Disregard other inferior top 10 lists from the likes of The New Yorker, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and even Plumbers, Gas and Steam Fitters Journal. The best "best of" list for 2017 is right here. Spokesman asked the six Sheffers to provide their best cultural experience from the year -- best book, movie, travel experience, TV show, or best story that I told (no one went for that). Below is the result, the Second Annual Sheffer Family Best of List. Artwork by Spokesman's talented daughter, Emily.
Fargo, Season 3 -- Bleak Minnesota winterscapes plus murder wouldn't seem to make for appealing TV viewing, especially for me. I prefer happier, upbeat entertainment even going so far as to avoid listening to songs in sad minor keys. But I have so enjoyed watching FX's Fargo series over the years with Gary and I was really looking forward to its third season this past year. I was not disappointed. I was drawn into the story just as I was during the first two seasons and I am hoping they come up with a fourth season. Ewan McGregor playing both Stussy brothers In Season 3 was fun to watch and I found myself rooting for Carrie Coon's police chief character, Gloria Burgle.
Springsteen’s autobio is joyously literate, emotionally wrenching when he writes about his father, and a “virtual reality” experience of the life of a self-proclaimed bar-band “f*#%ing nobody.“
You smell the sweat, hairspray and stale beer of the Jersey bars where Springsteen learned his craft, you feel the raw power of his will to make it big, and you see his brilliance as a performer and a leader. His instinctive understanding of how to mold an odd collection of ordinary people into a kick-ass band would make a great Harvard Business School case study.
The story from the book that sticks with me most is about Jake Clemons, the nephew of Springsteen’s soul mate, the late great saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Springsteen invited Jake to his house to audition to replace Clarence in the E Street Band. Jake arrived an hour late and when he did, admitted he only “sort of” knew the sax solos his uncle and Springsteen had perfected. Springsteen sent him away with a Jack Welch-like tongue-lashing. “Where…do…you…think…you...are? If you don’t know, let me tell you. You are in a CITADEL OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. You don’t dare come in here and play this music for Bruce Springsteen without having your SHIT DOWN COLD!”
Jake went away, learned the parts, and earned a seat in the band. It is debatable whether Springsteen is rock’s best front man ever, (I say “yes”) but he certainly was the best band “boss” in rock history.
The best thing I saw in 2017 were New Mexico's national parks and monuments--White Sands National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Tent Rocks National Monument. In early May, Emily and I rented a car, booked a couple of Air Bnbs, and roughly set out to explore this beautiful state whose stunning landscape has been cut and carved by thousands of years of thermal and volcanic activity. My historical consciousness of our home here in the U.S. has started with my grade school education of the founding our our country--but Emily and I walked through pueblos inhabited by tribes far beyond our founders' time here on this continent. A humbling experience. We swam in mineral springs, hiked up ladders through ancient dwellings, spotted cave paintings, looked for elk in a crater, hiked to the dramatic gorge where the Rio Grande meets the Red River, traveled on horseback through Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch, and explored Santa Fe's historic arts district. Seeking out the natural beauty and history of New Mexico was an incredible and expansive experience in an otherwise tough year.
My favorite thing this year was visiting my friend in Boulder, Colorado. I haven’t seen the middle of the country much. At that point Green Bay and Las Vegas were the only two places I had been in the US that weren’t in states that touched the Atlantic Ocean.
We were supposed to spend the first half of the trip going to craft breweries and eating burritos, and spend the second half hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There wound up being five feet of snow in May, just before we left for the park. So instead we wound up going to craft breweries and eating burritos for both halves of the vacation. I did manage to see the garden of the gods and a few other “Rockies” attractions outside of Colorado Springs. Next time I won’t visit during winter, which I now understand runs from September to June.
Tour de France is to Dad, as the New York Art Book Fair is to me. It’s a big deal! The New York Art Book Fair is the gold standard for all things art and book. It’s an annual free event, held at MoMA PS1 in Queens. PS1 is an abandoned public school building-turned art space in the late 70’s; a labyrinth of classroom-sized rooms, hallways and stairwells that will leave you feeling turned around by the end of the day. Seemingly endless numbers of publishers, presses, and independent sellers come from all corners of the world to show off their innovations in book making. Fighting through sweaty crowds in semi-well ventilated spaces sounds stressful, and can be, but feels worth it when you find that one special book. A Korean publisher was even selling a few photography books that I helped produce. Very exciting! If you get tired of books (it happens), make sure you’re with a good friend so you can take walks on the high line, pop in and out of Chelsea galleries, and eat plenty of oysters.
Old Cinemas in New York City. New York City is full of small arthouse cinemas featuring movies by some of films greatest directors. This year, as an NYU student, I had access to many of these theaters. The Russian post-apocalyptic thriller, Stalker by Tarkovsky was my favorite feature.