2012 top ten, 2: Linda Zuck

25th December 2012

After the pleasingly popular post yesterday, our end-of-year cultural top tens continue with Linda’s choice. Happy Christmas, everyone.

Linda: These are in no particular order, though my list is somewhat skewed by a three week trip to Uganda this summer to visit my daughter who was living there for six months. If I had to pick a favourite amongst the ten, it would have to be the gorillas (no. 3 below) – and above is a holiday snap. Yes, this legendary little guy (a male of approx. eight years we were told) was no more than a few feet away from me, deep in the jungle.

1. Explorers of the Nile by Tim Jeal

An update with new scholarship of Alan Moorhead’s 1960 classic, The White Nile, Jeal’s book is a wonderfully absorbing account of the race of intrepid 19th century European adventurers to solve the mystery of the source of the Nile. An epic tale of Victorian endeavour with some remarkable characters.

2. The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted by Matthew Green

In April this year Invisible Children’s highly misleading video Kony 2012 went viral. But if you’re after proper insight into this forgotten conflict, here is a  gripping story of one journalist’s determination to track down the enigmatic Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel leader now in hiding somewhere in Congo or Darfur. Green, a former East Africa correspondent for Reuters, started with a simple question ‘How could one man leading an army of abducted children hold a country hostage for over twenty years?’ Along the way, he meets the victims of the Lords Resistance Army, refugees living in poverty and fear in overcrowded camps, the mediators trying to bring peace, and the political leaders who had their own reasons for allowing the war in northern Uganda to continue for so long.

3. Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

On my list of things to do before you die, never mind to be included in my Top Ten this year. In southwest Uganda alongside the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo you can trek to see the endangered Mountain Gorillas. It’s an arduous journey, but the experience of spending an hour close up and personal with a small group of gorillas is profoundly moving.

4. Rust and Bone

A love story in which the mesmerising Marion Cottilard finds herself a double amputee within the first half hour. There are many unforgettable images in the film and her performance alone makes this unmissable.

5. Antony Gormley, Model, White Cube, Bermondsey

Gormley’s latest show – on until February 10 – is dominated by a massive labyrinthine walk-in sculpture of the human body that is so abstract you need to see the maquette in another room to make sense of it. You enter through a foot, and at times you have to crawl on your hands and knees. Well worth the experience.

6. The Duchess of Malfi, Old Vic

Stunning staging and a thrilling performance from Eve Best as the Duchess – a great piece of Jacobean theatre.

7. Breaking Bad

This has to be your next DVD Box set, if you aren’t already hooked. Suffice to say that it’s completely compelling –we’re in Coen Brothers black comedy territory here, though it gets pretty dark (and even better) in series 2 and 3. Set in Albuquerque, Bryan Cranston plays a high school chemistry teacher who should have achieved greater things. He discovers in the first episode that he has inoperable lung cancer and less than two years to live. In an attempt to provide for his family’s future, he tries to embark on a new career as a ‘cook’ of high quality crystal meth.

8. Argo

Bryan Cranston plays a very different character – that of a wily CIA agent – in Ben Affleck’s nail-biting dramatisation of the CIA’s rescue of six US embassy workers from Tehran in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis. It’s an unusual combination of comedy, thriller and political drama.

9. Dabbous restaurant, 39 Whitfield Street, London W1

Lauded as the next big thing (chef Oliver Dabbous trained with Raymond Blanc), but be prepared – you’ll need to book months in advance for a table on a Saturday night. It will, however, be worth the wait. I have to quote Jay Rayner’s Guardian review here re: two of the most memorable small dishes – firstly something described as coddled egg which arrived snuggled in a small bowl of hay:

The egg is lightly scrambled and mixed with a dice of mushrooms and smoked butter before being returned to the shell. Oh my.

And another star was…

a hunk of barbecued Iberico pork with a sticky-toffee mess described as a savoury acorn praline. It was sweet and umami and, being less technical, lick-the-plate-clean good.

Basically, the guy is a culinary genius.

10. Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

An ethnographic and anthropological collection of artefacts mainly in crowded cabinets, with handwritten original labels from when they were first discovered, this is like no museum I’ve ever been to before, crammed with tribal treasures from around the world in a huge vaulted space. It’s overwhelming – shrunken heads are a highlight.

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