A montage of favorite things for 2013

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'The Watch'

Chicago artist Hebru Brantley's "The Watch" exhibit in Pioneer Court. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune / October 8, 2013)

Being caught off guard (along with all of America) when politics met reality TV and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio paused in the middle of the Republican response to the State of the Union address to take a sip of water.

Laughing in surprise and alarm at the deliciously over-the-top knockout punches in the DC Comics-adapted, Chicago-made "Injustice: Gods Among Us" video game, which, for instance, allows the traditionally set-upon Aquaman to not merely spear his opponents with a trident but also feed them to a shark while summoning tidal waves.

Feeling enveloped by the sprawling, pounding abstractions of pianist Matthew Shipp in the small, sonically-tight studio/performance space at Constellation, musician/promoter Mike Reed's sweet new place.

Wishing the 28-page digital "cookbook" included with rapper 2 Chainz's new album (offering such advice as "Put on your Versace apron" and "Serve in a gold bowl, garnish with remaining parsley") were a real book.

Recognizing after a few episodes that Kerry Washington could deliver the needed sliver of humanity to the intentionally over-ripe, self-conscious, wild-eyed, dizzyingly verbose ABC series "Scandal," but knowing that she would also become a superstar after single-handedly stealing an entire episode of "Saturday Night Live."

Speaking of over-the-top: Hate-loving "Salinger," a preposterous, unconvincing, sub-literate documentary on the life of writer J.D. Salinger that, in its first minutes, with the kind of pounding score and frenetic editing best left to Michael Bay, tells the story of how, well, a guy for Newsweek, uh, once took Salinger's picture …

Speaking of delightfully oblivious: Reading the jaw-dropping tweet of Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke, who "honored" Nelson Mandela by posting "R.I.P." alongside a reminder that the Weinstein Co.'s Mandela film was drawing award-season buzz; resulting in a wonderful wave of satiric mock-historical tweets that demolished a certain myopic, movie-industry mindset (for example, "RIP MLK, who has three biopics in development …")

Now speaking of over-the-top in a good way: Watching (and re-watching) the straight-faced, knowingly preposterous trailer for the latest "Fast & Furious" movie, which asked us to believe that not only can a team of car thieves bring down a military transport plane but, in the event of a vehicular terrorist threat, the Feds will ignore the Navy SEALs, the CIA and the Avengers and opt instead for five guys who can drive very fast.

Loving the intense commitment that Lula Cafe showed to its Halloween disguise when it paired with hot-in-2013 restaurant Fat Rice and, for Halloween night only, became "House of Human," a dim sum restaurant of the dead that served bugs, dressed its bartenders as zombies and splattered the bathrooms in fake blood.

Walking around the peak-roofed modernist boathouse that Chicago architect Jeanne Gang constructed for Clark Park and realizing that it looks like a very expensive ($8.8 million) Burger King crown, and it's brilliant.

Watching school children stand beside and adopt the stance of the aviator-goggle-wearing kid superheroes of "The Watch," a colorful pop sculpture Pilsen-based artist Hebru Brantley installed on Michigan Avenue.

Laughing at the prodding, self-referential closing provocation of Tracy Morgan's character in the finale of "30 Rock": "That's our show! Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke's on you because we got paid anyway!"

Dragging my heels about seeing the never-predictable, anti-careerist Replacements reunite at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park and squander a generation of memories, then being charmed, energized and surprised when the band, far from treating the show like a professional inevitability, simply played, then genuinely smiled.


Twitter @borrelli

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