A look at year that wasn't Culture: Oh, yeah. There were lots of great movies, plays, CDs, books, etc., in 1996. But who had time?


Remember 1996? Of course not. Nobody was there for it. Everybody was too busy with the business of being busy.

So, it's that time to offer the Best of 1996: the best in books, 'zines, theater, music, art and film. If you think you missed a good movie or book or play, you did. You missed the whole boat.

Now don't go and get all depressed because you didn't get out more -- or any. Some of us didn't, either.


Consider just a few of the Best of '96: "The Autobiography of My Mother," "The Woman Who Walked Into Doors" and "The Origin of Satan." Critics' choices, all of them. Didn't read any of them.

The kids had the flu for 10 months of the year, parent-teacher conferences and Snack Mom duty lasted a month, and four weeks were spent waiting for the sump-pump man to show. Here now are the Best Books Read to Sick, Cranky Kids:

1. "The Sneeches and Other Stories." From this Dr. Seuss collection, rediscover "Too Many Daves." Mrs. McCave named all 23 sons Dave, "And often she wishes that, when they were born, she had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn " Or Weepy Weed or Harris Tweed or Oliver Boliver Butt -- always good for a giggle.

2. "Angelina Ballerina." We agree with critics who consider this original superior to "Angelina at the Fair" and "Angelina's Baby Sitter."

3. "If You Give a Moose a Muffin." He'll want jam, and around we go.

4. "The Rainbow Fish." "The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. And the more he gave away, the more delighted he became." Skip the Rainbow Fish stuffed doll.

5. "Where the Wild Things Are." The Best Book in any year. "The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind (turn page) and another "


Small, special-interest magazines called 'zines were very popular '96 -- as was the 'postrophe. We didn't read any 'zines but did find time for a few old faithfuls:

1. Newsweek. Had time to skim one about three weeks ago. Stalin was on the cover.

2. Glamour. Took time to skim one at Hair by Elite in Timonium.

3. Glamour. Took time to skim one at the Mars in Timonium.

4. Elle (no apostrophe): Stumbled on one somewhere. Dentist's office, maybe.

5. New Yorker. Still plowing through the lower-third of a piece from a 1993 issue.


What an exciting year in local theater! From "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" at the Fell's Point Corner Theatre to "Triumph of Love" at Center Stage, we missed them all. Baby-sitters had dates on those nights. We did manage to slip away for:

1. The Nutcracker. A lot of dancing, but worth it.


Critics say the best music of '96 came from Vic Chesnutt, Cibo Matto, Squarepusher and Scud Mountain Boys. No one is more pro-Scud than us, but we still have albums. Here's the Best Music of 1996, give or take a few decades:

1. The Beatles. Their latest, "Rubber Soul," could be their best.

2. Chicago. This new group plays actual instruments like trombones and stuff. And they name their albums after numbers. Check them out.

3. Ohio Players. Listen to the harmonic nuances in "Rollercoaster" and note the classic album art titled, "Limber Woman Wrapped in Fire Hose."

4. Billy Joel. "The Stranger" set the scene: "Meet you any time you want, in our Italian restaurant." And here we still are, waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye.


So much happened in Baltimore's art community this year. Many of these "happenings" seemed, at least to us, to involve leaving the house and driving to "galleries." For this reason, we present the year's Best in Art from Home:

1. "Santa Claus: A Grim Retrospective." Crayola sketches of Santa taped above messy kitchen desk. Note Charles Mansonesque expression. Artist: Daughter, 5.

2. "Chester Yates Mailbox Sign." As college prank, sign was stolen in 1980 from a Chester Yates of Gainesville, Fla. The sign (medium: metal) currently displayed in small, dark hallway by order of the thief's wife.

3. "Photos of Children in Many, Many Frames of All Sizes." Displayed everywhere, by order of thief's wife/family photographer.

4. Lobster Pot. Bought for $40 at China Sea Marine Trading Co. in Fells Point. Display currently on loan to garage.


Even in the age of video, there's still nothing better than seeing a movie on the Big Screen. So many fine films came out in 1996 -- "Fargo," "Dead Man Walking," "Lone Star" and "Big Night." Friends literally said, "you should see these movies." Friends mean well. They also don't have kids.

Last movie seen in a theater:

1. Apollo 9.

We hear this new movie, "Apollo 13," is even better.

Pub Date: 12/28/96

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