held up the arm of the wrestler in a sign of victory, the audience applauded and the wrestler went over and shook the hand of the opposing team coach. Then the wrestler went back to his side of the mat, where he was congratulated with high fives by his coach and teammates. All for doing nothing.
But I realized that the wrestler did do something. He joined the team, practiced and practiced some more, got into his uniform and made the effort to be there and ready. That’s what the applause was about.
Most of the time, taking pictures at shows shuts down my ears for the sake of my eyes and my camera. I spent many years going to concerts without bringing a camera. This was because I cared so much about the music and what it did to me that I didn’t want to distract myself. The sometimes miserable circumstances of my daily existence are changed into an alternate here and now, where I am completely involved in every moment of a performance.
I’ve learned this heightened here-and-now experience also happens while reading a good book, when watching a good movie or play, and, sometimes, despite commercial interruptions, while watching television. Not only do my senses seem sharpened, I feel connected to the minds of the artists and audiences who share these experiences. Sometimes these good feelings continue beyond the next day.
So that’s what this list is about: My Favorite Things that this year distracted me from worry (like how I’m going to afford big increases in health insurance) and put me right in the here and now where I am fully involved. These individuals and groups made the effort and succeeded in making my year a whole lot better:
FAVORITE FESTIVAL: Mountain Jam X @ Hunter Mountain, Hunter, 6/6-8/14
RUNNER UP: Lake George American Music Festival for the Lake @ Charles Wood Park, Lake George, 9/20-21/14
FAVORITE REAL GOOD FOR FREE CONCERT: Eileen Ivers @ the Music Haven at Proctors, Schenectady, 7/13/14
RUNNERS UP: (Tie) MaryLeigh Roohan @ Riverlink Park, Amsterdam, 7/26/14; Sheila E. @ Alive at 5, Albany, 8/7/14
FAVORITE CD (REISSUE): (Three-way tie, all made in New York) The Allman Brothers Band’s The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings; Humble Pie’s Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, the Complete Recordings; Bob Dylan & the Band’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete
FAVORITE CD (NEW): Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Hypnotic Eye
FAVORITE LYRIC (FROM THE ABOVE): “I Feel Like A Four-Letter Word”
FAVORITE BOOK (FICTION): Dan Simmons’ “Abominable”
FAVORITE BOOK (NON-FICTION): Richard Russo’s “Elsewhere”
FAVORITE AUDIO BOOK (FICTION): Stephen King’s “11-22-63”
FAVORITE AUDIO BOOK (NON-FICTION): Graham Nash reads “Wild Tales: A Rock And Roll Life”
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Snowpiercer”
RUNNER UP: “Get On Up”
FAVORITE TV SERIES: (Tie) “The Walking Dead” (AMC); “Under the Dome” (CBS)
FAVORITE WEBSITE: We are here now, of course…