Here are Baltimore Sun staffers' picks in dining and nightlife categories for 2018:
Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
They shoulda won. The husband-and-wife team of Max Porter and Ru Kawahata, both members of the MICA faculty, were Oscar-nominated for "Negative Space," an inventive and honestly heartfelt six-minute animated short about a man recalling the time he spent bonding with his father over the correct way to pack a suitcase. Too often, animated shorts that make the final cut for an Oscar are maudlin in the extreme, but "Negative Space," which received plaudits the world over, struck just the right tone of melancholy mixed with whimsy.
London's 800-foot-long glob of congealed waste was so significant that it's being conserved in the Museum of London. But did it receive a shoutout on "Saturday Night Live"? Nope, but Baltimore's did. We never thought we'd be bragging about a blob of accumulated baby wipes and fat, but here we are. Charm City's official fatberg made its noteworthy debut in September, causing an overflow in the city's sewer system and making Baltimoreans rethink what they're putting in their toilets.
Actor Conrad Brooks never won much in the way of awards – when you make a living off bit parts in grade-Z movies, the Oscars rarely take note – but he never wanted for fans. As a perennial in the goshawful movies directed by his friend Edward D. Wood Jr. — no-budget classics like "Glen or Glenda," about a transvestite with a thing for angora sweaters, or "Plan 9 From Outer Space," about aliens who plan to destroy the Earth by reviving the dead — the Fells Point-born Brooks gained a fame that had little to do with the quality of his work, but everything to do with its spirit. A constant presence at fan conventions, he laughed at his movies as hard as anyone else, and had time for every fan who wanted a handshake or an autograph, or just a few words. Brooks died in December at age 86. Where's that Plan 9 when we need it?
Marissa Walch believes that the body is at its best when it's molded by a range of activities, so that's what she teaches. Walch offers classes across the Baltimore area including hot yoga, stand-up paddleboard yoga, TRX and spinning, as well as personal training. "I'm going to connect with the gym rat, the yogi, the water lover because that kind of overall fitness is where I see the body at its highest peak and where you still have fun," she says.
Wise, an Atholton High grad, was already playing the lead in Netflix's "She's Gotta Have It" series (directed by Spike Lee and based on his 1986 film) when it was announced that she would have a role in what should be the next big Marvel superhero franchise, "Captain Marvel." Brie Larson will be playing the title character, but surely there would have been enough reflected glory for Wise to shine, too. Sadly, she had to drop out of the Marvel Universe recently, due to scheduling conflicts. Which is a bummer, to be sure, but not to worry. Wise is one star clearly on the rise.
Rod J. Rosenstein
Poor Rod J. Rosenstein probably wishes he were still U.S. attorney for Maryland, which he was until Donald J. Trump in January 2017 picked him to be deputy U.S. attorney general. That made him the guy, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case, who got to appoint Robert S. Mueller III to investigate charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, and whether there was any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. And that appointment, as well as his apparent reluctance to pledge absolute loyalty to the president, has made him one of Trump's favorite fall guys; he even criticized the poor man for his hometown, telling the New York Times, "There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he's from Baltimore." (Trust us, he didn't mean it as a compliment.)
Sure, we dared to dream — why wouldn't Amazon choose Baltimore as the site for its second headquarters, with its potential for 50,000 jobs? Baltimore's on the opposite coast from Amazon's current headquarters in Seattle, so the geography would work. We're within easy driving distance of a bunch of other big cities (Washington, New York, Philadelphia), which seems like a great thing if you're a retailer. We've got the Orioles and the Ravens, blue crabs and John Waters. And we apparently offered the company everything short of our first-born sons (including $5 billion in tax incentives and infrastructure spending) to set up shop in Port Covington. But they said no. Oh well. At least Montgomery County is still in the running.
Not every author's first book receives favorable reviews in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Review of Books. But Vanasco's 2017 memoir, "The Glass Eye," attracted a level of public praise more seasoned writers might envy. Vanasco, 34, an assistant professor of English at Towson University, writes movingly about mourning for a beloved parent, bipolar disorder and searching for the dead sister she never knew — who non-coincidentally shared her name. Tin House Books, $15.95, 270 pages, jeannievanasco.com
Lynette Charles, WMAR
Energy, enthusiasm and expertise — that's the winning formula for Lynette Charles, WMAR's chief meteorologist. "My goals are to disseminate accurate information … and to engage viewers," said Charles, emphasizing a sense of responsibility in helping viewers stay safe when it comes to bad weather. She began her career as camera operator at the Weather Channel and came to WMAR in 2010 as a meteorologist. "My career as a meteorologist won't be complete," she said, "until I chase a tornado and have the opportunity to fly through a hurricane with the Hurricane Hunters!"
Morning TV personality
Jason Newton, WBAL
Mornings have become the most competitive time of day in local TV news, and anchorman Jason Newton gives WBAL one of the region's strongest lineups. He projects a solid news presence, but it is combined with the kind of friendly demeanor and easygoing amiability that morning TV demands. Newton's arrival at WBAL in 2013 after an anchoring stint in Milwaukee was a return to his roots. He was raised in Baltimore and graduated from City College and the University of Maryland, College Park. "My goal on 11 News Today is to be a steady voice for the people who are waking up to their day. They are rebooting they lives from whatever they dealt with the day before ... and are off to a fresh start. I don't want to alarm you, I don't want to over hype you, and I don't want to tell you what to think. I want viewers to open the front door informed," he says.
White House TV has never been so entertaining. Between the White House correspondent's facial expressions during Sean Spicer's cringeworthy Holocaust comments, her spat with Omarosa Manigault-Newman or the awkward exchange in which President Donald J. Trump assumed she was a liaison of sorts to the Congressional Black Caucus, Ryan has found herself at the center of spectacles that have made for memes and TV gold. Even on social media, the self-proclaimed "big-mouthed kid from Baltimore" has kept White House coverage engaging, including humorous exchanges with Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the origin of the press secretary's pecan pies. And Ryan has much more to say — the American Urban Radio Networks reporter and CNN commentator plans on releasing her third book, "Under Fire: Reporting From the Front Lines of the Trump White House," in September.
After a promising 2016, the burly second baseman blossomed into an All-Star at age 25, leading Orioles regulars in runs scored, RBI and slugging percentage while playing very good defense. Schoop's breakout was an obvious bright spot in a season during which the club fell below .500 for the first time since 2011.
As the host of the addictive HQ Trivia app, which offers twice-daily chances for men and women raised on Trivial Pursuit to show how much they know and share a pot of money, the Hopkins-educated Rogowsky gets to crack jokes, banter with his unseen audience, deliver puns that would elicit groans were they not so apropos (he calls the show's fans "HQties"), say pretty-much whatever he wants and cultivate his growing online fan base. And to think, it all started with a mini-mester course on "The Stand-Up Comic in Society" that the 33-year-old New York native took while studying political science as an undergrad on the Homewood campus. Well played, Quiz Daddy.
Mosley, Ray Lewis' successor as the quarterback of the Ravens' defense, made his third Pro Bowl in four seasons in 2017. Beyond his steady on-field excellence in the face of nagging injuries, Mosley solidified his status as a locker-room leader and spokesman for the franchise.
Social media mystery
A lot of weird things go down in Baltimore, but possibly one of the most puzzling that happened last year involved a small mound of cubed ham. An employee of Downtown Partnership snapped a picture of the rogue pig pile, which sent users into a fury of puns and assumptions -- Did someone lose their lunch? Was someone looking to poison city rats? Then ensued a much-needed nostalgic trip down memory lane of the other strange things Baltimore has seen. It never ends.
The Cardinal Shehan School Catholic choir performs "Rise Up" for a Facebook Live concert. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)
Cardinal Shehan School Choir's 'Rise Up'
When music resonates with hope in the face of adversity, tears often follow. We were happily reminded of this in October, when this Baltimore middle school's impromptu performance of Andra Day's "Rise Up" went viral on social media. It earned the kids and their director, Kenyatta Hardison, worldwide attention, including performances on "Good Morning America" and "The View" — the latter featuring Day herself.
After famous basketball wives, there come, naturally, famous tennis husbands. Or, at least one so far: the Columbia native and Reddit co-founder who is husband to 23-grand-slam-singles-winning tennis champion Serena Williams. Helping open "the front page of the internet" is certainly a challenge and an accomplishment. Perhaps that prepared him well to be the helpmeet of the person who, it has been argued, is the greatest athlete of all time. He seems to be doing well at it. After the birth of their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September, Ohanian stepped down from his position at Reddit (he remains on the board) to focus on family and a venture capital start-up. He even bought four billboard advertisements calling Williams the G.M.O.A.T. (Greatest Momma of All Time).