If you’re as deeply involved in politics as is Seraphic Secret, if you’re a lover of Zion, as is Seraphic Secret, if you’re terrified of another four years of Obama, as is Seraphic Secret, well, you tend to walk around with a black cloud hovering over your head. But compiling a Ten Best List, wrestling with all the great choices, serves as a vivid reminder that the world is still filled with wondrous things.
Here are our choices—random but carefully considered—of the things that made 2011 sort of wonderful.
1. Best Fiction: “Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes, a beautifully crafted novel of the Vietnam War. The author served as a Marine in Nam where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts and ten air medals. A profoundly touching tribute to noble men under fire.
2. Best Non Fiction: “Civilization, The West and The Rest” by Niall Ferguson. I get up at five in the morning for my three mile walk. One of the reasons I actually look forward to this torture is because I've been listening to Ferguson's incredible book. Why did the West pull so far ahead in civilization in contrast to say, the Islamic world? Ferguson identifies five foundational apps that made our ascendancy possible. Will the West crumble like so many other great civilizations? Ferguson has a fertile mind and this spectacular volume is sure to make you think.
3. Best Hollywood Book: “Myrna Loy, The Only Good Girl in Hollywood” by Emily W. Leider. It's ironic that Myrna Loy, a farm girl from Montana, became Hollywood's image of the sophisticated, society girl. Starting in silent films, Loy was for years typecast as an Asian vamp, but eventually her genius for comedy was recognized. No one in Hollywood escapes tragedy and one of the saddest revelations in this first bio of Loy is an abortion that rendered her unable to bear children.
4. Best App: Flipboard. This is the definition of a killer app. It's a social magazine that collects great content from fashion to technology. You rip through the cyber pages by, um flipping with your finger. It's highly intuitive and believe me, if I can do it without calling one of my daughters in NY for a tutorial then you know it's well designed.
5. Best Footwear: The Red IDF Para Boot worn by the Nahal and Kfir Brigades. This year, an exceptionally brave young Israeli-Arab woman named Monalisa passed the grueling requirements and was accepted into one of Israel's elite combat units. When she went to the quartermaster to get her gear the red boots were not in the kit. Monalisa demanded the coveted boots and got them. Never argue with a an armed woman over footwear.
6. Best Fashion Moment: Kate Middleton's Wedding gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. It cost over $400,000 but it was worth every penny. London is quickly turning into Londonistan and the dopey Archbishop of Canterbury seems more inclined towards Sharia than the Four Gospels. So when Kate Middleton appeared in this glorious fabrication, the world heaved a romantic sigh and once again Britain seemed kind of great.
7. Best Men: The troops who killed Bin Laden. Time Magazine disgraced America and journalism by proclaiming The Protestor as their Person of the Year. Pointedly, Time excluded the Tea Party. They also neglected to reveal that the Arab Spring is the vehicle for an ascendant radical Islam. And the OWS is nothing more than a record of rape, drugs, violence and businesses forced to shutter. Deleting Bin Laden was a mitzvah, and we pay tribute to all the troops involved in this complex and dangerous operation.
8. Best TV Show: “Downton Abbey.” You thought we were going to say “Homeland.” Well, so did we until the last episode poisoned the entire enterprise. “Downton” Abbey is a gorgeous British soap opera about an aristocratic family, their three unmarried daughters and, in the best BBC style, loyal and treacherous servants. This has got it all: a lavishly appointed castle, stunning wardrobes, and love starved women shedding whale-boned corsets, usually for the wrong men. Written by Julian Fellowes, this is screenwriting at its most elegant. We breathlessly await the second season.
9. Best Movie: “The Artist.” For years Seraphic Secret has sung the praises of silent movies. Lo and behold, a French director comes along and produces a charming ode to the silent era. “The Artist” is not a perfect movie. It's too long and the narrative doesn't have the proper velocity. But this tale of a silent movie star whose career is destroyed by sound is lovely and has one of the most effective love scenes ever filmed as a woman expresses her passion via an overcoat. No spoilers here. Silence is golden. Go see it for yourself.
10. Best Girls: Maayan Ariel and Lielle Meital.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives the best Shabbat of 2011.