December, in addition to being choked by holidays, deadlines, and travel, is a month set aside for retrospection and making promises for the future. Looks back are often characterized in superlatives as annual year-end roundups of “bests” and “worsts” serve as encouragements and admonishments for the coming year and guides to get us through American capitalism’s most wonderful time of the year.
Each article announcing the best cultural and commercial products of 2017 are invitations for us to not only judge for ourselves what mattered most to us over the past year, but take stock of other parts of our lives, most of which, if you’re like any average person living on Earth today, were probably spent at work. To commemorate the end of yet another year, The Outline spoke to ten professionals about their favorites of 2017.
Mandy Aftel, perfumer - Favorite melange of scents you discovered
It’s built around tuberose, which is a very heady white floral. They make leis out of those in Hawaii, and if you’ve ever seen had the incredible experience of having it waft toward your head while it's around your neck, it’s delirious. That, along with something called Mitti Attar which is a traditional essence from India. It’s baked earth that’s distilled into creamy, very high-quality Indian sandalwood. It’s the scent that’s brought on as rain falls on sun drenched earth and the earth awakens. At the top of it, I added pink grapefruit and fir from fir trees because they’re kind of jammy and sweet but light and tingly. The first thing [the combination] brings up is just a kind of feeling like everything’s right in the world. It reminds me of very happy, sunny times working in the garden. I wanted to make a very beautiful floral that would just be kind of creamy and comforting, not cloying. I felt this was a different emotion for people to have with tuberose. I wanted to to create this experience for people that would become a part of their memory: the very heady beauty of tuberose with a slight tinge of greenness.
Arrott Harrington, doggy daycare shift lead - Goodest boy
I hang out with hundreds of dogs every day, but my personal goodest dog for the year is my man Henry. Henry is maybe like a Chihuahua or a rat terrier. He’s a weird little man. When he first started going we really couldn’t touch him at all. But he loved the dogs, so we let him hang out. It turns out that Henry was rescued from a really intense hoarding situation. Now, we can pick him up and hold him, and he loves it. I’m so proud of him, seeing the change in his behavior over the year.
We did a Halloween costume contest for the dogs, naturally. Henry’s owners brought him in with his little Pope costume. They were like, Hey you can just put it on him? And we were all kind of like, Oh, fantastic. He doesn’t really want us to touch him. So cool. But it was no trouble at all. Dogs don’t like wearing costumes but he handled it really well and I realized that he’d come a really really long way. He loved the other dogs right away and they actually boarded him once because we do overnight as well. They got the largest room for him which is a 200 square foot room with a king sized mattress and a flat screen TV and an electric fireplace and throw pillows. Someone comes and tucks your dog into bed, and reads him a bedtime story. Most dogs love that cause it’s like being at home. But he was so so sad and lonely without other dogs that we moved him somewhere else where he could hang out with dogs. He has a boyfriend in there, a big golden doodle buddy. And every time he comes in and his one special buddy is there, he runs and finds him and bites his feet. They love each other. It’s the sweetest thing.
Sarah Lapin, elementary school teacher - Favorite excuse a student gave you for anything
They were doing their homework in their bedroom and they left their homework on their nightstand. The window was open and “the wind took it.” I said, “Weren’t you cold?” And he was like, “No it was OK. It wasn’t too bad.” I said, “Did you find it outside then?” He goes, “No, it wasn’t anywhere.” “You didn’t find it in a leaf pile?” And he's like, “Nope, I guess it must have just gone.” And I’m like, “Hmm. Next time let’s keep your window closed.” And it’s just one of those things where what are you going to say? “Prove it?” So I do applaud them for the more creative ones.
Linnea Crowther, Obituary writer - favorite legacy
The first [person] I thought about was a journalist named Clare Hollingworth. She died at 105 in January of this year, and she was the first person to report that World War II had began, which was known as the Scoop of the Century. She was stationed in Poland, I believe, and she saw the German forces on the border getting ready to invade. She saw the moment that the first tanks drove over the border. She called the Telegraph where she was a reporter and said, “The war has started.” They were kind of like, Oh, are you sure?
Before the Scoop of the Century, as things were starting to get bad in Europe in the late 1930s, she helped at least a thousand people who had British visas but were in continental Europe escape to England before things started to clamp down as the war approached. So she was not only the pioneering woman journalist, but she was a hero. I had never heard of her and I don't think very many people probably had. She had a fantastic career that extended long after World War II. But journalists aren't always the most famous people. Being a writer, we don't always get to be the famous ones.
Joerg Heber, science journal editor-in-chief - Favorite scientific discovery
One [study] that got a lot of attention from our journal this year reported a 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected natural reserve areas in Germany. It’s not clear exactly where this comes from, whether that is pollution or food sources that the insects have, but it shows that even insects can sometimes be threatened by a human impact on the environment. It’s just one of those topics that doesn't really get any attention. And then suddenly [when] a study like this hits the news, people say, Well yeah, you can see it on the amount of insects on your windscreen on the car. That’s just a personal impression that people have. This is a more systematic scientific study.
Maria Hermsen, youth peer counselor - Favorite new book to recommend to your kids
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is a young adult book about grief and LGBT issues that I really liked. It dealt with nontraditional family themes; a lot of my youth are in foster care or have found-family. The whole book takes place in two days and over flashbacks over [the protagonist’s] Christmas break, and there’s a lot of warm comforting details even though it deals with hard subjects. I also like how it like deals with a young girl figuring out her sexuality, but that’s not the main theme of the book. I felt that it was pretty relatable. I really loved it.
Larry Weiss, antiques dealer - Favorite antique you came across
We buy everything that we get outright from people that walk in. It’s highly varied and as a dealer you don’t really want to latch onto anything mentally because you’ll end up taking it home. One thing taken home after another, next thing you know your store will be in your house. So we try not to have a favorite. I like things that I can’t find and can’t identify. [This year we got] this wooden shoe that just looks odd. There was a screw on it, and I didn’t understand why the screw was there. After we purchased it as part of a larger lot of items, we started looking at it and I realized that parts of it move. It turns out it's a puzzle. You take apart the shoe and inside there’s a space big enough for maybe a few pieces of jewelry, some rings or something like that. I’ve kind of mentally latched onto it. I haven’t even put it out for sale. It's one of these things that I enjoy having around. I’ll sell it someday, but somebody has to come in and ask for a puzzle-type item. Then maybe I’ll take it out and I’ll see if I can come to a fair price.
Josephine, stripper - Favorite time seeing a dude embarrass himself
I was dancing for a customer and he had kind of like a 4-chan vibe, for lack of a better term: an unattractive 20-something man in a large leather trench coat. Dances in Detroit are pretty high contact. Usually my schtick is first I’ll show him the front side of me and get really close, and I'll turn around and bend over and let him see my butt. The first time I turn around I can hear a rustling. When I flipped back over, I see that he had taken his penis out which is a hard line for me: Don’t do that. I’m like, Hey buddy, you’ve got to put that away. He’s like, Oh I'm so sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I just, I got too excited. Turn around, turn back around, he’s done it again. I’m like, Hey, please don't do that. It's weird. I don't like that. I turn around a third time and I hear a louder rustling. There’s definitely a noise now coming from him. I turn around again, his penis is out and of course he is masturbating in front of me. So I'm like, Oh my god, buddy. Do not do that. We’re done. This is over now. He’s [apologizing], and as he goes to — I don’t know — put himself back in his pants, I don’t know if it was the way he adjusted himself or if he was really just super turned on by how angry I was, but he climaxed and hit himself in his own face.
I was mostly just a combination of mortified and angry. If I had reacted the way I wanted to there would have been some public humiliation. Maybe would have thrown a shoe at him, taken a picture. I don’t know.
Lisa Hahn, luthier - Favorite new guitar-making trend
A majority of guitars utilize Rosewood as one of the main woods, especially the acoustic guitar — often the back and the sides of an acoustic guitar and probably the fingerboard as well utilize Rosewood. On January 1, 2017 there was a new CITES treaty, [CITES II, that came into effect]. CITES I outlawed sale of Brazilian rosewood several years ago. It’s been in effect to protect, obviously, the rain forest. But enforcing the original CITES was kind of difficult. It’s very hard even for me sometimes to tell the difference between Amazon Rosewood and Brazilian Rosewood. The CITES II, a new treaty, [says] pretty much you need to have a permit and you can’t export Rosewood without it. The whole guitar industry spent the first few months panicking like, We can never use Rosewood again, what are we gonna do? The cool thing that came out of it is people are more seriously exploring alternate woods that are not technically Rosewoods but look similar because guitar players want it to look a certain way. We’ve always used Morado. Most people call it Pau Ferro. It's slightly brighter [than Rosewood], but it's it’s a very good alternative. We’ve been exploring — like how does this sound comparatively? It’s not just about stopping chopping down all the Rosewood trees. It’s also: Does it sound like the sound a player is trying to hear when they purchase it?
Gage Hamilton, muralist - Favorite new public art
There’s one on 18th and Belmont [in Portland, OR] by a group called Broken Fingaz. They’re from Haifa, Israel, and they did a piece stretching along a whole building right across the street from Colonel Summers Park. A kind of subversive branding sort of thing. They met with a bunch of homeless folks just walking around in Portland and talked to them, got some stories and drew little portraits of them and added them to the wall. [They] have this big statement that says, “We can make them disappear the non-messy way.” And it's got a spray paint can and it says “Vanishing spray”, “local”, “organic.” I know they were inspired by a Miller Pain sign that said “Things are looking better with Miller Paint” and playing with this idea of murals and art and cleaning up a place and conflicts with changes in the area.
Whenever people visit Portland from other places they’re always really surprised by the homeless situation here. And so it’s a tongue-in-cheek, biting critique of that, almost criticizing what artists do and the general “organic, local” sort of thing. It’s making fun of themselves, making fun of Portland. It’s got what looks like incense packaging with what the branding would be, but it says “Bad Karma.” It says, “Be nice to people you meet up meet on the way up. You’ll see them on the way down.” It was really a provocative piece that makes people think a bit hopefully other than just being something that looks cool or pretty. And it's really huge. It takes a minute to take in what exactly is being said.